We return for our third segment in the cord-cutter series, this time focusing on how to watch TV without a cable or satellite service. Previously we have looked at Media Center and its alternatives and media servers. This time around we will focus on the actual TV and movie sources available.
All of you likely know the big names in this market, and I will briefly touch on each of those, but there are less well known sources that can be indispensable in this effort. Those we will cover as well. There are so many sources, in fact, that it would be impossible to get them all, but I will hit the ones I have found most useful and rely on you to add others in the comments.
Remember to check out the earlier parts of the series here:
This is the most obvious solution. Over-the-air TV broadcasts are free. But, you will need to live in a location where you can pick up the signal and “cable” and premium channels are not an option.
However, if you are in range, then many tuner cards for computers are available for reasonable prices. Simply hook your antenna to the card and you are off. And, these are not the antennas you may remember from rooftops, but newer, smaller versions and, in some cases, can even be used within your home — no work up on the roof necessary.
Netflix is the most common destination for many cord cutters, at least those in markets where it is available. It is a great service for movies and TV shows, with a low monthly fee. However, TV shows are generally from previous seasons, meaning it may not fit your primary needs.
Amazon Instant and Prime
Amazon is similar to Netflix in many ways, but there are a couple of important differences. While you can subscribe through Prime and get many of the same movies and TV shows, it also provides a sort of “Pay Per View” feature via Instant. That means you simply pay for the movie you want to watch ($1.99 etc.) and stream it or get a self-expiring download.
On the other hand, you can subscribe to Prime and you will find that it is a bit cheaper than Netflix, although it is an annual fee as opposed to month-to month.
Crackle is a movie and TV service from Sony. It carries movies, TV shows and some original content. Some of the videos need to be purchased or rented, while others are free to stream.
Crackle is less well known, but it does offer some nice features. However, the content is, in many cases, older movies and shows. Still, it makes for a nice change-of-pace option.
Most of you have likely heard of Hulu. The service provides both free and paid versions of TV shows, movies and trailers from “FOX, NBCUniversal, ABC, The CW, Univision, Criterion, A&E Networks, Lionsgate, Endemol, MGM, MTV Networks, Comedy Central, National Geographic, Digital Rights Group, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., TED and more.” A subscription opens up content not available to those with a free account, but free will work for quite a bit.
I touched on this in a previous post to this series, so there is not much need to go into it here. There service provides more than 60 channels of TV, as well as the ability to stream your media to DLNA compatible devices like Roku.
Zinc.TV has been around for quite a while, but somehow fails to get the attention it deserves. The service provides movies and TV shows and boasts more than 825,000 videos. Legality here may seem questionable, but the service simply links to legitimate sources like Amazon Video, where you will need to rent or purchase the content — no piracy here, but more of a comprehensive database.
Much like PlayOn above, I have covered ChrisTV Online before, although that time it was in an in-depth post. The service provides TV channels from around the world and has both free and paid versions.
Bit Torrent and Streaming Sites
Finally, we come to the elephant in the room. Obviously AppStorm does not recommend this option, but we are also not so naive as to think people do not use it — in droves probably. While Bit Torrent is used for legitimate purposes, like the distribution of free and open source software, it is also the place to find pretty much every movie and TV show you could hope for. There are countless sites that cater to those searching for the torrent files, but for obvious reasons I will not direct you to them.
Likewise there are also countless sites that provide streams of live TV, most notably catering to sports fans who can’t get the game they want to watch in their local area. While leagues like the NFL try to shut these streams down, it is a pointless task as more continue to pop up.
I have listed just a few of the many sources for content online and I left out user-generated stuff like YouTube. Bear in mind that many of these are U.S. only (unless you know the not too secret way around that). Perhaps the biggest drawback for all of this is the loss of live TV, although most of us probably only bother with it for sports and, as I said, there are ways around that if you care to search them out.
But, as you have seen above, there are more and more reasons these days to go ahead and sever that tie to the cable or satellite service and free yourself from that large monthly bill. While you may still have to pay something, it will be considerably less than before.
Part 1: Media Center and alternatives
Part 2: Media Servers