Depending on your viewing habits, you may prefer some of the cable alternatives to getting your TV entertainment. On the Internet and on your mobile devices, you choose what you want to watch when you want to watch it, and most of it is free or low cost once you have paid for your service. While cable content is also mostly free once you have paid for your subscription, you are stuck with channel schedules for a lot of the content.
4 Cable Alternatives to Check Into
If you’re willing to trade less access to network shows for lower costs or increased flexibility, there are a few alternatives to cable at substantially lower cost.
Before cable, there were antennas. TV used to be free and you received it over rabbit ear antennas or over outdoor antennas, sometimes mounted on towers or on the roof. While cable technology has evolved, so has antenna technology, and those free stations are all still there if you get one of the new high-tech antennas.
Depending on your location, you may be able to get all the major networks as free over-the-air channels — in high-definition, also! How many channels you can receive also depends on the antenna. More expensive antennas have a wider range and can pull in more channels.
These signals don’t deliver the snowy, analog picture people used to get with rabbit ears. The signals are now digital and many are high-definition. The quality of the pictures is often excellent, and once you have bought your antenna, there are no other costs to pay.
Requirements for Internet-Based Services
Although you can cancel your cable subscription, you still need Internet service. Mobile service usually has bandwidth caps, and if you get your TV over the Internet, you need lots of bandwidth. Most broadband services are fast enough, but there are two things to check before canceling your Cable TV.
To make sure your Internet-based TV services are going to work properly, check the bandwidth requirements of the services you are considering and make sure your service has the required speed.
In addition to checking your contract, check your speed using one of the Internet speed tests to make sure you are`getting the speed you need. Then check whether you have bandwidth caps on your broadband service. Internet TV uses large amounts of bandwidth, and if you have caps, you may end up paying extra when you watch a lot of TV.
Internet Cable Alternatives
Many of the Internet-based TV services are designed to replace Cable TV, and offer lower cost and the ability to choose what shows you want to watch. Services such as Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV and Roku use set-top boxes or similar digital devices to connect your television set to their service through the Internet.
The companies have signed up networks and content providers and give you access to their shows as long as you open an account with them. They have different pricing models, but all cost much less than a typical Cable TV subscription, up to about $100 for the set-top box and a low monthly fee. If you have a gaming console, like a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360, you won’t need a set-top box, since apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus are already set up on your console for free.
None of these services have all the shows and programming available through Cable TV, but they all have a wide selection. If you’re looking for particular shows or programs that you want, check with each service to make sure they have them. In addition to Cable TV programming, some of the services are starting to offer exclusive content or content available on the Internet, but not through cable.
Another ones of the best cable alternatives is to scrap the cable model completely and focus on getting your entertainment through the Internet directly. Many people already view Internet content such as YouTube videos and Facebook links on their computers, laptops and mobile devices. You can access and watch the same content including movies, television shows and videos on your TV.
Google is a pioneer in this area with Chromecast, a service that lets you transfer whatever you are watching on a computer or mobile device to your TV. You buy a low-cost Chromecast module that plugs into your TV, download the corresponding apps on your computer or mobile device, and find the content you want to watch. You open it in a Chrome browser window, click a button, and the picture appears on your TV. You can then watch the content on your TV while using the computer for other things or to eventually look for more content.
While Chromecast makes the process convenient and easy-to-use, you can connect many TVs to computers and use the TV as a computer monitor. Internet-ready TVs (or Smart TVs) connect to the Internet on their own and many have browsers that let you look for Internet content.
Whichever way you decide to replace your service with cable alternatives, you can likely save money in the long run and view a greater variety of content with more flexibility in scheduling.
Photo Credit: Lauren Lewis