The best apps to watch free streaming content

The best apps to watch free streaming content

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One of the best parts about cord cutting is that you get the chance to explore all the apps that are available for streaming television and movie content. What you will find is that there are a lot of apps that offer great content completely free. That’s right, zero, zilch, nada…FREE! So before you go out and sign up for a bunch of subscription based services, check out my list below of the best apps to watch FREE streaming content. All of these apps are available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV. If you’re not sure which to get, check out my previous post to help you decide which streaming media player is the right choice for your household.

 

Pluto TV – Pluto is like public access television meets internet videos. What do I mean by that? The team at Pluto spends hours searching the internet, finding and organizing free videos into categories, or “channels”, that stream 24/7. The content is mostly from YouTube but also from big broadcasting sites like NBC and Bloomberg. They have everything from News, Sporting Events, Documentaries, Kids programs, even a channel dedicated to nothing but yoga lessons.

Pluto TV app for Roku / Pluto TV app for Fire TV

Crackle – This is Sony Pictures Entertainment’s totally free answer to the popular paid services like Netflix. Crackle offers a rotating selection of classic movies and television series in addition to a collection of some original content like Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Sports Jeopardy!

Crackle app for Roku / Crackle app for Fire TV

Tubi TV – Tubi is another free alternative to Netflix. They offer a collection of TV series and movies to stream right to your living room. You will find mostly “oldie but goodie” classics and some hidden gems like those in the Cult Favorites and Good Eats sections. Tubi currently has the largest library of free TV and movies on the internet.

Tubi TV app for Roku / Tubi TV app for Fire TV

Popcornflix – This is one of the original completely FREE streaming services for movies and webisodes. Most of them fall into the independent and classic genres, but they are entertaining none the less. Popcornflix really stands out in the Family section, offering a ton of classic kids movies and TV shows.

Popcornflix app for Roku / Popcornflix app for Fire TV

PBS Kids – For kids, one of my favorite apps is PBS Kids. They offer totally free episodes of all the favorites, like Sesame street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Odd Squad. There are usually about 4 free episodes available for each show and they add new episodes every couple days.

PBS Kids app for Roku / PBS Kids app for Fire TV

Disney Junior & Disney Channel – If you have kids that are into Disney shows then the Disney Junior and Disney Channel apps are a must. Younger kids will love watching episodes of Doc McStuffins, PJ Masks and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. For older kids, Austin & Ally, Descendants Wicked World and Girl Meets World episodes will be a big hit.

Disney Junior app for Roku / Disney Junior app for Fire TV

Disney Channel app for Roku / Disney Channel app for Fire TV

CBS News – The best way to catch all the latest breaking news stories is through the CBS News app. They offer a 24/7 live stream of national news as well as a selection of highlight clips. Everything from in-depth looks into what’s going on in the world to worldwide coverage of breaking news as it happens.

CBS News app for Roku / CBS News app for Fire TV

Weather Nation – It may seem silly to watch a weather channel on your TV with all the phone weather apps out there these days, but nothing replaces the security of having local forecasts and radar on your TV while that big storm is rolling in. They also follow some interesting stories, so this can be a great stream to just leave on in the background while you are busy at home.

Weather Nation app for Roku / Weather Nation app for Fire TV

 

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The Cord Cutter’s Guide to Internet Service

The Cord Cutter’s Guide to Internet Service

This post may contain affiliate links. See the full disclosure here.

Let’s talk internet for a bit today. From my experience, one of the most overwhelming parts for Cord Cutters when making their transition to a cableless household is getting internet-only service setup. Most of that is due to uncertainty, but in reality, it’s not all that difficult once you have all the steps and resources laid out for you. So keep reading on as I break this process down for you.

These are the 4 main things to consider when looking for Internet-only service:

  1. Go with cable internet whenever possible
  2. Look for speeds around 25 Mbps
  3. Don’t sign a contract!
  4. Purchase your own equipment instead of renting

Cable over DSL

Cable internet is delivered to your home over the black coax cable that you typically plug into the back of your TV, where DSL internet is delivered over your existing phone line. Whenever available, I suggest choosing a cable internet provider over a DSL internet provider. Reason being, cable internet is generally faster and a better value. There are a lot of different cable internet providers across the United States (Comcast/Xfinity, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter), but usually, there is only one or two that will service your residence. To figure out which ones are in your area and to see their current offers, I like searching allconnect.com.

