2024 Cord Cutter’s Guide: Streaming, Internet & TV Antennas

Published on: March 21, 2024

Whether you’re cutting the cord from cable, or belong to the never-cable crowd, 2024 marks the year of ease, when it comes to watching TV. 

If you are among the millions of people who haven’t yet dropped their cable or satellite plan from Comcast-Xfinity, Spectrum or a smaller company, this guide is for you. 

I’ve been living without cable on and off since the mid-1990s, and dropped it for good in 2016. 

No longer a fringe move, cutting the cord from your cable TV or satellite plan just makes sense. You can watch local channels, live sports, movies and your favorite TV shows while controlling what you spend each month.

Forget about the naysayers who claim streaming is more expensive than cable. Or that you can’t watch all your shows, and all your sports. Ignore anyone who tells you that it’s just all about streaming, or that they can’t use a TV antenna for local channels.

If you want to be a baller when it comes to your TV setup, I got you. 

Not only am I going to explain why these cheesy experts are wrong. I’m going to show you how to easily set yourself up with everything you want while paying far less than that $200-a-month cable bill eating into your wallet. All of this is based on my years of hands-on experience, and ongoing testing that goes on to this day. 

This 2024 guide is coming out in March, and takes into account some big changes with how we watch TV. It will be updated again later this year as the world of TV continues to change at a rapid clip.

To make cord cutting a long-term, money-saving proposition, let me summarize your new cable-free setup in a few short sentences that you can proudly announce in a “loud budgeting” kind of way: 

  • I pay less for my internet.
  • I learned how TV antennas actually work.
  • When it comes to streaming, I am a wise consumer, who isn’t “confused” about watching TV.

Shopping around for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu can be fun, but starting with that job is the wrong approach. That’s especially true if you are keen on saving money in a comprehensive, long term way. 

After years of giving advice, and helping out family and friends with shedding pricey cable plans, here is my best approach given what’s currently happening in the consumer TV market.

Table of Contents

If I get rid of cable, how do I get internet?

Great question. The biggest issue, and often the most ignored challenge by cord-cutting “experts”, is lowering your internet bill in a long-term way. I have been relying on this method since 2016, even when I lived in places where there was only one internet service provider (ISP) in my ZIP code. 

To make this work, you need to strictly adhere to this script:

  • When you call your cable provider to cancel, be extremely polite to the person you’re talking to. They are doing their job, and once they know they can’t upsell you into another TV plan, they can actually be quite helpful.
  • Let them know right away that this will be your last month with their cable service. You are interested in a low-cost internet plan, but you haven’t made a decision yet as to whether you will continue service with them. You might go with another local provider or wireless internet.
  • Expect some probing questions like, “What do you use the internet for? Are you streaming?” The answer is: NO, NO, NO. Tell your customer service person (politely) that you have a TV antenna for local channels (even if you don’t), and you only need the internet for email, and some occasional work tasks. Do you Skype or do video conferencing? The answer is a polite no. 
  • Your cancellation date that you provide them should be at least a few weeks to a month away. Why? Because it gives you more leverage. If for some reason your internet provider decides to play hardball, and not give you the deal you want, you can go through with the cancellation and hang up the phone. This will trigger another call to you from their retention department, who has more incentive to keep you as a customer. 

Ideally, the customer service rep will start looking for promotional deals for you that will last at least a year or more. At worst, a manager might get on the phone with you to go for an upsell on a cable, internet and/or phone bundle. 

This is laughable, but it still happens. In fact, when I call cable providers and impersonate a family member while helping them cut the cord, I have encountered what I call “the manager upsell” in the last year or two. Maybe this manager is thinking that they need to show everybody in the call center how to stick the landing. 

Little do they know, I own their playbook. (More on this in a moment.) 

If you strictly follow the script above, you can still lower your monthly burn/price for internet service. The important part: do not deviate from the script, despite whatever you are told by our friends from customer service. If you have to calmly (and politely) repeat yourself, so be it. 

If you are retired and on a fixed income, please mention that while you are on the phone should the opportunity arise. Even if you’re close to retirement, mentioning you are on a fixed income is a good idea. (After all, isn’t everyone?) 

Be firm, but polite. If they don’t want to budge on their price, so be it. Cancel and let the retention specialists chase you over the next few days. Meanwhile, you can shop around to see if any new ISPs are in your area, including phone companies such as Verizon or T-Mobile, which now offer wireless internet. 

After years of renegotiating internet service, and regularly switching ISPs, my current bill with Verizon FiOS has remained fairly stable at just under $45 per month. Why? I suspect because I have multiple ISPs in my neighborhood and switching would be fairly easy (and maybe cheaper.) For now, I am very happy with my service.

If I have to suddenly find a better deal, it’s just a phone call away. 

Internet speeds for streaming TV

For optimal streaming in HD, you don’t need an internet connection with more than 25Mbps of download speed. If you can get a higher download speed for cheap, that’s great!

Take a look at this chart. It outlines how many megabits per second (Mbps) you need to stream video in High Definition.

