I remember not having cable for long periods of time when I was growing up.
It was torture listening to the kids at school talking about all the programs I was missing. So, when I got out of the house, I immediately subscribed.
But when I got into my 30s, things changed. I got married, bought a house and had kids. Suddenly, I didn’t have endless hours to stare at the TV, but what I did have was a ton of bills. So the decision to cut the cord was pretty easy for me.
Sure, there were a few shows my wife and I tried to keep up with, but that was secondary. I did the research and wanted to save.
It’s hard to put an exact figure on the savings because I mix and match streaming services fairly often. (It’s one of the beauties of cord cutting -- no contracts, so, for example, you can sign up for HBO Now during “Game of Thrones” and cancel once it’s over.)
In all, I’ve saved $50 to $100 per month over the last two years. That’s somewhere between $1,200 and $2,400 overall back in my pocket.
However, like many others looking to cut the cord, I was scared I’d miss out on live sports. In particular, the most popular sport in the U.S.: NFL football.
As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to get all the football you can handle without having cable.
Want to catch this NFL season without an expensive cable contract? Let’s take a look at the best options at your disposal.
If you’re a fan of the local team, the easiest way to watch is with an antenna. That’s right, even your parents’ old bunny ears probably still work.
However, I opted for a newer, sleeker model -- the Mohu Leaf 50, which runs around $30 on Amazon. It worked well in my area, and my wife liked the way it looked. A win-win.
Of course, there are plenty of other antennas on the market -- you’ll need to find one that matches your needs. I recommend heading over to TVFool.com and running a report to help you decide. If you have trouble digesting the site, this subreddit is a good guide.
If you live within range of the big four networks’ (CBS, Fox, NBC and ABC) over-the-air signal, you’ll be able to pick up every one of your local team’s games for the season.
On top of that, you’ll also receive regional games on Sunday afternoons, Sunday Night Football on NBC and all Thursday Night Football games from CBS and NBC. (NFL Network owns sole rights to a few of them, so you’ll have to skip out on those.)
That’s a lot of football. For free and in HD. More than enough for the average fan.
If you’re a diehard fan, you’ll probably want more coverage. And that means you need cable networks like ESPN or NFL Network. While both of these used to be cable exclusives, you can now get them without a contract through a few streaming services.
First up is Sling TV, which I personally use to watch sports online. Sling offers various skinny bundles of channels to livestream over your internet connection. If you want to get the stream on your TV, you need a device like a Roku or Apple TV.
The Sling Orange package comes with ESPN, which means you can watch Monday Night Football each week, along with all of ESPN’s NFL coverage. It’s the cheapest skinny bundle you’ll find at $20 per month.
However, if you’d rather not listen to ESPN talk about Tim Tebow half the time even though he’s no longer in the NFL, you probably want NFL Network. Not only does this station give you 24/7 football coverage, but it also broadcasts most Thursday Night Football games.
You can get this as part of Sling TV’s Blue package for $25 per month. Or if you need both Sling Orange and Blue, you can subscribe to both packages for $40 per month. The NFL regular season is four months long, so you’re looking at $160 to get you through the season.
Of course, keep in mind that you aren’t just getting the NFL. That $160 per month is pretty much a cable replacement with channels like AMC, USA, CNN and more.
There’s no commitment, so you can cancel whenever. You can also try Sling TV free for seven days.
Your other option for both ESPN and NFL Network is PlayStation Vue. The service is pretty similar to Sling TV. You pay month to month, and you get to stream cable channels to various devices. And you can cancel whenever you want.
The starting price is $39.99. The base package gives you ESPN and a bunch of other channels, but you have to upgrade to the $44.99 tier if you want NFL Network.
Of course, if you’re really looking to save money, you could consider borrowing a cable login from a friend or family member. Depending on their cable package, this could give you access to the NBC Sports app, FOX Sports Go, WatchESPN and the NFL Network online.
Is it wrong to share a login? Depends on whom you ask. I haven’t seen an official word from any of the companies mentioned above, so I guess you proceed at your own risk.
Recent rulings in a password sharing case may result in this being deemed illegal by the courts, so check your local laws before sharing passwords.
For many football fans, NFL Sunday Ticket is the be-all, end-all. However, you generally have to have DirecTV to get it… except there are a couple caveats. If you live in an apartment or condo where you can’t have a satellite dish, DirecTV will sell you a streaming version of Sunday Ticket. But it isn’t cheap, at $69.99 per month.
If you happen to be a college student, you’re in luck: You can get the same service for only $24.99. That’s a little easier to swallow. You can find out if you’re eligible here.
Happen to be a Verizon customer? Or maybe you’re considering changing wireless providers? Then you might have the cheapest option of all. Verizon customers can stream every NFL game of the season using the NFL’s mobile app.
All at no cost. That’s right, if you’re a Verizon customer, free NFL comes with the service.
As you’d imagine, there’s a catch. It’s only available on your mobile device. So you can’t the stream to your television. But if you don’t mind watching on your phone or tablet, this might work for you.
Amazon will broadcast 10 Thursday night games in the upcoming football season to its Prime members only. Amazon Prime costs $99 a year, but of course that gets you free two-day shipping, music streaming, and on-demand shows and movies, as well. CBS and NBC will also air the 10 Thursday night football games Amazon will broadcast.
