Cord Cutter's Guide
TV lovers 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.
According to the Leichtman Research Group, the average subscriber spends $107 on cable TV each month. No wonder so many people are looking to cut the cord—or at least cut out that large monthly payment. And with customer satisfaction on the decline, the bad news just keeps on coming for traditional subscription TV services. But that also means there’s never been a better time to ditch your traditional TV bill. Want to learn more? Continue reading to see what you need to cut the cord and break free from cable!
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.
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.
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.
Recommended download speeds for streaming
Remember that live streaming services may require slightly faster speeds than on-demand services. You’ll also want to check with each streaming app or 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.
|Video Resolution||Pixels||Recommended Speeds|
|Standard definition (SD)||640 × 480||3 Mbps|
|High definition (HD)||1366 x 768||5 Mbps|
|Full HD||1920 x 1080||10 Mbps|
|Ultra HD (UHD) 4K||3840 x 2160||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
There are thousands of streaming channels (or apps) - free and paid - that help you access the content you crave. If you are cancelling your cable subscription, you may want to choose popular streaming channels, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu to supplement what you are able to get over-the-air. A study conducted by TCL determined what the Top 25 most popular streaming channels are for American TV viewers. 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.
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. Learn which Smart TV platforms have each of have each of the Top 25 Streaming Channels.
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. Even the most popular services like YouTube are not available on all TVs.
TCL Roku TVs offer access to the most popular apps, letting cord cutters enjoy thousands of streaming channels and more than 500,000 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.
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.
Mohu makes some of the most reliable and innovative antennas on the market today. To capture over-the-air content, Mohu’s Blade 40-Mile Range Indoor/Outdoor Amplified Bar Antenna model is one of the best ways for cord cutters to get HDTV reception. It features a sleek, modern design and easy installation. It will easily let you enjoy available over-the-air broadcast networks in your area, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW, Univision and more.
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.
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.
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 DVR for cord-cutters is inexpensive and easy to use. It's priced from $140.