Cord-cutting is becoming far more popular, especially with the variety of services now available. I took the cord-cutting challenge years ago when I looked at my cable bill and realized a few things.
- I was paying an arm and a leg for 250 channels
- I only really watched 6-8 channels of those 250 channels
- Opting for cheaper cable packages took those 6-8 channels away
Before I map out exactly what my cord-cutting lifestyle looks like, it is important to note that my method may not work for everyone. You’ll have to explore all your options and even then, you may not get everything that you really want. But I will say, things are better than ever to get you as close as possible to your ideal situation. So without further delay, these are the services I use to consume visual and auditory entertainment.
This is the most obvious one and the cheapest with a starting price of $7.99USD a month for one stream. Netflix offers up some really great original content alongside popular movies, TV shows, documentaries, and various other genres of entertainment. Netflix is available on pretty much every device imaginable so you’re sure to be able to access it. Some of the original programs that are well worth catching include:
- El Chapo
- Marvel’s Daredevil
- Marvel’s The Punisher
- Stranger Things
- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
- G.L.O.W. (yes I loved this one)
- Making A Murderer
Netflix also offers a ton of children’s programs for ages 1-teens and your kids are certain to find something that they enjoy. It’s important to note that Netflix operates under licensing deals for much of their programming. If the deal ends and there is no renewal, that show or movie will no longer be available. So it’s best to try and catch stuff as quickly and often as you can.
So what about live TV? How am I supposed to get my local channels and sports channels? Well, for us, we turned to YouTube TV at $35USD a month. While this cord-cutting option doesn’t have every live TV channel in its stable, it has some of the staples and a DVR function. We love it for its inclusion of the Disney channel and our local TV channels. One thing to note, YouTube TV isn’t available everywhere yet and is only on select devices (will cover those later). For now, here’s what you can expect to see on YouTube TV (will vary by market):
- Local CBS
- Local NBC
- Local ABC
- Local FOX
- The CW
- ESPN 2
- ESPN SEC
- ESPN NEWS
- FOX Sports 1
- FOX Sports 2
- NBC Sports Group
- NBC Sports local
- NBC Sports local +
- BTN Network
- CBS Sports Network
- NBC Golf
- Tennis Channel
- Olympic Channel
- Disney Channel
- Disney Junior
- Disney XD
- Universal Kids
- BBC America
- Free Form
- Sundance TV
- USA Network
- National Geographic
- Nat Geo Wild
- WE TV
- BBC World News
- FOX News
- FOX Business
- NBC Universo
As you can see, there are a lot of options here and for our needs, everything is covered and we’re very happy with what YouTube TV is providing. As I said earlier, this cord-cutting option has some limitations. First, while you can watch YouTube TV on any computer, Android, or iOS device, there are only a few options to watch on your actual big TV. You’ll need a Chromecast device to cast to, or if you have an iPhone, you can AirPlay it on your Apple TV box.
There are a few other options as well. If you have an Android TV it will work via its own app. There is also a YouTube TV app available for the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X. Recently Google has also made an app for select 2016/2017 Samsung and LG TVs. The app will be coming soon to 2014/2015 Samsung and LG TVs, Sony Linux TVs, and Apple TV.
The one other limiting factor for YouTube TV is availability. This service is only in select markets but the good news is, those markets are generally big city’s so chances are good you might be able to get it. These are the cities YouTube TV is playing in now (they often include suburbs):
- Baton Rouge
- Cedar Rapids
- Colorado Springs
- Dallas-Fort Worth
- Des Moines
- Fort Myers
- Fort Smith
- Grand Rapids
- Green Bay
- Greenville (NC)
- Greenville (SC)
- Jackson (MS)
- Kansas City
- Las Vegas
- Little Rock
- Los Angeles
- Miami-Fort Lauderdale
- Minneapolis-Saint Paul
- New Orleans
- New York City
- Oklahoma City
- Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Francisco Bay Area
- South Bend
- Springfield (MO)
- St Louis
- Washington DC
- West Palm Beach
These first two options could actually be enough for many people. I really think there is enough content between Netflix and YouTube TV to satisfy a vast amount of the populace. But, there are a two more options we use as well.