Netflix5.0 Mbps – Recommended for HD quality
Disney Plus5.0 Mbps for HD; 25.0 Mbps for 4K UHD
Hulu3.0 Mbps for on-demand; 8 Mbps for live TV; 16 Mbps for 4K streaming
DIRECTV STREAM2.5 – 7.5 Mbps – Recommended for HD quality
YouTube TV3Mbps: Standard Definition; 7 Mbps for HD; 25 Mbps for 4K video
AMAZON Prime Video1Mbps for SD; 5Mbps for High Definition (HD) videos
SLING TVConstant speed of 5.0 Mbps or more
Note: download speeds represent single stream minimums

As you can see from our chart, you don’t need that much download speed. I have a couple dozen internet-connected devices around my house, and I never have issues with streaming TV. 

Upload speed, in my opinion, is often an overrated metric – one that ISPs are eager to promote as a feature. Uploading photos or videos to social media or another online platform is pretty common these days, but a lot of people do this from their phones anyway. 

If you’re working from home, constantly uploading files, video conferencing, working in the cloud, or big into online gaming, fine: consider your upload speed. But if your friends call you Captain Facebook because you can’t stop showing everyone what a great time you’re having, maybe you can call a few of the “loud budgeters” in your life for an intervention. 

My point should not be ignored: Customer service and retention reps are trained to upsell you into either a cable plan or an expensive internet plan that you don’t need before they actually help you. 

This isn’t mere conjecture. Remember that playbook I mentioned? What I’m referring to is well documented in a 2016 Congressional investigation by former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), which aired on C-SPAN. 

Let’s watch a quick clip together of some cable executives getting grilled about pricing and “secret rates” that are never advertised: 

Notice the silence from the cable executives. Nope, nothing to see here. Surprisingly, a number of these cable TV giants have not moved away from the upsell/secret rates script. 

So be aware of it, and stick to your script that I just gave you. One last note about savings: it is always a good idea to hesitate and remain uncertain or non-committal for a bit after they make the first offer or two. The longer you can do so, the more leverage you have with lowering your monthly rate. 

As the former senator just showed you, there is often a better deal for internet behind Door #2 that is not advertised. Remember, be tenacious, but polite

I haven’t touched upon another important aspect of saving on internet service when you cut the cord from your cable provider. 

You should definitely return the rented cable modem and router you are using and buy your own equipment, which can save you hundreds of dollars per year. I will cover this in the TV hardware section below.

Picking the Right TV Antenna

The challenge with making the most out of a TV antenna is picking out the right one to start with. The problem? There is a tremendous amount of misinformation about TV antennas aimed at making you buy something that may not be very helpful. 

Indoor and outdoor TV antennas were tested in Massachusetts, Maine and Los Angeles. (photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Don’t let that be an obstacle. According to Nielsen, roughly 23 million homes in the U.S. are accessing free TV with a TV antenna. You should definitely jump on the bandwagon and join us. 

So how do you pick the right antenna? Follow these three steps: 

  • Use a free online tool such as DTV reception maps from the Federal Communications Commission. Find out whether broadcasters are transmitting TV signals on UHF or VHF. If you have only broadcasters using the UHF band, then you only need an antenna with UHF elements. VHF elements on an antenna are needed to get VHF stations.
  • Consider an outdoor TV antenna before an indoor TV antenna. A rule of thumb is: If towers are 20 miles away or under, a well-positioned indoor antenna might work. Anything 30 to 50 miles away? An antenna outside or in an attic is the way to go. 
  • Don’t expect to get a signal more than 55 miles away using an outdoor antenna unless you live in the flatlands of Kansas, or someplace with a similar terrain. 

Most over-the-air signals from the four major broadcasters (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX are in High Definition, or rather 720p or 1080i picture resolution. 

You will find plenty of other great channels to enjoy such as your local PBS stations, independent stations not available on cable, and sub-channels such as ion TV, GRIT, COMET, Laff and others. 

Choosing a TV antenna: What to avoid

All of the misleading information about TV antennas is kind of hideous, and frankly, there should be a lot more government regulation around how TV antennas are marketed and promoted to consumers. 

Before you start shopping for your antenna, here are a couple more pro tips to help your cord-cutting journey to antenna land: 

  • Never buy a TV antenna that advertises a “range” of 100 miles or more
  • Never trust a “review” or “buying guide” for a TV antenna that lists an absurdly high range (100+ miles), or “4K” reception as a pro, perk or benefit.

Unfortunately, a number of once-respectable publications “reviewing” antennas perpetuates this nonsense: (e.g. Rolling Stone, U.S. News, and Popular Mechanics.) There are many more examples like this that rely on stock images and descriptions provided by the manufacturer instead of real-world, hands-on testing. 

It’s important to keep in mind that a TV antenna’s performance is very situation-specific. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

best indoor tv antenna
(photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Here are questions you can ask yourself as you read these “reviews” and so-called “buying guides” while you shop for an antenna in a more discerning way.

  1. Does the review you’re reading include photos or video of someone actually testing the product? Can you see a human, or at least a human body part such as a hand holding the product? 
  2. Does the article, review, or buying guide cover where or how the antennas were tested? Why not? 
  3. How do you know that this specific antenna will work for you given the terrain around your house and local broadcast towers?
  4. Does the antenna have the required UHF or VHF elements needed to receive signals from the broadcast towers near your home?

You see, the fakers don’t address these questions because they can’t. It doesn’t matter who they talk to, or how well they write: if you don’t actually test the product, you don’t know.

I can’t personally come to your house to help you decide what to get. And as much as I enjoy reader email, I can’t write back to everyone. But I can teach you a few things that will make you an informed shopper. 

