Long gone are the days where you need to call the cable guy and set an appointment to have your satellite dish or cable box installed.
Thankfully, as technology progressed, we can now get all of the cable channels we enjoy in as little as a minute.
So not only do we not have to wait for the cable guy, but we can all save a TON of money watching the same shows we already did as well as long as you have some sort of Internet connection.
In fact, some households report saving more than $100 a month! How great is that?
With so many cable TV alternatives out there, it can be frustrating to know what companies are out there, what channels are available, and what it all costs. Trust me, I have done so much research and still don’t think I have the right answer.
To make things easy, I went ahead and researched the most popular cable TV alternatives today and broke down it, making it much easier to help you find a low-cost alternative. Below, I will cover the best options to cut cable as well as what you need to get started.
Before I get started with this guide, I want to make sure you have the right equipment so that you can install and operate the apps/websites I mention below to maximize your viewing pleasure. If you already know what equipment you need, then great, you can skip this section. I just wanted to include it just in case you have no idea how to run these streaming programs.
And no, you won’t have to pay a monthly rental fee, and I promise you, no matter what option you choose, it will cost you less than $100. In some cases, less than $50 unless you want to purchase a gaming console.
All of the options I list below work in the same way…
Just plug it in, connect it to your TV’s HDMI input and you’re on your way. Turn on your TV, follow the prompts and start installing the apps of interest I mention. It will work just like a smartphone.
It’s not that hard at all, trust me!
And if you do struggle with it, there are hundreds of YouTube videos, so I won’t go into that here as the information is readily available. If you have a smartphone, adding these apps will work no different. Even comment at the bottom and I can help you as well.
With all of that out of the way, here are the most popular equipment options I highly recommend you consider to play the cable TV alternatives I mention in this guide:
By far, these are the top three lowest cost options on the market, and yes, while there are other alternatives, choosing one of these three will cause you the fewest headaches as it is truly a simple plug and play device. And don’t forget, while obvious, you will need an Internet connection as well and an HDMI output, which looks like this on your TV.
Other options, aside from the three above, include the Google Chromecast, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, AirTV Player, AndroidTV, any Windows-based computer, Mac, and/or select smart-enabled Samsung and LG TVs. models.
Since I really want to focus on the cable alternatives, I will hopefully get around to writing a post on the best streaming devices in the future.
Best Alternatives for Cable and Satellite TV
|Local Channels Only||FREE||VIEW|
|Philo||starts at $16/mo||VIEW|
|Sling||starts at $25/mo||VIEW|
|Hulu||starts at $39.99/mo for LIVE or $7.99 for on-demand only||VIEW|
|DirecTV Now||starts at $50/mo||VIEW|
|PlayStation VUE||starts at $44.99/mo||VIEW|
|YouTube TV||starts at $40/mo||VIEW|
|Fubo TV||starts at $44.99/mo||VIEW|
|AT&T Watch APP||starts at $16/mo||VIEW|
|Amazon Prime Video||$12.99/mo||VIEW|
|Netflix||starts at $7.99/mo||VIEW|
|CBS All Access||$5.99/mo||VIEW|
Local Channels Without Cable TV
If you don’t even want to pay for cable TV and you’re 100% happy with local channels, such as Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC, to name a few, then you’re in luck!
To receive local channels, all you will need is what’s known as an HD over-the-air antenna, which will cost you less than $50.
And yes, it’s a one-time purchase, meaning you will never receive a cable TV bill again. Just plug in your antenna, auto-program your TV and you will have local channels in less than five minutes, all for FREE.
While a lot of the streaming options below do offer local channels, some don’t, but regardless, it’s nice to have an antenna, either as a way to get local channels or as a backup in case the streaming service is down for a few hours (yes, it happens).
Here are a few that are highly rated on Amazon, and while I don’t have a preference, most were highly regarded by the Amazon community:
- Amplified HD Digital TV Antenna Long 65-80 Miles Range – Supports 4K 1080p & All Older TV’s
- 1byone HDTV Antenna (50-80 mile range)
- Vansky Outdoor 150 Mile Motorized 360 Degree Rotation OTA Amplified HD TV Antenna for 2 TVs
- Mohu Leaf 50
There are a lot of these antennas on the market, so I do recommend you read the reviews and pick out one that makes the most sense for your setup. All of these antennas do vary in size and features, but the description will describe it more in depth.
