If you're thinking about cutting your cable "cord," there are some products you'll have to have if you're expecting your TV to be more than a DVD display device. Good thing for you, there are only a handful of products you'll need to get the most out of your TV without cable.
To start, you'll need an Internet connection -- and with that, the products below will bring you almost everything a cable subscription can.
The company that's done more than any other to make cord cutting a viable option is Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) . The company streams everything from movies to TV shows to original content, and it's available on almost any new TV or streaming device.
Netflix has even become a tool for content companies to distribute shows and increase their popularity on network TV. Breaking Bad is probably the best example of this. The show averaged just 1.2 million viewers in its first season and 1.9 million in its fourth season. But thanks in large part to growing popularity on Netflix, the show got 10.3 million viewers for its final episode and is still finding new viewers today (like me).
A Netflix subscription doesn't give access to everything you want to stream, but it's a great place to start.
Netflix is great for older movies and noncurrent season TV shows, but Hulu Plus brings streaming TV more up to date. The company offers a lot of the shows seen on Fox, ABC, NBC, and Comedy Central the day after they air. Instead of being a season behind, you can be up to date on some of the biggest hits on TV.
Like Netflix, there are downsides to Hulu. There isn't a great movie selection and not every show you'd like to watch is available. Plus, shows are interrupted by commercials, unlike Netflix. But when you combine Hulu Plus and Netflix it's a great combination, and both are just $7.99 per month.
For a long time, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN ) has been the third wheel in streaming behind Netflix and Hulu, but it's recently made some nice additions to its offerings to close the gap. A recent deal with A24 has brought hits like Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring to Amazon Prime Instant Video. Hits like The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and Skyfall have also popped up recently, as more deals are signed.
The best part about Amazon Prime Instant Video is that it's part of Amazon Prime, which means you get free two-day shipping on a lot of Amazon purchases. That makes the $79-per-year cost a steal when you include streaming content.
If you've cut the cord and subscribed to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, you now need a device to play all of these wonderful services. It could be a Roku, a new Samsung Smart TV, or another device with a ton of apps. Having used all of them, I think Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) TV is the way to go.
Not only does Apple TV work seamlessly with Macs, iPhones, and iPads, it can access all of the content you have on these devices. Songs, movies, and even your iTunes Radio are built right into Apple TV. And as excited as I am about Apple TV today, the future looks even brighter.
In just the past few months, Apple has added apps like Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, HBO Go, Disney XD, Smithsonian, and many others. Notable this year is that you can subscribe to NHL Gamecenter and MLB.TV straight from your Apple TV. App development is improving at a rapid rate, and I think next year the Apple TV will be opened further.
Amazon is the one holdout, but an iPad solves that and I think it's only a matter of time before an app is on Apple TV.
If Apple does open up Apple TV to developers, cord cutting will become a very attractive option.
If you give up cable, you may no longer have access to even local networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. But these stations are free over the air and either an indoor or outdoor antenna will give you access. TV Fool has a tool that shows what stations are available over the air in your area, and depending on where you live a $10 antenna may be enough.
What you get from cutting the cord
With what I've outlined above, you'll spend about $110 upfront on an Apple TV and antenna and have to spend $22.56 on average per month for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video. That's not bad compared to more than $100 for a cable subscription and may make up for the things you'll still be missing.
What you'll still be missing
The biggest downside of cutting the cord is live sports, although that's starting to change. MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and NHL Gamecenter are available without any cable subscription, and most NFL games can be found over the air. Stations like ESPN still require a cable subscription, but with its mobile apps expanding I think that will change in the near future.
Stations like HBO, Starz, and Cinemax have apps, but those are also not available without a cable subscription.
For now, that's the downside of cutting the cord, but the obstacles are getting smaller by the day. Is cutting the cord an option for you? Let us know in the comments section below.
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