When it comes to services that help you save money, traditional cable is never on that list. Most people despise that monthly cable bill, even if they enjoy watching television, as the cost often seems extreme compared to the value and many feel like they’re paying for channels they don’t even use. But what are some cheaper cable TV alternatives?
This general disdain for overpriced basic cable television services has spurred a new market of options and features that function as alternatives to cable TV and satellite TV. In fact, according to a recent Forbes study, the cable tv cancellation rate in 2020 was 15%, and 27% (!) in 2021. This isn’t surprising given that over 65% of viewing time is devoted to streaming services as opposed to only 28% for traditional TV.
But these days, there are so many options that it can actually be hard to choose. It’s no longer just about the channels. Other features that have a big influence are options such as parental controls, how many devices can stream at the same time, the DVR capacity, whether there is video conferencing, etc.
To be considered a great alternative to cable and satellite TV, the service needs to be affordable and offer a reasonable amount of programming for the cost. Luckily, there are quite a few options that meet those criteria. I’ve included live TV streaming services as well as those offering on-demand content.
Best Alternatives to Cable TV
Here are 18 cable tv alternatives you can sign up for today:
- 🏆 Philo: Best Overall
- YouTube TV
- Sling TV
- Disney Plus
- Apple TV+
- Amazon Prime Video
- Local Networks with an Antenna
- Television Channels Online
- YouTube Premium
- Premium Channel Online Subscriptions
- The Local Library
Philo launched its nationwide streaming service in 2017, so it’s a relative newcomer to the video streaming scene. With a $25 monthly subscription rate for 64 channels, Philo offers one of the cheapest options as a cable TV alternative. However, Philo does not have a lot of news channels or sports channels, so you’ll want to look at other options if those are must-haves for you.
Philo allows you to stream three devices at the same time and create up to ten different accounts. They offer unlimited DVR and also a free 7-day trial to test the waters. For you movie-lovers, Philo also offers affordable add-ons, such as Reelz and Sony Movies for $3/mo, the EPIX package for $6/mo, or the Starz package for $9/mo.
The standard channels Philo offers include:
- BBC America
- Comedy Central
- Discovery Channel
- Food Network
- Hallmark Channel
- … and many more!
Watch live, save unlimited shows to watch later, or browse a huge library of content available on-demand. 60+ Channels for $20/month. Start your 7-day trial today.
LEARN MORE: Read our full Philo review
PRICE: $6 – $65
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content Basic Service; 75+ Live
TRIAL: 30-day for basic; 7-day for Live TV
Hulu is one of the best streaming services available and an affordable alternative to cable TV and satellite TV.
Not only is there original Hulu content (The Handmaid’s Tale, PEN15, Nine Perfect Strangers), but you can also view shows from local channels and some cable networks soon after they air on this streaming platform. They also offer Hulu Live TV options.
All of Hulu’s packages allow for two streaming devices, up to six user profiles, and access to all Hulu Originals. Hulu (No Ads) allows you to download any Hulu content onto your own device.
Hulu does offer parental controls by setting up a separate profile for your children. You can also set up a PIN protection for extra security.
The best part about Hulu is that they have options for every budget, letting you decide what features or channels for which you’re willing to pay. There are many bundle options available with Hulu, including HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz, allowing you to save on other streaming apps.
|Basic||No Ads||Disney Bundle||Hulu + Live TV|
+ Disney Plus
+ ESPN+ (live sports)
|65+ live channels
Hulu also offers a deal for Students at $1.99/mo!
PRICE: $70 – $100
CHANNELS: 125 – 210
FREE TRIAL: 7-day
fuboTV is a cord-cutting option that provides access to 164 channels in their “Elite” plan starting at $79.99 per month. This includes all the major sports, entertainment, and local channels you could want. Additional add-ons are available for those desiring more premium options like SHOWTIME, STARZ, and Regional Sports packages.
Here are the different package options for fuboTV:
- Pro Quarterly: $70/mo for 125 channels, 1,000 hours of Cloud DVR, Unlimited screens
- Elite Quarterly: $80/mo for 176 channels, fubo Extra (39 more channels), News Plus (12 extra channels), 1,000 hours of Cloud DVR, Unlimited screens
- Ultimate Quarterly: $100/mo for 210 channels, fubo Extra (39 more channels), News Plus (12 extra channels), SHOWTIME® live + on demand, NFL Redzone, 1000 hours of Cloud DVR, Unlimited screens at once
- Latino Quarterly: $33/mo for 43 channels, 250 hours of Cloud DVR, 2 screens at once. There is no free trial with this package and is prepaid every 3 months at $99.
