Jay and I are what’s called “cord-cutters,” meaning we don’t pay a normal monthly cable bill and only subscribe to online streaming services. The primary reason for our switch was to save money (which we certainly have), but we also felt we’d have plenty of options for watching TV without the normal list of channels. For anyone who’s intrigued by the idea, I put together a list of six alternative ways to watch TV shows and movies that don’t require a normal cable subscription.
If you’re interested in getting started, you’ll first need to switch to an internet-only plan through your local service provider. We pay $50 a month for the fastest internet speeds available, including rental of the wireless router. The second step is to purchase a streaming device, such the Amazon Fire TV or Roku stick, which will allow Hulu / Netflix / Amazon Prime to play on your TV.
Once you’ve accomplished those two steps, it’s time to select the type of streaming service to which you want to subscribe. The list below includes some of the most popular options available. You can choose one or choose a few to get even more availability:
1. Netflix – Probably the most well known option with a behemoth collection that offers seemingly endless choices. You’ll have to wait a year or two before the full seasons of current TV shows are available, but the sheer amount of content makes this hardly noticeable. The selection of movies is just as extensive, although you won’t be watching movies that were just released on Blu-Ray / DVD. By far, we watch Netflix more than any of our other streaming services.
Cost: $7.99 per month for SD (standard definition) or $9.99 per month for HD (high definition)
2. Hulu – Similar to Netflix, but offers current episodes of many TV shows one day after they air on live TV. The movie selection is lacking, but the ability to discuss current shows with your co-workers might just make it worthwhile. In our experience, we don’t watch Hulu as much as Netflix and find the 2-3 commercials every 10 minutes a bit annoying (I know, we’re spoiled). We’ve also had technical errors at least 25% of the time when we try to watch a show…requiring us to restart the show, fast forward, or rewatch the commercials.
Cost: $7.99 per month ($11.99 per month for the no commercial plan)
3. Amazon Prime – Although most well-known for it’s free 2-day shipping, Amazon Prime also gives you access to a library of TV shows and movies (including some original shows). There seems to be a lot of overlap of Prime content with Hulu and Netflix, but it’s a great bonus if you’re considering purchasing Prime for the shipping. They also recently began offering the option to purchase Starz or Showtime for an additional $8.99 per month, which fills the gap with newly released movies.
Cost: $99 for a full year, including access to free 2-day shipping, the Prime music library, and unlimited photo storage.
3. A. Starz / Showtime Add On – As mentioned above, this gives you access to Starz or Showtime for $8.99 per month. We just did a 7 day free trial of Starz and decided to keep it for another month. We might end up switching between subscribing to Starz and Hulu every six months, since I’m not sure either one is worth paying for a full year.
4. HBO Go – Full access to all of HBO’s original shows and movies. Obviously with this you’re getting top rated TV and newly released movies. However, at this price we don’t yet believe it’s worth the cost.
Cost: $14.99 per month
5. Sling TV – One of the few options that allows you to watch live TV along with the rest of the country. Instead of choosing shows or movies on demand, you can choose from 65 TV channels and watch whatever programming is airing live. With channels such as ESPN, AMC, Food Network, TNT, TBS, CNN, you’re getting access to shows, news, and sports that isn’t possible with the typical streaming services.
Cost: $20 per month (add a sports package or kids package for $5 per month)
6. Antenna – Certain stations are broadcast for free over the airwaves, all you need is an antenna to pick them up. We tried this route, but couldn’t find a good spot in our apartment to pick up the stations, so we had to return it. This is a worthwhile investment if you are able to get decent reception. It’s certainly worth a try and you can return the antenna if you don’t have any luck.
Cost: $30-60 depending on what brand you buy
I’m sure there are additional options out there and more seem to spring up each month, but this gets you through some of the basics. There are certainly benefits and drawbacks to both streaming and cable, but if you’re looking to save some money, it might be worth becoming a fellow “cord cutter!”
If you use any of these services (or others that I haven’t listed), share your experience in the comments!