Cord Cutting: The Definitive Guide with Everything You Need to Know

By Jim Kimble / Updated November 20, 2023

Cord cutting started out as a way to shed a hefty cable bill without sacrificing your favorite shows or live sports. But now, streaming and using a TV antenna is the new gold standard for watching television.

What is cord cutting?

For years, cable companies such as Comcast had the exclusive rights to networks like CNN, ESPN and AMC.

Those days are long gone.

A wave of cord-cutters began more than a decade ago using TV antennas instead of relying on their cable box for over-the-air broadcast channels. In 2015, over-the-top (OTT) streaming services or multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) began offering cable networks.

YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, and Fubo are just a few of the major players in that space.

Whether you want to watch ESPN without cable, or just catch up on local news, cutting the cord from cable TV or satellite service is the way to go in 2023. 

There are three important things that I’ll teach you with this guide.

1) You can pretty much watch anything you want without bending to the will of cable companies. Even if you want to watch live sporting events like NBA games or college football, it’s no big deal.

2) TV antennas will become more useful to more people in 2023. NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0), the new over-the-air broadcast standard, is expected to be available in 75 percent of the U.S. this year.

3) You can save a heap of money by dropping your cable or satellite TV provider. Switching to streaming alternatives such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video with an antenna is just scratching the surface of possibilities. 

The idea of “subscription fatigue” is nonsense. You can be a wise consumer and control your spending.  

Sure, I know what you’ve heard.

You’ve already read a number of stories in respectable publications that you can’t really save money by ditching cable.

The argument, the experts say, is that there are so many choices now when it comes to streaming. That will surely drive up the cost of your monthly bill to be as expensive as cable or (gasp) even more!

Plus, companies like Comcast and Spectrum will just make you pay more for Internet service once you cancel your cable subscription. 

What if I told you that you could talk your way into paying about $40 or $50 per month for Internet service? 

I cut the cord from cable TV years ago. And I’ve been using the same battle-tested strategies to pay as little as possible for TV and Internet service. I save hundreds of dollars (if not, thousands) every year compared to a cable TV customer.

For years, cable companies thrived off of serving us an all-you-can-eat diet. With a small dose of moderation, you can have a better selection of programs and more to watch than you have time for.

You don’t need a secret password to save money. All you need to do is keep reading and absorb some of my game. This guide may be longer than others you’ve seen online, but I’m trying to be comprehensive here. 

You might not need to read every section, so I’ve included chapter markers to help you navigate and refer back to parts of this guide. 

Step 1: Test out your cord-cutting options

Getting on the phone right away to let your customer service rep know that you currently have a crappy deal with your cable TV plan isn’t going to move the needle. 

At least not in a definitive, long-term way.

You need to make some decisions. Chances are if you are reading this, you are paying way too much for cable, satellite service and internet. There is an excellent chance that you are actually watching a fraction of what you pay for. 

You need to get out a pad and pen. It’s homework time. Think about the live TV channels you actually watch. Not the ones you “like” or you think you watch. Just write down the TV channels you actually watch. 

Pick up your TV remote and scroll through the channel guide of your cable box to help you along. I recommend that you do this with your spouse, partner, household — or even a friend. 

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

If there’s a group of TV viewers in your household participating, you will have to enforce the rule. Only channels you actually watch (not ones you just like) make the list. 

Once you have finished your list, count up your channels and ask yourself this very important question. Do I (or we) need live TV? If the answer is yes, that’s fine. Most of us still do, including me. 

News and sports drives most of our need for some kind of live TV service. 

This is where cutting the cord starts to get complicated for people. I’m going to keep it simple for you. 

My approach is to save you money. I’m assuming that you want local broadcast channels such as ABCCBSNBCFOX and PBS, and some cable channels such as HistoryESPN and HGTV

The good news is that there are a number of ways to do this for less money than what you’re paying now. 

The bad news is you are going to have to decide what ends up on the cutting room floor. Streaming services are an excellent replacement for an expensive cable TV bundle. But you shouldn’t expect to get every last channel that is in your current cable TV lineup.

And if you are a sports fan looking for a regional sports network for MLB, NHL or NBA games, then expect to pay more. 

You might only need live TV for part of the year.  Having live TV or a specific streaming service for only part of the year is becoming regular practice among the more savvy TV viewers. 

