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How to Cut the Cable Cord: 6 Steps to Stream TV and Save Money

Living without cable could seem intimidating, but streaming devices and services make it easy and affordable. We sort through the options.

With the price of cable television continuing to rise at a rate four times that of inflation, perhaps you've been considering joining the growing number of people to cut the cord altogether. (I know I have.) The good news is that there is probably no better time to do so. With Sony's PlayStation Vue now available nationwide, there are more ways than ever to tune in to your favorite shows. And with Facebook and Twitter in talks with broadcasters, a cableless future looks bright.

We know that like any separation process, cord-cutting can be daunting, confusing, and perhaps even painful. Having clarified some of the myths around cord-cutting, we're here to offer a guide to breaking it off with cable for good. If you follow these steps, you'll be enjoying your TV viewing and savings in no time.

streaming devices

Step 1: Hardware

When your cable box is taken away, you may need to replace it with one or more additional pieces of equipment.

Digital Antenna
Kind of like the old bunny ears your television may have had when you were a kid, a digital antenna will allow you to receive the digital over-the-air broadcasts of your local affiliates and an array of other channels varying from Telemundo to MeTV, depending on where you are located. The best part is, after you purchase an antenna (they retail for about $25), watching those channels won't cost you a thing!

SEE ALSO: Tune In and Drop Cable With a Digital Antenna

Smart TV
You may already own a smart TV, but if you don't and have been thinking of upgrading your television anyway, now may be the perfect time to do it. Usually equipped with built-in WiFi, a smart TV will allow you to access streaming services via an installed interface. This saves you the expense of buying a separate streaming device (see below) and allows for your TV to be completely wireless save for the power cord. Prices vary depending on size and resolution, but you can almost always find smart TV deals in our weekly TV roundup.

Streaming Device
If you don't have a smart TV and want to watch more than the channels you receive with an antenna, then you want to get a streaming device of some sort. If you're a gamer, you may already have one: PlayStations and Xboxes come equipped with streaming capabilities.

Otherwise, you have two options: a set top box or a streaming stick. In terms of current-generation set top boxes, the big players include Roku ($129 with free shipping from B&H Photo and Video), Apple TV ($134 with free shipping at Staples), or Amazon Fire TV ($99.99 with free shipping via Prime at Amazon), and all three will give you the most robust interface. A streaming stick like the Google Chromecast ($35 with free shipping at Target) or Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39.99 with free shipping via Prime at Amazon) is a cheaper option.


Step 2: Streaming Live TV

While your digital antenna will work great for getting your local channels, you most likely will want some cable channels, without paying for a bunch you will never watch. Fortunately, you have a couple of options that cost less than your cable bill.

Sling TV
After a 7-day free trial, Sling TV's Best of Live TV package will run you $20 for 23 channels that include ESPN, AMC, HGTV, TNT, and IFC. From there, you can add on additional channels either bundled together or individually for $5 to $15 extra. They even have Latino and International packages. Additionally, Sling offers discounts on Roku — including a free Roku 2 — and Amazon Fire devices when you pre-pay for three months.

PlayStation Vue
Previously available in only New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Sony recently rolled out its PlayStation Vue service nationwide. Those cities still have a different pricing structure. For the rest country, PSV's plans start at $29.99 for the Access Slim package of 57 channels, including AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, and MTV. Another $5 gets you an additional 10 channels, and for $44.99, you get 101 channels. You can also add Showtime for an extra $8.99, Machinima for $1.99, Fox Soccer Plus for $12.99, or Showtime and Epix together for $11.49.

SEE ALSO: Cut It Out! These 6 Cable Cord-Cutting Myths Just Won't Die

Plus, if you like to watch on your own schedule, PSV has DVR capabilities. While PSV is available for PlayStation 3 and 4, it also works with Amazon Fire devices, Google Chromecast, and iOS devices, but no Apple TV or Roku.

Step 3: On Demand Streaming Content

While live TV is great, there's nothing like being able to watch what you want, when you want it. These services provide a smorgasbord of movies and TV shows for one low price. And chances are you're already using one or more of these services, so it may not even be an added expense.

Much like it successfully transitioned from DVDs to streaming, Netflix now not only provides content, but creates it. So not only is it a source for watching the movies and TV shows you know and love, but it's the only place you will find such programs as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Jessica Jones.

Its Basic plan starts at $7.99, but if you want to watch in high definition, you'll need to upgrade to the Standard plan for $2 more, which will also allow you to stream on two devices at once. An additional $2 gets you the Premium plan, which includes 4K content and enables four devices to stream at the same time. If your device can access the internet, chances are it is compatible with Netflix.

