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A La Carte

Ron Wayne, 2:26 am ET

I REMOVED THE YOKE of cable TV several years ago. Thanks to today’s streaming channels, I have endless options—and I’m still saving money.

If you thought cable offered an overflowing abundance of choices, buy a Roku or other streaming device. You could stay glued to the screen 24/7 and never see anything twice, probably for years.

A Roku device, available for as little as $24, will give you access to more than 200 channels, including the well-known streaming channels such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. Some of the 200 channels charge monthly fees, but many are free.

Indeed, buried treasure can be found in the more obscure channels, such as Fawesome, an odd blend of “free” and “awesome.” Here you will find the original The Saint television series starring Roger Moore before he became James Bond. Also check out Tubi, which provides access to live news, in addition to long forgotten TV shows and old movies. Hulu lets you access other established cable channels, such as A&E and Lifetime.

Many of the “free” channels have commercials. Remember them? It’s a small price to pay to relive childhood memories of watching the absurd but often hilarious 1960s sitcom Green Acres, available on Pluto. More cerebral choices can be found throughout the Roku world, including a plethora of documentaries and foreign language films.

But the best part of this post-cable world is that I’m paying about $30 less per month than before, even with seven subscribed channels that offer first-run theatrical films such as King Richard on HBO Max and widely celebrated new series such as Ozark on Netflix. Another advantage is that I can pause channels at my discretion, which was impossible when I was tied to the cable company. Here’s what I currently pay—with some prices the result of short-term specials:

  • Netflix $15.49
  • YouTube $11.99 (no commercials)
  • HBO Max $11.99
  • Hulu $6.99 (with commercials)
  • Prime $14.99 (also free shipping with Amazon)
  • PBS Documentaries $3.99 (added to Prime)
  • Criterion Channel $10.99

Several streaming services are available as add-ons to other channels. For example, you can get Showtime through Hulu for $3.99 a month for four months. Bargains can be found everywhere, but it requires investigation and effort. Still, it’s better than being hostage to a cable bill that only ever went up.

Retirement affords me the time to catch up on programs I could never watch while working and being an active parent. For example, PBS Documentaries, offered through Prime, provides access to all the Ken Burns documentaries, and also episodes of Finding Your Roots. I was able to binge watch Downton Abbey on Netflix.

The Criterion Channel might be the least known of my choices, but it’s a treasure trove of classic and foreign films. If you miss the art house theater long gone in your urban village, this is the place to visit.

And not everything costs extra. Check out some of the best free channels on Roku. You’ll never get bored.

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Kari Lorch
Kari Lorch
1 month ago

Creative Destruction at work for sure! I also check for specials and free options for streaming as well. One option we do use is through our cell phone by maintaining one of our lines at a certain level (which I think runs about $10/mo more and one of our kids wanted anyway for his needs on the line) we get Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, and Discovery+ included. When I wanted Paramount+ I scoured for a military deal and got 4 months free. I always mark my electronic calendar to remind of the dates to cancel by also so that I dont get into the ‘forgetting’ about the subscriptions, which I think is what they are banking on and I’m sure it works for them.

RK Mohan
RK Mohan
1 month ago

Youtube for $11.99/month? How did you get that? I thought Youtube starts at $65/month.

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
1 month ago
Reply to  RK Mohan

It’s the regular YouTube channel. I use it for music while walking and grew tired of commercials. I also watch a lot of news, snippets from talk shows, DIY info, etc. at home on my TV. Well worth the money.

Mike Wyant
Mike Wyant
1 month ago
Reply to  RK Mohan

I think that’s the original YouTube (NOT YouTube TV) without commercials. We have YouTube TV and it is $65.

Jeff Long
Jeff Long
1 month ago

I read about cord cutting for years, and finally did so 2 years ago after Suddenlink’s “annual” fee increase of 15+%. We live 40 miles from OTA transmitters, so I had a rooftop antenna installed. Before we finished our basement 20+ years ago, I ran coax and CAT 5e to the upstairs and basement for future (read now) use. The coax distributes the OTA signal, and we have Roku devices on several TVs. I also upgraded our wifi with a new modem and a hardwired mesh wifi. I disconnected all of Suddenlink’s hardware and took it into the local office. We were advised to call in to switch our “unbundled” internet only connection for a better price, which we did. At this point our internet was less than half of our previous TV/internet package. We listed stations we regularly watch, and only listed 10. We pay for Prime, so we had that, and found FrndlyTV carried several channels we wanted, and paid for their mid-level selection for $6.99/mo. We tried a few “come on” deals to watch certain series, then cancelled. Our monthly bill was still less than what our Suddenlink bill was. Streaming services are constantly changing their content and raising their fees, fortunately, most allow a free trial before subscribing, and I don’t think any require a long-commitment. We watch a lot of PBS, and get Passport access with our monthly contribution, but I don’t consider that an expense. I did pay to have the antenna installed, which was well worth the cost. And, OTA TV is a better picture because the signal is not “compressed.” Very happy we did this. Now we need an alternative to Suddenlink!

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Long

It does require effort and diligence to find and keep the best deals, unlike cable where you just sit back but pay exorbitant fees.

An
An
1 month ago

Ah yes, Roger Moore in The Saint, which was shortly after playing the role of Beauregarde Maverick in Maverick.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
1 month ago

Ron, thanks very much for this article. I have finally just about reached my limit with the cable co. and am about to start researching our cut-the-cord options. The timing of your article, along with the helpful comments, is perfect.

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
1 month ago

You’re welcome.

Mike Wyant
Mike Wyant
1 month ago

We have YouTube tv. Not cheap but we share others, (Netflix, Amazon etc) with our kids. We can also use it in our RV as long as we have a cell phone connection.

OldITGuy
OldITGuy
1 month ago

I also cut the cord to cable several years back and have been using streaming channels. Another benefit to this approach is that you can easily stop and start most of the streaming services without ever having to speak to a human being to modify your service since they’re mostly just month-to-month with no contract. I always hated the phone call to cable to add or drop an add-on since the phone call always seemed to take forever. It did take me a little while to realize that I didn’t have to keep paying for a streaming service I was no longer watching since it’s just so easy to start and stop them rather than pay for something you’re not using. This really changes the dynamic and makes it easy to bounce around and binge the best of a particular service before moving on to another. Another factor to be aware of is that some services won’t let you watch them in another country, while some services are more lenient (or have a separate service for that country). A password manager does help significantly with managing additional user accounts.

George Counihan
George Counihan
1 month ago

Addicted to Curiosity Stream … great programming for 20 bucks a year!

Nate Allen
Nate Allen
1 month ago

I’d not heard of it but now I’m going to subscribe after googling it.

Also, currently $11.99/year with code “MEMORIALDAY40” according to the banner on their home page.

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago

I agree, I’m addicted to watching free YouTube and a few other apps and we pay $6.00 a month for BritBox and Discovery +, we use our daughters Amazon Prime, but I still have cable.

I’m watch the old Ozzie and Harriet show, in fact many of the shows of the 50s and 60s, when you could watch and laugh.

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