Cable TV is expensive TV – more and more users are opting to cut the cable cord in favor of streaming alternatives due to rising cable subscription costs and complications with TV channel bundles. If you’re thinking about ending your dependence on your cable TV subscription and beginning your journey with streaming, there’s no better time to start than right now.
In this article, we answer the following questions:
In a nutshell, moving from cable TV to streaming services can save you a great deal of money that can be put elsewhere. It can also give you more of the entertainment you want, without you having to pay for the additional fluff channels that you don’t watch. That being said, it can be overwhelming to look at all of the options available for TV streaming, which is why we’re here to help with our step by step comprehensive guide.
What to Consider When Cutting the Cord?
The world of streaming is vast and plentiful, with many options available for cord cutters at every price range. The main goal of cutting the cord is to reduce cost, though, so while there may be up front costs when you buy a new device, TV or antenna, the overall cost of streaming should turn out to be less than what you were initially paying for cable TV. Here are some points to consider when making the jump from cable TV to streaming:
Cable TV Contract Period
If you’re locked into a contract period with your cable service provider, you can still terminate the contract before the time period is over. Be wary of any terms and conditions stipulated in the contract that may affect your decision, especially if there is a penalty cost for ending the contract ahead of time. Do the math, as it may be well worth it to pay the fee if it means saving more on your monthly bills going forward. However, if the cost of early termination is high, it might be a good idea to wait for the cable service contract to expire on its own before cutting the cord.
Internet Plan and Internet Speed
This part is tricky – some people use a cable TV bundle to get internet and phone service. You might have to renegotiate with your cable company to opt out of their cable service, or consider shopping around with other internet providers to get a deal on good, reliable service.
You should find out how much home broadband costs on its own and compare that to what you currently have. You’ll need a good internet plan with fast speeds and preferably unlimited data for you to be able to stream without disconnections and buffering. You’ll also need at least 5 Mbps if you’re looking to stream HD, more if you have more than one device you’ll be streaming on at the same time. A good rule of thumb is 15 Mbps for each device you plan on running at the same time.
One other internet consideration that is often overlooked is your neighborhood’s internet speed at peak streaming hours, especially for cable internet users (cable internet is shared among local service groups which could be hundreds of households). Between 6pm to 10pm on weekdays, check if your internet speed drops due to heavy usage in your area. You might want to give your internet provider a call to ask if anything can be done to fix high traffic internet problems.
Preferred Shows and Channels
What are your TV must-haves? Some shows are only available on certain streaming services, and it’s a good idea to consider the channels you and your family enjoy so you can make choices based on which streaming options offer the shows you’ll actually watch. To find out which channels you can get in your area, visit streaming service websites and check your postcode to see the channels they have available.
If you DVR shows often, on-demand streaming services let you watch shows when you want, even allowing you to pause or skip commercials. Many live TV streaming services also allow you to DVR shows and movies, often with a cap on the maximum number of hours you can store at a time.
If you are a huge sports fan, you might have some trouble cutting the cord as some sports channels are only available on cable subscriptions. Live TV streaming services can also double as regional sports networks – take a look at their websites to find out if they carry your favorite team’s games. Local networks are also an option for live sports, but you will need an antenna to watch them.
Existing Hardware and Network Devices
The hardware and network devices that you have in your home must be able to support streaming if you’re looking to cut the cord. For example, if you have four TVs, they must all be either smart TVs or have a streaming device to be compatible with streaming. If you have a smart TV, check if it has all the apps and services you want so you can figure out what’s missing and how to get those. You don’t have to have a smart TV to cut the cord – just a streaming device will do, and more often than not a streaming device is preferable to a smart TV as they are easier and more affordable to upgrade.
You’ll also want to take a look at your network gear – routers and modems that are not made to handle gigabits of data may not work for simultaneous 4K streams. Technical issues like wireless interference or improper port forwarding can also put a damper on your streaming experience. If you can’t identify a problem with your network equipment, you can call your internet provider for support. Most modern routers and modems are capable of handling HD streaming, but if you have some older equipment that hasn’t been upgraded by yourself or your internet provider then you may want to reach out to them and see if they will replace or upgrade it for free.
