So why recommend an HTPC over a set-top box? Full keyboard/mouse lets you actually use the device as a computer, allowing you to type and navigate comfortably. You can play games on it (a PC has always been a better gaming device than consoles, for my money). You can view Hulu on it without paying for Hulu+ (which, in addition to unlocking certain content and providing HD streams, allows you to view Hulu content on mobile and set-top devices). Bringing full computer functionality to your big screen is a big win.
Spectrum is now requiring a box for all TVs to receive their signal. I have a TV in the basement that I use while exercising and watch only news programs. Is their a way I can use one of your suggestions that will allow me to watch the news. Or are MSNBC, CNN, FOX etc by definition only cable channels. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix and would love to cut the cable if there were a way to also get these news channels. Thanks.

Most sports leagues also have their own streaming services for games: NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, MLB.tv, and NHL.tv let you watch games on your streaming device or computer. Unfortunately, due to blackout rules, you often don’t get access to your local team, which is what many people want to watch most. If you’re a big fan of the sport overall, or if your favorite team isn’t your local team, these services give you access to (almost) all games anywhere you are. Though somewhat expensive, they're priced similarly to getting the games in your cable TV package.
A lot of people pay a lot of money in order to be able to watch the TV shows that they want, when they want.  In the process they end up spending upwards of $500-1000 a year, mostly for programming that they don't watch.  If they would just look a little deeper they might find that there are a lot of free or low cost options out there, and they can get a lot of the same TV shows, movies and other video content for free.

If you don't already have one, you'll need an over-the-air HDTV antenna with a coax connector that is able to work as a receiver in your area. Depending on how far away you are from your local channel broadcast center, you might only need an indoor antenna, which you can get for about $15 - $30, or you might need an attic or outdoor mounted antenna, which could cost as much as $150. You can figure out which type of antenna you'll need by using TV Fool's signal locator.


3/22/16 UPDATE: It's been one month, and I'm still discovering little things. Quite by accident, while viewing a live channel, I pressed the pause button, which froze the picture. On hitting play, the show started from the very beginning, and I noticed "Time Shifting" appear on the screen. I haven't duplicated this, but I believe this is how you may start a live show from the beginning, should you tune in a bit late.
An antenna is your means of access to local programming when cutting cable TV. If you want an in-depth guide for the information required for an optimal antenna solution, you should check out my antenna guide. Setting up an antenna may be seamless, or it may be the most difficult thing you do when canceling cable. There are numerous variables involved in television signals and antennas. If you are having a difficult time with this, the antenna guide makes this task easier.
One approach is to use one of the cord-cutting “calculators” at sites like The Verge and Slate, which allow users to pick out which services they’re interested in and then tally up your savings relative to cable. These are useful, but they generally don’t take into account a key cord cutting enabler: the ability to purchase shows a la carte through iTunes and Amazon, usually within a day of their original airing. This isn’t new technology—iTunes has been selling television downloads since 2005—but it changes the streaming calculus because it means you can easily and cheaply plug any gaps in whatever bundle of streaming options you choose.
For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.
Streaming live TV services are still in their infancy, and the industry is still in flux. Since launch every service has increased prices by $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
Unfortunately, with some pay-per-view exceptions, you can’t buy live sports programming à la carte. Sports programming is one of the main reasons for big cable bills—ESPN and other sports channels demand the highest per-channel fees from cable and satellite services, and those fees get passed on to you even if you don’t watch sports. So cord-cutting combined with à la carte is more feasible for non-sports fans. If you do watch sports, we have more about your options below.
On the other hand, these services have clear drawbacks compared with cable. The first is that your ability to record programs or stream them later can vary from channel to channel. For example, Sling TV lets you watch content from up to seven days in the past on many channels, but ESPN and some other channels don’t allow you to rewind at all. And certain channels on Sling TV, including ESPN, allow you to stream to only one device at a time, whereas you can stream other channels to multiple devices at once. In a home with multiple users, people will likely get frustrated when their program stops because another person started to watch it in another room. Channel listings can also vary depending on your location, so you might gain or lose a local station or two if you’re using the service on the road. In addition, you don’t always get access to app streaming with any of these packages; you’ll be able to watch anything through the service’s interface, but not a network’s own app.

I’m sorry that you are disgusted, but I understand why you are wary. Keep in mind that some of these options let you try their services for free before you commit to anything. Also, if you have a few friends, as most people do, there’s a possibility one or more of them is already using one of these cable alternatives. Why not ask around to see if any of them do? That would give you the opportunity to receive a review from someone you know and trust to tell you how things really are. I wish you luck and encourage you not to give up on finding a replacement for cable.
At first I used an antenna, Netflix, Hulu and other internet websites for alternatives to catch all of my favorite shows. Last summer something magical happened after the TV seasons ended, I stopped subscribing to Netflix, and I quit watching TV. Today I probably average about 1-2 hours per week of TV watching. I don’t miss it at all, and I am still really busy. So now, I’m not only saving money, but I am saving time. It really is a win-win situation when you cut TV out of your life.