Speed…Vroom Vroom!

Internet providers have packages that span across a large range of speeds, measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). They start out basic (“granny just wants to do emails”) and go all the way up to enterprise speeds (“I want to run a Google server in my basement”). To be a cord cutter and stream movies, shows and live TV you don’t need anything too crazy. It all really boils down to how many different things you think you will want to stream at a given time. If you only have one TV or live alone then you can get by with something towards the basic end of the spectrum. If you have a family of 6 and everyone likes to watch something different at the same time, then you should consider something a little faster in order to get the best experience. In general, I suggest going with something around 25 Mbps. This will work well for most people, giving you a reliable connection that is fast enough to handle 2 or 3 devices streaming at the same time while staying at a reasonable monthly payment.

Contracts = yuck

Traditionally, cable companies have used contracts to strap you into long term agreements, that you can’t get out of, then they slowly increase your monthly payment over that term until your paying an absurd amount for a service you just paid a fraction for a few months prior. When you are getting quotes from your local internet companies always ask for “No contract offers”. Tell them you aren’t interested in signing any contracts and just want a reliable internet connection at a fair price. Speaking of price, I have always found that it is best to do your homework ahead of time before you start getting quotes. The best way to check out the current deals is to search on slickdeals.net for the internet companies name plus “internet promotions” (ex. “Comcast internet promotions”). Click through to the end of each post to see the most recent discussions on internet offers people are receiving.

Provide your own equipment

One of the easiest ways to reduce your monthly internet bill and gain lots of negotiating power with these big internet companies is to buy your own equipment instead of renting theirs. Historically, whenever you signed up for cable service your provider included x number of “boxes” that go throughout your house. Some of these boxes provided the internet and WiFi connection to all of your devices. Along with those boxes came rental fees that jacked up your monthly bill and really added up over time. By purchasing your own modem and wireless router you can save a ton of money. This minimizes the amount of work the cable company needs to do in order to turn on your service since you have the ability to setup the equipment yourself. A lot of times this just involves the cable company “flipping a switch” and BAM! you’ve got internet flowing to your house. This eases the work on their end since they don’t have to send out a technician and also reduces your ties to that particular company since you don’t possess any of their equipment. You can walk away next month, with very little effort, and use your equipment with another provider if they don’t want to offer you a fair price. The setup really is easy, you can even find instructions like these on the cable company’s website: Comcast/Xfinity, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter. As far as purchasing this equipment for yourself, here is what I recommend:

Cable Modem – this box converts the cable signal coming into your house to Ethernet internet

Go with the ARRIS SURFboard SB6141. This modem has the latest technology, so your investment will provide a blazing fast connection for years to come. Also, this guy works with all the major cable companies like Comcast/Xfinity, Cox, Charter, Time Warner.

Wireless Router – this box converts the internet to WiFi

The TP-LINK Archer C7 is widely considered the best WiFi router for most people. It can broadcast super fast WiFi throughout your typical multi-story home without any problems. This is my top choice for sure. However, if you only need to cover a small area, like a one bedroom apartment, then you could opt to go with something a little more basic like the TP-LINK N450 and save a little money.

       

I hope this information helps guide you in your search for Internet only service. If you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to leave a note in the comments below.

 

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Rent New Movies at Home for Free!

Rent New Movies at Home for Free!

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That’s right! …and it’s legal too 🙂 Did you know that you can earn free store credits from Google for answering short surveys of 1 – 5 questions usually about your recent shopping habits? You can! All you have to do is download the Google Opinion Rewards app on your phone, go about your normal routine, and when a survey pops up just answer the questions. Super simple and you rack up free bucks in no time. The best part is that you can turn around and use those credits to rent (or buy) movies, even newly released ones, from the Google Play Store. We prefer to watch Google Play movies through our Roku using the Google Play Movies & TV channel, but you can also watch from your phone, tablet or computer browser.

Google Rewards = Free Movies

Google Rewards = Free Movies | Photo Credit: play.google.com channelstore.roku.com

We have been using this trick for years in our house. Both my wife and I have the app installed so we earn credits twice as fast! It has even turned into a friendly competition, seeing who can answer and earn the most 😉 Here’s how our current balances stack up:

Hubby VS Wifey

Hubby VS Wifey

Give it a try this weekend. Family movie night has never been so affordable!

