I stopped paying for cable about 6 months ago and I must say I am very happy. I’ve always been one of those people who thought cable TV was absolutely essential and always invested $ 100 or so to have around 300 channels. Over time, however, I realized that I only watch a few channels here and there, and a lot of what I watch was still through iTunes, Netflix or Amazon Prime. Did I really need a cable connection for CNN, ESPN and a few local channels only?
Well, for some live TV, it’s great: Oscars, news, etc. Etc. However, I could still watch it all without my cable box! I never knew until I read an article somewhere that there is something called over-the-air (OTA) channels. These are all HD channels that are streamed for free. This includes channels such as ABS, CBS, NBC, Fox and many more. So I was very excited to be able to watch almost anything I wanted without a cable box.
The only problems I had were the program guide and recording of the show! Now that there was no cable TV, I didn’t have a DVR and TV guide. Another problem with antennas is that not all areas receive all local channels. Fortunately, using an online DVR service solves all of these problems. Second, most of these services now include local channels in their packages, so you don’t have to worry about antennas and a dedicated hardware DVR.
In this article, I will talk about some of the big players in the online DVR space and also mention a couple of companies that still sell good hardware DVRs. If you don’t have a good internet connection, a physical DVR that can be used offline at any time may be the best option.
TiVos have been around for a long time and were the first to give us a DVR (at least a good one that worked well). What I love about the TiVo line of devices is that they are geared towards those with a cable subscription and those looking to use HD antennas.
The device in the screenshot above is a 1TB TiVo Roamio OTA DVR which retails for $ 399. This may seem like an overpriced option, but you have to remember that there is no monthly maintenance fee. They used to charge $ 15 a month for channel picks, etc., but now they got rid of the fees.
It also acts like a new Apple TV in the sense that you can use it to search for movies and TV shows on its OTA channels and any video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon, etc. The device will allow you to record up to 150 hours of HD content. It also has 4 tuners on the back, so you can record up to 4 programs at the same time. They also have a great mobile app that lets you manage your device and recordings from your phone or tablet. You can also watch your recordings on a mobile device.
I will not talk about their cable TV options as I am assuming that you do not need cable TV if you are reading this post. Overall, the TiVo is still a great option if you get crisp local HD feeds on the air. If not, check out other services below.
Sling TV has also been around for a long time and is the largest streaming service in the country. Sling is also supported on pretty much all streaming devices, so you won’t have any problems watching channels.
At the moment they have two packages: orange and blue. Orange costs $ 20 a month and includes 30 channels, blue costs $ 25 a month and includes 45 channels. What I love about Sling is that they have tons of other channels and additional services that you can add for an additional monthly fee. Some of them cost $ 5 a month, some more. Plus, they have tons of international channels that you can add for an additional fee.
Obviously this can get quite expensive if you add a lot of things, but you can choose and change the channel composition whenever you want. Sling also has an easy-to-use Cloud DVR feature for recording shows and movies.
The only downside I noticed with Sling is that you need to make sure your region is on the list of markets that local channels like NBC, etc. are broadcasting. Unfortunately, not all markets can get all local channels. Follow this link to find out what local channels Sling offers in your area.
Also, if you choose the orange service, you only get one stream. If you choose blue, you get 3 streams. If you see both orange and blue, you get 4 simultaneous streams.
A new player in the market is YouTube TV, which gives you 40+ channels for $ 35 a month. Google is the king of cloud computing and their main argument is excellent DVR service. They also include all local channels (ABS, CBS, NBC, Fox) in the service, which is very good.
First, you need to check if this service is available in your area Just start signing up for a free trial and it will ask for your zip code or auto-detect your location. It will then tell you if you can register.
Plus, you can create up to six different accounts for each family, each with its own individual settings and a separate DVR. There is no limit to the number of programs recorded. Google will keep each entry for up to 9 months. However, you can only stream within the United States at this time.
You can have up to three concurrent streams per membership. Thus, three out of six accounts can stream simultaneously. Finally, YouTube Red is not included with the YouTube TV subscription, but you can watch YouTube Red Originals. YouTube TV also includes on-demand programming depending on the channel.
Next up is DirecTV Now, which ranges from $ 35 to $ 70 per month, slightly more expensive but gives you access to 120 channels. You also have access to over 25,000 books on demand.
The big downside to DirecTV Now is that it doesn’t currently support any DVR functionality, which is a big deal! Apparently, it will be in the near future, but at the time of this writing there was no DVR.
Another disadvantage is that you can only have 2 concurrent streams per account. You can add HBO for $ 5 a month, whereas on Sling it costs a whopping $ 15 a month. If you use AT&T wireless services and have DirecTV in your home, you get free HBO access anyway.
The big plus with DirecTV Now is that you get a lot more channels than the competition. After they add the DVR, there will be close collaboration between the different options.
Another option is PlayStation Vue, which is actually a pretty good service. Vue is trying to be a more comprehensive service like DirecTV Now Pricing starts at $ 40 / month for approximately 38 channels and up to $ 75 / month for over 90 channels, the latter of which includes HBO and Showtime.
You get all local channels if available in your area You can also watch all local channels on your mobile device while you are in town. They have a decent cloud DVR feature and can play up to 5 streams simultaneously.
The service you choose will depend on what kind of TV you like to watch and what your needs are. If you want international channels then Sling TV is the best option. If you mainly care about local channels, you can just get Tivo and an HD antenna. If you have a lot of people streaming at the same time, then PlayStation Vue or Sling with both color services is a good option. There are many options, so take your time.
Another great thing about almost all of these services is that you can cancel them at any time. Plus, most of them have free trials, so try them out for a week and see which one you like best. Enjoy!