Jeff Buesing of Minnetonka wasn't thinking about watching football when he cut the satellite cord in April, But when the NFL season started in September, he wrote on Facebook: "One of the drawbacks to cutting the cable and going with a la carte TV -- No Vikings."
A dearth of live sports used to be and to some degree still remains a bugaboo for cord cutters, But Buesing ignored one important part of cord cutting: an antenna. With an antenna, Buesing and other fans can watch the Vikings. He paid a mere $20 for rabbit ears.
TV antennas can be as simple as indoor rabbit ears or as obtrusive as a pole with wings on the roof, but they will bring in about 40 local and national channels. Professional installers can help choose the best antenna for reception-challenged areas. Twin Cities installers include Cable Alternatives, Mr. HDTV Man, Enhanced Home Technology and Johnny's TV. Ness Electronics in Burnsville just introduced a new line of antennas called Skyblueantenna that improves reception with VHF channels such as KARE 11 and FOX 9.
Cord cutters now have six multi-channel streaming options, according to John Brillhart, founder of Cable Alternatives, which helps consumers choose an antenna and streaming services. In 2017 22.2 million U.S. adults are expected to cut the cord on cable and satellite, up from 16.7 million in 2016, according to eMarketer.
1. Sling TV. Believed to be the most competitively-priced multi-channel streaming service, according to Brillhart. Local channels, Fox Sports North, HGTV, Food, AMC, TNT, TBS and more for $25/month.
2. PlayStation Vue. It offers a large number of channels including major sports networks such as FSN, BTN, ESPN, NBCSN plus Discovery, HGTV, FOX News, MSNBC, Food and more. It's available on a streaming devices such as Roku and FireTV as well as PlayStation. Packages with sports start at $45/month.
3. Direct TV Now. It's an offshoot of DirecTV, but a dish is not needed. Has a richer channel selection than PS Vue, including Discovery, History, MTV, Comedy Central, and C-Span. Note that the popular NFL Sunday Ticket package is not available to Now subscribers unless they have a dish. $35/month for 65 channels.
4. FuboTV. The only startup channel service that's not part of a media conglomerate, Fubo is mostly sports centric, especially soccer. Its one glaring omission? No ESPN. It also includes HGTV, Hallmark, AMC and others. $40/month after a two month $20/month teaser rate.
5. Hulu Live TV. It's got most of the major channels but also a rich on-demand library with selections such as the popular "Handmaid's Tale." $40/month.
6. YouTube TV. New this year, YouTube TV is the only multi-channel service to offer feeds from NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and CW. The ability to watch is limited mostly to mobile devices, or on TV with Google Chromecast or AirTV via AppleTV. $35/month.
Brillhart said that none of the streaming services includes PBS, but it can be added with an antenna. All services are month to month, generally without contracts, sign-up fees or cancellation fees. Streaming requires a device such as a Roku or Amazon Fire which cost between $30 and $100.
Most streaming services have free trial periods, but for those who want assistance selecting one and setting it up, Cable Alternatives will help. Prices range from $350 to $400 for the consultation, installation and materials. Monthly streaming fees are extra.