Amazon Prime
There's a good chance you're already enjoying Amazon Prime for its free 2-day shipping and all its other perks. Your membership also gives you access to more than 40,000 movies and television shows, as well as original programming like Bosch and Transparent. Prime will cost you $99 per year, but again, you get all the other perks that come with a Prime membership. It's available on most devices except Apple TV.

A joint venture of Disney — ABC Television Group, Fox Broadcasting Company, and NBC Universal Television Group, Hulu specializes in network television shows, but has also been developing original content like the Golden Globe-nominated Casual. Its basic plan costs $7.99, but for $4 more, you can watch commercial-free. Showtime is also available for an extra $8.99.


Step 4: Standalone Networks

HBO made a bold move last year when it became the first network to break from the pack and offer its programming independently from cable. Shows like Game of Thrones and Vinyl are available, to quote HBO's website, "about the same time" as they air on HBO. HBO Now is compatible with most streaming devices, although not gaming consoles, as well as mobile devices and computers. After a free month trial, it will cost you $14.99 per month.

Following on the heels of HBO, Showtime also began offering service without a cable contract last year. As such, shows like Homeland, Shameless, and Penny Dreadful are available when they air, along with a host of movies on demand. It costs $10.99 per month for most devices or less when you add it to an existing streaming service.

CBS All Access
If for some reason you're unable to access CBS via your digital antenna or streaming service, or you just really want to binge on 2 Broke Girls wherever and whenever, the network also has a standalone app that costs $5.99 per month. Be warned: Live TV isn't available everywhere and many sporting events are blacked out. It's available for most devices, except Amazon Fire and gaming consoles.


Step 5: A La Carte Content

Unfortunately, not every movie and television show will be available from your streaming service, especially newly released titles. In such cases, you may want to buy or rent a specific title from one of the below providers. Movies will typically cost the same as it once did to rent from the video store (if you can remember when you actually had to go somewhere to get a movie), while television show episodes will be slightly less. It's also a cost effective way to purchase the entire season of a favorite show instead of paying for a subscription to a network or service.

As indicated by the name, iTunes began as Apple's platform for loading music onto iPods, but has since become a portal for content of all types, including more than 300,000 TV shows and 85,000 movies in both high def and standard definition. Movies typically rent for around $4 and television shows for $2, but look for movie rental specials like its 99-cent Movie of the Week. It's available for most devices, except for Amazon Fire.

Amazon Instant Video
While Prime members have access to a selection of free movies and television shows, anyone can access Amazon's extensive library. Prices are comparable to those of iTunes, and you can watch on most devices, except of course, Apple TV.

Walmart's video service, Vudu offers a selection of movies and TV shows at prices comparable to those of its competitors. Plus, its InstaWatch feature instantly adds select movies you purchase on Blu-ray or DVD at Walmart to your digital account. It also allows you to upload movies for which you already own physical copies to your account for an added charge.


Step 6: Sports

Access to sports was once the main advantage cable held over streaming, but it is now possible to cut the cord and watch most professional sports.

NBA League Pass
This past season, not only did the NBA offer its NBA League Pass for $199.99, but for the first time it offered a Team Pass, where you could access all of a single team's games for $119.99. Even better, it also offered individual games for the first time at a price of $6.99.

But as local games are blacked out, these options might only be appealing if your favorite team isn't the home team. Also be aware that nationally broadcast games are blacked out as well. For those whose interest is only piqued once it gets closer to the playoffs, prices drop as the season progresses. Nearly all devices are supported and you can stream up to four games at once.

Major League Baseball dropped its yearly rate for MLB.TV for the upcoming season by $20, to $109.99. (You can also pay a monthly rate of $24.99.) It too offers a Single Team pass, for $84.99. Students and military members are eligible for a 35% discount. Included are spring training games, home or away broadcasts of all 2,430 games, and DVR capabilities. Most devices are supported.

NFL Game Pass
While you won't be able to watch NFL games live, NFL Game Pass allows you to stream all 256 regular season games on-demand once they end. Subscribers will pay $99.99 for this privilege. It is available on Roku, iOS devices, and gaming consoles.

A class action suit from fans forced NHL.TV to drop its prices this season to $132 for its GameCenter Live package, and $105 for its single-team package. Like NBA League Pass, these prices drop as the season progresses, and your local team's games will be blacked out.

Have you cut the cord? Which of these services do you like or dislike? Any tips? Let us know in the comments.

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Senior Staff Writer

Stephen has been writing for such national and regional publications as The Village Voice, Paste, The Agit Reader, and The Big Takeover for 20 years, and has been covering consumer electronics and technology for DealNews since 2013.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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Had trouble with roku customer service wanted $100 to flick a switch that's after buying the unit plugged into modem worked for 30 days upon cancelation of Netflix then they found me out won't work now still have to monitor credit card statement for Netflix charges

It appears you are referring to time-shifting and skipping commercials. You don't have to pay a monthly fee with all DVR's.