 

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Which streaming media player is the right choice for your household

Which streaming media player is the right choice for your household

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Updated: 10/3/16 for new Fire TV Stick and new Roku Premiere+

With all those different streaming media players out there today and hearing about new ones every couple weeks, how can you be sure which one is right for you and your household? That’s why I put together this list of the ones we use in my house, and why, to hopefully help clear up some of the differences and help you make the right choice for your family.

Roku

Roku is probably the most well known brand in the “streaming” business. They have been around for years and were the first major choice in bringing “smarts” to your family room TV. Roku has made large strides in recent years and offers a wide variety of streaming devices to fit just about everyone’s needs. The major advantages to Roku, usability and large selection of apps. The user interface on Roku is extremely simple. It consists of a grid view that displays the apps that you have installed. No complicated menus to dig through. The remote is also very easy to use to navigate through the app grid and it also has dedicated app shortcut buttons for 4 of the most popular apps. Just click the dedicated app button and up pops that app ready for you to stream your favorite content. Pretty much any service you can think of has an app on Roku. If you don’t consider your self very “techie” or you have young kids in the house, I think Roku is the best option for you. It will give you the best hassle free cord cutting experience out there. Here are the Roku models that I suggest looking at:

Roku Premiere+ – This is the work horse Roku that is lightning fast and comes with voice search, wireless headphones, and 4K video support. It’s perfect for the family room or wherever you watch the most TV.

Roku Streaming Stick – This offers all the apps and streaming features as the other Roku players, but comes in a tiny stick design. It doesn’t have the high specs of the Roku 3, but will stream content just fine. It’s perfect for a secondary TV, like in the bedroom (we have one in our’s!), or if you have a wall mounted TV and don’t want another “box” like with the Roku 3. It’s also a really great value if you just want to test things out.

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV Homescreen

Amazon Fire TV Homescreen | Photo Credit: aftvnews.com

Amazon jumped into the streaming business with the release of the “Fire TV” a few years ago. It was the most popular device that Amazon has ever released and it has been gaining tons of support and popularity in it short existence. They even have TV commercials promoting this thing. The main advantage to the Fire TV is that it is heavily focused on Amazon content. So if you are a Prime member or already have a lot invested into Amazon, then this is the perfect pick for you. The user interface can be a little tricky at first, but once you figure out how Amazon decided to layout the menus it’s a piece of cake. Amazon has also included its very popular “Alexa” feature into the Fire TV, so now you can use voice search and voice commands! Aside from that, it runs on a custom version of Android, which, if you are like me and love tinkering with technology, opens up a whole new door with the ability to “sideload” any Android app that’s out there onto the Fire TV so you can enjoy it from your couch. If that last point sounds like Greek to you, don’t worry, that isn’t required to enjoy the Fire TV experience, it’s just one advantage I thought I should point out. Here are the two different Amazon Fire TV models to take a look at:

Amazon Fire TV – This is the top dog in Amazon’s lineup that is blazing fast and comes with 4K support. It’s the one I have in our family room as our primary streaming player.

Amazon Fire TV Stick – This is Amazon’s “more affordable” option. It offers the same apps and experience as the Fire TV, but comes in a smaller package with slightly less performance (and no 4K support). It’s great for a second TV in your house, like your basement TV for the kids (which is where we have ours), or it can be hidden behind that 50″ plasma screen above the fireplace.

The other guys (and why they aren’t my favorites)

Chromecast – This is Google’s cost effective solution for getting your phone or tablet screen displayed on your TV. The only problem is this solution requires you to always have a second device available like a phone or tablet to stream to it. Also, it lacks a little in the app department.

Apple TV – While Apple generally makes very quality products, I have to steer clear of the Apple TV. It’s is one of the most expensive streaming devices and it has a limited app selection.

Nexus Player – Google really tried to bring Android TV back from the dead with this, but they failed to support the device in an ever evolving market and have discontinued support.

Generic Android TV Boxes – These boxes are all over Amazon and Ebay. They look great on the surface, low price, boast thousands of apps and even “free TV”. However, most of these boxes perform poorly once in use and lack support from their developers. Also, the claims of “free TV” usually mean they have tweaked things so you can watch pirated content on the Internet.

