We used to be at the mercy of our cable company’s deathly clutches. Cable bills that could cost upward of $200 were totally normal. You were either all in, or all out. You could get the latest news and entertainment straight to your living room, or go completely without. Thank goodness those days are over. With tons of great cable TV alternatives available thanks to the Internet, more cable customers are gratefully cutting the cord for good.
With so many alternatives to cable television, even die-hard entertainment buffs can live without cable. Netflix and Disney Plus have more than enough content to get your binge fix. FuboTV and Hulu Plus Live Sports has sports fans covered. And YouTube TV can bring you all of your local news as well as sports and other entertainment for much cheaper than your monthly cable bill.
Are you ready to get rid of that ridiculous cable bill once and for all? Then sign up for the best alternatives to cable TV and cut the cord. From streaming apps like Netflix to old-school analog options, these are our favorite cable TV alternatives.
1. Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ Bundle
Family’s need a way to unplug. If you up and cancelled your cable subscription without a backup plan, you might get kicked out of your home — by both your partner and your kids. Thankfully, the Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ bundle has entertainment for everyone in the home. Disney Plus has an enormous library of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and National Geographic content for the kiddos (and let’s be serious, adults, too). ESPN+ takes care of the sports fix for the competition junkie in the family, while Hulu keeps you up to date on your favorite television shows (not to mention original content including The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock).
This bundle pairs all three together for only $12.99/month, the same price as a standard subscription to Netflix. This bundle is a monster pairing designed to crown Disney+ the new king of the streaming wars.
Even though there are plenty of competitors coming for the streaming crown, Netflix still has a strong grasp on the best alternative to cable TV. Why? There is so much content on Netflix, and its original content continues to get better and better. The original streaming app has exclusive rights to comedian specials like Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld, to award-winning shows such as Narcos, Stranger Things, Masters of None and House of Cards (before, *cough*, you know). There’s a reason Netflix is the number one name in video streaming — the company keeps creating and curating TV shows, movies and documentaries that people really want to see.
How much does Netflix cost? Since its inception, Netflix has continued to increase its monthly prices. However, the streaming giant currently has monthly plans starting at just $9.
- A Basic Plan costs $8.99 and allows you to stream on one device in HD.
- For $12.99, you can upgrade to Standard and stream Netflix content on two devices.
- And with a $16 Premium subscription, you can watch content in Ultra HD on up to four different devices.
Get your news and sports from the web and your binge-worthy content from Netflix and you’ll have essentially everything cable TV provides in a much more affordable package. The one downside to Netflix? No on-demand content. Unlike Amazon Prime, Netflix customers are limited to the shows and movies currently available in the Netflix library. You’ll have to find another app if you want to rent or purchase new movies as soon as they’re released.
NBC’s Peacock felt extremely unnecessary when it first launched, but it is quickly making itself essential for certain types of viewers. If you want to watch reruns of The Office, you’re going to need Peacock. If you want to watch some of the biggest Premier League soccer games every weekend, you will need Peacock. If you want to watch original shows such as A.P. Bio and the reboot of Saved by the Bell…yep, you guessed it…you need Peacock.
Peacock exists in three tiers: Free, Premium and Premium Plus. The free tier gives you some, but not all of Peacock’s content. Peacock Premium gives you access to all of Peacock’s live, exclusive and on-demand content for $5/month. And Peacock Premium Plus gives you everything, (mostly) without the hassle of ads, for $10/month.
HBO Max had a lot to live up to when it launched. HBO Go and HBO Now were already amazing streaming services thanks to the network’s incredible catalogue of TV shows. But with HBO Max, the network has been supercharged with its exclusive streaming series such as Search Party, along with content from the DC universe, Adult Swim, Studio Ghibli, Crunchyroll and Turner Classic Movies.
And while it may be to the dismay of directors and producers everywhere, every Warner Bros. theatrical release during 2020 will premiere on HBO Max at no additional cost. Wonder Woman was the first film to debut, and it will be followed by the likes of TKTKTKTK and TKTKTKKTKT. Plus, if you pre-pay for six months of the service before March 1, you’ll only pay $70 instead of $90. That’s more than 20% off.
For cinephiles of the world, there are few streaming services which are more of a goldmine than the Criterion Channel. With thousands of classic, foreign and critically-acclaimed films, most of which are curated and hand-picked binging on this streaming service is the equivalent of pursuing a film studies degree for $99.99 a year. And whether you’re more interested in David Lynch or Yasujiro Ozu, there’s something for every type of film nerd.