Checkout the Magnavox VCR's on Amazon. No monthly fee. And if you want to save off something to external media, they have builtin DVD burners (SD-burn tho). We've been using two of them for many years. Rock solid.

Go to AVSForum to see an incredible support community for them.

BTW, not sure what you meant about your large outdoor antenna, but it should have worked fine with Digital Over the Air TV. The number of channels for us probably tripled with DTV. Even includes 3 movie channels. My gripe: the local broadcasters get too aggressive with compression on the sub-channels (so 4.1 will be sharper than cable, but 4.2 and 4.3 will be over-compressed, sometimes to the point of unwatchable).
I look at the devices here I'd need to cut the cord and I find it rather overwhelming and confusing. Although I only watch a minimal of channels, as long as I can afford it, I'm not ready to cut the cord. It seems that if one pays extra for extra channels, it is another bill every month to pay and/or keep track of. More management. I have a slingbox attached to my HD box and I love being able to watch TV at home when I'm away from home. It usually works. I have five TV's in the house.. one HD box. The others are hooked up directly via cable, but I still need to pay a provider for what I do get on those TV's. My computer and phone are hooked up with that provider. It just sounds too complicated for me to consider another way, at least at the moment.
Digital TV switch over pretty much left me out of the game. I've never paid for TV (aka cable, dish, streaming, etc.). We had large (fourteen foot long) outdoor antenna. But it really dropped in what it brought in at digital cutover. USAmerican TV is just so chock full of disgusting advertisements that I have no compelling reason to be abused by. And, I've never quite figured out the cheap/easy long-term replacement for my VCRs. I had bought a SimpleTV which was very much what I wanted, but they had a period of time where it did not work for us. Never could get it back to working. And not paying another huge amount for a device from a company that is likely going to fail. I will never pay a monthly service fee for any such device, so things like Sony's DVR tivo are out of the question. That pretty much leave Channelmaster's thing. And it's quite expensive. seriously, just want a simple VCR. So I will likely not be a consumer of video content that most mainstream populace enjoy.
I had tried Sling tv in the past, but wasn't happy with the selection and lack of dvr. Decided to try Vue for $30 It is a much better value. They give you the ability to stream up to 5 devices at once (bandwith permitting), triple the channels and a personal dvr for multiple people Also using a hdhomerun dvr service with antenna with for locals on multiple devices and Netflix. Picked up a Fire tv that serves as the perfect cable box replacement
Thank you Ardbeg and Stonington, I am new to Koni, just downloaded it and managed to install SportsDevil and a few other plugins, now I need to find time to explore the SportsDevil interface...
SlingTV has been improving over time. Used to be that The Walking Dead would crap out during its air time, but that's no longer the case. What I've been operating on is a Roku 2 and a 100 Mbps Cox Internet connection. There's been no interruption to my viewings, and maybe one or two drops in quality, but they've only happened during a commercial break. For now, SlingTV will continue to get my business unless PS Vue proves itself to be a better value.
@herbert68, may be what you're looking for, but Bundesliga isn't available there. However, for what you get, is cheap.
If you have a PS4 and are located in one of the supported cities, Sony recently dropped the prices for Sony Vue bundles, which includes ESPN1/2, TBS, TNT, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, FS1/2, for those looking for sports. All those aforementioned channels are available on the lowest access bundle for $40.

@slatevt, you're right about a vpn being an additional cost, but I would add using a vpn is a great security feature for your everyday surfing needs. They're especially useful when using public wifi. One caveat to using a vpn with streaming devices, though, would be identifying if yours allows for such a set up. Coming from an Apple TV 4, I can say such a feature does not exist. In such an event, though, you could purchase a vpn-capable router.

I've used several vpn services (free and subs), and really like Private Internet Access, which I've had for about 6 months.
Just to emphasize one point made here when it comes to the NHL networks streaming... if you are at all close to your favorite team, ALL games will be blacked out. I want to dump cable and wanted to be able to watch my Hockey team. But, because I'm in an area that can get the games via cable TV, in my case NESN, all games are blacked out. It really sucks.

I "could" sign up for a vpn service someplace to change my IP address to possibly get around the blackout restriction, but this adds yet another cost to entire package.

