For a long time now, cable has been perhaps the number one way to watch TV. With tons of different channels, there’s always something to watch. But there’s a big catch to cable—an increasingly expensive one—and that’s the cost. While cable prices have continued to increase, the service has remained largely unchanged.
Sure, there are a few new bells and whistles now: HD choices, DVRs to record your shows and more On Demand options than before. But those features are now facing some steep competition both on the front of price and on the front of convenience. As consumers, cable needn’t be the only option. It certainly isn’t the cheapest. So what else is there?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Netflix would be first on the list. With thousands of movies and recent TV shows to view, it presents a clearly valuable choice at the low cost of $7.99 for the basic package, or as much as $11.99 for the premium package. While it does require an internet connection to stream shows, you probably wouldn’t go without internet anyway.
What you get is much more than traditional cable has to offer. You can watch shows on any TV with a viable device connected (such as PS4, Xbox One or Wii U), as well as on Smart TVs with the built in feature for apps. But more than that, you can also watch Netflix on your PC, smartphone, tablet or other similar device.
For those you whom are a little more old fashion, Netflix does still offer a DVD/Blu-ray rental option. This is considerably slower than just streaming, but the choice is there if you need it.
Traveling and still want to view all your favorite Netflix shows on your Android or iPhone? You can, but you’ll need to get yourself a Virtual Private Network (VPN), as Netflix restricts content regionally. With a VPN, you can connect to remote servers located in the US, which will allow you full access to the usual line of content (and it also makes using public WiFi safer).
The one downside of Netflix is limited access to more ordinary TV programming. But it isn’t the only service on the block competing for your hard earned cash. Starting at $20 a month, Sling offers access to a small handful of the most popular channels, with options to add very select channels for just a fraction of the cost of cable.
Sling functions similar to Netflix in that it can be accessed on a variety of different platforms, though only on one device at a time. Typically owning a device such as a Roku will allow you to watch programs on your television set just like with cable. You’ll also be able to access live television, something not all streaming services offer.
Unlike with cable, you can actually own the device playing your shows, rather than being forced to rent a device for extra cost every month. There are admittedly a few channels missing that might be otherwise available on cable, but at such a steep discount, that hardly matters.
The only real downside is lack of access to “public access” television. You won’t get any local channels just using a Roku or the Sling app. That’s why it may be worth investing in.
Digital Tuners and Antennas
When we think of an antenna, it brings back memories of a bygone era where dad had to climb up on the roof to adjust the signal, perhaps with some aluminum foil. After all, we’ve reached a new era of smart technology.
But with that, we’ve also come far ahead in the field of broadcast television. Many stations such as FOX and NBC publicly broadcast their channels. So long as your TV has a built-in digital tuner, you’re able to receive those signals. For older TVs, you can purchase a separate digital tuner that can decode the signals.
Digital tuners can do more than that though. Newer devices can connect to your WiFi and broadcast to any devices connected in the house. They can even sync up with a PC so that you can create your own DVR system to record, pause and play your shows as you wish.
Naturally, you’ll also need an antenna to pick up the signal. Depending on the antenna, expect to pay anywhere from $20-$100; some antennas are simply better than others, complete with better reception and compatibility with HD signals.
Channel availability will vary with your locale, so this is best used as a supplement to other programs. But given that there is no subscription cost, it works as an excellent complement.
Don’t Be a Slave to Cable
Maybe cable doesn’t deserve all the flak it gets. But with some subscribers paying more than $200 a month, mostly to access just a tiny handful of channels they actually like, it certainly feels like the criticism is justified. If you’ve been stuck paying high cable bills, maybe it’s time to consider an alternative.
Don’t feel like cable is the only option, because it isn’t. Many consumers have decided they needn’t pay through the nose for a service scarcely more feature rich than other, much more affordable alternatives. Cutting the cord might be a little scary at first, but after a few hundred dollars saved in just a few months, you’ll quickly come to appreciate what competition has to offer.