Amazon Prime Video
If you’re an Amazon Prime member then you have access to Amazon Prime Video as part of your $99USD a year membership. This one is a no-brainer. If you’re already paying for the perks of Amazon Prime, why not take advantage of streaming content and make the most of your dollar? Amazon offers up much the same as Netflix and even has some decent original series content you can enjoy like:
- The Man In The High Castle
- Hand of God
- Alpha House
- Mad Dogs
- The New Yorker
While there’s some decent adult content on Amazon Prime Video, we generally use it for kids content more than adult. Between Netflix and Amazon, our kids have all the content they can handle and then some.
We’ve featured Plex many times and it’s probably not for everyone but is an important part of my cord-cutting experience. Plex software is free to use on your PC and it basically organizes your video and music files in an elegant user interface for you. You can access these files on your local network for free but if you want the true power of the service, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee or you can pay $150USD for a lifetime subscription, which is the best value.
To best understand what is free and what is not, we’ve taken what Plex has to say on the matter and put it below:
The “Free to Use” Parts: The Server and Apps
There are some details to get into, but the summary of “free” is simple:
- The media you own is yours. Of course, we don’t charge you in any way for that.
- The Plex Media Server is free to use and includes the Plex Web App.
- All of our non-mobile, public apps are free. These include Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Plex Media Player, Roku, Smart TVs, TiVo, and game consoles (PlayStation and Xbox).
- Our mobile apps (Android, iOS, Windows, Windows Phone) can be used for free, but have limitations.
- Until the mobile app is unlocked (through an in-app purchase or a Plex Pass subscription), video and music streamed from a Plex Media Server has a 1-minute limit, and photos will be watermarked.
The “Paid For” Parts: Apps and Plex Pass
There are really two things that are “paid for” within Plex:
- The Plex Pass subscription includes free use of the paid for apps as well as other features and benefits:
- Activate all of our mobile apps (Android, iOS, Windows, Windows Phone) simply by signing into your Plex account within the app.
- Live TV & DVR: Watch and record over-the-air broadcasts available in your area, using a compatible tuner and digital antenna.
- Set up a cloud-based “Plex Cloud” server pointing at content you have in one of your supported cloud storage provider accounts.
- Stream trailers and extras (interviews, behind the scenes, etc.) for content in your movie library. Add lyrics from LyricFind to your music libraries to follow along whenever you want.
- Have geographic (Paris, France or Singapore) and scene-based (landscape, sunset, dog) tags automatically added for your photos and browse your photo library using the tags.
- Use mobile syncing for offline use, camera upload for wireless syncing of photos, Gracenote music reviews and bios, and the ability to sync select content from your Plex Media Server to multiple cloud providers.
- Set up a Plex Home for your family to allow easy switching between accounts and restrict what content you share from your server.
- Use DVR functionality (currently in beta!) to record over-the-air broadcasts into your library.
- Get early preview access to new apps and features.
- And even more!
- As mentioned above, apps for some devices have in-app purchases that upgrade the app—we call it unlocking the app:
- Android (mobile), iOS (iPhone and iPad), Windows, and Windows Phone apps have one-time, in-app purchases.
- Again a Plex Pass subscription will activate these features without additional purchase.
Plex is a little more involved and may not be something newbies want to tackle. Still, it is a great cord-cutting option if you have your own movies and music you want to store and playback in an elegant UI. The other perk is, if you have a friend that also has Plex, they can share their server with you and you with them. This allows you to watch each others content on pretty much any device that has the Plex app.
I would suggest, if you’re interested in learning more about Plex, explore the Plex website and read up on the Plex Pass and how to use the service. I have a small library of music and movies I access from my own server and a few friends who have extensive libraries I get to enjoy as well. Plex is really a great tool but will take some effort to set up.
And that’s it! These are the four cord-cutting services I have utilized in my cord-cutting journey. I can safely say that I am a happy camper at the moment. There’s nothing that I really miss and all of my bases are covered using these services. Of course, this won’t be the case for everyone. There are still other options like HBO GO, Hulu, Sling TV, Vudu, Vevo, Crackle, and many others.