The ultimate guide to the cord trimmer

Cable TV was once the ultimate entertainment necessity. Bringing hundreds of channels, many of which you’ve never watched, to your home became the norm, and cable companies knew they were keeping you online with bundles that also included internet and phone services.

But not everyone wants to pay more than $ 200 a month for a service they only half use, which has caused the rise of “cord cut”, or the elimination of traditional pay-TV service. and relying only on streaming services for movies, TV shows, and live sports.

According to eMarketer, more than 35.4% of households in the United States will no longer use pay TV by the end of 2024, a drop due in part to the pandemic and its shortage of live sports.

Companies like Comcast, Charter / Spectrum and Altice easily resist the loss of pay TV subscribers because they also sell broadband services. Cord cutters need a heavy internet hose to get the same quality of internet TV programming. If your Wi-Fi is weak, cord cutting is probably not for you.

A quick hit is just the start. Here’s what you need to become a full-fledged cord cutter with access to (almost) everything you’ll get through regular cable TV.

Antennas and live DVRs

Before getting into the apps / hardware, you need to make one digital cord cutter, think about what you can still get through over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts from major networks.

Major affiliate networks in major cities still broadcast over the air in HD – you just need an HD antenna to pick up the signal. Modern HD antennas don’t need to be roof-mounted or take up as much space as a satellite dish. Many are simple things that you set up next to the TV or flat devices that you hang in your window. That said, powerful outdoor antennas remain a viable option.

Before you jump on the antenna train, determine if OTA HD is an option for you. Visit AntennaWeb or TV Fool for a list of stations broadcasting nearby. If you can position your antenna in front of the nearest broadcast transmitter, all the better. Don’t be surprised if you don’t have access to any or only a few stations. It happens.

Image: Moho Leaf Metro

Top rated indoor HDTV antennas include the window mount Moho Leaf Metro, which plugs directly into a TV tuner. Outdoors, you can try the roof-mountable Antennas Direct ClearStream 1Max or 4Max models, with ranges of 40 and 70 miles, respectively. Other antenna manufacturers include 1byOne, Antop, and View TV.

Unless you live next to the local broadcast tower, you will probably want signal boost. Amps do not make the signal stronger in the house; they produce an already weak signal strong enough for the TV tuner to use. Even some of the flat antennas have amplification options, but amplification increases the cost of the antenna. Setup is easy, but you’ll have to play with the position of the antenna to maximize reception, just like playing with rabbit ear antennas. Some outdoor antennas can work from the inside, assuming they are high up, such as in your attic, and there aren’t many obstructions.

You can use a TV antenna to watch live TV, sure, but that’s not the 1970s. You need a digital video recorder (DVR) to capture shows to watch on demand. The TiVo Edge for Antenna system has two tuners and 75 hours of recording storage for $ 349, but it also requires an annual subscription of $ 70. TiVo has other OTA DVRs, as do companies like Tablo and Channel Master.

Multimedia hubs and smart TVs

streaming on tablet

There are many ways to watch Internet streaming TV like a cord cutter.

Screen options include your phone, tablet, computer, or the TV itself. All are perfectly capable: just download the apps for the services you want. Big names like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube are available on most platforms. On a PC, visit their respective websites.

If you have a decent laptop and a nice TV, an HDMI cable between them is all you need to be a cord cutter – stream to your laptop and watch on the big screen. You can also use your phone; There are too many apps available to stream or mirror what you see on your iPhone or Android device on the TV to mention.

Then there is the television itself. Leichtman Research indicates that 80% of households in the United States have some kind of smart TV. Most modern TVs are internet-connected “smart TVs” with apps and app stores. Use them to download most of the cord cutting apps you want.

Chromecast with Google TV

Chromecast with Google TV

If you don’t have a smart TV or hate your smart TV interface, get a media streaming device. You may already have one in the form of a game console; Xbox and PlayStation platforms support most streaming apps (Nintendo Switch only has Hulu, YouTube, and Funimation). Media broadcasters come in two other main forms: a USB drive-sized unit that plugs into the TV’s HDMI port, or a larger hub that looks more like a set-top box.

Our Editors’ Choice products for small “stick” media hubs include the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. If you don’t like Amazon, there’s also the Chromecast with Google TV, as well as devices from Roku. Amazon and Roku have also partnered with TV makers like Toshiba and TCL to sell TVs with their software built in, so you don’t even need the dongle or set-top box.

Our best media streaming devices

Know your cord cutting services

The key to effective cord cutting is knowing what apps are available on the hardware of your choice, knowing the programming of the different services, and figuring out how much they’re going to cost you. Here is a preview.

On-demand streaming services

hulu on a tv screen

(Photo by Illustration by Chesnot / Getty Images)

These are the services you are most used to reading. They’re subscription-based, let you watch what you want when you want, depending on availability, and feature original movies and series. Some originals are premium shows, some are foreign imports, some are cheap garbage – so much like all OTA TVs.

Our best video streaming services

Live TV broadcast services

youtube tv

YouTube TV

For some services, it was not enough to provide on-demand programming. They wanted to get into cable itself, providing an Internet cable TV subscription experience. Live TV streaming services won’t necessarily give you ultra-granular control over content – it’s not really like you’re only paying for the few channels or shows you really want to watch. However, they do provide access to a lot of content that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get without a cable subscription, especially news and sports. (For more, read Hulu + Live TV vs YouTube TV: Which is Better for Cord Cutters?)

Our Top Rated Live TV Streaming Services

Sports streaming services

Sports streaming is a weirdo in this world, where a lot of what you see is pre-broadcast and recorded. But fans want their sports live, and luckily our best live TV streaming services include some great sports channels (fuboTV in particular, as it started out with a sports focus) or as add-ons. You can also get premium sports channel add-ons on Amazon Prime Video.

We always choose Hulu + Live TV as the best live streaming option even for sports because it offers sports from BTN, CBS, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, Fox, NBC Gold, NBCSN, etc. . in addition to the local strings you get in your zip code. It’s also our top choice for streaming NFL and NBA games.

Our Top Rated Sports Streaming Services

Premium cable with paid streaming services

hbo max


Six years ago, the only way to watch HBO online was to add it to your cable subscription and connect to HBO GO. But as the popularity of Game of thrones exploded, HBO entered the 21st century and launched an online-only version of its premium channel in 2015. It has since become HBO Max, and a number of other premium cable channels have followed suit, from Showtime. to Cinemax via Starz.

Our Top Rated Premium TV Streaming Services

Consider the cost of reduction

Cord cutting has its benefits, but will it really save you money? The chances are slim. Especially if you want to access ALL content. For this you need subscriptions to all major services. It is not cheap. And the prices continue to rise. Here’s a pre-tax breakdown without even considering live TV or sports needs:

This monthly total is … not insignificant.

If you keep the cable alone, you won’t have access to the much talked about streaming originals, like Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Star Trek: Discovery, The boys, Ted Lasso, Loki, and too many others to mention. How you operate as a cord trimmer really depends on what you want to see. But you are more likely than ever to be a cord cutter and cord haver hybrid (AKA a continuous cable subscriber).

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