Number of Users at Home
If you have a few devices streaming TV at the same time, you may run into some streaming service account restrictions. Most streaming services have a cap on the number of devices that can stream content simultaneously, while some streaming services charge extra for additional or unlimited screens. The cost of streaming services can quickly add up, especially if you have multiple accounts with the same streaming service for one household in order to achieve simultaneous streaming.
How to Get the Most Out of My Options?
Now that you’ve considered the options you already have at home and identified what you’d like to get out of streaming, let’s take a look at how you can make the most out of what you have.
Take Advantage of Free Options and Month to Month Pricing
While cable TV contracts normally lock you in to a one- or two-year contract, most video streaming services offer flexible pricing where you can subscribe and unsubscribe whenever you need. Their main selling point is often that there is no contract required to subscribe, and no commitment time period needed to access their content. It’s much more cost effective to subscribe for a few months while you watch what you want, then unsubscribe once the live event or show is over.
However, it does take some work to keep track of broadcasting schedules across platforms and channels – it also takes work to note when your subscriptions renew. Some websites help you do this by tracking which shows arrive on and leave major subscription platforms, which is handy for planning your subscription schedule.
Some streaming services are free, which is great for covering any gaps in your chosen paid streaming services. Some of them stream live sports for free, while others stream national and local TV channels. Free streaming services often have advertisements that you can’t hide or skip, so keep that in mind if advertisements bother you.
Consider Combining Streaming Services and Devices With TV Antennas
An over-the-air antenna works with a tuner to provide you with basic broadcast channels that are already available on the network. All you need is a TV and good reception – most TVs already have a tuner built in. You just plug the TV into your antenna coaxial cable, run a channel scan and begin watching your favorite shows. If your TV is older and doesn’t have an inbuilt tuner, external tuners can be bought at most electronic stores.
What Are the Best Indoor HDTV Antennas?
There are outdoor TV antennas, and there are indoor TV antennas. If you live in an apartment or any other residence where mounting an outdoor antenna is not an option, indoor TV antennas are a great alternative as they are small, powerful and can be placed in discrete areas in any room. Use an antenna analysis tool like Antenna Web to figure out what channels are available in your area.
Indoor antennas have a relatively affordable upfront cost and any money you pay is one-off – you don’t have to pay monthly fee like you would with a cable or streaming service subscription. Indoor antennas are a handy supplement to make up for any channels and shows not covered by the paid and free streaming services you’ve chosen, plus they give you access to your local news. They can also be connected to an antenna DVR to record shows you might want to watch later.
There are many indoor HDTV antennas available for purchase, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:
August DTA240 Digital TV Antenna
The August DTA240 is an affordable portable indoor/outdoor HDTV antenna that has a magnetic base – this means it can be placed on metal surfaces to improve reception and signal reach. Surprisingly small but powerful, its compact and lightweight design allows it to be placed just about anywhere and everywhere to optimize your TV’s digital reception.
Made by a UK based international company, the August DTA240 digital TV antenna comes with a 6.5ft standard coaxial cable so it can be used with almost any TV. It can receive frequencies of VHF 174-230MHz and UHF 470-860MHz, which covers Freeview and DAB broadcasting.
1byone Digital Indoor TV Antenna
Thin, small and wall-mounted, the 1byone indoor TV antenna can be affixed to a wall or a window to maximize reception. It comes with a 4 meter long cable that allows you to stick it to the best antenna location in your home using 3M tape, whether that is behind a cupboard, behind the TV or even on the ceiling.
This 1byone antenna supports VHF 87.5-230Mhz, UHF 470-790MHz and FM frequencies, giving you smooth access to high definition TV programs without the need for monthly fees or contracts. It uses a standard coaxial cable that is compatible with most TVs, so all that needs to be done to install it is to unpack it from its box and connect it to the TV – you can begin searching for channels right away.