Remember these truths about TV antennas:

  • Digital TV signals, by design, diminish quickly and cannot travel very far. These signals cannot travel along the curve of the Earth. Over-the-air or OTA signals travel by line of sight. So receiving a consistently decent signal beyond say 60 miles (assuming optimal conditions) would be really amazing.
  • If you had a TV antenna that was actually capable of a “100 mile range” or “990 mile range”, it would be useless. You would wind up with an unwatchable TV screen, a jumble of overlapping images coming from multiple TV stations from different states.

If you choose to believe that an indoor TV antenna ‘supports a long 200-mile range’ as described by one of the cited “reviews” above, you will be sorely disappointed. The same goes for a TV antenna promising 4K reception. 

While 4K OTA signals might be a reality in the near future thanks to NextGen TV, you need a compatible TV tuner, not a “4K antenna.”  You can read my own hands-on testing and criteria for indoor TV antennas, and outdoor TV antennas.

A Quick Word about NextGen TV

A new broadcast standard for local antenna channels called NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) is already rolling out all over the U.S. For consumers, it will mean the ability to receive free over-the-air signals in 1080p, HDR and Dolby Atmos. Someday, you might get 4K resolution for local broadcasts, but not in 2024. 

You won’t need a new “4K TV antenna” for ATSC 3.0 (as the “expert” at Rolling Stone suggests.) In fact, you could use a homemade antenna or a simple strip of wire to get NextGen TV although I don’t recommend it. You do need a new ATSC 3.0 TV tuner to get NextGen TV broadcasts.

For now, I would say, you should skip using NextGen TV because broadcasters have made it harder for consumers than necessary. The implementation of NextGen TV has been greatly hampered by broadcasters deciding to use encryption. It’s a terrible decision for consumers.

Without getting too deep in the weeds, the current position of broadcasters essentially treats the consumer like a bad actor or enemy. 

That said, I remain optimistic about NextGen TV. But for now, based on my testing and experience so far, I would stick to the current digital standard ATSC 1.0. It’s cheaper, and easier to use, especially if you want to invest in an over-the-air DVR (OTA DVR)

Streaming TV in 2024

Watching Sports Without Cable

A new sports streaming service from ESPN, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery is set to shake up both the cable TV market and the existing lineup of live TV streaming services that rely on customers who love sports. 

This service does not yet have a name, but it’s significant because it will carry 13 networks that are important to sports fans. There is no official price yet, but reports indicate this new sports streaming platform could cost around $50 per month. 

Chromecast with Google TV offers the same software as many new Google-supported Smart TVs. (photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

The announced channel lineup includes: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS, and truTV. ESPN+ will also be part of this new sports bundle. 

If you are already using a TV antenna for the “Big Four” broadcasters: ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, this new service might be all you need for live sporting events. 

Streaming Sports + a TV antenna: A New Powerful Combination

Given that this new sports streaming service covers some of the most important sports channels in a cable package, consider the existing lineup of pro and college sports from local OTA broadcasts: 

  • NFL: If you are a huge NFL fan, then you already know most NFL games air on the Big Four broadcast networks, free to anyone within range of local broadcast towers. Monday Night Football would be available on this new ESPN/FOX/Warner service. 
  • NCAA FOOTBALL & BASKETBALL: The Big Ten Conference inked a $1 billion a year deal, which essentially split its football games among FOX, CBS, and NBC. Meanwhile, NCAA Men’s Basketball games still air on networks such as ABC.
  • NBA: A number of games are still on ABC. While Regional Sports Networks (RSNs), especially those under the Bally’s Sports umbrella, have a hold on in-market pro basketball games, it’s a tenuous grip. Amazon is poised to become the new streaming partner for these games. That will require subscribers to have an Amazon Prime account, and pay for an add-on package. 
  • MLB: Most baseball fans also still rely on Bally Sports RSNs, but teams including The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and others are striking out on their own with direct-to-consumer streaming services that carry live games. During the regular season, antenna users can get games on FOX. 
  • MLS: Major League Soccer, despite its multi-year deal with Apple TV+, is still available to watch free over-the-air on FOX. 

Are you a Premier League fan? Use an antenna to watch free matches on NBC. UEFA Champions League and soccer competitions from across Europe, South America and Asia are on CBS. 

On the weekends, The PGA Tour is on CBS as well. 

A number of sports teams are likewise abandoning cable networks and regional sports networks in favor of local over-the-air TV, according to Nielsen. 

These teams include: Phoenix Mercury (WNBA), Phoenix Suns (NBA), Utah Jazz (NBA), Las Vegas Golden Knights (NHL), Arizona Coyotes (NHL).

Live TV Streaming vs Cable Bill pricing

The business of streaming a bundle of cable networks and local channels has been around for close to a decade now. 

Sling TV pioneered live TV streaming to the masses. That said, YouTube TV is the leader of the pack with about 6.5 million subscribers across the U.S. 

Sure, the prices for live TV streaming services have gone up over the years. Let’s keep in mind that, according to Kiplinger, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, has likewise hiked its price by 3 percent for 2024. 

Prior to that, the average cable bill costs about $129 per month, according to Bloomberg. 

Consumers are about to get a clearer picture of their cable bill. The Federal Communications Commission voted March 14 to mandate “all-in pricing” for cable and satellite providers as part of a crackdown on “junk fees.”

