Are you ready to cut the cord?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re fed up with the exorbitant costs and restrictive contracts that come with a cable subscription and ready to try something new. But what?
Cable alternatives have exploded in recent years, and with so much to choose from it can be hard to decide which option(s) to choose.
The good news is we’ve done most of the work for you and compiled a long list of the best cable alternative currently out there. Now all you need to do is decide what content is most important to you and how much you want to spend!
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Let’s take a look at how much money you can save, the options for streaming devices, and the available cable alternatives you should consider. Cable alternatives have been broken down into paid and free options to help you review the options more easily.
How Much Can You Save?
Before we get into streaming devices and services, let’s talk about how much you can actually save by ditching cable.
I can use my own story as an example. I made the switch from cable almost three years ago, and I wish I had done it sooner.
I had set up cable as a quick way to get access to TV after buying my house because it was all I knew. At first, the bundle cost was only about $100 a month for cable, Wi-fi internet and a landline I didn’t use. I also had to sign a two-year contract with a penalty for early termination. The earlier you terminate, the higher the penalty.
After about a year, my monthly costs began increasing until I was paying almost $200 a month toward the end of the contract period. I was sick of the large monthly bill and lack of flexibility, so I looked into streaming services and settled on PlayStation Vue (no longer offered) because of the ability to watch my local NBA team.
I went from paying almost $200 a month to paying $50 a month for Wi-fi and only about $40 a month for streaming. I was paying less than half the cost and getting all the same channels I had before.
All told, I’ve saved over $3,000 on TV since ditching cable.
While your specific savings will depend on how much you’re currently paying for cable and how many streaming options you choose, I guarantee it will be less.
And if you’re one of those who wants it all and subscribes to multiple streaming services, you’d be hard pressed to equal the cost of cable. Even if you do, you’ll have far more options than you ever did with cable.
Before we get into the available cable alternatives, we need to spend a minute talking about what you’ll need to access these services. Almost all cable alternative will require you to be able to have way to stream the service through the internet, which is how they’re able to offer these packages for less money.
1. Smart TV
One of the newer and simplest options for streaming is to get a smart TV.
A smart TV allows you to access and view online and network-based media without needing to connect to an additional box or streaming device. They connect to the same ethernet or Wi-fi network that you use to connect your computer, and essentially, takes out the middleman.
Many even allow you to browse the internet and game!
Most brands offer a smart TV option, but one you should check out is a Roku TV. Roku was one of the first brands to develop small streaming devices that began allowing people to cut the cord, and now they have their own TV.
Plus, Roku TV’s are relatively inexpensive, lightweight and come in a variety of sizes.
While smart TV’s offer an all-in-one package, if you already have a great TV, there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars when all you need to do is buy a streaming device.
While they’ve branched into making smart TV’s, Roku originally became popular because of their streaming devices.
Roku offers a line of different streaming devices running from $30 to $100. Which device you choose will depend on the type of TV you have, as well as the capabilities you want in your Roku device.
The more expensive options will include things like voice-controlled remotes, greater Wi-fi range and more advanced streaming ability, such as 4K and HDR.
3. Amazon Fire Stick
If you’re a loyal Amazon shopper, you’ll probably want to look into getting an Amazon Fire Stick for all your streaming needs.
The Amazon Fire Stick does the same thing as a Roku. However, the Fire Stick has the added feature of Alexa voice remote capabilities. Therefore, if you already have Alexa integrated into your home, you’ll likely want to go with the Fire Stick.
You can get an Amazon Fire Stick for $39.99 or the 4K version for $49.99.
4. Gaming Consoles
If you or a family member is a gamer, there’s a pretty good chance you already have a streaming device in your home.
That’s because most of the main gaming devices have built in streaming options, although you may not have access to every streaming service you want.
The Xbox One will allow you to stream Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video,and Sling TV. You can also stream apps like CBS All Access, HBO GO, HBO NOW and Starz. You can even hook up your DVR to your Xbox.
