That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and on the go without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.
We've covered the first in depth already, but our discussions of that all-important second thing are spread across hundreds of posts. Our how-to pieces, of course, offer some great answers to the question of how to watch TV without cable. But, when it comes right down to it, our reviews and many of our news pieces are focused on how to watch TV without cable, too. So are lots of our email newsletters and many of the external links we include in our Friday Round-Ups. That adds up to a lot of posts to answer one seemingly simple question, and all of that information can seem a bit overwhelming.
In August 2007, Russia Today became the first television channel to report live from the North Pole (with the report lasting five minutes and 41 seconds). An RT crew participated in the Arktika 2007 Russian polar expedition, led by Artur Chilingarov on the Akademik Fyodorov icebreaker. On 31 December 2007, RT's broadcasts of New Year's Eve celebrations in Moscow and Saint Petersburg were broadcast in the hours prior to the New Year's Eve event at New York City's Times Square.
Chromecast, the wildly popular streaming dongle, doesn’t have a remote or on-screen menu, instead using your smartphone or tablet to “cast” content at your TV. The latest version, the Chromecast Ultra, takes everything handy about earlier models but adds 4K resolution as well as HDR, with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 supported. If that’s too rich for your blood, the HD Chromecast is about half the price and offers virtually all the same functionality, save 4K and HDR. While the Chromecast is one of our favorite ways for quick and dirty streaming, search is still relatively limited via the Google Home app, and those who want to be able to exchange their phone or tablet for a more prominent interface on the big screen will want to go with one of the more traditional streaming boxes on our list. That said, much like the Fire TV’s relationship with Alexa, the Chromecast is probably going to be the ideal choice for Android users or those deeply ingrained into the Google ecosystem — especially Google Home.
There is a $10-per-month add-on channel for sports and $4.99-per-month one for Spanish channels. Perhaps the best feature on PS Vue: a cloud-based DVR for storing up to 500 programs to watch whenever you like. Also, you can use the "TV Everywhere" apps that many cable channels have that require a cable subscription—but by authenticating them with PlayStation Vue. And you can pause or rewind or fast forward on every channel. All of them.
Apple TV ($149 - $199): Similar to the Amazon Fire, the Apple TV is fantastic for dedicated Mac families, allowing them to sync programing between iPhones, iPads and laptops. Apple also has one of the better interfaces for finding and organizing content, with an app simply called “TV” that’s designed to function a lot like a DVR, keeping the latest episodes of your favorite shows in an easily accessible queue. Note: Netflix shows can be searched via the "TV" app, but they can't be added to its queue; users are simply redirected to the Netflix app.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
49. Video Surf – According to the site, “Using a unique combination of new computer vision and fast computation methods, VideoSurf has taught computers to “see” inside videos to find content in a fast, efficient, and scalable way. Basing its search on visual identification, rather than text only, VideoSurf’s computer vision video search engine provides more relevant results and a better experience to let users find and discover the videos they really want to watch.” Let’s see about that, shall we?
Pros: One benefit is unlimited DVR storage. Your recorded programs will be saved for up to nine months, compared with only about a month on some other streaming services. With more than 50 networks plus local news and sports, YouTube TV's offerings are greater than most of the others on our list. Also, you can create up to six accounts with your subscription, and you can stream on up to three devices at once.
With the exception of Sling, all five services continue to add local channels in an attempt to sign up viewers. Because most local stations, aka network affiliates, are owned by companies other than one of the big four networks in question, they usually require separate contracts with providers like streaming services, cable systems and satellite networks.
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The Boxee Box is a good device for those that want a highly configurable, full-featured media center but don't want to deal with the hassle of building one and installing something like XBMC. If you're willing to put in the time setting it up (and you aren't sharing it with someone less tech-savvy), it can be a pretty powerful media center, but it definitely isn't for everyone.
“We cut out cable and tried to replace it with just streaming options, then with those plus PlayStation Vue (because they were the only option for live sports). That was a bust because the internet streaming couldn’t keep up with the speed of most sports, plus the DVR options were abysmal [which made missing live game broadcasts not an option]. So we went back! We are the proud payers of a DIRECTV bill and I’m not even sad about it.” ― Stephanie Bowen Earley
Most HDTVs made these days have a built in digital tuner. If you bought it a few years ago before the new digital tuners were as common, and it was only advertised as an HDTV monitor, that could be the only caveat. Basically if it has a tuner built in usually it will have a video source on the unit called “TV” or something along those lines. Just plug in an antenna, go to the menu, and have it scan for channels. If you have a tuner those options should be there.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
Big Star TV is another one, I don’t know if any one has mentioned, It’s also an app from the apple app store. I believe the app is free. It has a Huge library of hard to find movies, a lot are horrer films, but drama, SiFi, and thrillers as well. I have enjoyed it. I also just single out the individual channels that I like to watch and just drag their Icon onto my desk top, like CW, TNT, AMC, ABC, ABC Family. I’m constantly looking for more, so thank you, this has been a great help.
