Watch TV Without Paying for Cable

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, one out of every seven Americans is a television cord cutter- meaning they once had cable or satellite TV but no longer do. “A shift in how people watch TV is underway,” the study said.

The main reason to cut the cord is savings. Some have reported cutting their cable bill by half or more. Another reason is because people are finding they can access content online—perhaps by binge-watching their favorite shows through a more affordable online streaming service—or via an over-the-air antenna.

If you don’t know a Fire Stick from a Hulu, the idea of cutting the cord can seem formidable. Fortunately, there are several ways to drop cable and still watch the TV shows you want.

cut-the-cordEasiest way to cut the cord
If local broadcast content is all you want, it costs as little as $23 to buy an over-air antenna. If you live near a major TV market, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get many of your free, local network broadcasts—such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, and Telemundo—through the antenna. All you need is a TV equipped with a digital tuner, something included in all TVs since 2007. Those with older analog TVs will need a digital converter box to convert to digital signals. Look at TV Fool’s TV Signal Analysis tool to view the available stations within your area.

Get a box
You may already have a Smart TV (an Internet-connected television) that is equipped to receive the programming you want. If you don’t have a Smart TV, you’ll need a media streaming device, such as a Roku, a Google Chromecast, an Amazon Fire TV Stick or an Apple TV (the name is deceptive, it’s not a TV — it’s for your TV). These small, inexpensive devices act as a media hub, allowing you to browse TV channels and content immediately using on-screen apps.

Get a service
Once you have your streaming device, you’ll need to connect to a content provider for service. Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and Amazon Prime are the most popular streaming video services, with subscriptions costing $8 to $35 a month. Before you cut the cord, make sure you have fast enough Internet access to stream your programming online using apps or Web sites. To check your Internet speed, go to speedtest.net. You’ll need at least 5 megabits per second (Mbps) for full high-definition streaming, which most homes have.

Another option—your gaming system
More than half of U.S. households already own a device that can stream online content straight to the television—a video game console. If you own a PlayStation, Xbox or a Nintendo Wii, you can set it up to stream so you can begin testing the cord-cutting waters.

If you like sports
If you have a huge sports fan in the house, you’ll definitely want to research before cutting the cable cord. You can purchase online a la carte sports TV packages (like NBA League Pass or NHL Gamecenter Live). But be careful—you may get to a point where all the different packages you’ll want to purchase can get expensive.

Sources: Forbes, Pew Research Center, Time Inc.