You decided to look for alternatives to Cable TV and rely on more modern sources for your favorite shows, sports games, and documentaries. That’s a noble goal and can help you save a significant amount of dollars each month, but you still have to pick the right options.
Choosing an acceptable replacement for cable depends a lot on your viewing habits, entertainment arrangements, and access to the right devices.
Great Alternatives to Cable TV
Here are the favorite options and what you need to get started. Remember that you’ll likely have to use a few resources to get the most of what you were used to with Cable TV alone.
One of the most dependable sources for your favorite TV shows are the networks that produce them. These networks, in an attempt to keep up with our video-streaming society, have produced a bevy of apps in recent years that offer access to your favorite shows in a timely manner.
Download the app to your device (phone, tablet computer, etc.) and pick out the show you want. You still have to deal with commercials, which are shorter in length, but tend to be much more repetitive, and you may have to wait anywhere from a day to a full week after your show’s original air date to watch, but this is still an easy way to sift through shows and get caught up on nearly anything showing today.
ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, the CW — almost everyone except the cable channels (AMC sometimes lets you view shows for free online) and sports channels (ESPN still makes you pay) releases a free app. The latest TVs and game consoles (PS3 and PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One) can also download these apps for the big-screen option.
TV Set-Top Boxes
TV boxes or “set-top boxes” connect to a regular television and turn it into a mini-powerhouse of features. Many people switch to a TV box when ditching cable.
These boxes come with “channels” where you can browse for programs or they may allow you to download various apps and extensions to watch your shows. Again, you are getting them a little late, but the setup is very similar to cable and may feel comfortable for you — if you are willing to pay the one-time prices for the set-top boxes, which tend to be about $50-$100. If you already have a Smart TV or a game console, you may not need a box at all.
There is a slightly different category of box on the rise, a streaming network box designed to be more flexible alternatives to Cable TV. Slingbox is a good example, with its ability to “sling” TV content from the Internet to tablets, phones and TVs around the house. Google’s highly simplified Chromecast is another popular option in this field, which appeals to those who want simple solutions to watch TV on multiple devices.
Movies & TV Shows Collection Sites (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
This is more of a sub-option, but still deserves some respect. Hulu is the most frequently used free option for now. However, you need Hulu Plus in order to get most of their available content.
On the paid side of the scale, you may have to wait a while for your shows to air, but Netflix is the undisputed king of collected shows.
Both Hulu and Netflix have apps that you can use to access programs on tablets, consoles, boxes and TVs. This allows you to “binge watch” shows at will, but there are a few drawbacks.
Sporting events and related shows are significantly absent, and it can be difficult to find options for watching these live, outside of using an over-the-air HD antenna. You either need to be in the right region and pay the NFL or ESPN for an extra feature, or just visit a friend’s house for the big games.
A Feature TV (or Smart TV)
Feature TVs attempt to make set-top boxes obsolete by including network connection and streaming capabilities internally. This can work out if your cable needs were fairly simplistic, but there are drawbacks. If you have a Smart TV, but haven’t used its features, there’s probably a good reason — the interfaces and menus are notoriously horrible.
You can buy a high-quality digital HD antenna for less than $50 and tap into some of the local HD signals in your area. This is very region specific — maybe even living room specific.
In the right spot you may be able to pick up a lot of great digital channels live and free, solving your sports problem and giving you ideal alternatives to Cable TV. In other areas, an antenna may not help much. It may also be difficult or impossible to stream the video to computers or mobile devices.
Purchase by Purchase
If you do not mind spending a lot of money, keep in mind that services, like Amazon Instant Video and iTunes, continue to offer shows for purchase in a regular and timely manner. You have to pay for each show or maybe for season passes based on your options, and prices generally settle down to a couple dollars per show. Of course, you also get many movie-purchasing options thrown in, too. Feature TVs, boxes, and consoles all typically have options for movie purchases, also.
You’re not alone in your efforts to cut the cord from your provider, and these alternatives to Cable TV are certainly ones worth considering. But make sure you give your Cable TV provider a chance to lower their prices and keep you as a customer.