The channel selection is pretty extensive—but far from everything. You won't find CBS on this service, naturally. But premium channels are available as add-ons; in fact, some of what you'd see on basic cable—like SyFy, USA, Fox and NBC—are only available to you on Sling TV by paying a bit more for the Sling Blue package for $25 per month. Then there are more "Lifestyle Extra" add on packages to get other channels you may want; those usually add an extra $5 per month to the price. Like with any of the live TV stream services, check the channel offerings thoroughly before you subscribe to make sure they have what you want.
You most likely already know, at least vaguely, how streaming video works: it comes in over the internet, bit by bit, and is played on a screen by a computer. But when we say “a computer,” we don't mean that you have to use a desktop or laptop. You smartphone is a computer, too, and so are all the devices that you can use to stream TV without cable on your TV itself.
Prime ($8.99/mo., $119/yr.): If you shop a lot on Amazon, it’s already worth it to pay the hundred bucks a year (or $12.99/mo.) for Prime, which includes the streaming Prime Video service, the Prime Music service, some free Kindle books and free two-day shipping on many products. If you’re not big on yearly commitments, you can still get just the video service for $8.99 a month.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
For those looking for "cable lite" in the form of small packaged cable subscriptions from services like Sling TV and DirectTV Now, we've got a list of the best streaming live TV services. Keep in mind, though, that most of these services don't offer unlimited access to broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. What I'm referring to is the ability to watch any broadcast channel available in your area.
Prime Video not only has thousands of TV shows and movies available to stream on-demand. You can also subscribe to add-ons if you want to get access to more channels and content. There are Amazon Video add-ons for: Showtime, HBO, Acorn TV, Comedy Central Standup, Cheddar, Con TV, Comic Con, Curiosity Stream, History Vault, and more. See the chart below for the full list of channels you can get with Amazon Prime Video.
I put a couple of units to the test and found that the new breed of antennas really work as advertised. In an environment like New York City with numerous obstacles to transmission towers, a major selling point of cable TV in the analog era was that it was the only reliable way to get a clear signal from the free network channels. But today, on a lower floor of my Brooklyn brownstone, I can get 60 OTA channels with a small tabletop antenna like the $50 Mohu Curve, which has a 30-mile antenna range. It did take a bit of trial and error to find the spot in the room with the strongest signal for most stations, but I got the best results by placing it near a window.
Once you have a TV that is “digital ready”, all you need to do is install a TV antenna. I installed the Mohu Sky 60 outdoor antenna on my roof and now I receive all the major local broadcast networks. Mohu also makes quality indoor antennas like The Mohu Curve and Mohu Leaf. If you are interested in purchasing a Mohu antenna, check my Mohu promo page for a big discount.
YouTube is known for hosting thousands of viral videos. But it’s also a great place to learn. In the span of a few minutes, you can discover everything from how to fold a fitted sheet to how to make delicious dishes that won’t bust the budget. You can even watch many classic shows and movies there too! Are indie films and documentaries more your thing? Check out Vimeo.
You’re right. Cable TV and satellite TV costs have increased over the years and it’s out of reach for people who can’t afford it. Also, if you’re busy and don’t watch too much TV it doesn’t make sense to pay more than you should for the service. However, all is not lost. There’re many good deals out there. So do your research and the math before cutting the cord.
However, even if you do have to pay for internet, that doesn’t mean you can’t save a ton by ditching your television service subscription. Just be aware that cable and satellite companies will tout their service bundles to try and convince you to commit to multiple services. While the promo or introductory prices may look attractive, they will go up when the initial period ends, so think long and hard about the potential consequences, especially if you have to sign a contract.
Smart TVs – A smart TV is going to cost you more than a streaming device 99 times out of 100 because, well, it's a TV, too! But a smart TV with a great platform can be an awesome choice. Be a little wary of lesser-known platforms. They can be clumsy to use, and if you're not actually using your smart TV's smart-ness, that's a waste (and might lead you to buy one of the devices above in the end anyway). Another important consideration: the bigger the streaming platform, the better the app selection. You can watch Netflix on anything, but support for smaller SVOD services and skinny bundles is a bit rarer. Last but not least, it's worth noting that fans of simplicity who are planning to use an OTA antenna to watch TV without cable may find they prefer smart TVs, since the input selection will be built in and everything can be handled with one remote (by contrast, using an OTA antenna and a separate streaming device will mean using the TV remote to watch OTA TV and the streaming device remote to stream – and the TV remote again to switch between the two inputs). Examples: Sony Smart TVs (many run the Android TV platform), Roku TVs (manufactured by TCL and others), Fire TV Edition TVs (manufactured by Element).