RGTech Monarch 50 Indoor HDTV Aerial Antenna
With a 50-mile range, the RGTech Monarch 50 integrates Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) technology and a 4G filter that optimizes reception and protects from interference from mobile phone signals. It is 4K and 1080p compatible, delivering top quality shows to any TV that is digital ready.
This RGTech antenna comes in two colours – black and transparent so you can decide which suits you best. It is paper thin with a discreet and stylish design that fits well in any home, anywhere. A 15ft coaxial cable and double coated removable foam tape is provided, allowing you to choose exactly where you’d like to have it. No power supply is needed for this nifty antenna, all you have to do in the installation process is to plug it in and start scanning channels for your favorite shows.
What Are the Best Streaming Devices?
If an indoor HDTV antenna doesn’t quite do the trick with channel options, consider getting a smart TV or a streaming device to get you closer to cord cutting equilibrium. Smart TVs are television sets that connect to the internet, and they usually have popular streaming apps pre-installed. For some users, that is enough, but other users prefer to buy an additional streaming device to add on to the streaming experience.
Some gaming consoles and Blu-ray players can also double as a streaming device – it’s a good idea to check streaming service websites to find out if they are compatible with what you already have, so you don’t have to spend more than you need to. If you have a smart home device, yet another point to consider: some streaming devices integrate directly with any home devices you have installed.
If you don’t have a smart TV, don’t worry. Smart TVs are optional as you can just get a streaming media player to stream your favorite shows and movies. Streaming devices work as an intermediary that connects your TV to the internet. Once plugged into your TV’s HDMI port, you can access and stream content through the streaming device’s home page, either through a streaming TV service provider or an app. Streaming devices are also better than smart TVs because they are more affordable and they grow with your streaming needs.
Before you purchase a streaming device and before you subscribe to any streaming services, take a look at their websites to see if the streaming service you’re looking at is compatible with the streaming device you have. Some streaming devices already have free content, so you might not have to shell out more for streaming service subscriptions.
The Roku Express is a great streaming device to start with, providing HD, 4K Ultra HD and HDR streaming. It comes with a high speed HDMI cable and a simple remote, connecting your TV to your favorite shows and movies with just a simple plug in. Additional features like voice search, TV casting and an extra remote can also be accessed using the free Roku mobile app for iOS and Android. Roku streaming sticks allow you to access free content on The Roku Channel on top of other free and paid channels like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and NOW TV.
If your TV’s resolution is older and limited to 1080p then there is a slightly cheaper option for your consideration called the Roku Express HD Streaming Player. We would recommend spending the extra money to future proof yourself and get the Premiere model.
Google Chromecast Ultra
Click Here To Purchase
Google’s Chromecast doesn’t function like most other streaming devices that have remotes and on-screen menus. Instead, the dongle is plugged into your TV’s HDMI port and your content is cast from your smartphone or tablet to your TV. It’s a great addition to homes that have the Google ecosystem installed, especially if you have the Google Home app – because everything is integrated, streaming comes at the touch of a button on a device you probably already have in your hand. Using Google Nest, you can begin streaming shows up to 1080p with just one voice command, ensuring a seamless entertainment experience.
You also have the option to purchase the 3rd generation Google Chromecast for less than half the price which supports up to 1080p and 60fps.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4k
Compatible with the Alexa Voice Remote, the Amazon Fire TV Stick comes optimized for 4K Ultra HD streaming. While most streaming devices and streaming services don’t have surround sound, this device offers access to Dolby Atmos on selected Prime Video titles, as well as access to Dolby Vision. If you have Alexa in your home and an Amazon Prime subscription, integrating with the Amazon Fire TV Stick allows you to experience Alexa skills and channels, view supported live camera feeds and so much more.
There is also the option for the non-4k version, but for $2 more you can ensure you’re covered when you upgrade your TV in the future.