Signing up for and cancelling a subscription by visiting the website of a streaming service is a fairly easy process. It’s pretty different from how cable companies have operated for years.

Step 2: Do I really need live TV?

If you definitely want live TV, then focus on the streaming services that provide live TV channels.

To keep it simple, here is a list of just the bigger players with multiple live TV channels worth considering. These are listed in alphabetical order.

Some of these services offer a free trial. If you cancel online before the trial ends, then you owe nothing.

DIRECTV STREAM$79.99 per month75 – 150Y
frndly tv$7.99 per month50N
Fubo$74.99 per month182 – 257Y
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 November 2023.

You will need Internet service to sample any of these live TV services. There is no runaway winner here. Each service has its perks and drawbacks. Choosing which one works best for you will depend on that handwritten list that I asked you to make. 

So for example, if you definitely need ESPN then your cheapest option is Sling TV at $40 per month. But you might like a larger channel package (which costs more) for ESPN and a regional sports channel. So you can try DIRECTV STREAM, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV or YouTube TV instead. 

Maybe you care nothing about sports. But you’re a huge fan of “The Curse of Oak Island” and must see every new episode the minute it premiers. 

If that’s you, there are a couple of solid options. 

frndly TV has more than 50 live TV channels and starts at $7.99 per month following a 7-day free trial. For a larger channel package, Philo has 72 live TV channels for $25 per month after a 7-day free trial. 

These live TV bundles include some level of Cloud DVR for recordings and on-demand libraries, so the value proposition is pretty big if you’re pro-entertainment, less sports. 

To further complicate your decisions, video services such as Max, STARZ, and AMC+ all offer standalone subscriptions. In the case of STARZ and AMC+, there are both live TV feeds and an on-demand library. HBO Max is dipping its toes into the live TV space this year as well. 

Let’s say you only watch local channels such as PBS or NBC. An antenna is the way to go. 

The common complaint I hear from readers the most is that ‘I don’t live in antenna range.’ If you do live in White Mountains of New Hampshire, fine. You don’t. But most people, including those in rural areas, do live within range of at least a few towers. 

Even if that means getting three channels, that’s three big ones that you’re not paying for anymore. Ever. 

Antennas Direct, the largest TV antenna-maker in the U.S., has a free tool that shows you what broadcast towers are in your area, and recommends an appropriate antenna. I like using for a more granular look at broadcast towers in my area.

Step 3: Let’s (really) talk about TV antennas

The challenge with making the most out of a TV antenna is picking out the right one to start with. I do most of my testing in Boston, Massachusetts and a woodsy spot along the Maine coast.

After spending the last six years testing indoor TV antennas, and outdoor TV antennas, there are a few ground rules I’ve set for making a purchase. 

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

Avoid TV antennas with unrealistic ranges

If you type in “best indoor tv antenna” or “best outdoor tv antenna” into the search bar of an online retailer, be wary of your choices. 

There is an excellent chance you are going to wind up with a list of antennas from manufacturers that over-promise on performance. 

I just did a search for “best tv antenna” on a popular online retailer. I wouldn’t buy a single antenna in these results. Let me show you what each model claimed:

  • Indoor/outdoor TV antenna 800+ miles range
  • HD Digital Antenna Long 250 miles range
  • Digital TV antenna Long 250+ miles range
  • TV antenna 380 miles range
  • TV antenna 430 miles range

What’s the problem? I would never buy a TV antenna claiming to have a 100 mile range. I know these claims are simply untrue. It’s important for you to understand why. 

Digital TV signals, by design, diminish quickly and do not 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. 

Beyond that? Nah, not going to happen. That hasn’t stopped companies from claiming otherwise. You will find a number of factually-challenged companies claiming that their antennas that can receive signals from hundreds of miles away. 

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.

TV viewers don’t have to worry about overlapping because the Federal Communications Commission regulates TV broadcast signals. Period. End of story. 

An outdoor antenna that’s on a roof, or better yet, on a roof and elevated even higher on a pole, may be able to get a digital signal 50 to 55 miles away. I’ve done it. But at that distance, it’s tough to get a consistent signal that works well through rain or shine.

An indoor antenna that doesn’t have the benefit of being on a roof can have a range of up to 35 miles away. Even that number is pushing its limits. 

An over-simplified way to explain TV antennas is this: You’re working with something that’s closer to a butterfly net than a tractor beam on the Death Star in “Star Wars.”