The sports-centric cable replacement service Fubo TV has deals with FOX, NBC and CBS. However, those deals only apply to stations the networks own directly. If the station in your area is an affiliate station, you may not be able to watch your local team play unless a regional sports channel is broadcasting the game. For example, if you’re a Chicago Bulls fan there’s a 45 percent chance that you won’t be able to watch the game on Fubo TV due to licensing restrictions. Click here to find out whether or not you can see your local team play if you get Fubo.
Since cutting cable TV, my family doesn’t miss our cable TV package one bit. We use our cell phones to replace the home phone, which we thought we would miss but don’t. We especially don’t miss the telemarketers. The kids initially missed a few channels, but now they are content fighting with each other over which of the thousands of kids’ shows at their disposal they will watch during their TV time.

Pete, you can find some free sports on sites like NBC and ESPN3, but it’s not regular enough to catch all your favorites. I enjoy watching a good game now and then, but I’m not a die hard fan who has to catch every game his favorite team plays. So I’m pretty much content to watch whichever shows come on the regular network channels (even if I have to put up with commercials… sigh).
So, I really appreciate all this information and the clear explanations you’ve given, as in where to get the channels I do watch and the cost. I really miss 3 local stations, but my favorite one which I’ve watched all my life and depended on for weather was already dropped from the cable lineup a few months ago. Luckily, I just learned of the new version of “rabbit ears” and have ordered one (2019 version) that claims to have a 120 mile range, which would bring me my lost station if it works. It’s gotten a solid 5 star review from many customers on Amazon, so I’m hopeful.

Very interesting reading. I am wondering if you are familiar with Kodi? I (think) it’s Linux-based, runs on pc and Mac. You can also create a “private” DVR (using an external hard drive is best, since you can get a 2TB for around $80). I’ll admit I need more info! Anything is better than paying ridiculous amounts to satellite / cable companies. Any thoughts?


I would love to cut the cord! I have direct tv and att bundled and pay almost $500/month! 6 cell phones and 6 dtv boxes with hd channels, but still only use a basic package i.e. no sports packages or movie channel packages, is almost stupid anymore and dtv keeps raising prices for what I already have (no upgrades). I only bundled the two to get unlimited data at a little better rate because with 4 kids we were burning through the limited data plan we had in about two weeks each month and I got tired of turning off the kids data plans each month until the next billing cycle. Anyway, my only hang up is that I love college sports (football, basketball, baseball, etc…) and I’m not sure if I can get sports channels on one of the options you listed. I live for bowl games and march madness!! Any idea if any internet streaming services offer an sports packages?
There are many differences. SlingTV is the cheapest, but it's missing many channels unless you pay extra for them. And If you're a fan of Nickelodeon or PBS, you won't be able to see the kids' TV favorite on YouTubeTV, SlingTV, Sony PlayStation VUE or Hulu with Live TV, but you can get Nick with DirecTV Now. And if you have an Amazon Fire TV Stick as your streaming device to bring Internet to your TV, you can't see YouTubeTV.  

The three aforementioned services are the most popular and have fairly similar offerings. Though their libraries are constantly changing, Netflix currently tends to have the deepest library of previously aired shows. A Hulu subscription also gives you access to current seasons of shows that are still on the air. And if you already pay for an Amazon Prime subscription, you should definitely see if they offer the shows you’d want to watch before subscribing to anything else.
I seldom watch TV. When I do, I like news to watch a little local or world news. Its my kids and wife that watch it. I would get this for them alone. But I am looking for a no contract tv service without an internet connection. But also most importantly, my wife’s needs,are HGTV, Hallmark mysteries and movies, all of the networks channels, usa, lifetime, ion, and for my kids, Disney and nick. They are the ones that I’d have to please in this. But how will i know for sure if i can get all of that?

These services usually offer free or discounted trials, so you can try before you buy. They also don’t require long-term contracts, so if you want to subscribe only during football season to get all the college and NFL games, you can do that easily, unlike with cable. You don’t have to pay for installation or return equipment if you ever decide to stop subscribing. This makes it easy to try several of the services in consecutive months and then begin paying for the one that best fits your viewing habits. You automatically get the HD versions of each channel instead of having to pay extra for a box that can display HD, as many cable companies require.

If you don't feel like paying exorbitant cable or satellite fees, but still crave the sweet pablum of basic cable programming, you can always try a cable-replacement service. These online streaming subscriptions deliver live (and on-demand) channels over the internet, and while they're not cheap, they're not as hellaciously expensive as traditional cable or satellite fees. If streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video aren't enough for you, read on to find out how you can reintroduce live TV into your home without signing your life away to an onerous cable contract.
Direct TV Now is a streaming service from AT&T that offers live TV programming over the Internet. It gives you access to over 60 live channels for $35 per month. This includes popular stations, such as CNN, the Hallmark Channel, ESPN, the Disney Channel, HGTV, TBS, Discovery, Bravo, Animal Planet and Bloomberg, among many others. But you can also choose to add HBO, Starz or Showtime for an extra $5 to $8 per month.

Con: The pricing. The most confusing of all the offerings. What seems like the best rates may not look so good once you've figured out that you have to tack on extras to get what you need. And boo-hiss on the extra charge for the DVR. Additionally, Sling is the only one of the cable alternatives mentioned here that doesn't offer the complete roster of broadcast networks. CBS and ABC are huge omissions. Because of all the negatives, SlingTV would be the last choice on this list. 
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