CBS All Access/Paramount Plus
While currently existing as CBS All Access, this streaming service will change its name in March to Paramount Plus and receive a fresh batch of content in an attempt to make the service more appealing to cordcutters. In its current form, it has a decent selection of current and classic content from networks such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, including favorites such as Jersey Shore, Chappelle’s Show and Star Trek, not to mention the NFL. But it remains to be seen if the addition of movies such as the Mission: Impossible series and shows such as South Park can make Paramount Plus worth the $5.99 a month price of entry.
Fortunately, anyone who signs up for the service for March 3 can get a full 12-month subscription for just $30, which works itself out to only $2.50 a month. That’s a pretty risk-free bargain by any stretch of the imagination.
3. Hulu + Live TV
Hulu + Live TV gives you more than 65 channels of live and on-demand television at a much more affordable price than your current cable subscription. With the Live sports addition, you gain access to channels such as ESPN and ESPN 2 for your daily sports content and games. There’s ABC, CBS and FOX for premier and primetime games. Subscribers also get FS1, NBC Golf and NBC SN for your soccer and golf fix, as well as TNT for those who can’t get enough hoops. And, of course, you have complete access to Hulu’s full library of content.
For $64.99 a month, you can watch on two screens simultaneously — no need to battle with your significant other who’s trying to watch The Handmaid’s Tale while the game is on. Plus, you gain access to 50 hours of DVR storage to record live shows and games. It’s a solid option to cut ties with cable and still get your sports fix.
4. YouTube TV
With YouTube TV, you get all the major networks including ABC, CBC, NBC, FOX and ESPN. This covers not only major primetime events but also your local news. And for entertainment purposes, networks such as TNT, Food Network, USA and FX are just the tip of the iceberg. At the base price of $49.99 a month, the 70+ channels that YouTube TV provides are more than other alternatives to cable TV. Plus, it’s compatible with a handful of different devices, so you can watch from virtually anywhere. The ultimate icing on the cake is unlimited DVR storage to watch your favorite shows when you’re ready.
In short, YouTube TV is a great live TV option for cable cutters. While the launch of Disney+ has gotten a lot of attention in the streaming wars, YouTube TV is quietly becoming one of the best cable TV alternatives on the streaming market.
5. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video serves as an alternative to the binge-worthy shows and movies that you see on cable. Prime doesn’t have live TV or Sports — although Amazon Prime does host a handful of Thursday Night Football games. Instead, Amazon Prime produces engaging original content such as Fleabag and The Man in the High Castle, while providing access to a handful of HBO shows that you won’t be able to find on other streaming services. And unlike Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu, Prime customers can rent and purchase movies through the service. If you want to watch the latest movies as soon as they’re released to the home market, then Prime is the best replacement to your cable company’s on-demand movie library.
Prime Video only costs $9 a month, which is less expensive than most other services, but Prime Video doesn’t quite have the breadth of included content you’ll find on Netflix or Disney+
6. HDTV Antenna
If you are completely overpaying on monthly subscription fees for cable, streaming services or any entertainment that comes through your TV, you should consider an HDTV antenna. These devices receive free local broadcast signals from tower to tower in your local area. An HDTV Antenna snatches those broadcasts from the sky and provides you with all of the TV shows, sports broadcasts and news from your local NBC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other local TV affiliate networks. If you primarily use Netflix or Amazon Prime for video streaming but still want to catch local TV broadcasts, than an HDTV antenna is a great addition to your home entertainment set up.
While it’s free to receive these broadcasts, you have to buy an antenna first. A one-time purchase is only around $45 and can be less expensive depending on the HDTV antenna you choose. Antennas are great for local channels, and if you get lucky, you can pick up a handful of additional channels as well. So, if you are done with monthly payments, we suggest an HDTV antenna as a viable option.
Philo is a solid, inexpensive alternative to your hefty cable bill. Philo only costs $20 a month and provides 59 channels. With a subscription, you can stream live TV on three devices simultaneously, and you have the ability to record and save shows for up to 30 days. Philo covers a handful of major networks including AMC, HGTV, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, BBC, and VICE, which has some of the most unique creative content available on TV. Philo isn’t great for news or live sports, but it is a good option for those who want cable TV entertainment without the hassles that come with a cable company.