Apple TV 4k
Similar to other well known AI assistant providers, Apple TV is compatible with Siri voice commands, using a touchpad remote that works like an iPhone that can double as a gaming remote. It delivers 1080p HD, high-quality video with Dolby Atmos 360-degree cinema sound. While it is on the pricey side, its sleek design, user friendly interface and compatibility with most popular streaming services makes the investment worth it.
NOW TV Smart Stick (Europe only)
The NOW TV Smart Stick streams content with apps like Netflix, YouTube and many others in addition to the NOW TV entertainment packages – all you have to do is plug it into the HDMI port on your TV. Streaming at 720p using Wi-Fi, it comes with a 1 month Entertainment Pass and a 1 month Sky Cinema Pass, but these passes require a NOW TV account set up to redeem them. The subscriptions auto renew every month, but they can be cancelled any time.
What Are the Best Video Streaming Service Subscriptions?
Now that we’ve taken a look at the hardware options for cord cutting, let’s look at the video streaming services available on the market. These are divided into three main types, the first being on-demand video, where you can watch shows and movies any time you like once they are released on the platform. The second type is live TV, which is a good substitute for cable TV as it grants you access to TV channels, similar to what cable service subscriptions provide. The first two types of video streaming services are subscribed month to month, but third type functions like a store where you can rent or purchase shows and movies for a one off price.
Some things to pay attention to when selecting a streaming service:
- Price – How much does it cost to get everyone what they want? If your household is a large one, the cost can really add up as there is no one streaming service that has everything everyone wants.
- Advertisements – Can I skip ads? Will it cost extra to skip ads in recordings? Some streaming services have ads in their user interface, but no ads in the actual content, while other streaming services have unskippable ads at the beginning, end, or in the middle of the show.
- Compatible device – Will I be able to use my smart TV or streaming device with this service? Some services can only be used on specific devices, but most are compatible with the top devices on the market.
- Content choice – Does this service offer me the channels and shows I’ll watch most? There’s no sense in subscribing to a sports streaming service if you aren’t a huge sports fan, the same way you wouldn’t subscribe to a streaming service for kids if you don’t like kids shows.
- Video quality – What is the maximum and minimum video quality I can stream at? If video quality is important to you, you might want to shell out for services that provide 4K and HD video.
- Surround sound – Does this service offer 5.1 audio for all or some shows and channels? For an immersive entertainment experience, you’ll want to invest in services that have 5.1 surround sound.
- Sharing or out-of-home viewing – Can I bring my shows with me on a different device? Can I share my login with other people? Some streaming services limit devices and logins.
- DVR capabilities – Can I record shows to watch later? Or can I watch it on demand? How long can I keep my recorded show for? If you use your DVR often for cable TV, you might want to make sure you get the same function for streaming.
- Number of streams – How many simultaneous streams can I have running at the same time with this service? Will more streams cost extra? If you have a large household, you’ll need space for more simultaneous streams, and that can cost you more in the long run.
Sling TV (Orange / Blue /Orange+Blue)
FuboTV (Family / Elite)
Vidgo (Core / Plus)
# Of Channels
30+ / 45 / 50+
120 / 165
40+ / 60+
7-Day Free Trial
3-Day Free Trial
7-Day Free Trial
3-Day Free Trial
Streaming Devices Supported
Web, iPhone & iPad, Android phones & tablets, Android TV, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast via Android.
Web, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android, IOS, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox
Roku, Amazon Fire Tv, Apple TV, IOS, Android, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox, Chromecast
Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, IOS, Android, Android TV, Chromecast via Android
10 Hours or 50 Hours for $5/mo
250 / 1000 Hours
24 Hour playback plus VOD
# Of Streaming Devices
1 / 3 / 4
3 / 5
EPIX $6/mo, STARZ $9/mo
$30 / $30 / $45
$64.99 / $79.99
$45 / $55
Philo is a live TV streaming service that offers plenty of entertainment for a low price of $20 a month. You get access to 63 channels plus unlimited DVR that lets you save shows for up to 30 days, it allows up to three simultaneous streams at a time with no contract needed to lock you into your subscription. You can make up to 10 profiles per account, which is perfect for a multi-member household. Philo can be used through the web, iOS and Android, and it is also compatible with Android TV, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast devices. You can try the service with their 7 Day Free Trial.
