You just got your monthly bill for cable and satellite service. You opened it with one eye closed, in hopes that the number would look smaller, but it didn’t. Sure, you get 500 channels and a host of Pay-Per-View options, but it still seems like you’re paying to much to watch TV! Are there alternatives to cable and satellite that will give you and your family a month of entertainment without a $100-$150 bill? Gildshire set out on a month-long quest to find the answers? Did we find alternatives to cable and satellite? Indeed we did. Did we find the perfect one-size-fits-all package for everyone? Read on to find out what we discovered.
Traditional cord-cutting alternatives to cable and satellite.
By now, everyone has heard the term “cord cutting.” It’s when you get rid of your traditional television provider in favor of a web alternative. Cord cutters make a small investment ($35-$100) in a streaming device (Amazon Firestick, Chromecast, and Roku are the best known). Then they subscribe to a streaming service that runs through their computer and to their TV, (in the case of Chromecast), or straight into the television (in the case of Firestick or Roku).
Here is a partial list. It is only partial because, by the time you finish this sentence, three more streaming services will have launched. Let’s break it down into two distinct categories.
The “heck with it’ cord cutter, or “HWI.”
This person has had it with all of the noise. HWI doesn’t need any of the traditional trappings of television. He hasn’t believed a newscaster since Walter Cronkite and hasn’t enjoyed a weekly series since Miss Kitty made cow eyes at Matt Dillon (played by James Arness, not Matt Dillon the Brat Packer.) HWI likes to watch movies.
This cord cutter can save a lot of money with a Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or iTunes subscription. For less than $20 a month, almost any movie that hasn’t been released in the last month can be his.
The cord cutter who still likes TV, or “SLT.”
This cord cutter will want to look at alternatives to cable and satellite that most resemble what he or she has always enjoyed. Fortunately, the list is growing.
Network specific streaming services like CBS All-Access cost about five bucks a month, but for the most cable-like experience, SLT will want to go with a service that provides the networks and popular cable channels, as well as, if possible, local channels. If SLT lives in an urban environment, local channels won’t be a problem. On the other hand, if SLT lives in Dickinson, North Dakota, national feeds of the network news and shows are the only way to see them.
SLT should explore the likes of YouTube TV, Sling, Hulu With Live TV, or Playstation Vue (no PS console needed). They all have free trials, and an easy way to find out if local channels are available. DirecTV Now is an option as well, but unless HBO included is the be/all end/all Gildshire would recommend looking elsewhere. Each of these has a DVR, but the number of hours you can store a show varies by carrier.
The wild, wild west.
You have heard rumors and whispers about setups where you can see it all for practically nothing. You may have had experience with “The Magic Black Cable Box” 20 years ago, and want to know if there is anything similar today.
Enter Internet Protocol Television or IPTV. The sellers and resellers of IPTV are the gunslingers of the 1880s with 21st Century websites telling you what they can do to get you every channel known to man for practically nothing a month.
Well, can they?
Gildshire spent a month or so researching IPTV, and sat in on a cord-cutting expert’s YouTube channel. We learned that IPTV hucksters are long on what their service can do, and shorter on the follow-through. Are some people watching cricket matches live from Pakistan? Yes, but you will probably need a computer add-on, the most powerful iPhone/internet speed, or be willing to shell out for an Amazon Firestick to find out. Even then, the IPTV provider may be out of business, or in jail, next month.
You mean IPTV is illegal?
It’s a gray area. No, the feds aren’t going to knock down your door, but cease and desist letters have gone out to IPTV companies.
Here is our bottom line. For alternatives to cable or satellite, try one of the services we recommended for SLT. If you are tired of TV and want to watch movies, follow our advice to HWI. Either way, you will save money and be duly entertained.