8. Sling TV
Sling has a simple premise: let customers pick the TV channels they want to pay for. By allowing you to customize your package, Sling TV offers an affordable alternative to cable TV. However, customers also have the option to choose from packages of their favorite channels. Sling breaks up their live TV packages into a Blue Plan, Orange Plan and Orange & Blue Plan, each with their own lineup of channels. The monthly plans start at $20 a month and include most of your favorite entertainment channels. Along with access to over 40 different channels, Sling also provides 10 hours of DVR cloud storage for free. For another $5, you can get 50 hours of DVR recording time and keep your recordings as long as you’re a customer. Plus, you can record multiple shows at once.
If you’re looking for an affordable cable TV alternative that lets you enjoy live TV, this TV streaming app is a great excuse to cut the cord. However, the more channels you choose to add, the more expensive the monthly price.
Some of us can go without the news, TV shows and movies, but living without live sports is not negotiable. For sports junkies, FuboTV is a smart solution. FuboTV provides access to most of the major sports networks like NBA TV, PAC12, FS2, NBC Golf, FS1 as well as Bien Sports. ESPN is a pretty hefty omission, which is a bit of a bummer for Fubo customers. Beyond sports, FuboTV does offer a handful of entertainment channels like FX and FXX.
There are three different plans that range from $20 to $80 a month. Keep in mind that your location will determine how many local channels you’ll be able to receive. FuboTV should be the game plan for those who can’t go without live sports.
10. Apple TV Plus
Apple TV Plus is one of the new kids on the block in the streaming wars. A subscription to Apple TV Plus is only $5 a month, making it one of the most affordable streaming options. Apple TV is driving hard into the original content route with star-studded shows like The Morning Show, See and Mythic Quest leading the way. An Oprah Winfrey show is even coming to Apple TV soon. Currently, Apple TV Plus doesn’t have the content library of rivals Disney+ or Netflix, but it’s still an affordable alternative to cable TV.
Here's What You Need to Know About Cable TV Alternatives
Depending on how new your TV is, you may already have everything you need.
The short version is that you only need a capable device, such as a streaming stick or one of the best smart TVs, and an internet connection that will let your TV stream at speeds of 10 mbps (at the very least). Oh, and you’ll need a credit card to pay for those services.
The long version is that any smart TV from the last four years should have most of the services you want, but those apps will differ depending on whether or not it’s running Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV OS, LG WebOS or Samsung Tizen.
If you want a smart TV with integrated software, we think Roku-powered TVs are the easiest to use and have the best selection of streaming apps and services.
But if you’re willing to spend a little extra for a separate streaming device, you can pick up the Chromecast with Google TV for $50, which has the best user interface for streaming. It has virtually every major streaming app and service, and pulls all your favorite shows and movies from the different services together into a single browsable screen.
While there is no end all, be all solution here, we think that some combination of Netflix, HBO Max and the Disney Plus bundle, which includes ESPN+ and Hulu, is the best place to start. This will get you a really solid mix of big movies, bingeworthy TV shows, 4K HDR content and live sports for somewhere between $30 and $50 a month.
Depending on your needs, you can add, subtract and supplement with the other services to get other types of content, such as cable news. If that’s the case, You might consider a Live TV service such as Sling TV with Netflix. This would still cost you around $50 a month. Either way, you have a solid alternative for cable TV that still costs less.
Also keep in mind that if you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you have access to Prime Video, which is no slouch when it comes to noteworthy movies and TV shows on its service, such as Borat 2.
If you bought a shiny new 4K HDR TV and you’re looking for the best possible content to get your money’s worth, then Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus are the services you definitely want to sign up for.
HBO Max is slowly starting to add 4K content and nobody quite knows what Hulu’s deal is. But start with these three aforementioned services and you should be satiated for a while.
When it comes to cable TV alternative, services like YouTube TV, and Sling TV mainly focus on the Live TV aspect, which makes the experience feel more like traditional cable. But instead of getting your entertainment from a single feed, you can log in via the internet and watch it on a variety of different devices. It’s worth noting that these services also have some on-demand content, and will also let you record shows to a server-based DVR.
Netflix and Disney Plus, on the other hand, are exclusively on-demand services. But they also produce original content like a cable network would.
Services such as Hulu, Peacock and CBS All Access exist somewhere between the two services, offering varying degrees of Live TV along with a wide-array of on-demand content.
These different approaches to cordcutting and streaming have their pros and cons. Live TV services have things like cable news and more live sports, but can also cost as much as traditional cable. On-demand services are cheaper and more convenient, but can be more limited in their scope of content.