Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.


Last year's game was broadcast on NBC, but this year, the action is happening on CBS, a network with its own subscription-based streaming service, which is available on a wide variety of devices like Roku, Xbox One, Apple TV, ChromeCast, and some smart TVs, like Samsung's. You can sign up for a free trial to watch the game or just pay for a month of CBS All Access, which will set you back $6.
I’m hesitant to cut the cord with cable tv due to my husband’s sports. He watches ESPN (a couple of different ones), and the Big 10 Network. Other than these sports channels, we mostly only watch the regular network channels. If I had the food network and HGTV I would watch them, but I can do without them just fine too. Hubby does like the DVR feature that our ‘big name’ cable company provides. But the monthly prices keeps climbing! Any suggestions you have for us?
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?
If you’ve already signed up with a cable replacement service and you’re unhappy with its local TV coverage, you may want to consider adding OTA capture functionality to fill in the gaps. With a TV tuner and an antenna, you can watch local TV channels on just about every major entertainment platform. Once your system is able to access local TV, you can use the free or inexpensive software mentioned above to add DVR capabilities.
As you might expect from its namesake satellite TV service, DirecTV Now is one of the most traditional offerings here. Its base $40 package has more worthwhile channels than any of the others, and you can get pretty much any channel (except NFL Red Zone, absent from many competitors too) as you step up. A recent redesign brought with it a DVR and enhanced on-demand options. During our DirecTV Now review, the Roku app didn't work as we expected -- we couldn't pause live TV, for example -- but in its defense, the service does offer the very cable-like ability to channel surf by swiping left and right. It also offers deals on streaming devices and benefits for AT&T Wireless customers, including discounts and being able to stream on your phone without using mobile data.
Many local libraries have movies and television shows on DVD, and some even offer BluRay. Borrowing one is completely free as long as you are eligible for a library card, and you usually have a generous return window too. The only caveats are that your selection may be limited and other borrowers may not have been kind to the DVD when they borrowed it, so some of them may not work. But, when the cost is $0, it isn’t as painful when that happens.

Most 4k TVs and HD TVs these days have built-in digital tuners, so you probably don’t need a DTV converter box (see below for more info). You just plug-in your antenna using a coaxial cable into the back of your TV and start scanning for channels. Your TV might ask you to automatically scan, or you may need to go into the settings and choose auto or manual scan for channels. Keep in mind, the input on the TV must be set to antenna or TV (most TVs have multiple input sources such as HDMI1, HDMI2, USB, etc). Once the input is selected, your TV should ask you to automatically scan for channels.

The chart -- which is too big to fit on this page, so I made it a Google spreadsheet -- answers the question of which streaming local channels are available where. You see, just because a service like DirecTV Now offers Fox, that doesn't mean it offers your local Fox station live. If you live in Asheville, Las Vegas or Schenectady, for example, DirecTV Now doesn't carry your local Fox station. Hulu and YouTube TV do, however.
Another often-ignored cord cutting technology is the indoor TV antenna, the modern equivalent of the old-school “rabbit ears,” which can cost under $10 and gives free access to network content. It’s not on-demand (unless you shell out extra for a recording device), but for live events like the Super Bowl or the Oscars, having an antenna could be a lifesaver.
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. 

