Best Cable Alternatives
What’s better than cable TV? Getting all the shows you want while saving tons of money each month. With pretty much any streaming service, you can have more content than you know what to do with for half the price of major cable and satellite TV services.
How to watch TV without cable or satellite
You’ll need a solid, speedy internet connection. And we recommend buying an antenna to pick up local broadcast channels—which have the majority of popular sitcoms, news stations, and sports (since some services don’t offer all your local stations).
Chances are you already have a device to stream TV on (cellphones, tablets, etc.), but you should consider picking up a Roku (which you can check out on Amazon) or another streaming device that connects directly to your big screen TV.
1. Live TV streaming services
Whether you’re looking for high channel counts or a good price, there’s something for everyone
Not all streaming services are created equal—in fact, you may want to read our Best Live TV Streaming Services review to get a feel for which one has the channels and features you want.
|DIRECTV NOW||$40–$75/mo.||60–120+||View plans|
|Sling TV||$25–$40/mo.||30–50+||View plans|
|Hulu with Live TV||$39.99–$43.99/mo.||60||View plans|
|YouTube TV||$40/mo.||73||View plans|
|PlayStation Vue||$44.99–$79.99/mo.||49–90+||View plans|
|Philo TV||$16–$20/mo||37–46||View plans|
|AT&T Watch App||$15/mo.||30+||View plans|
DIRECTV NOW was DIRECTV’s way of keeping its satellite TV service available for users who don’t want a dish installed or multi-year contracts. You can use the Just Right package and add HBO (Game of Thrones and Westworld for only $5 more per month instead of $15? Yeah, we’re in). Consider also that you can get your favorite networks like HGTV, Sundance TV, and the Travel Channel. Plus, you can also record up to 20 hours of TV to hold onto for 30 days with the included cloud DVR.
Sling TV is one of the better value options out there, because you can get a lot of the most popular channels for only $25 a month. However, if you’re a binge-watcher, you’ll love Hulu with Live TV’s huge on-demand library, which currently has 10 full seasons of Adventure Time (aww yeah homies!). YouTube TV is great, but it may not be available in your area just yet.
Basically, what we’re saying is, you can’t go wrong with any of these services. Especially since they all offer free trials (most are seven days long). Stay tuned to know which one is best for you and your situation.
2. Streaming platforms (on-demand content)
Watch TV shows and movies on your schedule without long contracts
Although you won’t get live TV from these streaming services, you’ll still be able to get your fix of original content, and on-demand shows and movies.
|Amazon Prime||$12.99/mo. or $99/yr.||View plans|
|HBO NOW||$14.99/mo.||View plans|
|CBS All Access||$5.99–$9.99/mo.||View plans|
Netflix is known for its original content, including the hit show Stranger Things, and stand-up comedy specials like Elder Millenial by Iliza Shlesinger and Dave Chappelle’s Equanimity. It also has a great selection of movies, with an ever-expanding library.
Hulu’s forte is on-demand versions of current shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Amazon Prime video has new-ish movies like Baywatch and classics like Jaws, but their original programming hasn’t quite taken off the way Netflix’s has, with a major exception: The Handmaid’s Tale.
Most of us here at Reviews.org have some combination of a live TV streaming service like DIRECTV NOW or Sling TV along with Netflix or Hulu. And just so you know, Hulu with Live TV includes regular Hulu’s normal library for those who want a bit of both without subscribing to two separate services.
A one-time price gives you forever-access to HD local channels
Not enough people know you can get access to local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX in HD for free, but only after you buy an indoor HD TV antenna.
Because the prices change frequently, we’re quoting MSRP price in the table below, so make sure to check the actual price on Amazon, because it might be cheaper.
|Clearstream Eclipse||$39.99||View on Amazon|
|Vansky||$24.95||View on Amazon|
|Mohu Leaf||$39.95||View on Amazon|
The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
4. Streaming devices
You’ll wanna grab something to watch on your big screen TV
Also known as a streaming media player, streaming devices connect your TV to the internet and allow you to use apps like Hulu, Sling TV, and DIRECTV NOW. These media players each have their own interface from which you can select various apps (including games).
|Roku||$39||View on Amazon|
|Fire TV||$89.98||View on Amazon|
|Apple TV||$199.99||View on Amazon|
|Chromecast||$35||View on Walmart|
If you don’t want to purchase one of these, remember you can use one of the following to watch:
- Computers: You can hook your laptop’s HDMI cable to the TV and stream directly.
- Phones: Depending on the phone and the service, you may be able to cast to your TV.
- Tablets: These work pretty much like the phones do, but they have a bigger screen for portable viewing.
- Smart TVs: Some television sets, like these ones on Amazon, are ready for app use, no device needed.
Best cable alternatives recap
You don’t have to be stuck with cable these days, find your perfect fit
The best part of cable alternatives is you can mix and match them to customize your TV needs. Try mixing and matching the following cable alternatives:
- Live TV Streaming Services: DIRECTV NOW, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, and YouTube TV.
- Streaming Services: Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, and Amazon Prime
- An HD Antenna: We recommend the Clearstream Eclipse
- Streaming Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV
How have your experiences with these products and services been? If you’ve jumped ship from Comcast, DISH, or DIRECTV, let us know what’s been good and what you miss.
Other ways to watch shows online
Here are more alternatives to the alternatives…we tried to think of all the ways to watch your favorites.
Sign in with cable logins
Some networks websites still require a login to view streaming content. You may be able to pry out a login password from a relative to re-watch your favorite episode of Shameless, but it may be easier to just sign up for a streaming service to keep your relationship intact.
Find shows on network websites
You can find a handful of shows on a TV network’s site for free. Some do require a sign in, but you’d be surprised to find some shows like NBC’s This Is Us, FOX’s New Girl, or ABC’s Modern Family without having to sign in.
Using individual apps
Do you hate watching television except for Game of Thrones? Then get the HBO GO app for $15 per month. Need to catch up on Who Is America? with Sacha Baron Cohen? Check out the SHOWTIME app. When you don’t watch a lot, individual apps may be the way to go. Find shows on network websites
How much money can you save by switching to a streaming service?
Hint, it’s a lot
When people are talking about saving thousands (over the course of a few years) by switching to streaming services from companies like Comcast, DISH, and DIRECTV, they aren’t kidding. We’ll go over a few different money pits you’ll avoid by going with a cable alternative.
Equipment lease fees: Since each device ranges from $10–$25 per device per month, individual users can save at least $120 per year here alone. For big families, the savings are that much greater, for example if you have three TVs that normally require a $20 set-top box, you’ll save $60 a month—enough to get some new kicks or get some pizzas.
Broadcast fees: Channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX tack on a charge of $5 or more per month with a cable service. You can get these channels for a one-time cost of $20–$40 for an antenna.
HD fees: Many cable companies charge $10 or more per month just to watch stuff in HD. But every streaming service has at least 720p quality, if not a full 1080p (or more), and it doesn’t cost you anything extra.
Regional sports fees: Starting around $3 per month, these small fees allow you to watch sports on cable—which is great, but why would you pay it if you didn’t have to? Get that antenna, homie.
Regulatory recovery fee: Cable companies have to pay to access certain networks, which means you’ll actually end up footing the bill. And while these fees may not be more than a dollar or two, it’s something you won’t have to deal with if you cut the cord.
Other fees: Franchise fees, FCC regulatory fees, taxes, and other surcharges may be small line items on your bill, but they add up over time. Save that money.