Cord Cutting Guide

cord cutters guide

Introduction to Cord Cutting

Viewers who want access to the widest variety of content that can be watched and enjoyed anytime they want are no longer limited to cable or satellite subscriptions. Your favorite movies, TV shows, as well as popular network TV and live sports, can be accessed in high definition without entering a long-term contract.

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Cord Cutting is on the Rise

Americans are increasingly cancelling their cable subscription and choosing to get their favorite content either through streaming or an antenna.   This group is growing exponentially in America, as observed in a variety of industry studies, including a recent study commissioned by TCL.  Millennials (ages 18-34) are leading the cord cutting, as well as the cord-never (have never been a cable subscriber), movements. 

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cord cutting contents



over the air content

over the air content

Check Available Free Content

A great first step for the budding cord cutter is to find out what free channels are available over the air, often in high definition. You may already have free access to high definition broadcast of your local news, live sports, network TV, and tons more content by simply adding an antenna to your TV. Winegard, an innovative antenna manufacturer, provides an online tool that will help you find all of the channels available in your area. Just enter your address to see which channels you can pick-up.

The service is free, simple, and is a great resource for cord cutters. It'll even help you choose the right antenna for your area.

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TV Tuners


Tuners are built into conventional televisions to help you get free broadcast TV. When these TVs are connected to an antenna, it’s easy to pick-up local stations for news, sports, and other live broadcast programming.

Note that some TVs are marketed as "displays" and do not come with a tuner. These devices are typically less expensive than TVs with built-in tuners. However, for cord cutters, these displays greatly limit the amount of content you can enjoy, since they won’t let you access local broadcast TV. Beware that they could be mislabeled or referred to as TVs.

If you have a display without a built-in tuner, you’ll need to purchase a separate tuner adapter to connect an antenna to the display. To avoid this hassle altogether, make sure the word "TV" is in the product title when shopping. Cord cutters should always be weary of devices labeled "Display" or "Monitor". Bona fide TVs must contain a broadcast TV tuner – that’s the law.


TV Antennas


If you’ve already begun your research on cord cutting, you’ve probably learned that there are many great streaming services available. But it’s important to know that broadcast TV is still available, giving you loads of free, quality content.

To harness this content effectively, you’ll want a TV antenna. With an antenna, you can enjoy awesome programming that’s free, won’t rely on or impact your internet service, and that will also come with surprisingly good picture quality.

Indoor Antennas - An indoor antenna is intended to be used inside a home or apartment. They’re usually fixed to the inside of a window and are designed for metropolitan and suburban users. They offer simple installation, flexible placement, and reception of both UHF and high-VHF signals.

Outdoor Antennas - Outdoor antennas are placed on the exterior of your home. While placement is perhaps less flexible, these antennas are useful for long-range reception and are great for rural locations. Some of these antennas may require professional installation as they’re typically fixed to roofs, chimneys, and hard to reach places for the best reception.


maximize signal

Maximizing Signal

The proper placement of an antenna is essential for maximizing signal. However, finding the best place may require a bit of trial and error. Here are a few tips to help you decide where to place it around your home:


On the side of your house

If you don’t have the ability to get a direct signal from broadcast towers, the next best thing is to capture signal being reflected off of your neighbor’s house.

Inside a window

This is optimal placement of an indoor antenna and it’s best to apply against a window without a metal screen.

Elevated on a wall

Mounting an antenna higher is generally better to give it the best chance at capturing broadcast signals.

Point it correctly

Many antennas are directional, which means they’ll work better if they’re pointed toward a broadcast tower. Take a look at the FCC’s DTV antenna map online to find the direction of your nearest broadcast towers.

Try an amp

If you’ve tried a variety of placements and you’re still not getting good enough reception, try using an amplifier. These can help boost signal, especially if you want to split the signal from one antenna to two TVs in your home.



streaming content

streaming over the internet

Internet speed: How Much You Need & How to Test It

Streaming content requires internet access, either wirelessly via Wi-Fi or through an Ethernet connection. A broadband service like DSL or cable internet is recommended for streaming content reliably, without buffering. Shows streamed in higher picture quality formats like ultra high-definition or 4K require higher internet speeds.

Download speed is the most important consideration for people consuming content on the internet. Continue reading to see recommended download speeds for streaming. Note that each app or streaming service may have their own recommendations for streaming content.

You can test your download speed online to make sure that you’re getting optimal service., a free service from Netflix, estimates your current internet download speed.

Remember that live streaming services may require slightly faster speeds than on-demand services. You’ll also want to check with each service that you subscribe to for recommended bandwidth requirements. You can also contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if your content isn’t streaming as expected.