Now, if you just want local channels and don’t want to purchase cable TV, then you don’t really need any of the equipment I mentioned above unless you want to download the free content provided. It’s still a good buy regardless. Like the antenna, the equipment mentioned above does not require any recurring fees, either, if you do decide to purchase.
And if you consider this route, it’s just as easy as installing the equipment noted above. Just plug in your antenna and you will start receiving local channels.
Depending on where you live, your reception will greatly vary, so I do recommend you use this FCC reception map to see what channels are available near your home.
Also, as a bonus, I wrote about getting FREE cable TV legally in a post I wrote in the past, so I highly recommend you check it out as there are more than 24+ LEGAL options if don’t want to pay a dime.
Live Cable TV Streaming Services
Philo ($16+ a month)
Philo is somewhat of a newcomer to the streaming space and offers two very simple options: 43 channels for $16 a month or $20 a month for 56 channels. I provided a screenshot below of the channels that are included.
Now as a downfall, Philo does not include local channels in its packages, but this really doesn’t matter as you can use the HD antenna strategy as mentioned above to get them for free anyways. The sports offerings are limited as well.
But on the plus side, as part of the monthly price, the company lets you record as many shows as you want (one of the best in the industry), stream shows on up to three devices at one time, and the ability to save every episode of your favorite show for up to 30 days.
So not only are these features some of the most competitive, they come at a much cheaper rate.
And the best thing?
You can start a FREE trial right now by just entering your phone number right now, simply meaning you DO NOT need a credit card to get started. Eventually, you will need to enter a credit card, though.
- Website: Philo
Sling TV ($25+ a month)
Sling TV offers two package options: Sling Orange and Sling Blue, each retailing for $25 a month or $40 a month if you subscribe to both.
And in some cases, Sling will even throw in a free Roku if you’re a first-time subscriber and commit to a package.
And if you don’t see a channel you like, Sling, as I get into next, allows you to customize your packages, letting you add certain packages to your setup for a few extra dollars a month. This is all optional, however.
Here are the channels offered in the Sling Orange package as per the official website:
While these are the Sling Blue package channel options:
And as mentioned, aside from the base channels noted above, Sling also allows you to add these premium add-ons to your package, each for an additional $5 to $15~ a month, including:
- Comedy Extra (MTV, TruTV, Paramount Network, MTV2, CMT, LOGO, Game Show Network, TV Land, Revolt): $5/mo
- Kids (Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, TeenNick, Boomerang, BabyTV, DuckTV): $5/mo
- Sports Extra (NBAtv, SEC Network, PAC12 Network, ESPNU, ESPNews, NHL Network, Bein Sports, ESPN Goal Line, Bases Loaded, Stadium, OutsideTV, Motorsport.TV): $5/mo
- News Extra (BBC World News, theBlaze, HLN, Fusion, Euronews, News18, RT, CGTN, Sci): $5/mo
- Lifestyle (VH1, BET, Cooking Channel, DIY, FYI, Hallmark, WE TV, Lifetime Movies, Hallmark Drama, Vibrant, Afro, ZLiving): $5/mo
- Hollywood Extra (Fandor, Reelz, HDNet Movies, Sundance TV, TCM, Cinemoi, The Film Detective): $5/mo
- Heartland Extra (World Fishing Network, Sportsman Channel, Outdoor Channel, RideTV, RFDTV, Pixl, Cowboy Channel, American Heroes, Destination America): $5/mo
- Best of Spanish (estrellaTV, azteca, ESPN Deportes, Cine Latino, Sony, History en Espanol, and more): $5/mo
- Cloud DVR (record 50 hours of live TV): $5/mo
- Cinemax: $10/mo
- Showtime: $10/mo
- HBO: $15/mo
- Starz: $9/mo
A very simple package can start at $25 a month, but as you can see, adding multiple premium packages could easily increase your bill to more than $75+ a month. The price you pay will greatly depend on your viewing habits.
But for top channels, such as ESPN, CNN, TBS and HGTV, it’s hard to beat this price.