Don't get fooled into thinking you can watch what you want with NHL.TV. You can't!!
I have a Tablo. It is wonderful! It's hooked up to a digital antenna and a 2TB external drive. I record all the TV shows I want and watch them anywhere I want - iPad away from home or Roku at home. It paid for itself after 3 months without cable. Now TV is free! Most everything that isn't OTA can be watched thru streaming. I still pay for internet, but I pay 1/4 of what I used to.
But for Roku, Netflix, Xbox or for any streaming device .... i will still need internet ?
herbert68: There is no easy answer to your question, but if you have a FireTV or other Android device there are two options worth considering. First option, install Kodi and then install a Kodi plugin called SportsDevil, which has pretty much every sporting event in the world. It probably gets its feeds from most of the same dubious websites you refer to (and as such quality/reliability varies widely), but it strips away the ads, popups, and other irritants and organizes the content.

The other option is an Android app called Mobdro (which, again, can be loaded on the FireTV if you follow easy tutorials via Google). It has tons of live streams of European channels that are generally fast, reliable, and crisp. The ads are minimal and not too irritating (or there is an ad-free paid version). The only downside is you have to know what channel the event you want is on (just like the old days).
Having owned several devices, I like the Fire TV the best by far assuming you have Prime (the Fire Stick gives basically the same experience for most people, the FTV's USB, better processor, and bigger storage have uses for power users). It's native apps tend to be slicker/smoother than Roku, Chrome, etc. versions (to say nothing of most Smart TV apps, which are almost universally ugly, buggy, and slow). But more importantly, you can "sideload" pretty much any Android app if you have rather minimal technical knowledge (just Google). The best of these is Kodi, a media center with tons of plugins that blows Plex or anything similar out of the water.
Sling is terrible, it streams at 3.7mbps which will eat at your 250GB cable limit quickly. Each time you enter it you have to throttle it back to save data. Channel selection is terrible.

My recommendation get amazon prime using your kids college kids name it will cost $50 not $99 besides the free shipping there is a lot of content to stream.
Then get yourself a streaming stick (or fire tv it has more horse power and memory).

To stay legal side load kodi and the firetv app (so you can see side loaded apps on the main screen). The best legal app is USTV-VOD this app aggregates the free content all the legal streams on all the network (air and cable). You get no commercials no annoying banners. I have not watched commercial TV for years due to this app, waiting a few days for a program is not an issue given my distaste for commercials. Almost everything is there from 24 hours to 1 week delay.
@ herbert68. Use kodi + sports devil or 3PM kick off. Plenty of articles on the interwebs to help you out. Just google.
I'm wondering where the internet speed is coming from... Is the thought to go with DSL internet for these streaming plans? I do not have access to fiber, so it seems to me cable is the connection to have and in my area, it's actually cheaper to bundle tv with internet than to buy internet alone. Would love to know alternatives!
I'm from Europe, and I want to watch mostly soccer for sports. We already have ditched the cable box and added AppleTV, Roku and Chromecast to our Smart TV.

BTW, the smart tv experience is really sub-par compared to the steaming devices we have, and as a result we almost never use that feature.

We also have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Spotify and others. They quickly add up in monthly cost.

Here is my question, how can I get access to global live streaming of soccer matches? I've searched the web and found many dubious websites full of bugs and ads, and poor service, most are not free.

But I have yet to find a good solution. Suggestions are welcome!
If you're already going to purchase a console, you can save a ton of money and get the Nvidia Shield. It's often overlooked.
Lets not forget FTA via a satellite dish.
Sling, from my experience, is horrible. Dropped connections and buffering makes for a terrible viewing experience. Live sports is the biggest loss for me with cutting the cord. Outside of hockey, I'm not motivated enough to buy other packages to get football or basketball, and as soon as my local team tanks, as they do every year, I lose interest in Gamecenter as well. Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime/Instant Video work great for me on smart tv/roku/chrome cast for on-demand content.
Antenna gets me about 40 channels including Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC. Sling plus one of their add on pkgs gets me 26 cable channels., Hulu and Netflix. I bought my own wifi router and modem cheap so I don't have to rent the cable company's. I have Roku on all our TVs which alone gives a lot of free content like Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Freeform, etc.
and cheap one time fee content like horror movies, westerns, 50s etc. Roku has the Sling, Netflux and Hulu channels so I can watch all of my content on any of our TVs. I bought a Tablo DVR which shows your antenna channels live in HD and records them in HD. Also Roku has the Tablo channel so can watch live or recorded antenna channels on Roku . Total bill was 200 now total which includes Internet is about 80. Roku also has the P,ex channel if you are a user of that. Note use Roku 2 or 3 or 4.
You neglected to mention the local media server Plex. If you run this on a local computer, you can access it through another computer, any iOS device including Apple TV and many smart TVs. Any movies you have can be served on Plex, as well as any music or videos you have on iCloud. There are 40 or so free channels you can access. One is CBS which offers next day commercial free playback of their prime time shows. It can also show EyeTV recordings from digital TV broadcasts. Plex is free, EyeTV requires a device to stream it on your ethernet cabling. HDHomerun makes such a device.