I am a TV fan. I’m certain you’re not supposed to admit that outside of therapy, but I know I’m not alone. While I enjoy my television shows, our family budget just doesn’t like the $100+ monthly bill. That’s way too much, especially when we’re not consuming tons of sports.
So, what’s a TV-lovin’ girl to do?
Like you, I’ve seen all the people who proclaim “Netflix replaced our cable and we haven’t looked back!” People who say that clearly didn’t watch much (good) TV when they had cable. And those people are the ones who use the library to rent movies. I can’t handle that type of responsibility. Our 7 library cards filled with fines prove that.
I’m here to tell you that you absolutely can watch most of your favorite network television shows for about $15 a month plus the cost of a streaming device. So, here’s the non-techy guide to ditching your cable or satellite and still watch your favorite television shows:
First, you need to subscribe to one or more streaming services. These services give you the ability to watch certain movies and shows. Here are the most popular options:
1. Netflix Streaming ($8/month) — We use this mostly for kids shows (PBS, some TLC shows like Cupcake Wars and Next Great Baker and Cake Boss, some Disney movies like Tinkerbell, etc), some movies (but understand the selection is less than stellar), and various documentaries like ESPN’s 30 for 30. My daughter also recently discovered back episodes of some HGTV and TLC shows on Netflix. My dad uses Netflix to watch old Vietnam and World War II movies every night.
You can set up a kids Netflix account so the little ones don’t have to scan through the more adult options when they are searching for a particular show.
Netflix offers a FREE one-month trial for new accounts. Netflix has no commercials and you can share your account with other users (we share with two other households).
2. Hulu Plus ($8/month) — I simply could not live with my beloved HP. This is how we watch most current network TV shows. They currently have most FOX, ABC, NBC, Comedy Central and some CBS shows. The new episode comes out 1-2 days after the original air date and you can typically watch all the current season’s episodes and sometimes past seasons (you’ll most likely have to catch up on longer-running seasons on Netflix). This is how we watch Master Chef Junior, So You Think You Can Dance, Black-ish, Brooklyn 99, The Goldbergs, and others.
If you enjoy your shows and don’t want to wait for the off-chance that Netflix will pick them up next decade, you need Hulu Plus.
Hulu Plus offers a FREE two-week trial if you sign-up through this link (that’s my personal referral link). Hulu Plus typically shows commercials (just like cable) but they do have an upgrade no-commercials option for $12 a month.
*Please note: There are some nasty, nasty shows available on both Netflix and Hulu Plus, so set up your queue so you only see the stuff you want and only allow your kids to search for shows when you’re in the room.
3. Amazon Instant Video ($99/year + get FREE two-day shipping on most items Amazon sells) — We have Amazon Prime but haven’t really jumped in with both feet when it comes to Amazon Instant Video. I used Amazon Instant Video to watch the first two seasons of Newsroom (crazy good) and my kids watch some cartoons only available on Amazon. Amazon Instant Video has no commercials.
4. HBO Now ($15/month) — Watch anything currently or previously on HBO without a cable or satellite subscription. HBO Now works on your computer, tablet, or smartphone and all of the streaming devices outlined below except Chromecast. You can get a FREE one-month trial here.
5. Showtime ($8.99/month) — Get full access to Showtime, including their live sporting events. through your computer, tablet, or smartphone or almost every streaming device. You can get a FREE one-month trial here.
6. Sling TV (starts at $20/month) — Watch live cable TV without contracts. You can stream the shows to your TV, computer, or device.
This option is different than the first five because you’re not watching “recorded” shows, you’re watching the shows live. This means you need to be at your TV or device when the show is actually on. No recording or pausing-so-you-can-pee options. Why would you get this? Sports and cable news. The basic package includes ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and CNN. The bigger packages include FS1 and FS2. Note you can’t get Comcast Sports Net or local sports cable channels. You can get a FREE seven-day trial here.
You can also watch many of your favorite shows on each network’s website or through their app for free, but the selection is sometimes limited and you won’t be able to watch it on your TV unless you have the right cables and you’re willing to get it set up each time you want to watch something.
Second, in order to use any of the streaming services listed above, you need a streaming device. The device connects to your TV and is the thing that talks to the internet to get your shows to play. See? Totally non-techy. Here are your streaming options:
1. Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39.99) — The Fire TV Stick connects to your TV’s HDMI port and allows you to stream almost anything, including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (which is free if you have Amazon Prime), Hulu Plus, YouTube.com, Pandora, PBS Kids and more. The plus is that it doesn’t have a box, so you don’t need additional shelf space and you can take the stick with you when you travel and plug it into other TVs to use your streaming accounts.
2. Roku Box or Stick ($35-$70) — Basically the same thing as the Amazon Fire Stick, but Roku has a box option. I don’t know why you’d want a box over a stick.
3. Apple TV ($69) — Same thing. It streams stuff.
4. Chromecast ($35) — Same thing, but supported by Google.
5. A streaming-capable Blu-ray player (as low as $45) — Depending on the player, it should have the big streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus uploaded out-of-the-box but you may have to download some lesser-known services. The plus is that it plays Blu-rays and DVDs. Make sure you purchase one that has built-in WI-FI or (I don’t think) the streaming will work.
6. A streaming-capable gaming device (PS4, wii, Xbox) or your laptop or tablet
7. A SmartTV. The newer TVs have most of the streaming apps already loaded.
The prices listed above are regular prices. Almost all of the options will go on sale throughout the year, especially during the holidays.
The streaming devices, regardless of the one you use, do not charge any fees (yearly or monthly).
Here’s what you will end up paying:
- The monthly fee for the streaming service you choose (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, ESPN, HBO, Showtime, Sling, etc)
- The actual streaming device purchase
I know the next question — how do I watch live sports without cable or satellite? You have five options:
1. Get a HDTV Indoor Antenna ($60-ish — one-time fee) — We have been using the FlatWave Amplified Razor Thin HDTV Indoor Antenna to get live network TV without cable for well over two years and are incredibly pleased. My husband installed it in the attic and wired it so both our TVs get FREE live network HDTV. We get ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, and various religious and re-run channels.
We primarily use it for live sporting events, like watching the Blazers or the Seahawks or the Olympics. Obviously, we can only watch the Blazers when they are on KGW (bite me Comcast SportsNet).
2. Get Sling TV — This is the only way to watch the various ESPN and FS channels without cable or satellite.
3. Stream with the NFL app — If you are a Verizon customer, you can live stream local and primetime games without using data.
4. Go to a sports bar. I KNOW. This is fairly inconvenient, especially if you’re used to watching football all weekend. If you’re a one-sport, one-team fan, this might work for you.
5. Stream games on YouTube — My husband has had luck recently searching for Blazer games on YouTube and watching them live. He searches “Blazers vs. [opponent]” and can usually find something. I’m not sure how kosher this is, but it’s on YouTube, so?
I realize this all seems incredibly complicated. Ask any questions you have in the comments and I’ll see if I can help!
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