In June 2014, I wrote a series about streaming media devices like the Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast. Since then, the most common question I receive from readers is whether you can use these devices to “cut the cable cord,” i.e. cancel your cable TV service.
I was replying to this question so often in the comments that I finally added it to the FAQ post about streaming media devices:
“If you cancel your cable or satellite service, you will lose some programming. For example, if you watch cable news shows like CNN or Fox News, you can get some segments through their channels on the Roku, but you won’t get everything they broadcast and most of it will not be live. Also, services like Netflix/Amazon/Hulu, etc. don’t necessarily offer every entertainment program you might want to watch. So it depends what you watch now and whether or not those programs are available through your player.
Also, if you live in an area where you can’t get high-bandwidth Internet service at a reasonable cost, you may found using Roku is more expensive than your cable service.”
While the first sentence about losing some programming is still true, I knew there were other ways to fill in some of these gaps; I just wasn’t sure exactly how they worked. So I’m going to unplug my cable connection to simulate cutting my own cord and then report back on whether or not these methods will be enough to make up for the lost service.
Note: Throughout this series, I’ll be using the term “cable” to refer to all types of TV technologies, including cable, satellite, fiber optic, and Internet Protocol (IP).
Before I get into the details, there are a LOT of caveats that I need to put out there. Please read these before moving on to any of the other pages.
- Everything I’m going to write about is going to be based on my personal TV watching practices. Something that may work well for me may not work for you depending on what you like to watch and how.
- Likewise, everything I’m going to write about is very U.S.-specific. I have absolutely no idea what will work in other countries (other than a little bit about streaming media players in Canada).
- If you live far away from broadcast TV towers or don’t have access to high-speed Internet, your only option may be cable.
- Shows that aren’t available over the air (via antenna) will only be available if the network provides a streaming version of it. And even if they do provide one, they may only allow you to view it for free if have a cable subscription from a participating subscriber or through a paid service (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu).
- At the moment, HBO falls into the category above. However, in April 2015, they will be offering a standalone streaming service. Full details of how it will work and what it will cost have not yet been released but when they are, I’ll share it here.
- The options I’ll be writing about won’t be the only ones available. For example, there are a lot of devices that you can stream content through including the Wii, Playstation, Xbox, and smart TVs.
- I am not at all an expert in audio or video technologies. So while I’ll be explaining how to do certain things, I probably won’t be able to explain how it’s working behind the scenes.
That’s it for now. Next post: Watching Live Broadcast TV with an Antenna