Not an Xbox fan? You’re in luck because the Playstation 4 also allows you to stream several cable alternatives. These include Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and Amazon Prime Video.
Another more limited option is the Nintendo Switch, which allows you to stream Hulu only.
5. Blu-ray Player
Another item you may already have is a Blu-ray player. Depending on the age and type of player, you may also be able to use it to stream cable alternatives.
Most new Blu-ray players offer the same streaming capabilities as dedicated streaming devices (like Roku or Amazon Fire Stick). It’s very common to find Blu-rays that can stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and others. Some models even offer apps for Facebook and Twitter, as well as music services like Pandora and Rhapsody.
There are even players that have built-in web browsers.
The advantage of using a Blu-ray player to stream is that you can play almost all your media with one device, including DVD’s and CD’s.
The drawback is you may not have access to all the cable alternatives that you would with a dedicated streaming device.
6. HD Antenna
While one of the more limited streaming device options, it’s worth mentioning that you can access a lot of free content with a simple HD antenna.
Utilizing an antenna will allow you to watch HD TV channels from networks like ABC, FOX, NBC and CBS. Depending on your location, you may also be able to access channels like PBS.
This is definitely a basic streaming option. If all you want are local channels and access to news and shows from the above-listed networks, then an HD antenna may be a great inexpensive option.
An HD antenna may also be a good option to pair with certain cable alternatives such as Netflix to allow you to access the basic channels.
You can browse a list of HD antenna options and decide which is best for you.
Now that you’re sure you want to cut the cord and you know how you’re going to stream, you’ll need to choose which cable alternatives you wish to subscribe to.
This list includes the major cable alternatives, the content they offer and how much they cost.
1. Sling TV
First up is Sling TV, which offers a variety of options starting at $30 a month.
There are two main packages, Sling Blue and Sling Orange, and each carries a different network lineup. The difference in packages is mainly in the channels offered, with Sling Blue offering over 50 channels and 3 device streams while Orange only offers around 30 channels and 1 device stream. Both packages also offer 10 hours of DVR space. You can choose one for $30 a month or get both for $40 a month.
In addition, Sling offers a variety of add-on packages between $5 and $10 for things like sports and kid’s channels.
You can try Sling TV for free for three days before deciding if it’s right for you.
Hulu is another cable alternative that offers a ton of different options, so you can find a subscription that best fits you and your viewing habits.
The basic Hulu plan is $5.99 a month (you can try it for a month free), which offers unlimited access to the streaming library with limited or no ads. The Hulu library includes full seasons of many shows, Hulu Originals, movies, and more.
Hulu is also offering a deal where you can bundle basic Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month.
In addition to basic Hulu packages, there is also a Hulu + Live TV package for $54.99 a month. This plan includes access to the entire Hulu library plus the ability to stream 60+ live and on demand channels, including live sports. This package also offers 50 hours of DVR storage.
Netflix has been around for years, but the days of receiving DVD’s in the mail are long gone.
Now, Netflix offers thousands of movies, documentaries and TV shows (including foreign films) that you can stream instantly on your phone, tablet or streaming device. Netflix even produces their own original shows now.
The great thing about Netflix is how easy it is to access. Furthermore, most Netflix users can share their credentials with friends or family, further saving on costs.
Netflix also recently launched the Netflix Party option for social distancing so you and friends/family can watch shows together from your own homes.
Netflix plans range from $8.99 to $15.99 a month, but you can also try it free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you.
4. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon isn’t just for shopping anymore. Frequent Amazon shoppers and Prime account holders may especially find Amazon Prime Video a good cable alternative because it’s included in your Prime membership ($12.99 a month or $119 a year).
Prime membership holders have access to thousands of titles through Prime Video (including Amazon original shows) at no extra cost, along with the option to rent or buy movies and TV episodes that aren’t included. You can also subscribe to over 100 premium channels with Prime Video Channels subscriptions.
You can also subscribe to Amazon Prime Video as a standalone membership for $8.99 a month if you don’t have a Prime membership and don’t want to sign up for one.
If you’re thinking of going with Amazon Prime Video, we would highly recommend purchasing Prime membership for the annual fee of $119. That way, you get Prime Video plus all the benefits of a Prime membership (like free two-day shipping) for $9.92 a month, which is only about a dollar more than a Prime Video membership on its own.
How long will it be before Disney takes over the world?
Just kidding, kinda.
In case you haven’t heard, the children’s entertainment giant now has its very own streaming service and a subscription gives you access to all the Disney content that’s ever been made all in one spot.
We should also mention that Disney owns Pixar, Marvel, the Star Wars franchise and National Geographic, so a Disney+ membership gives you access to all that content as well.
A Disney+ membership will run you $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year. However, as we mentioned previously, you can also get Disney+ as part of a package with Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month.
6. YouTube TV
YouTube has been offering free access to media content for close to two decades, and they recently upped their game by offering a TV streaming service.
YouTube TV offers access to over 70 channels, along with local cable TV channels in your area and 24-hour news networks, all for $49.99 a month. You’ll also get unlimited DVR storage with your membership.
YouTube TV also offers the ability to customize your subscription with add ons. Add on options include HBO Max, Showtime, Starz, Epix, Cinemax, AMC Premiere, Acorn TV and Curiosity Stream.
Like many other streaming options, you can try YouTube TV for free for a week and see if it’s right for you.
7. HBO Now
HBO Now is a streaming service that offers unlimited access to all of HBO’s original series, including hits such as Westworld and Game of Thrones. You’ll also have access to movies, documentaries, sports, and comedy specials.
HBO Now can be had for $14.99 a month or as an add-on to several other streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
HBO Now also offers the ability to try it for free for seven days.
Similar to HBO Now, Starz also offers a standalone streaming option or can be included as an add-on with other subscriptions such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
Starz costs $8.99 a month, and gives you access to exclusive shows such as Outlander, along with a large selection of movies.
Again, you can try Starz for free for seven days before you decide to subscribe.
Showtime also offers a streaming service, which you can purchase either directly through them or with an Apple, Roku, Android or Amazon account.
The cost of Showtime is $10.99 a month, and if you sign up directly with Showtime you can opt for an annual subscription for $99 a year.
As with others on this list, Showtime offers a free seven-day trial.
One of the more cables-like of the cable alternatives on this list, a Philo subscription will give you access to 58 of the most popular cable channels for just $20 a month.
With Philo you can also record live TV or save future shows for up to 30 days, stream on up to three devices, and create up to 10 profiles per account.
Philo also offers a free seven-day trial so you can try it out.
FuboTV is yet another cable alternative that offers a variety of plan options, including a Spanish option.
The Latino plan is $29.99 a month and offers 30 channels in Spanish, as well as 500 hours of Cloud DVR and the ability to stream on two screens at once.
There is also Fubo Standard for $54.99 a month, Family for $59.99 a month, Family Plan with Showtime for $69.99 a month, and Ultra for $79.99 a month. There are also add-on options.
The main difference between the subscription options are the number of channels offered and the number of screens you can simultaneously stream on.
Yet again, you can try FuboTV for free for seven days.
12. Apple TV+
Apple doesn’t just make phones and computers anymore, they also have their own streaming service.
Unlike other streaming services on this list, Apple TV+ will only give you access to their own original movies and TV shows, not other licensed content.
The positive to Apple TV+ is that it only costs $4.99 a month and is free for a year with the purchase of any Apple device.
Apple TV+ can be streamed on almost any streaming device described earlier in this post, and like most services on this list, you can try it for free for seven days before committing.
13. Acorn TV
Acorn TV is a little different in that it’s an American streaming service that offers programming from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Mexico and Australia.
