TV Converter Box Alternatives: Satellite, Cable, Netflix, Hulu, & More

The digital transition has come and gone and although converter boxes were a short term fixed that helped many people make the transition without spending a bunch of money, they have largely been a failure. Many of them worked for awhile been ended up breaking and people have been forced to purchase new ones or find an alternative way through which to meet their television viewing needs. As of the digital transition consumers didn't have a ton of options outside of getting a paid service, but over the last few years the market has exploded with different options. There are of course still the traditional paid services such as cable and satellite but there is much more now. If you are looking to get away from your TV converter box or simply make a switch in your services you can see the abundance of different options below. Over the last several years the market has absolutely exploded with hundreds of different choice and we have merely scratched the surface with some of the most popular ones.

Alternatives To Getting A TV Converter Box 
  • Subscribe To Satellite TV Service - One of the quickest, easiest, and best alternatives is to simply subscribe to satellite TV service with either Dish Network or DirecTV. With super quick and easy professional installation you can make the switch in just a couple days with ease. No more messing with reception, digital antennas, wires, or broken converter boxes. With satellite you also get some of the best programming options in the world with up to 200 channels, the most HD channels, exclusive programming packages including movie channels and NFL Sunday Ticket, along with much more. Satellite provides the most features of any paid television service, but of course it comes at a price. You can get service starting at $19.99 per month and it ranges all the way up to around $125 for a premium package. You are also expected to sign a two year contract in order to get your equipment and installation for free. Both Dish and DirecTV offer slightly different packaging and prices so it's important to check out a comparison of them if you do decide to go with satellite TV.
  • Subscribe To Cable TV Service - Another option that is very similar to satellite is to get service with your local cable provider. The two largest companies in the United States are Comcast and Time Warner cable. Generally each residence has only one cable provider so you will be limited on what company you can go with. Cable setup is very easy and your company will provide professional installation that will allow you to be up and running right away. With cable you will have alot more programming options than free over-the-air broadcasting but it is generally less than you get with satellite. Cable will however can cost quite a bit with smaller 70 channel packages costing 40-$60 per month and premium packages costing well over $100 per month. Cable providers often offer bundled cable, home phone and internet service which allows you to get a substantial discount and combine all of these services into.
  • Subscribe To A Fiber Optics Television Service - Many people don't know exactly what these are yet but they have been around for a few years now. Most people think they are another form of cable, and they are close but the technology behind their delivery is different. They include services such as Verizon Fios TV, AT&T Uverse, and CenturyLink Prism TV. They are very similar to cable and satellite services in regards to their programming options and pricing structure. The major players specialize in giving you a good deal by packaging three services (TV, internet, and phone) into one lower monthly bill than if you were to get each of them separately. The service is super easy to setup and uses a box that is just like a satellite receiver or cable box. You can either set it up yourself or choose professional installation. The benefits of fiber optic services over cable include more HD channels and quicker speeds for internet, digital phone, and streaming services that will continue to grow rapidly over the next decade.
  • Subscribe To An On Demand Streaming Service - This isn't exactly television but it's the next best thing. Hulu offers a very basic free service that includes older shows that have aired some time again along with various movies. Beyond that you can get Hulu+ or Netflix which offer new TV shows and a large number of recent and popular movies. You won't get any movies that were just released but generally when they become available on DVD you can find them on Hulu Plus or Netflix. Again, they don't have every title and you can never be 100% certain what they are going to get, but they have a pretty wide selection of various stuff. Hulu Plus and Netflix both cost just $7.99 per month. Netflix also offers a more expensive family plan for $11.99 per month that allows for it to be used on up to 4 devices at once. Sharing this service with four friends is a great way to reduce your cost. Netflix and Hulu can be watched via your computer along with there being several ways to get the stream onto your television: either directly via your computer and HDMI, by using a set top box (see below), or straight through your TV apps if you have a newer wifi enabled television. They are a great option to augment free over-the-air channels or an excellent cheap alternative to cable or satellite. Netflix also offers a rental program for $7.99 per month where you can rent unlimited DVDs that automatically mailed to you with prepaid, pre-addressed return envelopes. Another streaming option is Amazon prime and Amazon Instant Video. Amazon prime offers similar services but at a yearly rate of $79. This averages out to $6.59 per month but the consensus it that their selection of shows and movies is much smaller and it is worth the extra $1.50 per month to go with Hulu or Netflix. Amazon Instant Video gives users the option to pay for 24 hour or lifetime rentals of various movies and next day television shows. These generally run at around $2-$3 for one day rentals and $15 for lifetime access.
