Using the Spectrum TV App is pretty close to Cutting The Cord
The new Spectrum TV app will let you stream your cable TV lineup on a number of new devices, including a Roku, iPads and even an iPhone or Android smartphone.
But here’s the deal.
Those same exact devices can also stream alternatives to cable – including live sports and local news — that are either free or cheaper than what Spectrum charges long-time customers.
This guide many ways you can get the same Spectrum TV channels that you want and save hundreds of dollars a year. The truth is you don’t need to pay cable companies $150 or $200 per month to watch networks like ESPN, FOX, NBC, Bravo and National Geographic.
5 Steps to Find Alternatives to Spectrum TV app
- Check for Free HDTV
- Try a Streaming Device
- Subscribe to Live TV Online
- Get a Better Price for Internet
- Use Free Apps for Movies
Why now is the best time for cheaper alternatives to Spectrum TV app
Let’s face it. Changing your equipment is a pain. And so are the escalating price increases that Spectrum just announced on customers.
If Spectrum is going to force its customers to convert to digital and hand down some price hikes, now is a really good time to shop around and mix up how you get your television. Sure, the Spectrum TV app will let you watch your shows in more ways than just your TV. But Spectrum isn’t the only (or best) game in town.
What is the Spectrum TV app?
Spectrum has been undergoing a major transition with how it delivers cable channels across the U.S. The cable giant is switching to an all-digital network. That means people have been required to switch to a new digital box. Adding extra digital boxes to your home may cost you a monthly fee of $7 to $12 per box.
You may have also read that you can now stream Spectrum channels with a Roku, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone, Kindle, Xbox One and Samsung Smart TV. Here’s how you can use that same equipment to watch sports, news and your favorite shows and save hundreds of dollars a year.
If you truly want to break away from cable, I suggest that you try out some of these alternatives to the Spectrum TV app while you still have your current Internet subscription.
That’s what I did when I first started out. Once you’ve figured out what you like, and what works for you, then you can dump cable TV forever.
Step 1: Check for Free HDTV: Spectrum TV app vs TV Antenna
There is a good chance that you can get a number of networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and PBS free for life. You just need a decent TV antenna. Before you run out and buy one, you can use an online tool like AntennaWeb to see how many channels that you can potentially get.
All you need to do is type in your zip code or address to see how close you are to broadcast towers.
If you’re within a 30 to 40 mile range, you will likely get channels from them in uncompressed HD. That picture is a lot crisper than what most cable companies can deliver because no one has to compress the signal to deliver it through the cable cord in your home.
Here’s the funny thing. Spectrum actually charges you a fee every month to cover the costs associated with bringing you these local channels.
You can get these same channels for free – and with a better picture – by using a TV antenna. Unlike cable TV, an antenna is a one-time cost. No more fees or price increases, ever!
I get more than 50 channels where I live in Boston, and my antenna is really the best cord cutting tool that I have around the house.
You can read my guide How to Choose the Best TV Antenna & OTA DVR if you want step-by-step instructions on checking on antenna reception.
My months-long study: The Best Indoor TV Antennas is also worth a read even if you’re likely going to buy an outdoor antenna. Here’s a short version of these two guides. I really love the ClearStream Eclipse for an indoor antenna. The Antop “Big Boy” BV-400 is the best outdoor TV antenna that I have tested.
Step 2: Choose a Streaming Device: Roku vs Amazon Fire TV
Spectrum says that you can use a Roku to watch your cable TV subscription. But a Roku can do a lot more because it has thousands of apps – also known as Roku Channels.
You can use Roku Channels to watch a lot of free TV shows and movies without even subscribing to anything. Or, you can also subscribe to a number of live TV and on-demand streaming services that can replace your cable TV subscription. The cost will be much less than a Spectrum package or bundle.
I’ll get back to that in a minute. A Roku is the easiest streaming device you can use because you just have to plug it in to the HDMI port on the back of your TV. Switch your input to HDMI1 or whichever port you plug the Roku into. Then, follow the instructions to connect your Roku player to your Internet connection.