While live TV streaming services feel a little more like cable than Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, the cord-cutting experience is very different from what you’re used to, and you should expect an adjustment period. Quitting cable is like dealing with any other kind of lifestyle change: At first, it may be awkward, perhaps even frustrating, but once you’ve grown accustomed to it, it feels natural. No, you won’t be doing much mindless channel surfing anymore, but there’s something satisfying about being more deliberate about your entertainment choices. You get to pick your poison, not have it spoon-fed to you.
For vast libraries of movies and TV content prior to the current season, I recommend getting the 30-day free trial to Amazon Prime. Another big reason to get Amazon Prime is the option of adding Showtime and Starz with your subscription. For just $8.99 per month, you have every TV show and movie offered by Starz and Showtime just as if you had the network with a cable provider.
YouTube is the most popular streaming-video platform online; it was only a matter of time until YouTube tried its hand at providing live TV, too. For $35 per month with this service, you'll get almost 40 channels — which is, admittedly, not that many. Still, there are some good networks, especially for sports fans: multiple stations from ESPN, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. YouTube TV's biggest draw is the service's unlimited DVR feature, which lets you record as much as you want and keep it for up to nine months. The integration with the rest of YouTube feels half-baked, though.
Charm, just to be fair, cable and satellite both give “free” viewing of select channels at various times. I would get an email notice from my satellite provider, which of course I routinely ignored because “it’s advertising”. Then I’d discover the channel and LOVE it and it would disappear. Well, that’s because it was a tickler and I would have to pay extra to get it regularly. So, when you say they take it away and you still get charges, you misunderstood their program. They let you have a free peek and if you love it, you can pay to have it all the time. It’s actually great marketing! We ended up with ID Discovery because my husband and I fell in love with Joe Kenda and let me tell you we paid for it!
* Limited-time offer for new res. custs. who subscribe to a qualifying Fios Double or Triple Play bundle with Fios Gigabit Connection and new or existing wireless customers who subscribe to a qualifying Go Unlimited or Beyond Unlimited plan. Monthly discounts applied via $10 bill credit for Fios and $10 for Verizon Wireless, so long as Verizon offers and customer maintains all qualifying services.
I would love to save, although our cable bill for TV is not extraordinary. But I’m 75 and I don’t understand the details. We don’t want to watch TV on a computer. It sounds as if the cheaper options all require the internet. But the internet doesn’t connect to the TV set. I don’t think our TV can receive a wireless signal unless we add some kind of cable box to it (it has a separate cable going to it than the cable box for the computers). Also, my husband watches FOX news most of the day and also all the channels with food shows, Alaskan living, ancient aliens, Pitbulls and Paroles – so we don’t want to cut off his entertainment. We live in SE Iowa and our cable bill is $157 a month including: high speed internet, landline with free long distance, TV package, TIVO. The basic cost is $120 – the rest is fees and taxes, etc. The stuff tacked onto the bill is ridiculous! Also, we practically never watch a movie – never as far as newer movies go. And we aren’t interested in the shows produced by HBO or Netflix, etc. I’m thinking our current plan is our best option. Am I missing something?
This does not mean, however, that you can never watch ESPN again after you cancel cable. Nearly every major media brand is moving toward offering its own standalone subscription service. Until then, though, if it’s important to you to maintain some continuity with your current cable-viewing habits, proceed to the next section for your best options.
Another way to watch TV for free is FTA (Free To Air) satellite. Receivers can be bought for as little as $50.00 on Ebay and if you have a bid C band dish or a Ku system 36″ dish you’re in business. Companies like Galaxy marketing, Sadoun Satellite Sales,and Satellite AV sell complete systems. I watch ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX.CW, This, AMG, White Springs, RFD, and many religious stations in English and Spanish. All For Free.
If you (and your significant other) are comfortable with a larger, more industrial design, the $100 ClearStream 2 is an indoor/outdoor antenna that boasts a 50-mile range. The benefit of the more powerful Clearstream 2 is that I could place it anywhere in the room and pull in 70 channels, ranging from the major networks to PBS affiliates and local Spanish and Chinese language broadcasts.
There is NO WAY to get FREE CABLE TV over the air, with an HDTV antenna. It is not possible to get HGTV, The History Channel, AMC, CMT, TVLand, and those other types of channels over an HDTV antenna! I wish these websites and these phony ads would stop fooling people into buying these “magic sticks” and “magic TV” antennas claiming that they will be able to watch CNN, TNT, TBS, The Science Channel, Biography, National Geographic, etc. without paying a cable company. It is NOT TRUE. They can stream whatever with a subscription, but guess what? THEY STILL NEED TO PAY THE CABLE COMPANY FOR INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT COSTS ABOUT $80 A MONTH WHEN YOU CANCEL THE BUNDLES!