Whether you choose good old-fashioned bunny ears or one of the many options you have if you want to watch sports online, one thing’s for sure: It’s cheaper than paying $100 or more per month for cable.
Chris Brantner is the founder of CutCableToday, where he provides crucial info for people to find the content they want, like NFL football without cable. You can also find his blogging expertise on Scribblrs.com.
As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular. Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.
Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.
Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content, but there are plenty of free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable cutting solutions.
Crackle is quickly becoming one of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general. The cost-free service has signed some A-list content recently, including “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the new “Snatch” series, “Seinfeld” and hundreds of films from major studios.
For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name, some of which are gaining attention from critics and audiences alike. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes, and smart TVs.
My only complaint with Crackle is the autoplay feature. When you start up the app on your Roku or other streaming player, you have a limited time until a movie starts automatically. I haven’t found a way to shut this off yet short of starting another program.
Tubi TV launched in 2014 and claims to have the largest selection of free streaming movies and TV series. It has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate and also features lots of foreign and independent productions.
Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on Android and iOS devices, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.
To be honest, when I first heard of Tubi TV, I was skeptical because I always viewed apps like it as having the movies no one wanted to see. However, I was pleasantly surprised -- the library is solid. A few titles that stood out to me include “Old Boy”, “True Grit,” and “The Machinist.”
Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every ten minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.
Pluto TV stands out in the free streaming crowd in that the service offers channels of linear content much like a cable package. There are dozens of movie channels, sports channels, news, and even some highly curated streams of niche content.
Pluto TV recently launched a video-on-demand service with movies and TV series from studios such as Paramount, Lionsgate, MGM and Warner Bros. Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Kindle and Fire devices, Roku, Apple TV, Google Nexus Player and Chromecast devices and Android TV.
A lot of money has been poured into Pluto TV over the last year or so. I just downloaded the app again for the first time in about a year and was shocked by how much content the service now has, as well as how sleek the interface is. It truly is the most cable-like experience out there from a free app.
Pluto TV is a bit ad heavy, as you must watch a few minutes of ads prior to starting a program, as well as periodic ads throughout. Again, it’s pretty similar to the ad load of normal TV.
Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. For the more serious-minded cord-cutters out there, the NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.
Both live and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 170 local news affiliates in 113 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air.
The app uses a device’s location data or an interactive map to locate available local news streams. Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or business. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as sell as Roku.
I find NewsOn particularly useful when I don’t want to deal with hooking up an antenna. As far as local programming is concerned, the news is really all I need. Here in Houston, NewsOn gets me the local KPRC NBC feed, so I always know what’s going on.
Funny or Die is without a doubt the go-to streaming app for comedy programming. Founded in 2004 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from some of the biggest names in show business. It also has syndicated content and works on both Android and iOS devices.
Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded. Users can vote on what they watch, choosing either “Funny” or “Die,” a system that ensures the best content rises to the top. Basically, you watch a video, and decide whether you liked it or not. Below the video, you’ll have the choice to click a “Funny” or “Die” button, which then affects the overall rating of the video.
As for my personal experience, I’ve honestly spent quite a bit of time laughing my butt off at videos from this app. The app is easy to use and great for finding new hilarious content.
Kids need free streaming content, too. Luckily, PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content just for the youngest members of any family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.
Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported on Chromecast, Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets, and it takes up little space. Unfortunately, content cannot be downloaded for offline viewing.
This app is my go-to for my 7-year-old daughter. She knows that if she gets up before me, she’s allowed to turn on the TV and access the PBS Kids app. And I know that she’s watching something age-appropriate and educational. Not to mention, there’s no worry of her exposure to commercials because there are none — big plus!
Flipps isn’t exactly a household name yet, but the service is growing quickly and already boasts thousands of hours of content. The app is compatible with iOS and Android devices, Xbox One and Apple TV. It can even sync with several different makes of smart TVs, allowing mobile devices to serve as a remote control.
While Flipps is free and offers some enticing features, the Flipps library might not be for everyone. Flipps features mostly obscure and B-list films, niche and extreme sports and independent content. It also has over 100 channels of linear streaming content for viewing.
As for my experience, while the app gets great reviews, I’ve found little use for it. The movies are too obscure for my taste, and, frankly, I get my news elsewhere. However, if you’re someone looking for new content, this might be useful to you, especially if you’re looking to mirror to your smart TV.
Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. The sushi-inspired name stems from the fact that Crunchyroll specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.
There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragonball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.” The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.
Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared towards teens (and sometimes even adults). I don’t let my little one access the app on her own. However, for teens and adults, it’s a slamdunk.
For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.
Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.
While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV. While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.
Yes, YouTube. No list of cost-free streaming video services would be complete without it. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device out there that has a screen, and the service features billions of videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.
Most of them are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.
While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: many of these sites and apps are full of malware.
With so many free streaming options out there, it's easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you're looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime. Try them out and see which works best for you.
Chris Brantner is the founder of CutCableToday, where he provides crucial info for people to find the content they want, like NFL football, without cable. You can also find his work on Motherboard, Business Insider, US News & World Report, and more.