I got some good feedback and follow-up questions about my recent antenna review. One question in particular made me stop and realize that not all of us are on the same level of understanding about technology.
I try to write my reviews and columns in a way that my mom would understand. What I sometimes forget is that people may pick up a review and not understand of some of the concepts I’ve covered in previous columns. When these people reach out to ask me to clarify some terms, it makes me very happy that they want to learn.
The question this week was about how many stations you can pull in with an outdoor antenna, and after cutting the cord, how you can get stations like ESPN and HBO.
This is very basic stuff, but new people become interested in saving money through cord-cutting all the time, and I want everyone to understand.
If you cancel your cable/U-Verse/FIOS/satellite TV subscription in hopes of saving money, you’ll have a few choices to make to continue watching TV.
The first option is to just put up an antenna and go with 100% free, over-the-air broadcast channels.
Most people are interested in the broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS. I can get all of those quite clearly with my outdoor antenna.
What some people don’t realize is that most stations broadcast more than one signal.
For example, our local PBS station, KERA, broadcasts its main channel, designated 13-1 (in HD), as well as PBS Kids (13-2) and Create (13-3), which are broadcast in standard definition.
Some stations broadcast as many as eight sub-channels on their signals.
When I scan all of the available channels from my house, there are more than 100 to choose from.
I took the time to check each channel and determine whether I wanted it listed in my guide. I ended up with 25 or so channels I liked.
Streaming (not free)
There are also streaming options. All the streaming options below require a broadband internet connection, so remember to factor that into your monthly cost.
You’ll also need a way to connect your TV to the internet to watch these streams.
Many TVs today are smart TVs, and they can connect to your internet modem through an ethernet cable or through Wi-Fi.
If you don’t have a smart TV, you can add a streaming box from Apple, Roku or Amazon (Fire TV) starting at around $40. These boxes or sticks connect to your TV through an HDMI port, and they usually use a Wi-Fi connection.
Once your TV is connected to the internet, you can choose from hundreds of streaming video sources.
Services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime all offer libraries of movies and TV shows, including original content. These services run around $10 to $15 per month, and their content is available to watch any time you like.
If you want to watch live TV channels that don’t originate from local broadcast towers — ESPN, HGTV, TNT, CNN, Hallmark and hundreds of others — you can subscribe to a streaming service such as Sling TV, Hulu Live, YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue or Philo. These services cost from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the number of channels.
You can also subscribe to premium channels like HBO, Starz and Showtime individually. Check the websites for pricing.
As you can see, if you spend money on broadband internet and one or more streaming services like PlayStation Vue, Netflix, or HBO, you can easily spend more than $100 per month for TV, even without a traditional pay TV subscription.
But the nice thing about streaming services is that you don’t need to commit to a year or more. Most services offer a free week and then you just pay by the month. You can cancel at any time.
You have plenty of options for watching TV. Some are free and some are not. Do your research and take your time. Use the free trial periods to help you make the best choices.