 

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The Cord Cutter’s Ultimate Guide to March Madness

The Cord Cutter’s Ultimate Guide to March Madness

This post may contain affiliate links. See the full disclosure here.

Updated 3/17/2016 – Apparently the NCAA March Madness smartphone app doesn’t support Sling TV logins. So in order to watch games on TBS, TNT and TruTV while you are out and about you will have to use the Sling TV app for iPhone or Android.

Ahhhh…March. You have finally arrived. With your longer days, warmer temps and, most importantly, college basketball tournaments! That’s right everyone, March Madness is officially upon us. Here’s how you Cord Cutters out there can catch all the action from conference tournaments, such as the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Big East and SEC to the NCAA Basketball Tournament (A.K.A. the March Madness Tournament). Check out our guide below so you can tune into your favorite teams vying for a chance to go to the Big Dance.

Big Ten Tournament

March 9th – 13th in Indianapolis, IN

ESPN, ESPN2 and the Big Ten Network will carry the first three rounds of the tournament.

  • ESPN and ESPN2 – Sign up for Sling TV’s $20/month package and download the app to your favorite streaming media player (like Roku or Amazon Fire TV).
  • Big Ten Network – Unfortunately, BTN does not offer a stand alone service to Cord Cutters. Your best option, invite a friend over that has a cable subscription, download the BTN2Go app to your Roku and let them login. If all else fails…visit your local sports pub 🙂

CBS will carry the semifinal and final games.

  • CBS – Use an HD Antenna to pull in your local CBS station for free.

ACC Tournament

March 8th – 12th in Washington, DC

ESPN and ESPN2 will carry all of the tournament games.

  • ESPN and ESPN2 – Sign up for Sling TV’s $20/month package and download the app to your favorite streaming media player (like Roku or Amazon Fire TV).

Big 12 Tournament

March 9th – 12th in Kansas City, MO

ESPN2 and ESPNU will carry the first two rounds of the tournament.

ESPN and ESPN2 will carry the semifinal and final games.

  • ESPN and ESPN2 – The same Sling TV subscription as above, but you can go ahead and cancel the Sports Extra package.

Big East Tournament

March 9th – 12th in New York City

FS1 will carry all of the tournament games, except for the final game.

  • FS1 – Unfortunately, FS1 does not offer a stand alone service to Cord Cutters. Your best option, invite a friend over that has a cable subscription, download the Fox Sports Go app to your Amazon Fire TV and let them login. If all else fails…visit your local sports pub 🙂

FOX will carry the final game.

  • FOX – Use an HD Antenna to pull in your local FOX station for free.

SEC Tournament

March 9th – 13th in Nashville, TN

The SEC Network will carry the first three rounds of the tournament.

ESPN will carry the semifinal and final games.

  • ESPN – The same Sling TV subscription as above, but you can go ahead and cancel the Sports Extra package.

NCAA Selection Sunday Show

March 13th – 5:30 PM EST

NCAA.com and CBS will carry the NCAA Selection Sunday Show, where the NCAA basketball committee selects which teams have made the field for this year’s March Madness bracket.

NCAA Basketball Tournament

March 15th – April 4th

Coverage of the entire NCAA March Madness Tournament will be spread out across CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV. To figure out exactly what time and channel your favorite teams play on you will have to wait until the official bracket is set. Until then, have no fear. Here’s how you can catch any game on any channel throughout the tournament.

  • CBS – Use an HD Antenna to pull in your local CBS station for free.
  • TNT, TBS and TruTV – Sign up for Sling TV’s $20/month package and download the app to your favorite streaming media player (like Roku or Amazon Fire TV). TruTV is not normally part of the $20 base package, but since Sling TV loves their customers, they are giving all subscribers to the $20 package a free preview of TruTV during the tournament. From March 13th through April 12th you can catch all the games broadcast on TruTV without paying a dime more. Now that’s customer service!!!
  • Not going to be at home – Download the NCAA March Madness app on your mobile phone and login with your Sling TV username to watch CBS games for free. Download the Sling TV app for iPhone or Android and login to your account to watch TNT, TBS and TruTV games.

There you have it folks. That’s how you can watch all the March Madness action you can handle without cable.

 

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The best ways to watch Super Bowl 50 without cable

The best ways to watch Super Bowl 50 without cable

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The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers face off in Super Bowl 50 this Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. EST. With only a few days till kickoff, here are the best options for tuning into the big game without cable.