The Roku Premiere+ is a great value at $50 because you can use it to stream 4K HDR shows and movies (with a 4K HDR TV) of course. Even if you don’t own a 4K TV, it’s a good idea to upgrade now so you don’t need to buy more new equipment in the future.
Roku isn’t your only choice. I’m also a fan of Fire TV devices. The two latest models are the Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube. These two streamers are great because you can use your voice to search for and watch shows. You can read my review of the Fire TV Cube to see how you can turn your TV and other equipment on and off using your voice.
You can also read about what I consider the best streaming stick.
Step 3: Subscribe to Live TV Online
There are a number of companies now that are competing against Comcast, Spectrum, Charter, Cox and even satellite TV providers like DIRECTV and Dish.
I have subscribed to all of these live streaming services at one time or another. I continue to write reviews on the latest updates and features these companies offer. Unlike many cable TV companies, these services have no contracts, and no hidden fees. You can try them for free – typically for a week. And you can easily cancel online before the trial ends if you don’t like the service.
Here is a breakdown of the most popular services out there.
- Hulu with Live TV: Get 75+ live channels and 50 hours of Cloud DVR. Networks include ESPN, A&E, FS1, Fox News, TNT and National Geographic. Look over the channel lineup, or check out a free 7-day trial. Subscribers pay $54.99 per month, and get access to Hulu’s on-demand library that typically costs $5.99 per month.
- fuboTV: A sports-first replacement for cable TV that has plenty of entertainment networks. For sports, there’s Big Ten Network, NBCSN, Fox Sports, FS1, FS2 and NBA TV. A&E, TNT, TBS, FXM, HGTV and two Hallmark channels are also part of the 110+ channel lineup. Subscribers get 30 hours of Cloud DVR. fuboTV has a free 7-day trial, and you can look over the local channels offered in your area.
- Sling TV: Offers two smaller bundles of channels known as Sling Orange and Sling Blue. Either package by itself costs $30 per month. Sling Orange offers ESPN, AMC and CNN as part of a 30 channel bundle. Sling Blue has FOX, NBC and regional sports channels as part of a 45 channel bundle. You can get both Sling Orange and Blue for $40 per month. You can get a discounted or free streaming device if you prepay two to three months. Sling TV also offers a free 7-day trial.
- AT&T TV Now: The entry-level subscription gets you 45+ channels for $65 per month, and includes HBO and Bravo, ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox. AT&T TV Now has a 7-day free trial.
- Philo: The cheapest way to get entertainment networks like AMC, TLC and HGTV. There are no sports networks, but you’ll get 58 channels for $20 per month. Philo works on Roku, Apple TV and Fire TV devices. There is a free 7-day trial that you can sign up for in under a minute. I have been using Philo since December 2017.
- YouTube TV: Offers about 75+ channels and unlimited Cloud DVR for $50 per month. It’s compatible with Roku, Apple TV, PCs and smartphones, but not Fire TV devices. YouTube TV offers a free 7-day trial.
Step 4: Get a Better Price for Internet
One obstacle for people wanting to dump cable TV for streaming is getting a fairly priced Internet connection. Even when I moved into my condo earlier this year, I had to listen to this Comcast agent tell me how the cheapest price for an Internet-only package was $79.99 per month. She didn’t realize that I knew better.
By the time I got off the phone with her, I locked in a Internet deal that costs $39.99 per month. Here’s a picture of a recent bill.
How did I get such a better rate? Because I learned how they operate. Agents for cable TV companies all use a similar handbook when it comes to upselling customers and “finding” deals for you. A little-known Congressional investigation in 2016 found that cable TV companies often use secret rates that are never advertised to retain customers.
I written a comprehensive guide to negotiating better rates for getting Internet without cable TV. But here’s the short version: If you stay on the phone with the agent and keep saying: “No, that’s too much” eventually the deals will start getting better – even if you are a new customer.