This new level of transparency is likely to dispel the faux-narrative about streaming being “so expensive” or “just as expensive as cable.”

If you are using a TV antenna, and talked your way into a more reasonable internet package – all very doable, by the way – you’re already saving some cash. Being a wise consumer when it comes to picking your streaming services will further your monthly savings.

Since you are reinventing your TV setup, pay close attention to what you actually watch. If you are in the Gen X crowd (like me) or older, it’s likely you lived with a bloated cable bundle at some point in your TV-watching life. 

I have been talking a lot about sports in this guide because that’s where the big changes are for 2024. You might be the type of person who only has one or two channels that are really important to them. 

Well, good news. You might discover a lower-cost streaming service that offers live TV, or a variation of it.

Let’s say you just wanted the Hallmark Channel and its two sibling networks, a subscription to Peacock is all you need. 

Turner Classic Movies requires an add-on bundle for Sling TV subscribers. Still, it’s priced much lower than competitors and cable packages. 

Let’s take a look at this chart to give you a broad overview of popular live TV options for 2024:

DIRECTV STREAM$79.99 per month75 – 150Y
frndly tv$9.99 per month50N
Fubo$79.99 per month202 – 269Y
Hulu Live TV$76.99 per month90Y
Philo$25 per month72N
Sling TV$40 per month31-41Y
YouTube TV$72.99 per month128N
NOTE: Prices and channels reflect entry-level packages. They have been updated as of March 2024.

You can also head over to my TV Channels page to search for specific cable and broadcast networks along with Regional Sports Networks (RSNs). 

On-Demand Streaming Subscriptions

Netflix has practically become the new plumbing to our Internet-connected televisions, or anything else with a screen. 

Amazon Prime Video’s broad appeal extends beyond shows and movies, offering live sports like “Thursday Night Football” with its membership.

Disney+ broke records in how quickly it amassed millions of subscribers. It was literally an overnight success. Streaming video services have paved the way for moving U.S. consumers away from live TV.

A Roku has free, ad-supported TV programming and movies. (photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

You don’t have to go with the crowd — and you probably shouldn’t — to reach your own streaming nirvana.

Let me give you a personal example.

You may have never heard of The Criterion Channel . The streaming service gathers the best films around the globe and has a library that goes back decades. I especially like spy movies, and thrillers released between the 1960s and 1970s. I like curated collections of movies released every month.

You may have little-to-no interest in this. But I gladly pay $90 per year for a subscription because I stopped renting individual movies years ago. And as I have gotten older, I have become more interested in movies that are behind me than the ones that are debuting in theaters.

Cutting the cord isn’t just about covering the ground you once had with cable. It gives you the opportunity to delve into your interests.

Make sure you are leveraging your power as a consumer when you review your list of streaming services to subscribe to. I pay annually for The Criterion Channel because it gives me a discount (which adds to my satisfaction with their service.)

The Disney bundle rolls together Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $14.99 per month. You are paying less per month compared to subscribing to each service individually. 

You can find annual discounts for Paramount+, Peacock, ESPN+ and so on.

Almost every on-demand streaming service, with a few exceptions, offers some kind of discount for an annual subscription. Use them when you can. Black Friday is always reliable for streaming discounts that can last for a few months, or in some cases, an entire year. 

FAST Channels

If you really want to keep your TV-watching diet lean, you have plenty to feast on without paying anything. And by the way, I’m talking about all legal streaming services that are supported by advertising.

Free ad-supported streaming TV channels (also known as FAST channels) have gotten a lot of headlines in recent months. And for good reason. Just about every major company in the streaming TV game, from Amazon to Walt Disney Company, have started or experimented with FAST channels. 

  1. The Roku Channel has thousands of free movies, TV shows and live streaming TV channels. There is a live TV section with more than 400 channels. And you don’t even need a Roku now to watch. The Roku Channel has apps for Amazon Fire TV, web browsers and some Samsung Smart TVs.
  2. Pluto TV is a hub of older Hollywood blockbusters, Classic TV and niche music platforms that have become common within the FAST channel ecosystem. It’s also a great promotional vehicle for its parent company, Paramount Global, to promote its subscription service, Paramount+ by showing free episodes and movies. 
  3. Amazon has its own free streaming service, freevee, that has original content, movies and older TV hits. It likewise provides a nice vehicle for promoting Amazon Prime Video.
  4. Tubi is creating a lot of joy and revelry on TikTok for hosting “really, really bad movies,” according to The New York Times Magazine. 
  5. Tablo, makers of a nifty over-the-air DVR, just released a new unit in late 2023 that combines OTA channels from your antenna alongside FAST channels. 

Sticking with my theme of saving you money, I encourage you to try out free streaming services. Do it before shelling out your hard earned cash for a subscription to any service. Why?

Because this might be the first time in your life that you are reshaping your TV-watching diet. You are dumping the all-you-can-eat buffet that cable and satellite providers have been shoving in your face for years.

You can get your live local news from an NBC or FOX station for free with the NewsOn app. The tradeoff? You will have commercials in your life. 

For an ad-free (and free) option for movies, you should check to see if your local library provides a free subscription to hoopla or Kanopy to its patrons.

I’m not saying give up all the dark chocolate and potato chips. I’m saying the menu is larger, more diverse, more niche than anything you have had access to before.