- Website: Sling TV
Hulu ($7.99+ a month)
Hulu used to only be known for its on-demand platform, which started at $7.99 per month with limited commercials (they still offer this), but as of late, they recently added Hulu with Live TV, with plans starting at $39.99 a month.
Offering 50+ channels in the $39.99 a month package, as seen below in the screenshot, Hulu, as part of the Live package, also lets you stream full seasons of series, hit movies, Hulu Originals and more as part of the price just like the $7.99 per month package.
There are no hidden fees, no equipment rentals and no installation appointments.
And if you want even more, Hulu offers the following premium add-ons just like Sling:
- Entertainment Add-on (AHC, CNBC World, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, FYI, Lifetime Movies, SCI): $7.99/mo
- Espanol Add-on (CNN, Discovery, Familia Discovery, ESPN Deportes, History en Espanol, NBC Universo): $4.99/mo
- HBO: $14.99/mo
- Cinemax: $9.99/mo
- Showtime: $10.99/mo
- STARZ: $8.99/mo
Hulu without Live TV, on the other hand, offers full seasons of exclusive series, current episodes, Hulu Originals, movies, kids shows and hundreds of more options. Unlike the Live TV package, though, all of this content will be on demand, but it could be a good choice if you don’t mind waiting a few days for your favorite TV show to pop up and don’t want to watch live TV.
Of course, this is all based on your personal preferences.
In some cases, Hulu offers promotions, like many of these streaming services, which could save you even more or even include a freebie, so be sure to see if you can save when signing up.
In the end, if you don’t mind watching just on-demand programming, then it’s best to budget $7.99 with limited commercials or $39.99+ a month in the case you do want live TV programming.
- Website: Hulu
DirecTV Stream ($59+ a month)
DirecTV Stream, much like the satellite option without the satellite, of course, is a streaming-only option and offers quite a few packages. And, while DirecTV Stream used to be a fantastic option, they recently changed their channel programming in 2019 and increased the prices quite a bit.
The company focuses on two main plans, its Ultimate, and Premier channel lineup, but you can also choose from a variety of other channel packages which I list below as well.
Here’s a glance at the additional channel packages along with the pricing:
Be sure to follow this link to see the full lineup of channels. I had a hard time completing a screenshot, the main reason I couldn’t show them all here.
DirecTV Stream used to be a great choice as a cable alternative, but since this hefty price increase, many cord cutters recommend choosing YouTube TV and/or Philo instead.
- Website: DirecTV Stream
PlayStation Vue ($44.99+ a month)
NOTE: DISCONTINUING as of January 2020
Don’t be confused by the name because YOU DON’T need a PlayStation in order to subscribe to Playstation Vue app.
This is a common misconception, so do add it to your list if you like what you hear.
Offering four packages, starting at $44.99 per month, all packages come with local channels, DVR capabilities and the ability to sign up five family profiles.
Like AT&T TV, there are a lot of channel options, so I will break down the channels via the screenshots below:
And again, premium add-on channels are available for an additional fee, including:
- HBO: $15/mo (included in Ultra package)
- Showtime: $10.99/mo (included in Ultra package)
- Cinemax: $15/mo
- HBO/Cinemax: $21.99/mo
- Epix Hits/Showtime: $13.99/mo
- Fox Soccer Plus: $14.99/mo
- Sports Pack: $10/mo
- FX+: $5.99/mo
- Epix Hits: $3.99/mo
- Espanol Pack: $4.99/mo
With four total plan options, plan on budgeting at least $44.99 for the lowest priced option, but even at this price, the channel offerings are quite competitive to most of the companies I do list here, so it may be one to consider if you’re looking for the most channel options.
As one of the most popular streaming options on the market, and for good reason, I highly encourage you to pay close attention to this option as it is highly recommended by the cord cutting community.
- Website: Playstation Vue
YouTube TV ($40+ a month)
YouTube TV offers up to six accounts per household, more than 60+ channels, including locals, and a cloud DVR with no storage limits, all for $40 a month. In terms of offerings, it’s a great value for the money.
And as a relatively newcomer to the streaming space, YouTube TV offers quite the channel lineup (as seen in the screenshot below) as well as many premium add-ons if you choose to add them.
Plus, the unlimited DVR is a huge sell as most of these companies have limits.