Let’s say you’ve been with Spectrum a long time and want a better rate. The worst thing you can say is that I want to cancel everything except Internet. Why? Because cable companies will only offer you a horrible price like $70 or $80 per month for just Internet. That’s awful.
Your best approach is to call up and cancel everything. You might be able to eventually talk the agent into getting you an introductory rate for Internet only. I’ve done that before, bringing my bill from $146 per month to $34.99 for just Internet.
The easiest way to get a better rate is to ferret out deals from smaller Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with sites like broadbandnow.com.
It’s also worth checking to see if Verizon fios is in your area. It costs $39.99 per month for 100Mbps download speeds.
Toast.net also offers a good deal for Internet fiber in 21 states across the U.S.
DSL Extreme has Internet-only plans that cost between $28 and $63 per month.
Those are just a few examples of what’s out there. Read over my guide to Internet without cable mentioned above to learn more. Remember, you only need 5Mbps download speed for Netflix in HD, and roughly 25Mbps for 4K streaming. So getting a fast Internet subscription isn’t really necessary for the best streaming experience.
Step 5: Use Free Apps for Movies and Live TV
There is a new wave of what could be described as Internet TV out there. These apps are supported by ads much like your legacy TV networks like NBC or CBS. But these platforms offer thousands on on-demand movies, and in some cases, free live TV channels over the web.
Here are a few you can try out once you get a Roku or another streaming device.
- Pluto TV: This should be one of the first apps you download once you set up your streaming device. Regardless of whether you’re using a Roku or Fire TV, Pluto TV is going to add more free shows and movies to your streaming device than you probably have time to watch. Pluto has nearly 100 live channels aggregated from the web. You can get live national news from CBSN, the 24/7 digital network of CBS and streams from NBC and Bloomberg TV. There are music channels like Live Music Replay that remind me of when MTV first started out. The real gem is its on-demand section, where you’ll find favorite shows from networks like A&E and movies like “The Matrix” and “Apocalypse Now”. How is this possible? Pluto TV has struck deals with major movie studios like Lionsgate and MGM to supply them with movie. The company makes money by showing your commercials here and there – just like NBC and CBS.
- YouTube: Every day, YouTube channels are getting more professional and serve as mini-TV networks. I really enjoy the KEXP channel for the live in-studio music that’s offered. In fact, YouTube is my go-to for any concerts that I want to see. But you can also find neat travel videos – even in 4K if your TV supports it. Don’t sleep on YouTube. It has loads of free shows, concerts and even live streaming programs.
- Tubi: This app doesn’t have a huge selection of movies, but you can find some real old school gems like Colors alongside some B-level films that you might enjoy as a mental Twinkie. Tubi uses artificial intelligence-driven recommendations, so if you use it enough, you’ll start getting recommendations that you may not otherwise find.
- Crackle: Sony-owned Crackle is pushing hard with building an audience with original programming. There’s the cop drama “The Oath”. The series “Snatch” also has a devoted following. You’ll also find an assortment of movies and shows that you would expect to see only on cable TV. Download the Crackle app and check it out yourself.
These are just a sample of free apps out there. The Roku Channel is a one-stop guide that aggregates content from the apps mentioned above and others.
Once you start to dive in to all your different choices, you will also discover lesser known apps where you can rent movies from home with Vudu or Fandango Now. You can subscribe to Hulu for $5.99 per month to get a wider selection of network TV and popular movies.
Use Hulu to add on HBO if you want, or get it as a standalone app. Check out a free trial of Starz and see why there’s so much buzz about the series “Power”. There are lesser known subscription based apps like CuriousityStream and Sundance Now.
Your options are much larger than what a Spectrum TV app can offer you. And you’ll be in more control of what you pay every month. Have you recently cut the cord on cable TV? How are you getting your favorite channels now? Tell fellow readers what you’ve learned in the comments below.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble