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.
We bought a basic RCA Antenna, which gives us a few of the top channels. However, we also bought a more robust amplified antenna that works a little better. If the antenna will be your primary source for TV, get a good one. We can watch Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, and a few others. The quality is surprisingly good. The quality is better than when we stream their shows through Hulu+.
If these services offer the channels you want and the limitations won’t be an issue, they are more affordable than cable or satellite; you’re not locked into a long contract, either, and you can watch TV at home or on the road. Right now, we can’t say if any of these services is clearly better than the others, as channel offerings, prices, and apps are continuously changing. If you think a cable package might be for you, it’s a good idea to look at all the options and try a few out with any early subscriber discount in consecutive months. Once you’ve found the best fit for your viewing habits, you can sign up at the full price—and still be saving money compared to a traditional cable package.
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.
NFL Game Pass provides on-demand access to all games —including the postseason—after they air. It also gives you access to an NFL Films archive, including past episodes of classic shows like A Football Life, Hard Knocks, and America’s Game. The subscription fee has been knocked down to $50 for the rest of this season (it’s normally $100 per year), and that will give you access through July 31.
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.
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.
Depending on which sports and teams interest you, you may be able to catch games you want to see free. Fan of the home team? Local broadcast TV may carry most of the games, depending on whether blackout policies prohibit coverage in local markets. (The National Football League, for example, doesn’t allow games to be broadcast locally unless they sell out.)
By cutting the cord, you're also losing your access to premium channels, which often have some of the most daring content on TV. Networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz are the prime destination for edgy dramas like Game of Thrones, Homeland and Outlander, respectively. You can also get raunchy comedy specials, niche documentaries and newly released movies.
You might be able to quit cable completely, moving to a mixture of streaming services and paid downloads. Or you might be able to reduce your monthly fees by replacing expensive rental equipment with a streaming box and free apps. Alternatively, you could stick with cable or satellite but spend less by figuring out what you really need. It’s easier than ever to watch the content you want without being stuck in an expensive, long-term contract.
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.
Some services allow you to stream the newest movies. Vudu, for example, has a wide selection of high-definition movies available to stream the day they are released on Blu-ray. (You can also watch Vudu movies at Walmart.com.) Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, iTunes and Zune also stream new movies that you can watch on your computer or TV. Most of the services also offer a selection of movies (and TV shows) in HD, usually for an additional price. You may not be able to watch HD programming in all formats. Amazon Instant Video, for example, currently streams HD movies to your TV through compatible devices, but not to your computer.
For many people searching for local channels the issue isn’t keeping up with the Seinfeld reruns your neighbors are seeing, it’s keeping up with the local news. NewsON is a free Roku channel that allows you to watch newscasts from over 200 trusted local news stations around the United States. Catch live news or watch the previous few days broadcasts, all from the comfort of your home, no matter where that is. Plus if you’re trying to keep track of what’s going on in your hometown after you move away, it’s nice to know you’re not limited to just your immediate local channels like with the streaming TV options.
New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2018 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for a specific channel, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, Starz, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, AMC, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FS1, TBS, TNT, Golf Channel, Syfy, HGTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Bravo, Lifetime, Discovery, PBS, the CW, BBC, CSPAN, NBA TV, MTV, Comedy Central, Food Network, TLC, HLN, A&E, the Weather Channel, and NFL RedZone without cable, as well as free movies on YouTube. If you’re on the move, here’s how to watch Fox Sports Go and live stream NBC Sports.
Another approach to cord cutting is an online streaming package similar to traditional cable or satellite TV plans. Several companies now offer variations of this idea: PlayStation Vue from Sony (which works without a PlayStation console, despite the name), Sling TV from Dish Network, DirecTV NOW, Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV (not to be confused with YouTube Red), Philo, and Fubo.tv. Their services cost $16 to $40 per month, for their most basic plans, and they offer largely the same variety of channels as cable but give you a different experience than cable or satellite—one with both benefits and disadvantages.
We just started using PlayStation Vue. So far we really like it. I looked into Sling TV when we were getting ready to cut the cord, but then I came across PlayStation Vue and it had more channels and more of the channels we as a family wanted. My husband gets a ton of his sports channels, including the Golf channel and we still get Disney Jr. for our son. We also have Netflix and a HD antenna for local channels. PlayStation Vue was only $5 more a month so it was worth it for us. We access it through the Amazon Fire stick.
You can likely also get a lower rate (a promotional rate) by starting a new cable contract. Although no one likes being tied to a contract, it does reduce your bill. And you may not need to be a new customer to get a new contract: Try calling your cable company and asking about a reduced rate in exchange for a single-year contract. This arrangement carries the risk of paying a penalty if you need to get out of the contract early, but if you’re planning to be in the same place and to keep the same cable/Internet service for the next year, it can save you a good bit of money.
I canceled cable in March and haven’t missed it one bit. I’ve been just watching over the air channels, Netflix, and some Hulu. I’m working on a solution to get baseball as I like watching the Orioles. I’ve heard of an IP switching program called “hide my a$$” which should work in conjunction with MLB tv to be able to get Orioles games. (They are blacked out in the local area)
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.
Prime Video enables you to watch an extensive library of both movies and TV shows for just $8.99 per month, after a 30-day free trial. You can also subscribe to more than 100 premium channels, including HBO, Showtime and Starz, as well as dozens of regular TV channels. However, unlike regular cable TV, you only have to pay for the channels that you actually watch.
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.
Believe it or not, you can still have all this for significantly less than the price of cable. Even after subscribing to HBO Now, Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, and Amazon Prime Video, you’ll still be more than $250 in the black. Don’t care for Girls or Game of Thrones? You can replace the HBO option with Sling TV for $60 more per year ($5 more per month); about the same price as buying two individual TV seasons.
My preferred app for watching live TV on Apple TV is Channels for Apple TV, which costs $24.99. The iPhone and iPad version is absolutely free. It has a few extra features — it records up to 30 minutes of a channel you're watching so you can pause it and come back later (great for skipping commercials). With a subscription, you have access to full DVR support, too.
Google was comparatively late to the game, but it's carved out itself a nice little niche with YouTube TV. Its interface is no-nonsense, even drab, and yet it offers most of the features a cable service can give you -- namely, a robust channel lineup including local channels in just about every area it serves. It also has a very strong DVR, including unlimited storage, with one catch: If an episode you've recorded appears in YouTube TV's VOD library, it gets replaced by the on-demand version -- so you lose the ability to fast-forward through commercials. And unlike Sling and others, it's dead simple: one package, one price, done.
The quality of your TV picture isn’t only dependent on the quality of your antenna. It also depends on where you live in relation to the signal towers. A quick and easy tool to figure out which channels are available to you is the Mohu Station Finder. It provides information on the stations available based on your address. It also provides an idea of the performance to expect from different antennas.
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.
Hi! I'm Jeff. A personal finance nerd and entrepreneur at heart, I'm here to bring you all the latest cool ways to make and save extra money. I've been quoted in several online publications, including Entrepreneur, NBC News, GoBankingRates, Student Loan Hero, Business.com, Credit Karma, The Simple Dollar, US News & World Report, Lifehacker, MSN Money, Moneyish, Zumper, IdeaMensch, Discover Bank, PrimeRates, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, Club Thrifty, Guru Focus, Rent Track, Fit Small Business, Coupon Chief, and more.