In my opinion, impossible claims about the range of TV antennas isn’t just bad marketing. It’s borderline fraud. People often make spending decisions based on what they read. Misleading customers about a product they know little about — doing it to scale, for profit — is wrong.

The Federal Trade Commission recently settled a lawsuit against a New York company that made fraudulent claims about its TV antennas. But the industry is still ripe for reform and enforcement.

So how do you find trustworthy brands? Sticking with well-established companies (based in the U.S., even if they manufacture overseas) has never burned me. 

AntennasDirect, its sibling company Mohu, Winegard, Channel Master, RCA and many others not named here are among the reputable antenna makers in the United States. 

Most of them have been in the business for decades. Companies that advertise a phone number with customer support is a good sign. In my opinion, a customer service number signals that a company can mostly back up what’s written on its packaging. 

Marketing terms = confusion

Even the best TV antenna makers use language that can be confusing for consumers. 

There is no such thing as a  “HD antenna”, “HDTV antenna” or “4K Ready” antenna per se. A TV antenna is simply just that. There is no specific design that determines picture resolution. 

But there are excellent designs that can improve or maximize picture reception.

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

You will find some sub-channels that are broadcast in 480p as well. Any TV antenna, including a homemade one, can pick up these signals. 

NextGen TV: Everything You Need to Know

A new broadcast standard 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 or 4K picture resolution, HDR and Dolby Atmos. 

You won’t need a new TV antenna for ATSC 3.0, and free over-the-air channels will be easier to get for more people across the U.S. At some point, you may even be able to watch all this free TV in your car or on your smartphone. 

You will need a new TV tuner to get these new Ultra High Definition channels.

New TVs from Hisense, Sony, Samsung and LG include TV tuners that receive both NextTV broadcasts and the current digital broadcast standard ATSC 1.0. 

In 2021, I bought a Sony Bravia XR A80J, which includes a NextGen TV tuner and runs on Google TV software.

If you buy a TV tuner or DVR that supports NextGen TV, make sure that it full supports Digital Rights Management (DRM) that many broadcasters are using to lock down channels.

Any station that switches to ATSC 3.0 will have to maintain the current digital signal until at least 2027. So you still have a decent chunk of time where you won’t need a new TV tuner box to get free live TV channels. 

The bottom line with TV antennas is to consider the one-time cost of hardware compared to a monthly bill from a cable TV or satellite provider. Don’t shortchange yourself when it comes to setting up your own equipment that will last (and save you money) for years to come. 

Step 4: Pick your streaming subscriptions

There are massive libraries of free movies and TV shows you can watch. All you need is an Internet connection. You can watch your favorite shows or movies on more than just a Smart TV.

You can watch TV using a smartphone or tablet. An inexpensive streaming device can upgrade an older TV into a streaming powerhouse. 

If you really wanted 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.

YouTube TV offers live broadcast and cable TV channels. (photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Jailbreaking a Fire Stick or doing something funky to your streaming device to get free movies illegally is a bad idea and unnecessary. 

You can get your live local news from an NBC or FOX station for free with the NewsOn app. You can watch Hollywood blockbusters (again, for free) on Pluto TV

Even public libraries are getting in on the act. You should check to see if your local library provides a free subscription to hoopla or Kanopy to its patrons. 

The Roku Channel has more than 40,000 free movies, TV shows and live streaming TV channels. There is a live TV section with more than 270 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.

Amazon has its own free streaming service, freevee, that is included in Fire TV devices. The app is available on Roku, Android TV/Google TV Smart TVs and streaming devices.

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. 

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.

On-Demand Streaming Services

Streaming video services have paved the way for moving U.S. consumers away from live TV.

Netflix has practically become the new plumbing to our Internet-connected televisions. Amazon Prime Video has tremendous reach as well because a membership offers far more than just shows and movies to watch. You can watch some live sports, including some MLB games and “Thursday Night Football.”

Disney+ broke records in how quickly it amassed millions of subscribers. It was literally an overnight success.

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 the 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 in front of me.

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 and style more. 

ESPN+ is another good example of streaming services that focuses on niches. 

It may one day it may replace your ESPN channel on cable. But for now, it’s finding success with exclusive UFC fights , boxing and international soccer leagues such as LaLiga. 

There is original programming like the football-themed documentary series, Peyton’s Places. 

And sure, there are popular, mainstream live sports already on the service, including Major League Baseball games, college basketball and NHL games

Leverage your spending power

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. 

