A Cord Cutter’s Life is a series of guest posts by Greg Baker, featuring stories on the motivations, challenges, and benefits to cutting cable. If you’ve considered cutting the cord, let our visiting Cord Cutting Guru show you how in this fun, helpful series.
Now, this may sound surprising, and it may sound counterintuitive, but one of the most disappointing parts of cable for me wasn’t having to pay, and it wasn’t dealing with the cable companies. What disappointed me most about my cable subscription was the TV guide. Okay okay okay, I didn’t hate having the channel or anything like that (although the people doing entertainment news segments or whatever in the little top-right corner were annoying as hell). What I hated about the TV guide was seeing something I wanted to watch, and knowing I couldn’t see it. If I can see that on Comedy Central at 1:30pm, they’re gonna play the best episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I am never going to be able to watch it. All I can do is stare, and dream of what might have been. No more.
No more will I sit and wait through 4 episodes of Two and a Half Men until The Departed starts, because now, I have streaming. Now, I get to watch what I want, when I want to. I get to pick, it’s all in my control. I’m in charge. I’m the captain now. I can choose anything I want.
Now you may be saying, “Greg, you can’t watch anything, you can only watch what they have available,” to which I retort: I can pick! I still have the power! There are always things to watch, despite what anyone else tells you. The key: finding out what app works for you. You don’t wanna pay for a streaming service that specializes in TV when all you watch is movies, right? Well today, we’re gonna go through some apps that I use, and what to use them for.
An Amazon Prime subscription is honestly a must-have in this day and age, even if you don’t watch TV or movies. Paying like $100 a year for free two-day shipping on all your online shopping is worth it no matter what, especially for someone like me, a millennial, who buys everything online and is helping to kill shopping malls. Besides that, the streaming service is great, too. Prime is the app you want if you’re big into movies. It has a good variety of dramas, comedies, rom coms, and right now, the entire James Bond franchise! That’s not to mention their own content. They also get new movies in there quick, like last year’s Oscar winner for best picture, Moonlight, and the fun doesn’t stop there. While it’s not really a money saving technique, Amazon does also let you rent (or buy) movies that aren’t available on prime, and the selection is amazing. They’re basically the Blockbuster of streaming, but like the late-90’s version of Blockbuster when it was really good, not the current version of Blockbuster which is—um—nonexistent. Down with shopping malls, down with Blockbuster, down with tyranny! Let The Time Of The Amazon begin!
Consensus - Big variety of good movies, free shipping when you shop online, helps replace corporate America’s malls and former movie rental houses.
The big gun. The head hancho. App-based streaming’s resident bad boy. That’s right, next up we have Netflix, the most popular streaming service that coined the phrase “Netflix and chill.” However, Netflix provides more than just an excuse to invite Jenny over, it’s got great content across the board. Netflix keeps up on all fronts; they’ve got a good TV selection and a wide range of movies, too. They’ve also got sort of the same function as Amazon—you can rent DVDs from them (not streaming) starting at $5 a month (on top of the $8 the streaming service cost) for when something you want isn’t online at the time. Original content is also a big reason why they’re so popular. With shows like Stranger Things, Bojack Horseman, and Orange is the New Black, it’s easy to see what the fuss is about. However, as you may know, the real kicker with Netflix is that it has far and away the best stand-up comedy selection. If you like Kevin Hart, Gabriel Iglesias, Amy Schumer, or any other stand-ups, Netflix has it all.
Consensus - Good mix of original content/selection of tv movies, the stand-up game is strong with this app
Amazon has free shipping, Netflix has popularity, but Hulu should not be overlooked. For TV, Hulu is the only app you need. For $8 a month, you get old shows, new shows, funny shows, sad shows, reality-based shows, animated shows, late night shows, and even GLEE! It gets new episodes of current TV shows like The Mick, Last Man on Earth, South Park, and This is Us the day after they air, so what’s not to love? Well, the most common complaint I hear about Hulu is that they have commercials. Well guess what? Pay an extra $4 a month and you can watch commercial free! If you’re willing to actively complain to someone about having to watch commercials (even though you live in a time where you can watch anything you want anytime you want to), then you’re willing to shell out approximately no money to make them stop. Hulu is great.
Consensus - Great for TV, cheap monthly service, get all the shows you want and even some you hate.
HBOnow (not to be confused with HBOgo) is the app from HBO that’s perfect for cord cutters. Before, you needed an HBO subscription attached to your cable to stream with HBOgo, but now, they’ve added an independent service, HBOnow. (HBO)Now that we’ve gotten the confusing part done, we can (HBO)go ahead and talk about the app. What I love about HBO is their original content. Every series they put out is interesting, intriguing, and hilarious or gripping—depending on the show. With old classics like Entourage and new hits like Game of Thrones, HBO always hits their mark. And don’t stop at the TV shows—HBO gets surprisingly good movies, too. With everything from La La Land to Master and Commander, they’ve got some of the best quality content for your viewing pleasure. Despite the $15 a month price tag, HBOnow is (HBO)going to be well worth the cost.
Consensus - Great original shows and movies, a little more expensive, writing about it makes me want to (HBO)go watch some TV right (HBO)now
Professional Sports Apps
The hardest thing about cutting the cord is having to give up on watching TV live, which means giving up watching sports live. While you can get access to ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX with an antenna, you’re still gonna miss out on games. Not anymore. Virtually every major sport—the MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL—all have streaming packages available. Being a diehard Boston sports fan, I would watch the Red Sox any chance I could, and growing up in the DC area, I didn’t have that many chances. These apps basically make it so that the hometown experience can be experienced when you’re no longer in the hometown. You can choose a single team subscription like me and just watch your favorite team, but if you’re just a fan of a sport in general, you can get access to all the league’s games.
Consensus - Yes, you absolutely can watch live sports without cable.
Now I know that YouTube and cable aren’t tied together, but a big part of TV and content watching for me has always been YouTube. Whether it’s learning how to play the guitar, or watching bloopers from my favorite sitcoms, this site is an integral part of how we consume content. And if you didn’t know, YouTube also has that Blockbuster-esque streaming rental service like Amazon. So, on top of being able to watch videos of people getting hurt and sneezing pandas, you can also watch The Departed on the same app. It’s also nice having the app there so that you can watch your YouTube on the big screen hassle-free. Although it's readily available on TCL Roku TVs, the YouTube app is not available on some smart TV platforms, so keep that in mind before you start binging.
Consensus - It’s great, it’s free, it’s YouTube.
Want to learn about the most popular apps? Check out the full list of the top 25 most popular streaming apps and where to get them.