Don’t miss out on the free, good stuff that you don’t even know about yet.

TV Hardware: Smart TVs, Streaming Devices & Wi-Fi

Smart TVs

You shouldn’t spend money on a streaming device until you’ve determined that you actually need one. Smart TV manufacturers have made huge strides in recent years with rolling out software updates to accommodate cord-cutters. 

After all, when your customers are embarking on a TV-watching revolution, you don’t want your product left behind. About 68 percent of U.S. homes own a Smart TV and use it for streaming entertainment, according to a December 2023 study by Hub Entertainment Research. 

Before buying a streaming device, make sure your Smart TV has all the necessary apps. Run a software update before downloading any TV or streaming-related apps. 

Google TV is the software of choice for TV-makers Sony, HiSense, Phillips and TCL. It’s the same great software that’s found on the latest Chromecast with Google TV.

LG’s webOS and Samsung Tizen Smart TVs are just a few of the bigger names that support major streaming apps such as Netflix and Disney Plus. 

Roku is beginning to sell its own brand of TVs after licensing its streaming software to TV makers for years. Amazon has done the same with its Fire TV software. Vizio Smart TVs (now owned by Wal-Mart) use SmartCast, which supports major streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.

Years ago, the conventional wisdom was that Smart TV software was not well supported with needed updates. That’s largely a thing of the past.

TV manufacturers are well aware that streaming is the future. Built-in streaming software is becoming a priority for TV manufacturers and big business overall. That’s a good thing for consumers.

If you have an older TV, or non-Smart TV, you can’t beat spending $20 to $30 for a streaming stick. It’s like dropping a new engine into a car. Adding a TV antenna to your old TV is another great call. 

How to Choose a Streaming Device

Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast with Google TV and Walmar’s Onn streaming devices are the best entry points for first-time cord cutters. They’re inexpensive and easy to use.

You might spend more during a trip to the gas station than you would on a quality streaming device with a remote control. 

When my retired, non-tech savvy parents finally decided to ditch cable, I bought them a Roku Ultra and a Wi-Fi router. 

I went with the Roku Ultra for two reasons. The option to use an Ethernet cord instead of WiFi would greatly reduce the possibility of their TV picture buffering. Roku’s menu remains intuitive and basic. I was surprised how quickly they took to it.

A short time later, my aunt and uncle asked for the same setup. I had to dump their TV/internet provider that they had for more than a decade because they wouldn’t budge on price, but that’s another story.

I don’t have a runaway recommendation for a streaming device. I own just about every brand that’s currently on the market. I do like the Google TV interface quite a bit.

I use Roku and Amazon Fire TVs on different setups around my home. I think the Walmart Onn streaming device is very impressive for its price point. I will have more to say about specific streaming devices in future reviews

Wi-Fi: Routers & Modems

The importance of buying your own modem and Wi-Fi router or mesh network is pretty clear. 

  • Comcast Xfinity adds a $15 per month rental fee to your bill to use their Wi-Fi modem and router, and up to $25 per month if you choose their mesh network.
  • Spectrum doesn’t charge its essential cable customers for a modem. But for Wi-Fi, you have the option to rent a router for $7 per month. 

On a whole, cable customers are paying $13 to $18 per month in rental fees for equipment they could buy on their own. The equipment you buy pays for itself. If you keep renting your equipment, in a few years you will be paying for a modem and router setup many times over, but stuck with the same old (rented) equipment. 

Peruse the help pages of your ISP to see what brands and models of modems and routers are compatible with their service. 

You can read my guide breaking down the differences between a modem and router for more guidance. 

Cord Cutting Savings 101: Is it really cheaper than cable?

The average monthly cable bill can vary quite a bit, depending on how long someone has been a cable TV subscriber.

If you’re spending over $125 to $250 per month for a cable or satellite package, then you shouldn’t hesitate to spend one to two months’ worth of your bill on the highest quality outdoor TV antenna along with whatever other cord-cutting TV hardware you need.

The biggest mistake I continue to see over the years is people who will hand over thousands of dollars to cable companies each year, but when it comes time to invest in their own equipment, they go as cheap as possible.

My advice over the years about how much you should spend on things like a TV antenna or a brand new streaming device or Wi-Fi setup remains the same. 

If you can exercise some wise judgment over how much you spend on streaming each year, there’s no question that cutting the cord from cable will save you money. 

To demonstrate the long-term savings of cutting the cord, let’s use the average cable bill and the cost of new equipment for cord-cutting. We will assume the average monthly cable bill is between $125 and $250. You can adjust this formula to your cable bill as needed. And remember, you don’t need to buy everything at once.

Cost Breakdown for New Equipment

  • TV Antenna: $50 to $150
  • Over-the-air DVR: $90 to $150 (plus the cost of external storage, if needed)
  • Modem and Router: $70 to $140
  • Streaming Device (if needed): $20 to $70

Total Cost Analysis: To calculate the total cost, let’s consider the upper range of each item to ensure the budget covers all potential expenses: Maximum Total for New Equipment: $150 (antenna) + $150 (DVR) + $140 (modem and router) + $70 (streaming device) = $510

Comparison with Cable Costs: Two Months of Cable Costs: At $250 per month, two months would cost $500.