  1. Tune into your local CBS station on your television using an HD antenna. CBS will be carrying the game live through local affiliates.
  2. On your computer or tablet point your browser to www.cbssports.com/nfl/superbowl/live/player. CBS will be streaming the game live to anyone with an internet connection.
  3. Download the CBS Sports channel for Roku or CBS Sports app for the Amazon Fire TV. CBS will show the game live, for free, through their app.

The best part is that all 3 options will be showing those beloved Super Bowl commercials…so you won’t miss a moment of the action.

 

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How to setup your TV for Over The Air channels

How to setup your TV for Over The Air channels

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Now that you have installed your HD antenna, if you missed that one be sure to checkout my article on How to watch local TV channels for free!, you need to setup your TV for receiving Over The Air channels. This varies from TV to TV, but the process is similar for all televisions. First, locate the Setup or Menu button on your TV’s remote control. Press the button to bring up your television’s Setup menu. Next, set your Input to either “Antenna” or “Air” as opposed to “Cable”. This option might be on the Setup menu main page or it might be hidden under another section like Channels, TV, or Broadcast.

The second step is to run a Channel Search or Auto Program. This will make your TV look for all the channels that it can get over your new antenna and save them for easy ‘flipping’ in the future. Again, this feature is accessed through your TV’s Setup menu. While this is running you will probably see your TV list off the channels as it finds them. Check out my video below to watch just how easy this is!

If you are curious as to what channels your TV will pick up, here are two ways to check:

  1. Go to www.tvfool.com and punch in your address. This will create a list of channels in your area, ordered by the tower’s distance from your house. Under “Netwk” is the channel name and under “(Virt)” is the channel number you will enter on your TV.
  2. Go to www.zap2it.com and enter your ZIP code. Then, under “Choose Your Provider” select “Local Broadcast (Antenna)”. This will create a guide or schedule for the channels in your area.

 

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How to watch local TV channels for free!

How to watch local TV channels for free!

This post may contain affiliate links. See the full disclosure here.

One of the first questions asked by new cord cutters is “What about local channels?” “How can I watch my prime time shows on the major networks?”. All of the major networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, PBS and CW are all broadcast over the air by your local television affiliates which can be grabbed out of the air and displayed on your television for FREE using an HD antenna. This is the same way people watched TV back before the time of cable television, using good old “rabbit ears”. As technology has evolved we have switch from using rabbit ears getting staticy analog TV to HD antennas getting high quality HDTV. In addition to purchasing an HD antenna, you must make sure your television is HDTV compatible. If you’ve bought your TV within the last 10 years then its safe to say its HDTV compatible. If its a flat screen, you are probably good to go. If you are unsure, look for an “HDTV” logo on your tv set.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets talk antennas. There are many different types of HD antennas in today’s market, below are the two most popular and simple to install in my opinion.

Option 1

The quick and easy HD antenna that can be added to each of your TV’s is the Mohu Leaf 30 Paper-Thin Antenna. This thing is a flat piece of plastic, about this size of a sheet of paper, that hangs behind, above, on the back of or next to your TV. It does not need any power, so you don’t have to plug it into any wall outlets. All you do is hang it up and connect the 10 foot coax cable to the back of your television. This antenna has a 30 mile range, so as long as you live in a reasonably sized town, you should be able to rope in all of the major network channels.

Mohu Leaf 30 Paper-Thin Antenna | Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Option 2

The more advanced HD antenna that can supply all the TVs in your house is the Winegard Freevision HDTV Antenna. This is a large wire antenna that can be mounted in your attic or outside your house on a pole. It also does not need any power, so you don’t have to plug it into any wall outlets. All you do is mount it up and connect the provided coax cable into your house’s existing coax network. The best way to do this is to find where your existing coax comes together at a splitter, usually this is in your basement or inside a cable box on the side of your house, and connect the antenna to the input side of the splitter. This will surely require some investigating and troubleshooting, but is totally doable with a little patients. This antenna also has a 30 mile range, but since it can be mounted higher up (in your attic/on your house) it can pick up channels that option 1 might not be able to depending on where your house is located.

Winegard Freevision HDTV Antenna | Photo Credit: Amazon.com

So there you have it. My top two ways that you can get local TV channels, for free, in your own home. As always, please don’t hesitate to comment or ask any questions you have below.

 

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