YouTube TV Channel Lineup
And as for the premium options, you can also add the following to the $40 a month base package:
- AMC Premier: $5/mo
- CuriosityStream: $3/mo
- Fox Soccer Plus: $15/mo
- NBA League Pass: $40/mo
- Showtime: $7/mo
- Shudder: $5/mo
- Starz: $9/mo
- Sundance Now: $7/mo
Commonly offering a free trial for a week or two, be sure to enter your zip code on the main website to see what channels are available in your area and test it out.
- Website: YouTube TV
Fubo TV ($44.99+ a month)
With more than 100+ channels, including popular sports networks, fuboTV offers two popular channel packages (channels listed below) including a lot of great channels you probably already watch: fubo at $44.99 a month or fubo Extra at $49.99 a month. This price, however, can often be much less during their promotional periods.
The company frequently offers free trials and discounted rates from time to time, so this price could be less if you’re signing up for the first time. This will be noted on the main website.
fubo channel lineup
fubo Extra channel lineup
And if you want to add additional channels/features, fuboTV offers the following add-on options:
- Cloud DVR Plus: $9.99/mo
- Family Share: $5.99/mo
- fubo Cycling (5 channels): $11.99/mo
- International Sports Plus (4 channels): $5.99/mo
- Sports Plus (17 channels): $8.99/mo
- Adventure Plus (5 channels): $4.99/mo
- NBA League Pass: $28.99/mo
- SHOWTIME: $10.99/mo
- AMC Premier: $4.99/mo
- FX Plus: $5.99/mo
- RAI Italia: $7.99/mo
- Portuguese Plus (3 channels): $14.99/mo
- Latino Plus (10 channels): $7.99/mo
Aside from the two channel lineups mentioned above, fuboTV also offers fubo Latino for $17.99 a month and fubo Portugues for $19.99 a month as well.
Again, check out the official website to take advantage of a free trial and/or a special discounted monthly offer.
- Website: fuboTV
AT&T Watch App ($15+ a month)
The AT&T Watch App is rather simple, offering 30+ live channels (shown below) and 15,000 on-demand titles, all for a low price of $15 per month.
But if you already have an AT&T Unlimited & More plan, then you can activate and start watching it as part of your phone plan package.
As you can see, the channels are limited, but the inclusions are quite good, including the likes of A&E, CNN and TLC. More than enough to keep you entertained for a low price.
Do keep in mind that local channels and regional sports networks are not included with the package and premium add-ons can be added for an additional charge. But again, you can get your locals through an antenna.
- Website: AT&T Watch App
On-Demand TV Streaming Services
Aside from the live streaming services mentioned above, I also wanted to include the most popular on-demand streaming services.
These services will not offer live TV programming but can still keep you entertained as you will have instant access to thousands of movies/TV shows, with hundreds added monthly.
Amazon Prime Video ($12.99* a month)
If you’re already a Prime member, then you may already know that you can gain access to thousands of movies, TV shows, documentaries, Amazon originals and so much more through Amazon Prime Video.
Now, what sets Amazon apart from the rest of these on-demand services is that you will get much more than just TV shows and movies if you sign up with Prime.
As an Amazon Prime member at $12.99 a month or $119 annually, not only will you get Prime Video access, but you will get free two-day shipping, unlimited music streaming, unlimited photo storage, unlimited reading AND same-day delivery on eligible products.
First-time users can take advantage of a 30-day free trial to start.
- Website: Amazon Prime Video
Netlflix ($7.99+ a month)
Quite possibly the king of all on-demand TV streaming services, Netflix offers thousands of television shows, documentaries, original series (House of Card and Orange is the New Black, etc), movies and so much more, all on demand.
With three plans available — Basic, Standard and Premium — the lowest package starts at $7.99, whereas the highest-tiered plan retails for $13.99 a month. You can even get it for free if you follow a few of these tips.
While all packages offer the same content, the biggest differences are the number of screens you want to watch at once and if you have access to HD.
For example, the Basic plan only lets you stream one screen at once, whereas the Premium option lets you stream up to four. Refer to the screenshot below for all inclusions.
Netflix is extremely tough to beat, especially for the price, and while it isn’t live programming, you would be quite surprised at how many shows and movies are on the platform to keep you entertained.