Logic and Long-term Savings

  • Initial Investment: Investing one to two months of what would have been spent on cable bills into new equipment sets up a household for significant long-term savings. In this case, the maximum total investment in new hardware is $510, which is just above two months of cable at the higher rate of $250/month.
  • Monthly Savings: After the initial equipment purchase, the only ongoing cost is the internet service (which is needed regardless of cable subscription) and any streaming service subscriptions. 

According to The Motley Fool, Americans spend more than $30 per month on streaming services. If we assume the internet costs $50 per month and a streaming service costs $35 per month, the monthly cost for entertainment would be $85.

  • Break-even Point: The break-even point, where the initial investment in equipment equals the savings from not paying for cable, happens in approximately 3.1 months. 
  • Annual Savings: After surpassing this break-even point, you would save about $1,980 annually compared to the high-end average cable bill of $250 per month. 

I can’t control what you spend on streaming services, or anything else in life. But this back-of-the-napkin math is a decent way to start thinking about how to not only cut the cord from cable, but to keep more of your money.

Your Smart TV might already have everything you need to start getting the most out of a TV antenna and streaming.

Good luck, and be well.

For more news on streaming, how-to guides and reviews, head over to the main page of The Cord Cutting Report or follow the CCR on Google News.

Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.

90 thoughts on “2024 Cord Cutter’s Guide: Streaming, Internet & TV Antennas”

  1. Yes, Many of the streaming services that provide live TV, like Hulu+ Live TV, DirecTV Stream, YouTube TV, etc, provide unlimited cloud DVR with their service. You can also buy an over the air DVR for recording over the air local channels.

  2. It’s unfortunate that your question hasn’t been answered because that’s my biggest question /issue. Thank you.

  3. merely buy internet only from Comcast and use a Roku box to get all the movies and tv you want for free.
    Add a antenna and get dozens of local channels for free

  4. Hi I with you about TV police. Congress doesn’t police the big corps sp spare me the nonsense too. What kind of indoor antenna did you buy. I live in a valley but my former owner of my house left an antenna pole in the garage. i could put that i up but doesn’t make sense since I hardly watch local TV. I also just don’t know how to do some of what you said. Like Kodi with the fire stick I just ran ethernet to rooms in my house. So now i want to negotiate the internet speed . I guess I will have to look up and learn about FTVCubes with Kodi 18.8 and a 4-tuner FireTV.

  5. They all have some “gotcha”. If ever an industry needs oversight, this is the one. I got rid of Direct TV and went to HULU with live channels because I live in an area where NBC has a tower 10 miles away and their reception is great. CBS , ABC and Fox towers are all 35-40 miles in an area with many trees and rolling hills with many elevation changes, so in clear weather an outside antenna works great, but if any weather or storms, a lot of screen freeze and pixalation. HULU price increase now up to $65 a month, but still 1/2 of DTV. Some buffering on Hulu, but that happens more when internet usage is high, especially when local school kids are all on line for school. And it happens more on the ROKU TV than on the ones connected by Fire stick. Checked on Sling when HULU raised price to $65, but Slings package with news channels and NBC sports was $30 and then the other that only added ESPN channels along with duplicates from the first package was another $30, so no savings over HULU.

    • ” I live in an area where NBC has a tower 10 miles away and their reception is great. CBS , ABC and Fox towers are all 35-40 miles in an area with many trees and rolling hills with many elevation changes, so in clear weather an outside antenna works great, but if any weather or storms, a lot of screen freeze and pixalation. ”

      Try locast.org if you’re in that servicable of an area but can’t get reception. I’m in a similar boat just outside of DC, and for ME locast works amazing on my Roku’s. Don’t bother with the “free” tier though, it’s useless with how many ads they push to get you to “donate”. For $5 to try it, worth it.

      • If I find something that has the channels that I watch and can ditch HULU, will do that. But the live TV on HULU that has all the sports (including all the conference sports channels) just comes with local assigned by your zip code. I was surprised that Sling first tier had news and CBS sports, NBC sports and other garbage added for $30.00, and then all the garbage and ESPN channels for another $30 in the second package. Total $60. Could save a bunch if my wife did not want the ACC network (for basketball) and me watching ESPN!

        • Understand. All I wanted was my 4 OTA locals as I can’t get decent antenna service without installing like a 50 foot pole on my roof, so the 5 bucks for locast is great for me. I miss out on ESPN, but I’ll survive. ?

      • Checked it out. Good service BUT only available 25 markets. None between D.C and Atlanta. Mostly large cities at this time. Never had any problems with reception until the “new and improved” digital came about

  6. I would first check your ports on the back. At the very least, you should have a coax port that is for a cable box or antenna hookup.

    For streaming, first check to see if there is an HDMI port on the back. (You can use Google Images for a photo of an HDMI port if you are unsure what that looks like.) If you do have an HDMI port, then you can use a Roku, Fire TV device and just about anything out there for a streaming device.

    If you have an older port setup — the one with the red, yellow and white cables — you can pick up a Roku Express+ for about $30. That will turn an older TV into a smart TV.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Shield TV is great. I own a 2017 Shield Pro and I love it. I just bought a new Shield (the one that looks like a pipe). You’ll see a review soon on that one.

  8. No graphic right now, but great idea! You may want to peruse my cord cutting picks at the bottom for a condensed version of streaming devices. I’m mostly using Roku right now.

