Cutting the cord to cable TV has been a popular movement in the past several years. According to a PWC Consumer Intelligence Series report, there was a 3 percent decrease in consumers paying for cable TV in 2017 as compared to the prior year. There are good reasons why more people are canceling their cable.
The average cable bill is $217.42 per month, which is probably higher than the cost of your utilities... things you actually need to live. Canceling your cable TV and cutting the chord could save you more than a thousand dollars a year and you don't have to miss out on your favorite shows. There are plenty of alternatives to cable TV which are priced very reasonable. Take a look at these 18 options now.
18 Cable TV Alternatives So You Can Cut the Chord
Sling TV offers several different packages based on the channels included in the bundle. Their Blue package runs $30 a month and includes over 50 channels including TLC, Food Network, and Nick Jr. You also get a free Cloud DVR, access to over 50 thousand on-demand shows and movies, and can watch on up to three different devices at one time.
There’s no equipment that you have to buy or rent and no installation fees. All of your content can be streamed on your device (TV, phone, tablet, or computer). That allows you to watch shows while on the go and when traveling. Since you must stream all your content, you need to have a good internet connection. This isn’t a problem for most people who live in suburban and urban cities.
Depending on your channel preferences, you might have to get a higher package for certain channels. Or in some cases, you might have to add on a package for certain channels. For example, premium channels like HBO and SHOWTIME are add-ons by themselves. This does add to your costs.
Another important consideration is that local network channels vary by market.
Another option if you’re more interested in shows that are available currently is Hulu. Their plans start at $5.99 a month and you can add HBO, CINEMAX, STARZ, SHOWTIME, or no ads. If you want the availability of more live TV options that include ESPN and some local sports than they have a package for $54.99. (Hulu + Live TV).
It’s another option that allows you to access content without the hassle of purchasing additional equipment. Your TV, tablet, and other devices allow you to access your shows and episodes from wherever and whatever you prefer. The user interface for Hulu + Live TV has been regarded as one of the most beautiful out there.
The one downside is that there’s a big gap between the two pricing tiers. There’s no mid-tier that offers content between the two packages which may lead to “upselling” the higher package.
Netflix is basically the streaming service which arguably led to the movement of cutting the cord with cable. They have three streaming plans: Basic, Standard, and Premium. Basic is $8.99 per month and allows you to watch on one screen at a time in Standard Definition and download a video on one device. The standard plan is $12.99 a month, works on two screens in full HD and you can download videos on two devices. Premium is available for $15.99 a month with watching ability on four screens at a time in full HD and 4K and video download on up to four devices.
There’s a lot of original content available on Netflix. They also release the entire season of an original content show at once which you can easily binge on a weekend. There’s also no commercials on any of their plans which you have to skip through.
The content on Netflix tends to be older so you won’t find the current season of shows available. They have also lost a lot of their content such as Disney and Marvel movies due to them offering their own streaming services.
This service that is separate from their huge library of viral videos, offers you the chance to stream more than 70 of your favorite channels. $49.99 a month gets you access to NBC, ABC, Fox, Disney, and much more. The channel availability depends on your area.
A nice feature of Youtube TV is that you can record shows without worrying about space limitations. You can also share your account with up to six people with up to three streams at once time.
The original content on Youtube TV is a far cry from what’s available on Netflix and Hulu. The shows simply aren’t getting the best reviews. There’s also no Viacom channels available in their lineup.
Disney+ has a package where you can get it, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month. That’s a pretty rounded offer for sporting, movie, and current show fans. Or if you want just Disney, it’s $6.99 a month.
Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic are all now owned by Disney which makes a compelling case to subscribe. It seems as though Disney will be releasing many of the movies found in theaters to their streaming service moving as they did with Frozen II.
The original shows have been a bit slow in getting released so there’s not a lot of interesting titles with the exception of The Mandalorian. If you opt for the package, remember that ESPN+ isn’t going to have every game that you might be interested in available.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon includes its Prime Video in addition to its free delivery (ranges from the same day to two days) and much more. You can either pay $12.99 monthly or $119 a year to get all the membership benefits. You can also add-on channels like PBS, SHOWTIME, and HBO.