You can also watch Acorn TV Originals. If foreign shows and documentaries is something you’re interested in, you can check out their lineup of shows here.
Acorn TV offers two subscription options. You can pay a monthly fee of $5.99 or an annual one of $59.99.
You can also try it for free for seven days.
14. AT&T TV Now
Yet another cable alternative option is AT&T TV Now and may be a good option for those who want a lot of options.
There are two main packages. You can choose the Plus package for $55 a month, which includes 45+ channels and a 30-day free trial of HBO Max. You can also go with the Max package for $80 a month, which includes 60+ channels and HBO Max.
There are also five other package options featuring more channels and options. These packages run from $86 to $135 a month.
In addition, you have the option to add-on premium entertainment channels, Spanish channels and international TV for added cost.
Cloud DVR storage is included in every package, and you can stream on up to three screens at the same time. You can also stream in your home or on the go.
ESPN+ is the only cable alternative discussed here that’s dedicated solely to sports content. It included original video content, live games, news and analysis, and exclusive pay-per-view events.
However, be aware that ESPN+ is separate from ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNews, so if you’re looking to follow a local team(s) there may be a better option to stream games and content for those teams. They also don’t broadcast live NBA or NFL games.
ESPN+ costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. You can also bundle it with Hulu and Disney+ for $12.99 a month.
Free Streaming Options
Here are some ways to get free streaming options for cord-cutters to try.
1. HD Antenna
We previously discussed HD antenna’s as a streaming device, but they are also a cable alternative because they can give you free access to a variety of channels.
Depending on where you live, an HD antenna may allow you to pick up channels from networks like ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS and even PBS.
HD antenna’s are one of the cheapest cable alternatives available, and may be a perfect option for those with simple media needs.
Check out this ultimate antenna guide and find the best option for you.
2. Cable Channels Online
Yet another option for streaming cable alternatives is to watch cable network channels online.
Most of the major networks will post recently aired content on their sites for a limited time. Using a streaming device such as a smart TV or a Roku, you can download these network apps to your device and watch most of them for free.
Most of us know YouTube as the place the watch interesting videos, but it’s also a great place to find other media content.
Not only can you learn how to do something through YouTube videos, but you can listen to music, watch documentaries, news, clips of famous events and sports, and even some movies (usually older movies).
The best part is watching regular content on YouTube is completely free and accessible from your phone, computer or streaming device.
Crackle is one of the few legitimate streaming options that is completely free.
With Crackle you’ll have access to TV shows, movies and other video content, but it may not be the latest and best content because of being free. Still, there are many good options available.
5. The Roku Channel/Free Roku Channels
They make streaming devices, TVs, and even have their very own channel.
The Roku Channel is completely free and offers a variety of movies and TV’s shows. While the selection may not be the largest, you can usually find some quality content to watch.
Aside from the Roku Channel, there are a plethora of other free channels you can access on your Roku device or TV.
Check out this list of the best free Roku channels and save some serious money on your viewing.
6. The Library
Finally, yet another free cable alternative is your local library.
You can find tons of content, from movies, to TV shows, to workout videos and documentaries, all available for rent.
All you need to do is sign up for a free library account and drive to the location to pick up and drop off your content. You can usually reserve content online, and there may even be some digital rentals you can access.
In addition to digital rentals, take advantage of your local library for book rentals, events and classes, and much more.
Moral of the Story
With so many cable alternatives available, all without contract obligations, it’s a miracle anyone subscribes to cable anymore. On the other hand, the sheer number of available streaming options can be overwhelming, especially for those with less technology experience.
Change is hard, but you can save even more change if you take the leap and cut the cable cord. This ultimate list of cable alternatives gives you all the basic information you need to decide which streaming devices and services are right for you.
What are you waiting for? Kick cable to the curb and start saving money on your viewing experience today!
Image Credit: Amazon.com