The days of mindless channel flipping are over. Say goodbye to Hardcore Pawn. It’s time to get lean and pay for the TV you want, not the TV you watch when there’s nothing else to do. Here’s how.
Step 1: Get Online
Make sure you have a good internet connection with a minimum downstream bandwidth around 5 megabits per second. Add another 5mbps for each additional HD stream you want. So if you plan to stream in the den while the wife streams in the bedroom and the kid streams on the john, 15mbps is a good target.
Step 2: Buy an Antenna
Believe it or not, your local network affiliates are still available for free over the air (OTA). You just need a digital antenna to pick them up. AntennaWeb.org will tell you which antenna is right for you based on your proximity to TV towers. Or if you live in a city, roll the dice on the Mohu Leaf, one of the best indoor antennas available.
Step 3: Snag a Personal Video Recorder.
These devices capture the OTA content from your antenna and act as a DVR. We prefer the $220 Tablo. Add an external hard drive, pay for the guide service ($5/month), and can watch live and recorded OTA content on any connected device. That means CBS on your phone, NBC on your laptop, FOX on your tablet and all of them on your TV, as long as you have...
Step 4: Add a Roku 3.
That’s not the only streaming device, but it’s the best, with endless apps, a remote with a headphone jack for private listening and a killer search function that scans for titles across multiple services.
Step 5: Get your apps.
Start with the Tablo app. Add Netflix ($8.99/month) for movies and Daredevil, Hulu Plus ($7.99/month) for Broad City and Louie, HBO Now ($15/month) for GoT and Silicon Valley, and Amazon Prime ($99/year) for Transparent. If money is an issue, be strategic. Buy a month of Hulu and binge on Brooklyn 99 and Bob's Burgers, then ditch it. Don’t pay for HBO Now until True Detective is over in August (by which point the exclusive Apple TV window should be over). Watch the whole season in a weekend, along with The Brink, then cancel until the next season. A Showtime app is also said to be on the way. One service to keep around is Dish’s Sling TV ($20/month), which provides live viewing of premium cable channels like ESPN, IFC and AMC. That means The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Portlandia and countless live sporting events. (A big caveat: Most Sling channels require that you watch live.)
Step 6: Fill in the blanks.
After an initial outlay of a few hundred bucks, a cord cutter can expect to pay around $50 a month for streaming services—$73 less than the expected average cable bill this year. If you’re saving $876 a year, you can afford to drop $20 on 10 episodes of Dog Whisperer.
Luke Bouma of CordCutterNews.com recommends learning to change your DNS server address so you can to watch content normally unavailable to people in your area. Unblock-us.com will show you how. Once you’re set up, use MoreFlicks.com to find out what movies are typically only available to Argentines, for instance, and go to town. This is also a handy workaround for local blackout restrictions that will prevent you from watching your local team on the MLB, NBA and NHL streaming packages, which will be a necessity for sports fans who’ve lost access to regional sports networks.
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