And, if you already know a lot about Netflix (which I’m sure you do), then you may want to check out these 25+ Netflix alternatives I posted in the past.
- Website: Netflix
Channel Specific Streaming Services
CBS All Access ($5.99+ a month)
The CBS All Access app lets you stream more than 10,000 CBS episodes, Live TV plus all of the CBS All Access Originals, all from a streaming device.
And while you can stream a lot of shows on their official website, you will have to watch a full set of commercials. So if commercials aren’t your thing and you LOVE CBS programming, it may be worth the price.
I would say the app is only really worth it if you’re a HUGE fan of CBS programming and want access to the entire library, but if you want it just for the live programming, then it’s to consider putting the $5.99 toward Hulu, for instance, or considering an over-the-air antenna I mentioned earlier if you’re interested in watching CBS live.
- Website: CBS All Access app
HBO Now ($14.99 a month)
HBO Now is a standalone streaming service that DOES NOT require a cable service, unlike HBO GO that’s part of your cable provider’s subscription package. That’s the biggest difference between the two, but keep in mind both apps are the SAME.
With HBO Now, you will get all of HBO’s series and live HBO episodes, all from a streaming device.
So if you’re a fan of HBO programming and want nothing else, then it may be a streaming service to consider. The price is $14.99 a month and no cable subscription is required.
However, if you want other channels, then you may be better off subscribing to one of the live TV streaming services I mentioned prior, such as Hulu, AT&T TV, etc, as you can add HBO for as little as $5 a month.
- Website: HBO Now
Starz ($10.99 a month)
Starz, like HBO, offers its own streaming service, known as the Starz Direct app.
The app offers unlimited access to all movies and TV shows, both current and from the past, all on demand.
And if you subscribe to the Direct app, like HBO, then you don’t need a cable provider to confirm your subscription.
The app will cost $10.99 a month, but the channel frequently offers free trials and special offers for first-time subscribers.
- Website: Starz
Showtime ($10.99 a month)
Yet another popular movie channel, Showtime has its own app as well that anyone can subscribe to — SHOWTIME.
The app offers full access to all Showtime content, all commercial free. Plus, subscribers can download full episodes and movies to watch offline at a later time.
After the free seven-day trial, the app does cost $10.99 a month, but you can cancel at any time.
Again, like Starz and HBO, you will not need a cable subscription in order to subscribe to the app.
- Website: SHOWTIME
ESPN+ isn’t said to be a replacement for the actual channel; rather, it should be looked at as an app that provides premium ESPN content.
On this app, you can watch exclusive live events, original studio shows as well as acclaimed series that you won’t find on the ESPN channel.
Subscribers can purchase UFC PPV events as well as have access to an extensive archive of on-demand content.
The app costs $4.99 a month, but you can bundle with Hulu and Disney+ and pay $12.99 a month.
- Website: ESPN+
Disney+ is a newer on-demand service, similar to that of Netflix. The only difference here is that all of the content is Disney related.
From Disney movies to Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic, you can gain access to hundreds of TV shows and movies on demand. As a subscriber, you will have access to the entire Disney movie vault, all Pixar movies as well as the entire season of The Simpsons. Much more is included such as more than 5,000 episodes found on the Disney Channel and even original shows.
The company does offer a one-week free trial. After that, it’s $6.99 per month, but a discounted annual fee is available as well.
- Website: Disney+
In the end, there’s no right or wrong answer because we all have different viewing habits, right?
For me, I love sports and would personally want an option that allows me to watch games live, so AT&T TV could work out great.
But on the other hand, if you love Hallmark and Lifetime and don’t care for sports and don’t mind using an antenna for live TV, then the Philo could be a great low-cost option.
Regardless of which option you consider, all of these, even if you were to add premium add-ons, would be MUCH less than a satellite dish provider.
Write down all of the channels you like to watch and then compare the various live streaming options mentioned above.
Or in the case you just want a streaming service, then I would just recommend you subscribe to Netflix and Amazon combined to keep you busy for months.
Also, don’t forget to check out the 24+ ways to get cable TV for FREE… legally. It’s a really good read and can be a great option for those who don’t want to spend a dime but still want a ton of programming to watch.
For now, these streaming services are here to stay, and as more competitors enter the space, I will be sure to add them to the list!
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