The biggest benefit of Amazon Prime is that if you already sign up to get free shipping on products from Amazon, there’s no additional cost to have this access. Amazon Prime has original content shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which have won critical acclaim. There’s a good selection of TV shows and movies that you can watch too.
The user interface of Amazon Prime is a bit clunky to use. It’s not the easiest to navigate or scan through to find titles that you might be interested in watching.
Apple has joined the fray of providing content after being involved in providing us with the devices we use to it. The monthly subscription is $4.99 per month and features Apple Originals. Its all original content which includes comedies, kid’s entertainment, dramas, documentaries, and series. You can share your subscription with up to six family members.
You don’t have to have Apple TV to use their streaming service, which of course they recommend. It’’s compatible with Samsung Smart TV, LG Smart TV, pcs, AirPlay, Apple devices and more. It’s possible to get it for free your first year by purchasing an Apple device or getting the Apple Music Student Plan. There are no ads and you can download shows to watch later offline.
Since Apple TV+ is one of the newer players, they don’t have the content library as other more established competitors like Netflix. And you’re limited to their original content so you can’t find any shows that are available on cable on their platform. The sports fans out there will need another streaming service to satisfy any desire to watch games at home.
Fans of British television will enjoy Acorn TV’s library of mysteries, comedies, dramas, and documentaries. You can sign up for a monthly $5.99 or pay $59.99 for a full year to get two months for free.
Either subscription choice will give you access to both current shows and favorites from the past like Agatha Christie Murders. It’s all available without commercials. New shows are added regularly so that the content doesn’t get stale.
Acorn TV is definitely for a niche market. If you aren’t interested in British shows or get your fill from PBS, then it's not going to be an alternative streaming service that replaces your cable by itself.
AT&T TV Now
What used to be called DirectTV Now, comes AT&T TV Now that has two featured packages and five other package options. Their featured packages consist of PLUS which has over 45 channel options for $55 per month and MAX that has more than 60 channels, including HBO, CINEMAX and more sports coverage for $80. Their other packages start to get up there in price ranging from $86 to $135 per month. You can add on premium channels, sports, Spanish, and International channels for $5 to $15 extra a month.
You do get Chromecast support if you have a TV or device that has that software. There’s also access to On-Demand and Cloud DVR recording for up to 500 hours. You’re not signing up with a contract so you’re free to go month to month and cancel whenever you choose. If you’re interested in HBO and CINEMAX this could be one of your better options.
But compared to the other streaming services available, AT&T TV Now is on the expensive side for what you get. Their different packaging and add-ons can get you right back to paying cable TV prices. The video quality has been reported to be less than ideal by others too.
You can stream your sports game and get original content like The Last Dance for $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. You can stream, rewind and replay, and download your content for later. HD is also available and you can stream on up to three devices at once.
The sports fan will probably get all their game needs fulfilled. ESPN+ includes a huge archive of past events from the MLB, MLS, NHL, and more. You also get access to Pay Per View events and UFC Fight Nights from the past. In addition to live and previous games, you also get all their original series and studio shows like The Boardroom with KD.
Keep in mind that ESPN+ doesn’t provide you access to the same content that’s available on the traditional TV network. You still need to have a TV subscription for that. So your local college games might require a different solution than what’s offered with ESPN+.
Not as well known as the others so far, Philio offers cable channels for a low monthly cost of $20 a month. You get access to 59 channels including AMC, Lifetime, and Nickelodeon. Their service is supported on pc, iPhone & iPad, Android phones and tablets, and Android TV just to name a few. You can record live TV and watch shows up to 30 days and stream on three devices at one time. It also offers up to ten profiles for each account.
Their cost is the biggest draw to Philio. There aren’t really any other options that gives you the ability to have that type of channel lineup for only $20.
That might be a drawback if you want local channels. They don’t even offer local channels through the four major networks.
