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How to Get TV Without Cable

By Daniel B. Kline - Sep 2, 2015 at 4:00PM

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It's a little tricky, but it's possible to get nearly every show you would with a traditional subscription.

One of the biggest things keeping people from cutting the cord is the belief that not having cable costs people the ability to view new shows when they first air.

That may have been true, or at least partially true, in the past, but now there are many options for cord cutters who still want to watch the vast majority of television shows in a timely fashion. It's now possible to slash how much you spend on television without giving up very much at all.

It requires a bit of cleverness, and there isn't one single solution to get every show you might want to see, but by picking and choosing from the solutions below, you can largely replace traditional pay TV with cheaper and even free options without losing much, if anything.

Start with an HD antenna
In the old days, before cable, televisions had antennas, which they used to pick up over-the-air channels. The same thing exists now, only the antenna decodes a digital HDTV signal, meaning you won't need to fiddle with rabbit ears or work out an aluminum foil-based solution. 

A simple HDTV antenna from the Amazon Basics line. Source: Amazon.

What channels are available depends on where you live. In most cases, people in bigger markets will get local affiliates for all of the major networks as well as a handful of other stations. (You can check which stations you are likely to receive where you live here.)

The only cost of doing this is buying an HDTV antenna, which can be done for under $25. Setup is simple -- it takes little more than plugging in -- and roof access is not needed.

Get Hulu
Because Hulu is jointly owned by Comcast (CMCSA 0.98%)Fox (FOX), and The Walt Disney Co. (DIS 2.28%), it has access to a number of series that air on the various networks owned by those three companies at nearly the same time they air.

In most cases, paying Hulu Subscribers (who pay $7.99 a month) get access to the latest episodes of series 24 hours after they air on traditional television. The streaming service has shows from a wide range of networks including Fox, NBC, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, the various ABC-owned networks, and more.

Paired with an HDTV antenna, Hulu gives cord-cutters access to quite a bit of television programming with a limited bill.

Consider Sling TV
DISH Network
's (DISH 0.18%) Sling TV service is effectively a skinny cable bundle delivered digitally. The service contains around 20 live-streaming cable networks for $20 a month, with the potential to add more channel packages for an added cost. 

Sling offers ESPN as part of its basic package, which makes it an ideal choice for sports fans. Pair Sling with an HDTV antenna, and you'll have access to the vast majority of live sports being televised, including National Football League games.

The DISH product also includes AMC, so subscribers will have access to its watercooler programs like The Walking Dead as well as A&E, TBS, TNT, and more. Sling on its own is a pretty good service that includes access to a lot of popular programming, but when added to a package along with an HDTV antenna and even Hulu, it's hard to see too many things a cord cutter will be missing.

A final piece of the puzzle
Until very recently, cable had an exclusive hold on Time Warner's (TWX) HBO family of pay channels. That meant customers had to have a wired subscription in order to watch Game of Thrones and other popular shows offered by the network.

That exclusivity is no longer the case, as people can now get HBO in a stand-alone pure-digital fashion (or bundled with Sling TV). For $14.99 a month, subscribers get access to everything HBO has to offer without needing a cable subscription.

It's cord cutter's choice
Even if you pick all of the above from this list, you'll still be spending under $45 a month. It might be possible to get a stripped-down cable package for that price, but the cord cutters will likely have access to more programming-per-dollar spent.

Cutting the cord requires being clever, and watching TV from multiple sources is not as fluid as having it all in one place. However, the savings from dropping cable can be very significant, and it's clearly possible to cut the cord without missing much, if anything.

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