By Geoffrey A. Fowler
In my column last week about cutting the cable-TV cord, I said it is more possible than ever to be a full-fledged
couch potato without a pricey cable subscription.
Many readers are interested in trying. I received hundreds of emails and tweets from readers sharing their
experiences and asking for help in cutting the cord.
Here are my answers to some frequently asked questions.
Can sports fans really cut the cord?
For NFL fans, it is becoming easier. Most pro football games are broadcast on free-to-air networks like CBS, which
is fine for fans who follow the local team. So you can get an antenna for your TV.
If your favorite team's game isn't on TV, the best way to watch from home is through NFL Sunday Ticket, sold by
A small bit of good news: DirecTV has announced it will sell streaming packages without a subscription under
certain conditions, such as in areas where a dish can't be installed, in certain college dorms or in the big metro areas
of New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
For other sports, it is easier if you don't live in the same market as your favorite team. The MLB, NBA, NHL and
MLS each offer Internet subscription services where fans can screen any game, as long as the teams are playing out of
their local market.
If you follow the local team, some games are blacked out on the streaming services because they air on cable
channels. One option is to put a Slingbox on a buddy's TV.
For local games on ESPN, desperate fans could go down the shadowy path of borrowing a WatchESPN app login--
something HBO knows a lot about.
But hey, in the end you can always go out. A number of readers who cut the cord said they are going to sports bars
to watch games and enjoying it.
Can I really use a Slingbox to watch someone else's TV?
Yes. Slingbox, owned by satellite company EchoStar, explicitly allows someone to share a TV signal with a friend
via a "guest" login. But both you and your TV host have to be watching the exact same thing at any given moment.
The only way around this is if your host has a second cable box to accommodate a Slingbox.
I like to record TV shows like "60 Minutes." How would I do that?
You can still connect an aerial antenna feed to a DVR, such as the TiVo Roamio, which charges a monthly fee but
does a great job of blending live TV and Internet-streaming services into one interface.You can also buy more basic DVRs
without a monthly fee.
How will I get access to PBS? Fox News? HGTV?
Assuming you live close enough to a broadcast tower, you can access anything from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS as
long as you install an antenna.
If there is a particular show or channel you can't live without, you'll have to do a little homework.
Few cable channels stream their live lineup free over the Internet. But many offer shows you can purchase from
iTunes or Amazon, or that eventually turn up on Netflix.
Some make clips or whole shows available free through streaming channels, which are kind of like apps for "smart"
TVs and add-on boxes like Apple TV or Roku.
For example, Fox News offers some shows and clips, A&E offers free access to select episodes of shows like "Duck
Dynasty," and Animal Planet offers live, high-definition video feeds of puppies.
Other networks such as ESPN, HBO and the Disney Channel offer full access to a range of shows, but only if you have
a login from your cable provider.
What's the website to check the aerial broadcast TV coverage around my house?
It's www.tvfool.com. (Some print WSJ readers of my column last week may have seen an inadvertent line-break hyphen
in the URL.)
This handy site, which isn't affiliated with me or the Journal, had some server problems Wednesday, so try again if
you had trouble getting through. An alternative site run by the Consumer Electronics Association is www.antennaweb.org.
This all sounds like a lot of work. Why would I want to cut the cord?
True, there is no alternative as easy as clicking up and down your cable-channel lineup. Cable gives you gobs and
gobs of choices--but a cable company will also charge you an arm and a leg for it because you're paying to subsidize all
those channels you don't watch.
Cord-cutting appeals largely to people on a serious budget who don't mind making sacrifices, or who love trying new
apps, beaming video from phones and tablets to devices like Apple TV and Chromecast.
In the long run, I think Internet-based TV will win out because it can give you control over an even bigger
universe of content, the way apps did on our phones.
If you have other questions, you can reach me on Twitter at @geoffreyfowler and on email at Geoffrey.Fowler@wsj.com
Nathan Olivarez-Giles contributed to this article.
Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at email@example.com
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