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Recommended download speeds for streaming

Video Resolution Pixels Recommended Speeds
Standard definition (SD) 480p 3 Mbps
High definition (HD) 720p 5 Mbps
Full HD 1080p 10 Mbps
Ultra HD (UHD) 4K >4,000p 25 Mbps

Note: Internet speeds of at least 25 megabits per second are recommended to stream content in Dolby Vision and HDR10 at Ultra HD 4K resolution. If speeds are lower, you can still enjoy HDR content at lower resolutions.


Top Streaming Channels: What to Watch

There are thousands of streaming channels (or apps) - free and paid - that help you get easy access to the content that's right for you.  If you are cancelling your cable subscription, you may want to choose some streaming channels, like Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu to supplement what you are able to get over the air. TCL recently conducted a study to determine the Top 25 most popular channels for Americans to stream on their TV.  This list will give you a good starting point to learn what services you may want to consider to access your favorite movies, TV episodes, and sports. 


top 25 streaming apps

Top Streaming Channels: How to Watch Them

It is important to note that not all Smart TVs are created equal.  Just as some TVs omit the tuner, preventing you from viewing over the air content, many Smart TVs are missing popular apps.  Click here to learn which Smart TV platforms have each of the Top 25 Streaming Channels.



cord cutting accessories

cord cutting must haves

Helpful Products for the Cord Cutter

For those considering cutting the cord, there are a variety of products that can help you get the most out of all your content, whether it is from over the air or streaming.  

smart tv

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Smart TV with Tuner

A Smart TV is perhaps the easiest way to gain access to some of the most popular streaming apps. That’s because Smart TVs feature internet connectivity and streaming apps like Netflix built-in, so you don’t need extra devices to stream your favorite content. But keep in mind that different Smart TV platforms offer a different selection of available apps.

TCL Roku TVs offer access to the most popular apps, letting cord cutters enjoy over 4,000 streaming channels and 450,000 movies and TV episodes. Plus, with a personalized home screen, quick access to other connected devices, and a tuner that allows you to enjoy over-the-air broadcast TV, a TCL Roku TV may be the perfect choice for any cord cutter.

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A TV antenna is a great accessory to pair with a TV that has a built-in tuner. Even if you have a Smart TV already, you may be able to get even more high-definition content by adding an antenna.

Winegard, an innovative antenna manufacturer, makes a wide range of options for cord cutters. To capture over-the-air content, Winegard’s FlatWave Ultra-Thin model is one of the best ways for cord cutters to get HDTV reception. It also boasts dual band optimized VHF/UHF element for maximum signal capture, and a high quality mini coax cable for easy positioning. Plus, the indoor antenna is reversible to match any décor in your house.

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wi-fi router streaming

Wi-Fi Router

Internet is not a prerequisite for cord cutting. That's because there’s plenty of over-the-air content available. But to maximize the amount of content you can enjoy, a reliable Wi-Fi router is essential to ensure you’re always streaming the highest-quality videos. Your ISP may have provided you with an all-in-one modem and router, but selecting a separate router can improve your Wi-Fi signal. And, a solid wireless signal can help you stream content on numerous devices around your home, whether it’s a TCL Roku TV, a mobile device, or game console.

For optimal performance, look for a router offering dual-band, 802.11ac, AC1750 speeds or higher, and/or high-powered antennas for strong coverage around your home. You can also check out PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice to find some of the highest rated routers available.

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DVR Solutions

Recording live TV to watch later is an experience that many cable subscribers may be reluctant to give up. With a TCL Roku TV, you never have to miss a minute of your favorite show. When it's connected to an antenna, you can easily pause and playback digital broadcast TV, allowing you to venture to the kitchen for a quick snack without missing a major plot twist. 

For an even more robust recording and storage solution, DVRs are also available to record over-the-air (OTA) content from an antenna.

An OTA DVR not only lets users enjoy their favorite shows whenever they want, but it also means viewers won’t have to be stuck with additional hardware fees. Many cable and satellite providers charge monthly fees for using their DVRs. But since cord cutters are free from restrictive long-term contracts, they’re also free from added fees like these that can really add up fast.

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tablo dvr


While traditional DVRs connect directly to a cable box, Tablo connects to your home network using Wi-Fi or Ethernet. This allows it to stream content to any connected device inside your home or anywhere you have internet. It features many of the essential DVR functions, such as live TV time-shifting and the ability to watch recordings in progress. The Tablo DUAL OTA DVR even includes internal storage, so you won't need an external hard drive to store your content. This model is all-new and is available now for $219.99.

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