fuboTV specializes in sports channels for football fans, but they also have live news and entertainment channels making for a hefty bundle of more than 100 channels. With 30 hours of DVR that can be upgraded to 250 hours for an additional charge, users can record their favorite sports events to be watched any time. Up to two simultaneous streams are allowed with more available at additional cost, with some events available in 4K. fuboTV is supported by Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Roku among others. Sign up for a week long free trial!
With both English and Spanish packages, Vidgo offers the best of both worlds with live sports, news and shows at an affordable cost. It is available on Android, iOS, Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV, and it allows up to three simultaneous streams at once. On top of that, their TV Everywhere function allows for additional live TV streams – you can do so by logging into specific TV apps using your Vidgo username and password.
Sign up now and get $5 OFF on all their streaming packages!
FandangoNOW allows you to buy or rent movies and TV shows from their library to be watched on any compatible device, anytime and anywhere you like. No subscription is needed and sign up is free – all you need to do is sign up and purchase the content, then download it so it’s ready to watch offline or on the go. It is compatible with Roku, Google Chromecast, Android, iOS, Airplay and Amazon Fire TV devices. Click here to check out FandangoNOW’s large selection of 4k titles!
Rakuten TV is a movie and TV show rental and digital purchase store, unlike most other on demand video streaming subscription services. Their TV shows can only be bought and cost about the same as a DVD box set, while their movies can be rented or bought with different price points for renting and buying newer or older films.
Rakuten TV is compatible with numerous smart TVs, PC and Mac, Xbox360 and Xbox One, iOS, Android and Windows devices, Roku, and Google Chromecast. Their library selection includes the latest releases, with some movies and shows available in 4K HDR and Dolby Vision and full Dolby Atmos surround sound support.
One of the biggest names in on demand video streaming, Netflix offers a wide selection of movies and TV shows including well-known original series and series that are exclusively for Netflix. They have multiple tiers available, from just one stream at a time with no HD content, to allowing up to four simultaneous streams with 4K content, HDR and Dolby Atmos audio. Netflix utilizes adaptive streaming that adjusts stream quality according to the bandwidth you have available.
Netflix is compatible with PC and Mac through any internet browser, iOS and Android devices, most smart TVs, Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and most gaming consoles. Users can set up different profiles to get personalised recommendations and to keep favorite shows and films, with additional content restrictions for kids. Most shows are available in 1080p HD with 5.1 surround sound, and users have the option to download movies and TV shows for offline viewing.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is a subscription-based on demand video streaming service with a wide selection of shows and movies as well as a few popular original series. It offers streaming content in 4K and HDR along with Dolby Atmos surround sound, with its newer titles available in Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
Their subscription model is paid up front annually, but they also have a monthly plan and video on demand that allows for rental and purchase of TV shows and movies. Amazon Prime Video is a default extra for Amazon Prime subscribers. Compatible devices include Roku, most smart TVs, some Blu-ray players, Amazon Fire TV, many gaming consoles, PCs and Macs, as well as iOS and Android. Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video’s adaptive streaming changes the bitrate of pictures according to your available bandwidth. If you are not already a prime member, then you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime Video!
A newcomer to streaming, Disney+ boasts a massive range of titles from every part of its entertainment empire. All content on its platform is available in 4K Ultra HD with HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos – you can also download any amount of shows and movies for offline viewing. A family centric subscription service, Disney+ has their classic animated movies, as well as movies from Pixar, the Star Wars saga, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disney+ is compatible with various devices, including iOS and Android, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, most smart TVs, Chromecast, and PC and Mac. Users can stream on up to four devices at the same time, and create up to seven user profiles with one subscription. Downloads for offline viewing are unlimited and can be stored on up to 10 devices.