  9. Great, thank you. Currently trying to see if my state will investigate Comcast as I’ve experienced many of the issues listed in that report and your website until I allowed my account to be cancelled in 2017 (I didn’t feel they’d let me so I just didn’t pay the bill anymore). They’re still trying to collect when in fact they owe me for the overbilling errors AND forcing a premium channel on me I never asked for or wanted (and they had the nerve to tell me I ordered it abt a decade ago).
    Thank you for your website, it helped me greatly to understand what I was dealing with and how to cut the cord! Much appreciated!

  10. That’s all helpful advice, Greg. But be aware that Terrarium TV operates in a legal grey area. So if a user gets into any kind of trouble for using it, they’re on your own. I wouldn’t recommend using them.

  11. You’re lucky. I live out where God lost his shoes so I can only get 3 stations and 2 of them are Hispanic with an antenna so I am sort of stuck. I am going to cut the cord by going with Roku.

    • I started with DTVN last year and got so frustrated with the constant buffering / or just stopping for no reason…Spare me the comments on wireless.. I am wired directly. Final insult was that I couldn’t get but 2 of the local channels CBS and NBC.. Fox and ABC the locals don’t stream to DTVN..
      This month Finally switched to youtube tv…TV saver! All locals, a better picture and no buffering. Plus unlimited recording ability And 30.$$$ cheaper a month.

  12. I would like to start cutting the cord. I am under a contract with Comcast and have a year to go. I have 5 TV’s connected at a rental of $10 each. I would like to find a way to return at least 4 of the boxes back in. What can you recommend that will still allow me to access the channel content that I am paying for? I do have a Amazon Fire box. Thanks for your help.

  13. The cable modems that I mention in this guide should work fine for what you’re describing. If you are looking for an ISP, go to the top of the page and click on “Internet” in the menu. That will give you another guide with a few pointers. Good luck!

  14. You should investigate two things. Figure out what channel(s) broadcast your team games. If it’s the local FOX or NBC affiliate, then an antenna might solve that problem pretty quick. If you need a regional sports network, there are lots of live TV streaming platforms like fuboTV and DirecTV Now that carry those networks. Check out my how to watch MLB guide on the front page of the site.

  15. Yep, Spectrum would not deal with me either. so, I shut them down completely and went with ATT fiber giga-power. We had ATT phone service so we got a discount on the fiber network of $10, plus another 15% off for being retired military, and a $50 gift card to boot. No caps, forever price with guaranteed no price hikes, EVER for $59.00 per month.

  16. Congrats on making the leap and saving all that cash. Appreciate you sharing your experience with readers.

  17. Hello Greg,
    Here are a few suggestions that might help you. My father-in-law is going through the same thing right now (with 5 TVs). I just got off the phone with him this morning. So I’m going to tell you the same thing I told him.

    He’s considering a PlayStation Vue subscription and using an antenna to get some local over-the-air (OTA) channels.

    Instead of rushing out and buying a bunch of equipment, focus on the one TV in your home that you watch the most. Pick one streaming device. It can be a Fire TV, or Roku or something else that you might think fits your needs. Take advantage of a free trial for PlayStation Vue (or similar service) before you cancel your cable.
    Go to a site like AntennaWeb, and figure out where to locate your antenna for that one TV.

    Over the next couple of days, take note of what you like and don’t like. You might try one streaming device, say a Roku, and suddenly decide that a Fire TV is better because you stream a bunch of shows from Amazon Video. You might (like me) want a couple different streaming devices for the features they offer.

    You will realize how to put together your overall setup a lot better once you nail down what your exact needs are.

    As far as an antenna goes, I don’t know the layout of your house. But you may want to consider buying a single outdoor antenna, and using a splitter so you can connect more than one TV to it in your home. It will save you some cash. Wire is pretty cheap these days.

    A PlayStation Vue subscription has a Cloud DVR feature. OTA channels can be recorded a number of ways now. A TiVo OTA DVR is a decent product, but there are other options too. Don’t forget that the antenna guide and reviews section is in the menu above for further guidance.
    Hope that helps.

  18. Thank you, Andy! You’re right about the Internet promotion game. It’s the key thing to hone in on when you’re cutting cable. Once you have that nailed down, the rest is pretty easy.

  19. Ken, Keep in mind that the live streaming services you mentioned aren’t the only game in town. Netflix, Amazon Video, Google Play Movies and other services all offer 4K content.

  20. I would suggest moving your landline to Vonage. I’ve been with them for more than 10 years….and I love it. They have lots of perks and its all for under $40. It even has it that if you miss a call at home it will go straight to your cell phone. Good luck.

