Cord-cutting is a movement where people are fed up with their cable or satellite bill, cutting the cord with them and going with alternatives for television. This movement has been going on for several years now, but lately the number of cord-cutters has been increasing at such a fast rate that cable and satellite companies are seeing drastic decreases in their number of subscribers and the television industry as a whole is being disrupted and desperately trying to figure out what to do.
My opinion is that this kind of disruption is good. Consumers previously felt locked into having to choose between a couple companies in order to get any television programming. Some places might have only had one company that serviced their area leaving them without any competition. Cable and satellite companies mostly offered all-or-nothing kinds of plans that cost tons of money because you were paying for all of the channels even when you only watched a few of them.
Now, consumers have so many options available that are much more affordable to fit anybody’s needs.
Alternative Sources of TV Shows
So, if we take expensive cable or satellite providers out of the picture, what are the other options out there? There are some paid options which are much cheaper than cable or satellite service, and then there are some free options as well.
Paid Video Streaming Services
Netflix is the most popular way to pay a little bit of money to stream unlimited TV shows and movies from their library. While it doesn’t have everything, it’s probably the leader in movie selection and also has a good amount of TV shows as well.
However, they usually don’t have current seasons of TV shows. But if you want to binge-watch old seasons that you never got to see, Netflix is a pretty good option.
Another thing I like about Netflix is, because it’s been so popular for so long, it’s available on just about any device you can think of.
Hulu+ is the paid premium version of the free Hulu service. Hulu+ lets you watch on more devices rather than just on your PC and gives you access to more shows.
Hulu+ tends to focus more on current season TV shows as opposed to Netflix, so if that’s important to you, it’s worth considering.
The biggest downside of Hulu+ is that they still show commercials even though you pay for the service. I suppose they have tried using the model of the cable and satellite providers in this area where you pay for the service and still get ads. I just don’t think it’s a good model that will last very long in the future.
Amazon Instant Video
Amazon Instant Video is a service very similar to Netflix, but is available to all Amazon Prime customers. It was quite the underdog in the video streaming scene, but since many people pay for Prime just to get free and fast shipping, those people found themselves with this video streaming service already available to them and has been doing quite well.
It’s doing so well that the Amazon Fire Stick was the #1 top selling product on Amazon in 2014.
If you’re heavy into Apple’s ecosystem, you may consider iTunes content via Apple TV. There’s a brand new Apple TV coming out that’s supposed to be pretty cool, integrating a motion control with a trackpad and Siri voice commands. I’m personally not into Apple stuff, so I can’t speak too much to this.
Since I mentioned iTunes, I might as well mention Google Play. While I don’t know of many people that use the TV and Movies offerings from Google play, it’s completely viable to use via Chromecast or Android TV.
TV Network Subscriptions
Another paid option that a lot of people take advantage of when they cut the cord is subscribing to certain TV networks that they are interested in. For instance, if you really want to watch some of the shows on HBO, you can subscribe to HBO GO.
If you are a sports fan, you might consider subscribing to NFL Game Pass, MLB At Bat, NBA League Pass, etc.
Sling TV is a relatively new Internet-based TV service that has a smaller selection of only the most popular channels for only $20/month. It streams to most devices (computers, mobile devices, Roku Player, Amazon Fire TV, Nexus Player, and Xbox One).
Free Over-the-Air Antenna
The most common source any cord-cutter takes advantage of is the digital terrestrial programming in their area. This means setting up a digital antenna and either plugging it directly into the TV or plugging it into a TV tuner device for use in a home theater PC. In the US, over-the-air broadcast TV is often up to 1080i HD and has most of the major TV networks.
TV Network Websites
If you live in an area that doesn’t get very good broadcast TV reception or you don’t want to buy an antenna and TV tuner, you can always check the websites of the TV networks. Many of them offer streaming of select full episodes from their websites. This isn’t the best way since they are, in fact, trying to incentivize people to purchase TV service, but it’s worth a look.
I am in no way endorsing piracy, but feel like it should be mentioned here that some people might go the route of using bit torrent, usenet, download sites, etc.
So now that you have a good idea of the various sources to help replace cable or satellite service, here is some hardware to consider.
Media Device for Paid Streaming
- Roku Player
- Apple TV
- Android TV devices
- Amazon Fire Stick
- Various Smart TVs or Blue-ray players with apps
Home Theater PC with Kodi
My favorite option is using a home theater PC (HTPC) in order to take advantage of many of the video sources all in one device. The most popular media center software to run on a HTPC is Kodi. Here are some hardware options that can run Kodi.
- Windows, Mac, Linux PC
- Android box/stick/phone/tablet
- Apple iOS device or Apple TV
- Raspberry Pi
Without a doubt, a Kodi HTPC is the best way to go when cord-cutting because it can stream from virtually unlimited sources and can also be the PVR to watch and record live TV if you have a digital antenna and a TV tuner.