Now TV (Europe Only)
Owned by Sky, Now TV has both live and on demand content that is normally broadcast on Sky’s channels – it is a service offered as an alternative to users who don’t have a satellite dish or who want more freedom and flexibility than the usual TV packages available. It is compatible with many devices, including iOS, Android, Now TV Smart Stick and Smart Box, Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, PS3 and PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and PC and Mac.
Now TV allows you the option of selecting from multiple show Passes to create your own content bundle, so you’re not wasting money on shows you won’t watch. Each Pass can be started and cancelled at any time. You can stream simultaneously on a maximum of two devices, with 720p resolution.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Cutting the Cord?
Pro: You’ll save money
If you play your cards right while selecting options for cord cutting, you’ll definitely save on a decent amount of money you would have spent on cable TV services. On top of that, you’ll be able to pare down on the unnecessary spending for channels you don’t watch often, while choosing to keep only the shows, movies and channels you like.
Pro: You’ll see fewer ads
While some free streaming services will still have ads, paid streaming services usually don’t as their main source of revenue comes from paid subscriptions. That being said, some streaming devices like the Fire TV and Roku still have ads on their home menus – this is still much less than unskippable ad breaks taking up space in cable TV shows, though.
Pro: You get better choices with streaming
While you won’t be able to mindlessly channel surf like you could on cable TV, you’ll be able to pick exactly what you want to watch, especially for on-demand video streaming. New content selections are available all of the time, whether in the form of original series or new subscription options. The best thing is that you can subscribe and unsubscribe any time you want to create an entertainment experience custom curated by you, for you.
Con: You may pay more for internet
Cable TV often comes in bundles, where a single bill covers your home phone, TV and internet services. Packages like these often get you a discounted rate for internet service, because you’re already subscribed to additional services. If you’re shifting to an internet-only subscription, it’s quite likely that you’ll be charged more for similar internet speeds.
You may also have to upgrade your internet plan from a lower-speed internet service to faster internet that can accommodate your household needs, especially if you have multiple devices streaming 4K videos at the same time.
Con: Streaming video quality is subject to user traffic in your area
While cable TV provides consistent signals to your TV, streaming services can be affected when internet services are down, for example during a service outage. Video quality also depends on the internet bandwidth that is available, which is affected by the number of users currently using the internet in the area you live in. If user traffic is high, the speed of your connection will drop – some streaming services adjust your video quality automatically to prevent it from freezing, pixelating or buffering.
Con: Streaming can be affected by device performance
For example, older routers can receive interference from other devices – this affects your connection to the internet and thus video streaming quality. If there are areas in your home without network connection, you might have to consider routers that create a mesh network or a new router that provides better coverage and faster speeds. The upgrades needed to make your network streaming compatible might cost extra up front.
Con: Streaming services sometimes have outages
During extreme high traffic events, streaming service apps can crash – especially during popular sports events, or during much anticipated episodes of well-known TV shows. When many people are trying to watch the same thing on the same service, it can quickly overwhelm the service’s network servers and cause errors. Not much can be done about this, but you can check if the streaming service has the capacity for high traffic.
How Will I Take the Plunge?
With so many options for streaming, cutting the cord leaves you spoilt for choice. It would be a good idea to take advantage of free trials as a test run to find a streaming plan you like before cancelling your cable TV subscription.
Shop around and do a little research, then try going without your cable subscription for some time, using only streaming to get your entertainment fix. This helps you get used to the different remote controls and user interfaces used in streaming, and if you encounter any issues they can be ironed out with some time and patience.
Once you’re ready, the last step to cord cutting is to call and cancel your subscription to cable TV. Your cable service provider might try to negotiate a better deal with you, but stand firm if you’ve decided that cutting cable TV is your decision – cable subscriptions are charged annually, and that is both a long time and a fair amount of money to commit to considering the freedom you’ve tasted with streaming TV. Cutting the cord is worth it to save on entertainment costs, and you won’t have to deal with a cable TV provider again.