  21. Trish, by no means I’m an expert of the subject but I just learned how to do it and cut my cable, I was just like you, didn’t know where to start. For two months I read and did tons of research on the subject. I found THIS website was the best one, easy to understand and follow. Reading it completely and then reading it again and again until you feel you know what they are talking about.
    Begin by finding out the expiration date of your contract with Spectrum, if you cancel before they will slap with you a nasty penalty charge.
    Then find service provider for Internet only, make sure you get high quality/speeds, download and upload. You can install Speedtest.net in you PC to check the speed so you know you are getting what you are paying for. Spectrum charges $45/month, but I found out they do not include Wi-Fi which you need for your TV, that will cost an extra $5/month. I kept Frontier, my provider (it was Verizon before they sold) so it was easy to cancel phone & TV, no need to change equipment, just returned the TV boxes.
    Figure out what are the actual channels & programs you usually watch. I like actual “news” when things are happening, not a couple hours or day later.
    I tested a number of indoor antennas, my community doesn’t allow outdoor antennas. I get all the OTA channels, perfectly clear, ABC, CBS & NBC plus others. You will need a “streaming device” like Roku (which has a lot of free channels & content) or Fire Stick. and eventually if you want, you can subscribe to the numerous services available, Hulu, Sling, Netflix, etc. They are all different prices and have some offers to try for free .
    If you have to have a home phone, try Vonage, they used to have a $10/month subscription for seniors, we used them for many years until we moved to a new community and found out that we could only get the “Bundle” – 3 in 1 package!
    Hope this helps, other people help me, so I felt compelled to help others.

  22. Thank you Stephen! I actually contacted Roku via ‘chat’, the associate recommended to send it back for a replacement, stating that there was something wrong with it, yes it would get hot but not at the very high temp as to not been able to touch it. That exchange would take a week or more, so I decided to just return it to the store I purchased it from just a few days ago.

    In turn I went ahead and purchased a Premier+ instead, just a bit more money but problem solved! Thanks again.

  23. Hi Dana,
    This is a little hard to answer because I don’t know the make and model of your TV. That said, your antenna should be plugged in to your ATSC input, and you will need to scan for channels once the antenna is plugged in. Your QAM input is not for your antenna. It’s for a cable hookup. If you have a quality TV, I imagine the picture-in-picture should work with OTA channels unless your tuner has some kind of restriction.

    • I have a samsung FPT5084x/xaa. It has just an NTSC/ATSC input (antenna), and a Clear QAM (cable) input. My tv requires the PIP to only work PIP if it’s coming from 2 different sources. So PIP will not work by pulling 1st and 2nd from the same source. They have to be different sources. ? This means my tv’s PIP will not function unless you or someone else knows of some type of equip that you can hook up to the Clear QAM input to allow it to receive ATSC signals (decoder/transponder?)? I have no intent of having cable any longer. Thanks.

      • Hi Dana,
        At the moment, I don’t know of a solution to that issue. If I run across something, I will zip it your way. Let me know if you solve this.

        • You could try using a splitter and sending one in the NTSC port, then sending the other to a converter box which does NTSC coax to HDMI conversion for you. Just google “ntsc coax to hdmi”, I found one for $80.

  24. Hi Larry,

    Choosing a TV is a big decision, and one that should be based on your specific needs. Most TVs on the market today are smart TVs and have software geared toward streaming Netflix and other platforms. There is a school of thought that it’s actually better to not have a smart TV because eventually the software updates stop rolling out. So long as you have enough HDMI ports on your set, you can use any popular streaming device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV.

    You should make sure your TV comes with a good old fashioned tuner so that you can connect an antenna for OTA channels. Believe it or not, there are manufacturers that stopped including traditional tuners in their sets.

    Having said all that, if I were to buy a TV today, I might consider either the new Amazon Fire TV edition made by Element that just hit the market. You will essentially get a 4K TV with the latest streaming software from Amazon Fire TV baked in your TV set. Fire TV is becoming a lot more neutral in terms of supported platforms and apps, but it’s best suited for people who use Amazon Prime. Also, the new line of TCL Roku TVs with 4K HDR look interesting to me for similar reasons. I haven’t tested out either of those TVs so I can’t recommend one over the other. But it’s food for thought. Hope that helps.

  25. If Comcast is giving you a good price for Internet at the moment, then go for it. But be aware that your rate will change after their promotion ends.

    As for Kodi, it can be useful if your are using something like HDHomeRun, or PLEX. But I think if you’re just starting out with streaming, you should try a Roku or Fire TV device. They both have easier interfaces for platforms like Netflix or Amazon Video. They also have apps for live TV streaming services like PlayStation Vue or Sling TV if you want a bundle of cable channels. Good luck!

  26. Perfect. Thanks. One sentence kind of jumped out at me “And, while the Wi-Fi performance is impressive, having an Ethernet connection is crucial for a near flawless live TV feed over the web”.

    We don’t have any wired connections in our house only wi-fi. How big a problem Is this going to be when trying to stream live TV, such as Sony Vue?

    • Thanks again. That reassures me a little. I guess, worse case, I can always run some ethernet cable, although our house layout will make this a bit fo a challenge 🙂

    • If you can’t or don’t want to run ethernet cables, and you’re having lag or pauses trying to watch a FireTV box via wifi, check out getting a set of powerline adapters. You’ll plug one in at your router and another at your tv, and then use ethernet cables to connect them to your router at one end and your firetv at the other.

    • My plan is to use sling and alternate between Amazon Prime and Netflix for certain things. I don’t need them all year. Amazon Prime will be a month around xmas, and then 6 months later. Then 1 month for Netflix to catch things I want to watch there in between. No need for a full year. I may use sling. Depends on what all channels and shows I can find there. I have never had much luck cutting a deal with comcast though, and I will still be dependent on them for internet.

    • I started with playstation vue and then they started increasing price and removing stations. I’m currently using nvidia shield on main tv and amazon firestick on others running Nextflix, Pluto TV, Terrarium TV and Mobdro. I only reoccurring cost is Internet.

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