Video Streaming Services:  There are tons of online video streaming services like Hulu.com, Netflix,  Amazon.com Instant, CBS.com,  Philo, YouTube,  Comedy Central, HGTV, and ESPN that support the PlayOn software!  The software also now supports plugins, so additional channels are appearing all the time including the Food Network, NBA/NFL content, and others! –  Cost:  Free
Even if you can’t easily cut the cord, you might be able to reduce your cable costs. For example, renting a cable box for your TV often costs at least $10 to $15 per month—for each TV—to get HDTV and DVR capabilities, so a simple $35 cable plan can end up costing two to three times as much once you add hardware fees. Instead, many cable channels have streaming apps that let you watch programming on a Roku or Apple TV box as long as you’re paying for that channel through your cable subscription. In other words, you can pay for a single cable box in the living room while streaming episodes of The Americans or Mr. Robot to your streaming box, smartphone, or tablet for free. Reducing the number of cable boxes, while still being able to watch most programming, could save you a decent amount every month.
What you get: DirecTV Now should appeal to anyone who wants DirecTV service but not the satellite dish. The company recently hiked prices by $5 on its various plans. The company’s Live a Little plan, which provides 60 channels, now costs $40 per month, and the Just Right package has gone to $55 per month. Go Big jumped to $65 per month, and the top 125-channel plan, Gotta Have It, costs $75 instead of the previous $70. The good news is that the NFL Network has been added to all DirecTV Now’s packages starting with Just Right and above, at no additional cost. Also, you can add HBO for just $5 per month. The company will be launching a next-generation version of the service this spring that bumps up the number of simultaneous users from two to three.
Hulu+ is for those who want to watch episodes of their favorite shows as early as the day after. Hulu+ expands what is available for free on Hulu. There are movies and television shows available including children’s programming. Current seasons of shows often only have partial seasons, and their movie selection is much more limited than that of Netflix. Hulu+ has created original shows like Netflix.
There are a few other options, if you insist on getting news for free (or at least much, much cheaper). Services like Sky News, Post TV and Bloomberg TV are available on set-top boxes like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, and these stations play live news from anywhere between a few hours and a full 24 hours each day. Most set-top-box app stores have a News section, where you can learn more about your choices.

Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes. You can watch episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available for web site visitors.


Most television nerds will tell you that Netflix is the best thing since sliced bread. And they’ll go on defending that stance — that is if you can pry them from their screens. To date, the billion-dollar streaming service now has over 75 million subscribers. And while Netflix isn’t a free streaming service, it more than makes up for it with high-quality programming.
There is overlap, but streaming these during non-peak periods works very well if you have a good broadband connection. My work pays for a low-tier Cable business connection. No limits on the bandwidth this way, but if a home was normal and streamed 1 HiDef 2 hr movie every day of the month, the entire home should be under 250GB of use – no bandwidth cap issue for most DSL and Cable ISP connections in the USA. Forget this if you have cell data. It is too slow for hidef content.
For starters, the first two things any cord-cutter should get is a TV that has a digital tuner and some kind of antenna. Assuming you live somewhere near a metropolitan area, you should be able to pick up broadcasts from your local TV stations. For most people, that means you can get stations like PBS and your local CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX stations or affiliates.
However, I think we can get up to 25-30 channels sometimes. One funny thing that happens is that it seems that it is either HD or nothing sometimes. One second it will say that there is no signal and the next we will have a super crisp image. I don’t really know how it all works. There are indoor antennas, attic antennas, roof antennas, and then those extra heavy duty ones that shouldn’t be put on a roof.
Hey Vince – I’ve been meaning to add Playstation Vue to this list! They are good. They have a higher minimum price point, but you do get a lot of value for it. But I will disagree about Sling – on my Android, my wife’s iphone, and our Roku 3, SlingTV’s app has been great on all platforms. About a year ago when they were first starting out, buffering was horrible sometimes. But they’ve cleaned it up, increased their bandwidth and I have had no issues at all in the past 9 months.
Once your antenna is hooked up to the back of your TV or converter box, you can start scanning for available local networks. If you’re not having much luck try repositioning your antenna and scan again. Obstacles, weather, and distance from broadcast facilities can all play a factor in the quality (and quantity) if the digital signals you can receive. You can also use the FCC’s DTV Reception map to final local broadcast facilities by entering your zip code. Your built-in digital tuner should allow you to save the channels with good reception.
UPDATE: Due to their legal battle, VidAngel has a NEW streaming service. You can read all the details in my post about VidAngel being back, but basically, you can connect your Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO accounts and for $7.99 a month, you can filter content. It’s VERY awesome and exciting that they are offering this. You can get a 30 Day Free Trial here.
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