The Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN, held preliminary talks recently to offer its channels through a Web-TV provider such as Google or Sony, Bloomberg reported last month. But even if such an online-only package became an option, it likely would be very pricey.
The first step, if you’re ready to cut the cord, is to see whether you can get good free over-the-air reception, either with an antenna or online subscription service such as Aereo.
Aereo relies on tiny antennas located in the company’s data centers that pick up local channels’ signals and beam them over the Internet to customers. For a monthly membership of $8 to $12, Aereo customers can watch the channels streaming live online or save them on virtual digital video recorders for later.
Although it’s available in only a handful of cities – Miami, Boston, Houston, New York, Salt Lake City and Atlanta – Aereo is expanding soon to Kansas City, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., the District of Columbia and other metro areas.
TV networks have responded: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS are suing Aereo, claiming that its service violates copyright law by selling access to their content without their permission. A federal appeals court ruled in Aereo’s favor earlier this year, determining that because the company assigns control over a single antenna to each subscriber, the transmission is a private service, not a “public performance,” and therefore doesn’t break the law. The case is still pending.
To supplement the limited number of free over-the-air channels available via Aereo or antennas, cord cutters also can buy “smart” TVs with built-in streaming capability or stream Internet videos from gaming systems such as Xbox, Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation using low-cost subscription services such as Netflix ($8 per month), Hulu (free), Hulu Plus ($8 per month) or Amazon Prime ($79 per year).
Another alternative is to add a set-top box or dongle to transform a non-Internet-enabled TV into a “smart” TV. A Roku or Apple TV set-box costs $100 or less, while a thumb-drive-sized dongle such as Google’s Chromecast sells for $35.