Their plans start out at $54.99 a month for the fubo Standard which includes 100 channels, 130 plus events in 4K, 30 hours of Cloud DVR storage, and the ability to stream on two devices at once. For an extra $5 a month, you can bump up to the Family which adds 500 hours of Cloud DVR storage and an additional stream share. If you’re wanting SHOWTIME that includes 9 channels, you can get it for $64.99 a month. Their Ultra plan adds 40 entertainment channels and a Sports package of 22 more channels for $79.99.
For those interested in Latin channels, their Futbol Quarterly is $19.99 for 30 channels and up to screens at once. There are additional add-ons if you want to add more streams, Cloud DVR storage, and other channel packages that range from $5.99 to $14.99.
Their tiers are geared towards sports so if your household enjoys watching games they will enjoy this alternative to cable. You don’t sign a contract so your service goes month to month.
Before signing up, make sure to check their list to see the sports teams that they cover. Otherwise you might end up being disappointed if you can’t watch your favorite local team in action.
Created by Walmart, it uses their retail backing to offer up free movies and TV that have limited commercials. Titles are clearly labeled so that you know what you can watch for free and what can be rented/purchased. If you don’t care much for picture quality, you can rent shows in Standard Definition for a $1 less than HD.
Another cool feature for those who like to own movies physically is that when you buy a physical copy which also includes a digital copy, your order will be automatically delivered to your home. But you get the digital version instantly through Vudu so you can watch it right away.
The content available on Vudu that is free is usually a few years old. So you’ll have to rent/buy newer titles and if you’re an avid fan of several TV shows, Vudu will probably not meet all your needs.
The US made the switch from analog to digital back in 2009 so everyone with a digital antenna can get good picture quality. If you want to have access to local stations and shows, you can get by without paying a monthly charge. Simply purchase a digital antenna and connect it to your existing TV.
They are available for less than $50. There’s indoor and outdoor models to choose from. As long as your home is within twenty miles of a broadcasting station, an indoor model should work fine.
That should provide you access to the standard network channels. This includes ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS. If you live in a bigger city, you will likely have dozens of more channels available. Digital antennas don’t work with smart TVs, so keep that in mind.
Your local library offers much more than just books in the modern day. They have a large selection of TV shows, documentaries, and other media which you can usually rent for a week or more. There are some libraries which offer digital rentals so you don’t even need to drive to a physical location to pick up a DVD.
Many networks allow you to stream their tv shows for free without a cable login. They usually make the latest episode of a series available a day after it airs. You don’t get access to their entire library, usually about the most recent few episodes.
Some networks that allow you to access their shows for free include ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CW. Check their specific website or app for specifics on what content is available for free.
CBS All Access
With over 10,000 episodes of CBS shows, you might be able to get away with CBS All Access for your viewing needs. You can get access to their full archive, live content, and their Original series like Star Trek: Discovery for $5.99 a month. To remove ads and add the ability to download videos to view later offline, it’s 9.99 a month.
There’s kids entertainment and live sports available to keep your whole family entertained. But if you’re not that interested in CBS shows or have series that you follow on other networks, it might not be as appealing.
Another free alternative to cable is Sony’s Crackle. It was first launched almost a decade ago with the promise that they would never charge a subscription fee. Crackle has continued to be free with the help of ad support.
You only get access to content that’s owned by Sony but that’s still a good selection. There are a few originals that were produced for Crackle specifically weaved in there. For the price, you can’t complain about the options though.
You’re bound to find a few potential alternatives to cable from this list. Ultimately the one (or ones) that you choose depends on what content you’re interested in. The majority of these paid services offer a free trial that ranges from a week to a full month. This is a good chance to try out a few that you’re not sure about and help you decide.
Since there’s no contracts involved with these streaming services, you can go month-to-month. This allows you the freedom to switch between different services if you want to try out one or two at a time. Be careful not to be paying for too many streaming services at a time or you could see your monthly costs rise as high as when you had cable. Ultimately, the goal of moving away from cable TV is to save you money.
About the Author
Anjana Paul is a banking professional who is passionate about helping others make better choices when it comes to money. In her spare time she is a freelance writer with years of expertise in the financial industry. She primarily writes about topics such as student loans, building credit, budgeting, retirement and other personal finance topics.