If you are one of the many television watchers looking for new ways to get their channels without subscribing to traditional cable or satellite service, you may be able to cut the cord. Lots of cable viewers are opting for using a combination of Netflix, Hulu, Roku, Apple TV, UTube, Google Chrome or Amazon Fire TV in place of paying the spiraling cost of cable or satellite.
There are even more choices now, with streaming no-contract options from HBO, Showtime, Sony, CBS and Dish, which recently announced a new $20 service for streaming ESPN, TNT, TBS, the Food Network, HGTV, the Travel Channel, CNN and ABC Family.
Blu-ray box sets, DVRs, digital media libraries and players and on-demand internet streaming media providers allow viewers to sit down and watch an entire series in a single day or weekend.
If you aren’t quite ready to take on the full-fledged media-streaming by alternate devices, there are still some things you can do to cut your cable bill. The first is to pay for just what you need.
Many channels offer their video free over the internet using apps on smart TVs and boxes. These include Apple TV, using a Roku or subscribing to Amazon Fire TV. ABC News also recently joined Apple TV with live coverage and on-demand reports.
You can also use paid streaming services such as Netflix ($9 a month) and Amazon Prime ($99 a year with their shipping club). These offer access to lots of older TV seasons and movies. One of Prime’s big secrets is that you can group subscribe to Amazon Prime with four people each paying $25.
Hulu Plus at $8 a month offers fresher shows from Fox, NBC, ABC and Comedy Central. You can buy whole seasons of shows directly from Amazon or Apple iTunes, sometimes right after they air. For instance a pass to ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” cost $40 a season.
Several professional sports leagues sell direct Internet streaming access to games although often they black out any nationally televised games. You have to be careful when taking this route. If you stay current with a lot of shows or sports, it could end up being more costly than cable.
Getting the cheapest Internet service plus HBO is a matter of knowing what to ask for when you talk to the cable companies. Comcast calls it “Internet Plus,” Time-Warner Cable calls it “Starter TV + HBO and an Internet plan.” People who have gotten these services claim they just keep telling their cable salesman (who wants to upsell you) that all they want is Internet and HBO only. Comcast sold this for $67 a month plus $8 for a modem. This does not include a landline.
Here are some of the streaming boxes and services and what they do:
Apple TV: For only $99, you can have a full-fledged media-streaming device, which also supports AirPlay, many of the major television streaming apps and access to the iTunes Movie and TV store.
Xbox One: Users can rent individual television shows and movies on the fly or use a number of third-party apps. If you want live TV, your Xbox won’t really help you because television integration of Xbox One is physically tethered to a cable box.
Roku: Roku claims to offer over 200,000 movies and TV episodes along with thousands of other channels, making it difficult to run out of content. And it has different price points to fit every budget, starting at $39.99.
While nearly 900 of those channels are free, many cater to niche audiences, forcing users to sort through the options. If you’re looking to stream shows currently on television, you’re still left subscribing to a third-party service such as Hulu Plus or having a cable subscription login to get most of that content.
PlayStation 4: This supports Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Vue and third-party apps such as Netflix, and doubles as a respectable gaming console. However, the app selection is somewhat limited and requires a separate subscription.
Netflix: You get a huge selection of movies, documentaries, television series and original content such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Arrested Development,” all for only $8.99 a month. However, the interface leaves a lot to be desired for browsing and finding the right television show or film. And the library tends to lag behind current television series.
CBS All Access: For $6 a month, you can have access to a huge swath of the CBS archive and a number of current shows such as “Hawaii Five-O” and “Big Bang Theory” through CBS All Access. The service also provides access to live television in select markets. CBS All Access doesn’t include NFL Sunday games due to broadcasting rights held by the league. And the value of the service is limited for users who rarely watch CBS shows on a regular basis.
Hulu Plus: The wide network partnerships between Fox, NBC Universal, ABC and the CW give users access to television shows the day after they air for only $7.99 a month. Even though you pay a subscription fee, you’ll still have to sit through lots of ads strewn intermittently through each piece of content.
Amazon Instant Video: If you’re subscribed to Amazon Prime, you’re also subscribed to Amazon Instant Video. And, HBO fans also have access to a selection of shows from the premium cable channel.But be aware that not everything on Instant Video is unlimited streaming and may require extra fees.
If you do cut the cord you may still want to pick up local network channels. To do so, you will need a digital antenna. These are not the TV antenna’s of your parents day. Digital antenna’s are slim enough to sit on a bookshelf and generally cost under $100.
Since 2009, United States TV signals have been digital and usually broadcast in high-definition. If you watch mostly network shows like “NCIS,” this may be all you need. It isn’t perfect, and your experience may vary depending on how far you live from broadcast towers and other interference.
According to market research about 19% of American TV households live without cable. Doing without cable—or at least with less of it—is easier than you think.
Broadcasters give away the most popular HD channels free over the air, and Internet video services like Hulu, “smart” TVs and streaming boxes make it possible to remain a couch potato. None of this is as simple as clicking a button to channel up and down on your cable remote. But for the app-savvy, Internet streaming wins because of price, not because of convenience.
And, as always if you need help with your iPhone, iPad, computer or printer, give us a call at WynWay.