Figuring out the best way to cut the cord isn’t always easy, with dozens of streaming video services to choose from. Even if you’ve already done the deed, making sense of what you have can be tricky as well, with each app offering its own labyrinthine menus and features.
Unless you have encyclopedic knowledge of the world of cord-cutting, it helps to lean on some tools to figure things out. Here are some of the best apps and websites that will help you decide which streaming services you need, and how to make the most of them:
Whenever people ask me how to watch specific TV channels without cable, my first step is to check The Streamable’s matchmaker tool. This lets you enter all the cable channels, shows, and sports teams you want to watch, and it then spits out a list of compatible live TV streaming services. You can also enter a zip code to see local channels and regional sports coverage, and you can click on each service for menu screenshots, DVR details, device compatibility, and other information.
Suppose.tv isn’t as slick as The Streamable, but it includes more information up front about each live TV streaming service. You can filter results based on device support or simultaneous streams, and you can click on the “notes” button underneath each service to see how that service’s DVR works. The site can also provide email alerts when live TV streaming services change their pricing or channel lineups, which happens rather frequently.
Streaming TV Guides
Once you’ve actually chosen a live TV service, StreamingTVGuides.com lets you quickly look up the TV schedule from any web browser. The site offers different guides for each service, so you don’t have to scroll through any channels that aren’t part of your package. It’s a great way to plot an evening of television without having to first turn on the TV and wait for an app to load.
There’s just one downside: StreamingTVGuides.com doesn’t include local broadcast channel listings. For those, you’ll need to check NoCable.org’s listings or the good old TV Guide.
FitzyTV is a service that takes all the live TV channels you’re already paying for—whether it’s through cable or a streaming service—and presents them in a simple grid guide on Fire TV, Android, and Android TV devices. (Support for iOS and Roku is on the way.) Sign in with your TV provider, and you’ll get a list of eligible channels to stream directly through the app. I can think of several potential uses for this:
Cord-shavers can stream live TV channels on additional televisions without having to rent more cable boxes.
For cord-cutters with multiple live TV streaming services, the app consolidates them into one guide.
For live TV streaming services with unusual or limited grid guides, the app provides a more conventional alternative.
The live TV element of FitzyTV is free. The company also offers 25 hours of cloud DVR service for $5 per month or $50 per year. This would be separate from any DVR service you’re already paying for.
Reelgood’s iOS app and website provide universal search and recommendations across dozens of streaming services. It’s great for figuring out how to stream a particular movie or TV show, and for deciding what to watch on the services you’re paying for already. It also has helpful “New” and “Leaving” sections that work across Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other sources. If you create a login, Reelgood can sync your watchlist and streaming services across different devices as well.
Once you’ve found something to watch, Reelgood can launch the relevant app or website directly, and while the app isn’t officially available on connected TVs, you can use Apple TV’s AirPlay feature or Google’s Chromecast to send videos from streaming apps to your television. (If you feel like experimenting, you can also ask to join Reelgood’s Android TV beta.)
The Apple TV app
If you’re using a fourth-generation or higher Apple TV, the TV app provides recommendations across dozens of streaming services, along with a watchlist for picking up where you left off on shows.
The app is especially useful if you take some time to mark the shows you want to watch. From the info page for any show, press the “Add to Up Next” button. You can also add shows using the TV app on an iPhone or iPad, and they’ll sync instantly to the Apple TV’s watchlist. (From any show page, hit the “…” menu button to see the “Add to Up Next” option.) These apps will also show notifications when new episodes arrive.
The only major downside with the TV app is its lack of Netflix support. You can manually add Netflix shows to the watchlist if they’re also available on other services, but you won’t get new episode notifications, and Netflix originals won’t appear at all.
Spideo Movie Discovery
A few years ago, I wrote about a neat new app called MightyTV, which let you swipe left or right on video recommendations and would get better at making suggestions over time.
That app shut down in 2017 after being acquired by Spotify, and I’ve yet to find anything quite as good. Still, Spideo’s Movie Discovery app comes sort of close. The “Battle” section shows two movies side-by-side, and then asks which one you prefer. Swipe up, and you’ll see a list of relevant recommendations, which seem to change based on your previous choices.
Fair warning: The app hasn’t been updated since late 2015, and its recommendations link to iTunes even if the movie is available on other services such as Netflix. Once you’ve found something to watch, I suggest using Siri search to figure out where to watch it.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.