Cordcutting Starter Guide: How to Become a Cordcutter

Cord cutting, cutting the cord, and cord shaving refers to people cutting their  subscription television services, dropping expensive pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media.

There are many different ways to cord cut. This cordcutters starter guide will show you some ways to save money and stop paying for expensive cable or satellite TV subscriptions.  A revolution has begun. Fed up with high prices, endless fees and taxes, and programming packages with 40 channels you don’t want for every one that you do, cable and satellite customers across the U.S. are kicking service providers to the curb by cutting the cord and sourcing their TV programming elsewhere.

 

Picking an Over the Air Antenna When Cordcutting

In the US, television signals are transmitted over the air via a system called ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee). These signals are unencrypted digital television signals. They can be picked up with an HD Antenna and fed into an ATSC Tuner (such as the one built into your TV). You are probably in range of many over-the-air broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, PBS, and other smaller networks like ION or PBS. You can get most local sports games (depending on your market), local news, and some more popular shows like American Idol, Family Guy, Parks and Rec, and Saturday Night Live. Antennas are often quite affordable and the picture quality – since you’re getting an unprocessed signal, rather than one processed over a cable box – tends to be pristine.

Enter your address on TVFool and see what’s in range. If the channels you want are “green” – congratulations! You can buy almost any antenna and it will work. If you don’t have “green” rated channels, you will have to delve deeper into understanding and implementing an antenna solution (e.g. roof installation, costing more than $70).

While TV Fool gives a very thorough analysis of what OTA reception one can receive from one’s location, sometimes it’s too technical for beginners, especially when it comes to differentiating between UHF and VHF channels. Try the FCC’s website for digital TV transmission maps. Also try Antenna Web – everything you wanted to know about OTA antennas.

 

Should you get a Personal Video Recorders (PVR)?

Personal Video Recorders can be used, assuming you get good antenna reception, to record (PVR) OTA television. Here are the most popular ones:

  • ChannelMaster DVR+ – no monthly subscription, 2 tuners, requires additional hardware (storage like an HDD)
  • HomeWorx HW-150PVR – no monthly subscription (programming schedule doesn’t extend far into the future), 1 tuner
  • Simple.tv – $5/month or $150/lifetime, 2 tuners, requires additional hardware (an STB like a Roku and storage like an HDD)
  • TabloTV – $5/month, $50/year or $150/lifetime, 2 OR 4 tuners, requires additional hardware (an STB like a Roku and storage like an HDD)
  • Tivo Roamio – $15/month or $500/lifetime, 4 tuners

As an aside, the reason most PVR solutions cost a monthly subscription is because they require electronic program guide (EPG) data, which is constantly getting sent to the set top box. This data allows you to schedule recording for upcoming shows in a series automatically.

 

What Hardware do Cordcutters Need to Stream TV?

Streaming is the act of sending video/audio content over the internet to your TV. This requires some form hardware box, unless you have a “Smart” TV which has built in streaming applications. For a list of different hardware options, go to the Which Set Top Box (STB) Should I Get? section below. Set top boxes vary in what streaming services they offer, so be sure to check out each before buying. For example, the Tivo Roamio can ONLY access Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, so if you like Amazon Prime Video, don’t purchase a Tivo Roamio. Services

 

Look at the guide for the best set top boxes for cordcutting

 

Best Cordcutting TV Streaming Services in 2016

Streaming content to a TV requires services. A few free ones:

A few pay ones:

Not all streaming services offer the same content, so be aware of what shows you like, research which streaming services offer them, and subscribe accordingly. It is generally well accepted that Netflix has the largest content library, but is stronger in movies, while Hulu has a small library but is the strongest in television. Interestingly, Amazon Prime videos has a large library as well, with unique shows that neither Netflix or Hulu have. AndroidPolice.com did a comparison of the most popular streaming services that is worth a read.

 

Best Online Television Providers in 2016

There are a few internet services that provide television without an antenna:

NimbleTV

  • NimbleTV limits access to traditional broadcast channels to people with a New York City address (all other channels are available to anyone in the U.S. or India)
  • The basic $30/month plan offers 51 channels with 20 hrs of PVR storage with unlimited tuners
  • Other plans are available, but the costs rise dramatically

Sling TV

  • SlingTV doesn’t offers traditional broadcast channels, but does offer cable channels
  • The basic $20/month plan offers 15 channels (ESPN is the big draw) with no PVR
  • The $25/month plan provides 24 channels (the 9 additional are all sports related)

USTVNow

  • USTVNow provides traditional broadcast channel programming from central Pennsylvania
  • The free plan provides 6 low-resolution channels that can be viewed on a PC or Mac
  • The $29/month plan provides 28 high-resolution channels that can be viewed on a device with a browser (PC, tablet, or smartphone) or Roku
  • The $39/month plan provides everything that the above plan offers, but with “unlimited” PVR storage and tuners that removes recordings after 4 weeks

Playstation Vue

  • Playstation Vue offers traditional broadcast channels in a handful of markets (Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco, specifically), and cable channels nationwide
  • The basic Access Slim plan is $30 a month and includes 55 channels. The Core Slim plan is $35 per month for 70 channels, and the Elite Slim plan is $45 for 100+ channels. Some additional channels are available as add-ons. A full list of available channels by plan can be found here
  • The non-Slim plans, which include local channels in the aforementioned markets, are $10 more per month. Note that, at present, if you live in a market that has local channels available, you can not opt for a Slim plan. You will have to pay the increased cost for the plan that includes local channels
  • All plans can be viewed on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Amazon Fire TV devices, iPhone, and iPad
  • All plans include “unlimited” PVR storage and tuners, but remove recordings after 30 days
  • All plans include access to the various “TV Anywhere” websites and apps run by most of the networks. You can activate this by selecting Playstation Vue as your “cable operator” when accessing the app.

Before pulling the trigger, compare the price of the proposed service against what television services your ISP can provide bundled. Many cordcutters are happy with these services because of the transparent pricing and how easy it is to cancel compared to traditional pay television providers.

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