Some services are bundling or merging on their own. Paramount Global merged its Paramount+ streaming service with Showtime in 2023.

Now that streaming is big business, just about every publication — major newspapers, magazines and online pubs — have weekly or monthly lists telling you what to watch. 

These lists can be useful and give you a feel for what’s out there. If you dig deep on your own, there’s a chance that you will find something great that no one else is talking about. 

Step 5: Lower your Internet bill before you cut the cord

So how do I manage to keep paying only between $30 to $50 per month every year for standalone Internet? (I’m currently paying $39.99 per month with Verizon FiOS.)

I do have the advantage of living in a city where there is more than one Internet service provider. 

But I have lived in places where there was only one provider in town. During one of my last periods of negotiating, I was dealing with a large cable provider that pretty much had zero competition in my section of the city.

The agent insisted the lowest price for a standalone Internet connection was $69.99 per month. I got the price down to $39.99 per month, a rate that I maintained for two years before moving on. 

My battle-tested method has worked for years in places with and without competition.

I never tell an Internet service provider that I’m streaming, especially when they start with those probing questions about my needs. I say that I use a TV antenna (true) and simply need an Internet connection for email. 

Like the all-you-can-eat cable bundles we’ve been gorging on for years, many cable companies are serving up Internet speeds that are larger than necessary. 

The customer service agent may insist that there are no other plans. But if you keep saying “no thanks, that’s not what I’m looking for” eventually you will strike a better deal. 

You should expect that the agent will start pitching all kinds of so-called deals for a package of TV and internet and phone. 

Just keep saying no thanks.

Be firm, but polite. Keep saying you want a simple internet connection — about 50 megabits per second of download speed will do. Even 25Mbps of download speed is fine for most live TV streaming services if you’re not gaming online.

Once you are offered a better price for standalone internet, don’t say yes right away. Keep asking whether there are any other options. The price might come down more. 

How do I know that this scenario plays out the same way on a fairly consistent basis? 

Because I watch a lot of C-SPAN. And I read the findings of the 2016 Congressional investigation by former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo). McCaskill was a top ranking chairman on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. 

Her committee delved into pricing and customer service practices for the major cable providers across the U.S.

That investigation pulled the curtain back a little on how customer service agents are trained. Let’s watch this short video so you can see what I’m talking about. Note the silence from cable executives while they’re being questioned.

Yep, it turns out those same customer service reps who tell you that there are no lower priced “deals” to be had actually keep secret rate charts explicitly used to retain customers. Customer service reps are trained to instill fear, and doubt in you when you start talking about cancelling or taking your business elsewhere.

I know it goes against common sense, but cable companies don’t reward people for being a longtime, faithful customer. 

Instead, they raise your rates until you can’t take it anymore. Why? Because luring you in with a low rate then raising it after several months makes them a lot more money. That’s the business model. Plain and simple.

How to negotiate for Internet service

Having said all that, there is one more thing to keep in mind as we look into the future of cord cutting and streaming your favorite TV shows.  

Cable companies are fully aware that the future of their business relies on growing the number of standalone internet subscribers. Millions of customers are dumping cable TV and satellite providers every year. 

As a customer, you need to view cable companies like a pricey restaurant. They don’t really want you to order off the menu, especially when it comes to negotiating your new monthly rate for an internet connection.

But you can do it if you are willing to walk out the door and eat elsewhere. 

There’s a really important difference here that a lot of people miss when I cover this topic. You can’t threaten the waiter with leaving the restaurant. You have to get up out of your seat and start walking. 

That means if you’ve spent 25 or 30 minutes on the phone with a customer service agent, and they’re not budging on price for standalone Internet, then you need to go through and cancel. 

Set your cancellation date for the end of the month. That gives them 20 or 30 days to have a retention specialist contact you with some better offers. 

In my experience, you will hear back from someone in a matter of hours, or a day or two at most. 

If you don’t hear back from anyone in a few days, you can always call back and say you found another ISP with a decent rate, but you really like your existing service. So you want to see what kind of rates are available. The negotiation process will start over. 

The exercise here is to give yourself some leverage as a consumer. Plain and simple. 

And remember, don’t accept the first lower offer right away. In the end, you might find the first offer is the best one to suit your needs. I’ve experienced that firsthand. 

