Cutting the Cord with Apple TV

A Guide to Finding the Best TV Shows, Movies, Sports, and News Apps

People across the US are cutting the cord — cancelling their cable and satellite TV services in favor of streaming video via the Internet. With the average cable bill hitting $100 last fall, cutting the cord means saving money, even if you plan to pay for a handful of content streaming services through Apple TV apps instead. Let's take a look at whether the new Apple TV can satisfy your viewing needs and replace your cable or satellite TV service.


I believe Apple TV apps provide enough news channels to satisfy most people. My favorite news app is CBS News for Apple TV, which streams CBSN, a 24-hour digital news network CBS news. Reminiscent of CNN's Headline news, it gives you round-the-clock headlines, breaking news, commentary, and analysis. Plus, it offers on-demand episodes of CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, and Face the Nation.

Of course, the other major networks also have apps, but in the case of NBC News and ABC, they mostly offer clips. It therefore doesn't have the buzz of a live channel, but the advantage is you can pick and choose the clips that interest you the most. ABC does have some live streaming, but it's unedited live content similar to CSPAN. CNN Go offers live TV, but you have to sign in with your pay-TV service credentials, so it's of no benefit for cord cutters.

“Reuters boasts over 2,500 journalists in 200 locations.”

The Reuters TV app is another one of my favorites, offering great curated news broadcasts. The app lets you select the length of your news show based on how much time you have.

When you open the app, it says it's gathering the news and then asks, "How much time do you have?" followed with three options: 10, 15, and 30 minutes. Select one, and your broadcast begins. You can slide up from the bottom of the touchpad to see the list of forthcoming segments and quickly jump to the next one. In the Settings you can choose between the US and International editions for your broadcast. The app and broadcasts are free. Reuters boasts over 2,500 journalists in 200 locations. There's a small amount of advertising.


Apple TV offers lots of options if you're a movie buff. There are apps for movie-streaming services Netflix and Hulu, each of which starts at $8 per month. There's no app for Amazon Prime, but if you're subscribed to that service ($99 per year) you can use AirPlay to stream content from the Amazon Video app on your iPhone or iPad to your Apple TV. Of course, you can also rent or purchase movies from Apple’s movies app.

Also available as standalone apps are HBO Now ($15 per month) and Showtime ($11 per month). If you have Amazon Prime, you can get Starz for $9 per month on top of your $99 annual subscription. (Showtime is also available through Amazon Prime for the reduced price of $9/month.)

There are also quite a few apps that offer free movies. I like free. These include Crackle, Popcornflix, and Fizzlefilm. Popcornflix is my current favorite. So far I've found that there are ads at the beginning, but then the movie streams without interruption. Pluto TV also offers a couple free movie channels. For more suggestions, check out my post 9 Great Free Apps for Free Movies and TV Shows on Apple TV.

TV Shows

They say we're in a new golden age of television. Movies have become formulaic, whereas TV producers are creating a huge amount of original content, with services such as Netflix and Amazon Video now creating their own shows. You can stream much of this content via the apps mentioned above.

"They say we're in a new golden age of television."

In regard to the major networks, CBS All Access, at $6 per month, offers over 7,500 episodes on demand, current TV programs the next day, and live access to your local CBS broadcast, including news, sports, special events, and shows. But live access is only available in certain areas.

The NBC app offers free streaming of some new shows as well as classics. Plus, almost all shows are available for free eight days after they air. If you want all shows the next day, it requires that you log in with your pay-TV credentials. Similarly, the Fox Now app also requires a pay-TV login to watch all their shows one day after they air. But like NBC, no login is required to stream the five new shows that are airing. Plus, all their shows become unlocked after eight days and are available for streaming. The Watch ABC app requires that you log in with your pay-TV credentials to watch most content.

In addition, many popular cable channels now offer free content via their Apple TV apps, including PBS, National Geographic, Discovery, HGTV, Travel Channel, Food Network, History Channel, and Smithsonian Channel.


Sports fanatics face the biggest challenge when it comes to cable cutting. But options are gradually expanding. Perhaps the best option is Sling TV, which bundles more than 65 channels for $20 per month. Once you sign up online, you can download the Watch ESPN app to your Apple TV, log in with your Sling TV credentials, and watch a ton of live sports that appear on ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, and more. One nice feature of Sling TV is that it allows users to cancel and restart the service at any time. So if there's a sporting event I really want to watch that's not available on ESPN 3 (which is always free on, I'll sign up for a month and then cancel.

“Sports fanatics face the biggest challenge when it comes to cable cutting.”

If you're a football fan, the NFL app on Apple TV doesn't currently have an option for watching live games. Verizon customers can get live-streaming NFL football on their iPhones and iPads, but AirPlay has reportedly been disabled. The Apple TV NFL app does offer replays of games from 2012-2015, as well as access to NFL Now, which offers stories and trending topics.

The CBS Sports app  live-streamed NFL playoff games, as well as the Super Bowl 50. It also streams NCAA basketball, PGA golf, and SEC football games. Plus, it offers a large number of on-demand clips with news, analysis, and highlights. The NBC Sports Live Extra app offers all of NBC's sports coverage, but it's only for those who already have a pay TV service. So it's of little use for cord-cutters.

If you're a basketball fan, for $170 per year you can sign up for NBA League Pass to watch live games via the NBA app. But local games of teams in your area aren't available. Here in Iowa, for instance, I wouldn't be able to watch the Chicago Bulls or Minnesota Timberwolves even if I paid the $170.

Baseball fans have the MLB.TV app available, but the capsule description says an all-new app is coming this year. Currently for $25 per year you can view replays of all the games from the 2015 season. It's not clear what the options will be for the upcoming season. It's likely, though, that even if they do offer live streaming, games in your area will be blacked out.

The Tennis Channel app gives you access to a huge number of matches at a cost of $80 per year for Tennis Channel Plus. Soccer fans have the MLS app, but to watch live matches you'll need to sign up for MLS Live. The discounted price until February 22 is $64.99 per year, after which the price is $79 per year. MLS Live brings you hundreds of live matches, but again it blacks out matches in your region. The app does offer news and highlights for free. The fuboTV Live app gives you access to soccer matches around the world for $10 per month. A free trial is available.

A Sweet Deal

In my mind, the current options on the Apple TV offer a pretty sweet deal. Even if you're a heavy TV watcher and sign up for several pay services, you'll still be losing a lot less than a $100 monthly cable bill. Let's say you sign up for Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and Sling TV, and you spend $100-150 and have a rooftop antenna installed for over-the-air access to the major networks for free. You'll have a ton of entertainment and sports for $50 per month, thereby cutting your bill in half.

On the other hand, if you're only an occasional TV watcher, like me, the Apple TV offers pretty much everything you need at no cost. That’s hard to beat!