  • Buy A Set Top Box - The streaming services discussed above are a great segue into set-top boxes, which are generally used to help users access all of their media services through a single platform. Things seems to get a little confusing here as they can be used to access your streaming services, cable, satellite, and over-the-air signals. You can basically pick and choose what different forms of media you want and access all of them via the boxes platform. It's essentially a way to take any type of streaming that is on your computer and put it onto your TV, quickly and easily. I actually know someone that uses a set-top box and subscribers to both Netflix and Hulu Plus along with making rentals via Amazon Instant Video and Blockbuster on Demand. They also have an outdoor digital antenna that they use for watching local channels. It's actually a very simple setup that gets them local channels and everything Hulu and Netflix have to offer for just $16 per month. This is all done through one of the more popular set-top boxes knows as the Roku streaming player. Of course there are many different ones to choose from and we have highlighted two of the more popular ones below.
  • Roku Box - With the Roku you can stream or watch any of the services above along with many other free streams such as HBO GO, Pandora, Spotify, MGO Movies & TV, Crackle, Watch ESPN, PBS, Fox New streaming, NBC news, and much much more. Basically put, just about anything that is streamed over the internet can quickly and easily be pulled up for your viewing via the Roku platform. There are four different Roku boxes, the Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, and Roku LT. Each of them varies just a bit but generally provides the same functions. The service does not come with a subscription fee but rather it is a one-time cost just to purchase device. Depending on which model you choose the price ranges from $50-$100. 
  • Apple TV - Apple TV allows you to stream anything directly to your television from Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Youtube, WSJ Live, Watch ABC, Skynews, MLB Soccer, NBA, NHL Gamecenter, Vevo, Vimeo, and much more. Their abundance of options is very similar to Roku but there are a few added benefits to the Apple TV if you have other Apple products. For example, if you have a Mac or any iOS device such as a iPhone or iPad you can automatically show it on your TV by using Apples AirPlay technology. It is super small and efficient, using very little energy and fitting in the palm of your hand. It is also very easy to setup, just plug the power cord into an outlet and the Apple TV to your television using an HDMI cable. With Apple TV you can also purchase shows and movies from iTunes and watch them directly on your TV. The device comes at a one-time cost of $99.
  • Get Google Chromecast - Google has come out with the Chromecast which allows you to stream from Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play directly from your laptop, desktop, smartphone, or tablet and put it straight onto your television screen. Google Play's extensive online movie and music libraries make it very appealing and provide a wide range of programming options. At this point it is simply a more basic version of the Apple TV or Roku and as such it costs just $35. One drawback with Chromecast is that you cannot play any locally stored media of your own as you can with most other set-top boxes. 
  • Get An Android TV Box or Dongle - Android TV appears to be Googles replacement to their failed experiment with Google TV and it is similar to both Chromecast and set-top boxes in that it can function as either. You simply need a box or HDMI stick that runs the Android operating system and you can start using Android TV. Each dongle is essentially a mini computer that allows you to run the Android operating system directly on your TV and basically turns it into a computer. This allows you to access movies, android games, Youtube, Showbox, Netflix, Hulu, XBMC, and the Google Play store. It also allows you to access the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, 1Channel, Icefilms, Whatsapp, Enamel, MSN, Spotify, and much more. There are many different Android TV dongles ad boxes that can be used with their prices varying greatly.
  • Use Your Video Game Console - Newer video game consoles are more limited than set-top boxes but they are able to do a lot of the same things. For example, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii, and Wii U all allow you to stream anything from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu, or any other compatible video apps. You can also play any local media that you have by putting in on a USB stick. In fact, the new Xbox One got its name after being touted by the company as a truly all-in-one entertainment system for games, movies, music, sports, and live TV.


  1. Hey there! Nice article! I saw you mentioned some info on DISH and as a customer myself I thought I'd drop a little science for anyone interested. I also happen to work at one of DISH's call centers and have their HD service at home. I have access to the most HD channels in the industry and as a qualified customer, was even able to get the HD Free For Life promotion so that my regular HD programming is free!

  2. We have Shaw Direct satellite dish in our house (on two TV's) but we only watch the news and one other program on the TV I tried using the converter box on. I didn't really want to spend the money on another satellite receiver for a TV we seldom watch. I just wanted to be able to get the regular TV stations that we used to be able to get in, CTV for one. I thought the converter box would convert the old analog signal to digital so we could get these stations back. I guess I was wrong, because it didn't do anything. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  3. It would be nice if Dish/Direct came out with a package that you could sign up for 1 year at a time at a decent price. All that I have seen require a two year commitment and you go from $20 a month the first year and a much higher rate the second year.

    We all work and only watch TV for a short period of time in the evening so paying for TV doesn't make a whole lot of sense.


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