But you definitely want to see what’s behind “Door #2” on that rate chart. Hold your ground by expressing uncertainty about that first offer and see what else pops up. 

Internet Speed

It’s important to understand that you don’t need that fast of an Internet connection to enjoy Netflix, or even a live TV service such as Sling TV. 

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
DIRECTV STREAM2.5 – 7.5 Mbps – Recommended for HD quality
VUDUHDX (1080p) requires 4500 kbps
AMAZON VIDEO5Mbps for High Definition (HD) videos
SLING TVConstant speed of 5.0 Mbps or more
Note: speeds represent single stream minimums

Streaming in High Definition requires a minimal Internet connection. Even if you had a snazzy 4K TV and wanted to watch some live sports in 4K on fuboTV, the recommended download speed is 25 Mbps. 

That’s still pretty minimal compared to some of the Internet speeds that are offered by cable TV providers. 

This may sound like common sense, but it’s worth mentioning. The last person you want to consult about how much Internet speed you need is the person selling it to you. 

Introductory rates for Internet

Keep in mind that some of the larger ISPs in the U.S. are offering low introductory rates. Taking advantage of these rates can give you at least 12 months of Internet service at a discounted price before it is time to renegotiate.

I’ve been an Astound Broadband (formerly RCN) customer on and off for years, paying between $30 to $50 per month. With Comcast, I have paid between $40 to $50 per month. And Verizon FiOS is now offering standalone Internet for about $40 per month. 

Quantum Fiber (formerly CenturyLink) offers fiber-connected Internet across much of the U.S.. There are no contract or activation fees. I routinely ask customer service reps to waive activation fees.

Step 6: Stop renting a cable modem and WiFi router

Owning your own cable modem and WiFi router is better than renting one. In my experience, using my own equipment saves me money. It gives me better performance because the WiFi router that I bought is well-suited for the layout of my home.  

As a consumer, you should know that there have been issues with using rented equipment.

In 2018, the parent company of Spectrum agreed to a $174.2 million settlement with the New York Attorney General over Internet speeds.  

That lawsuit alleged that Spectrum’s Wi-Fi speeds were approximately 80 percent slower than advertised. The state’s findings about Spectrum’s speed at the time came as a result of 16 months of testing.

One culprit for the slower speeds, according to the lawsuit, was the modem-router units that customers rented. As part of the settlement, Charter Communications, Spectrum’s parent company, admitted to no wrongdoing. 

The monthly rental fee on your cable or Internet bill is substantial. 

Comcast’s Xfinity service charges $14 per month for renting a modem . You can easily buy your own modem for Xfinity and recoup your costs in about five and a half months.

Verizon FiOS charges $18 per month to rent its Wi-Fi router. You can simply tell the company that you will be using your own Wi-Fi router when you sign up for service.

The math on this is simple. Your equipment pays for itself. Choosing your own equipment lets you evaluate what will work best for your home. 

Most Internet-related hardware on the market has a pretty simple plug-and-play setup. There are countless instructional YouTube videos that can help.  

Step 7: How to Choose a Streaming Device

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

When my retired, non-tech savvy parents finally decided to ditch cable, I bought them a Roku and a reconditioned Verizon Fios router.

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

Buying them the router from eBay allowed them to stop paying the monthly rental fee to Verizon. I helped them keep their landline phone number that they’ve had since the Nixon administration by porting it to Google Voice

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 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.

There is a 4K Roku TV in my daughter’s playroom. I regularly use the latest Fire TV, Roku, NVIDIA Shield, and Google Chromecast models on older TVs around the house.

These streaming setups change over time as I continue testing and reviewing equipment.

Smart TVs

Check to see whether your Smart TV has all the apps you need before buying a streaming device. It’s a good idea to do a software update before you start downloading 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+. 

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 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.

Step 8: Congratulations! Brag to family and friends about all that cash you’re saving

If you’ve made it to this stage, congratulations. I’ve given you a lot to digest… maybe even a handbook of sorts based on my years of living without cable TV (largely because I was broke after college.)

Now you can be that annoying relative at Thanksgiving, talking about how you’re saving wads of cash. The cable man isn’t sticking it to you anymore. 

Hopefully, you can help out those same family members after they get sick of listening to you.

Good luck, and be sure to comment on what you did to cut the cord in 2023. And start bragging about how much money you saved in the comment section below.

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 “Cord Cutting: The Definitive Guide with Everything You Need to Know”

  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 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 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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