Are you ready to cut the cord?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re fed up with the excessive costs and restrictive contracts that come with a cable subscription and are ready to try something new.
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. All you need to do is decide what content is most important to you and how much you want to spend!
Let’s 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 save by ditching cable.
I can use my own story as an example. I made the switch from cable almost five 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 paid almost $200 a month toward the end of the contract period. Finally, 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.
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 talk about what you’ll need to access these services.
Almost all cable alternatives will require you to have a way to stream the service through an internet connection, which is how they’re able to offer these packages for less money.
One of the newer and most straightforward 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. Instead, they connect to the same Ethernet or Wi-Fi network you use to connect your computer and take 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 that began the development of small streaming devices that started allowing people to cut the cord, and now they have their own TV.
Plus, Roku TVs are relatively inexpensive, lightweight, and come in various sizes.
While smart TVs 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 TVs, Roku originally became famous 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 and the capabilities you want in your Roku device.
The more expensive options will include voice-controlled remotes, greater Wi-Fi range, and more advanced streaming abilities such as 4K and HDR.
Amazon Fire Stick/Amazon FIRE TV
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 remote voice 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.
You can also get an Amazon FIRE TV, which allows you to stream directly through the TV without added devices.
If you or a family member is a gamer, there’s a pretty good chance you already have a streaming device in your home.
Most primary 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 lucky 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.
Another item you may already have is a Blu-ray player, and 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, etc. Some models even offer apps for Facebook and Twitter and 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 DVDs and CDs.
The drawback is you may not have access to all the cable alternatives that you would with a dedicated streaming device.
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, but if you want local channels and access to news and shows from the above-listed networks, an HD antenna may be a great inexpensive option.
An HD antenna may also be an excellent 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 know how you’re going to stream, you’ll need to choose which cable alternatives you wish to subscribe to.
This list includes the significant cable alternatives, their content, and how much they cost.
Paid Streaming Options
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 three device streams while Orange only provides around 30 channels and one 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 many 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), offering unlimited access to the streaming library with limited or no ads. In addition, 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 streaming service package for $54.99 a month (you can try it for seven days free). This plan includes access to the entire Hulu library plus the ability to stream 60+ live and on-demand channels, including live sports. The Hulu Live plan gives you access to all your favorite channels, including HGTV, TNT, CNN, A&E, TLC, TBS, etc. This package also offers 50 hours of DVR storage.
Netflix has been around for years, but the days of receiving DVDs 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 its 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 your 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.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon isn’t just for shopping anymore. Frequent Amazon shoppers and Prime account holders may 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 moves 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 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.
How long will it be before Disney takes over the world?
Just kidding, kind of.
If you haven’t heard, the children’s entertainment giant now has its own streaming service, and a subscription gives you access to all the Disney content that’s ever been made 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.
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.
YouTube has been offering free access to media content for close to two decades, and they recently upped their game by providing a TV streaming service.
YouTube TV offers access to over 70 channels, 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.
HBO Now is a streaming service that offers unlimited access to 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.
Like 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 and 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 7-day trial.
One of the more cable-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 3 devices, and create up to 10 profiles per account.
Philo also offers a free 7-day trial to 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 is 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.
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 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.
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 are 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.
AT&T TV Now
Yet another cable alternative option is AT&T TV Now which may be a good option for those who want many options.
There are two main packages. You can choose the Plus package for $55 a month, including 45+ channels and a 30-day free trial of HBO Max. You can also go with the Max package for $80 a month, including 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 can add on premium entertainment channels, Spanish channels, and international TV for an added cost.
Cloud DVR storage is included in every package, and you can stream on up to 3 screens at the same time. You can also stream in your home or on the go.
ESPN+ is the only cable alternative discussed here dedicated solely to sports content and is a must for sports fans. 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. Unfortunately, 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.
Peacock is a relatively new streaming option that launched during the pandemic. Peacock is famous for hosting the hit show Yellowstone and offers three options for viewers. The free option allows you to watch 40,000+ hours of movies, shows, and more with limited ads. The Premium option is $4.99 a month and offers 60,000+ hours of movies, shows, and more with limited ads, while the Plus service for $9.99 a month offers all that the Premium option does ad-free.
Free Streaming Options
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 various 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 antennae 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.
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. Then, 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 to 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 entirely free and accessible from your phone, computer, or streaming device.
Crackle is one of the few legitimate streaming options that are entirely 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.
You can check out what Crackle has to offer here.
The Roku Channel/Free Roku Channels
They make streaming devices, TVs, and even their own channel.
The Roku Channel is entirely free and offers a variety of movies and TV 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 many 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.
Pluto TV is a free streaming service that also does not require a password to access. It offers a vast on-demand library that includes movies, TV shows, sports, documentaries, etc.
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 technical 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 essential information 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!
Talk about Money Saved.
Tawnya is an elementary special education teacher by day and co-blogger at Money Saved is Money Earned by night.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University. She has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and co-blogger Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. They teach people how to save money, make money, and understand money.