Also note that currently, fuboTV doesn’t offer any parental controls, which is an obvious omission. We’ll keep this blog updated in case that ever changes. There are no contracts with fuboTV and you can cancel at any time.
If you’re looking for a streaming service with no contracts or hidden fees, check out fuboTV.
PRICE: $10/mo or $100/yr for No Ads
CHANNELS: Huge library of on-demand shows + live stream of local CBS stations
FREE TRIAL: 7-day
Paramount+ is a TV streaming service that replaced CBS All Access in March, 2021. For only $50 per year on the ad-supported Essential Plan, you can stream 100+ channels including CBS, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Network, plus the Paramount Pictures movie studio.
Paramount+ offers a slightly higher premium membership for $10, which removes all advertisements. Since Paramount is still a relatively new live streaming service, there may be changes in their offerings and pricing in the near future. At less than $10 per month, this is a great option compared to basic cable.
Paramount+ also has discounted pricing (28% off) for the Showtime Bundle packages. Essential Plan + Showtime for $12/mo or $120/yr or Premium Plan + Showtime for $15/mo or $150/yr.
CHANNELS: 50 channels + On-demand content
Peacock is NBC’s streaming platform that launched in 2020. It comes with three tiers: Free, Premium, and Plus.
The free version gives you access to 50 channels and a ton of current and old shows and movies from studios like Universal and Dreamworks. You can watch new episodes of NBC shows a week after they air.
At $4.99 a month, the premium plan unlocks more on-demand content. For example, the free version lets you watch the first 5 seasons of The Office, while Peacock Plus unlocks the whole series and bonus content. It also gives you access to all of the platform’s live sports events and next-day viewing of the current NBC and Bravo series.
The Plus plan costs $9.99 a month and lets you watch content without ads and download some titles for offline viewing.
PRICE: $10 – $20
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: None
Netflix has a breadth of original content that even outshines its non-original offerings, winning 44 Emmys this year with hit shows like The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit. Not to mention, recent hit series like Squid Game and You have been widely talked about. Netflix has increased its spending on original content by 40% over the last year and it’s showing in the award circuit.
Netflix couples its great content with a ton of great features. It’s both highly affordable and incredibly accessible. Nearly any internet-connected device can be used to watch Netflix and you can watch up to four simultaneous streams, depending on the plan you choose. The ability to download your favorite shows and watch them offline is a great feature.
There are multiple pricing plans to choose from, starting at $9.99 a month for the Basic Plan, $15.49 for the Standard Plan, and $19.99 for the Premium Plan. The Standard Plan allows you two simultaneous streams and HD resolution. The Premium Plan allows for Ultra HD and up to four simultaneous streams. And every option is commercial-free, which is certainly a bonus. Plus, you can create multiple viewer profiles on a signal account, allowing you to separate each household member’s list and recommendations from everyone else.
However, Netflix does not offer live TV or sports, so for most folks, this is an additional streaming service on top of a more traditional alternative such as YouTube TV or Sling TV.
7. YouTube TV
SERVICE: YouTube TV
CHANNELS: 85+ broadcast and cable network channels
FREE TRIAL: 2 weeks
YouTube TV lets you stream live and local sports, news, and shows from 85+ channels including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, HGTV, CNBC, and TNT. This service launched in 2017 and quickly became one of the best alternatives to cable TV. For you sports lovers, YouTube TV also includes the NFL, NBA, and MLB networks.
YouTube TV is available anywhere you go, on any device, and allows you to have three concurrent watching sessions. This is perfect if you have multiple TVs in the family or multiple devices in use at the same time. Perfect for family sharing!
One feature that stands out for YouTube TV amongst other competitors is the unlimited Cloud DVR storage for 9 months. Fill up that library with as many shows and events as you want! The Library has categories such as Shows, Movies, and Sports that make it easy to navigate your favorite TV shows and movies.
YouTube TV also has a channel guide, similar to basic cable. What’s nice about this channel guide is the ability to custom-sort the listings so your favorite channels are grouped how you want at the top of the listings.
Another cool feature I love is the preview streaming of each channel in the channel guide, so you know exactly what is playing as you surf the guide. Also, on some devices, you can even play it live or start from the beginning of the program.
There are no hidden fees with YouTube TV. You can cut the cord and easily save $500 or more per year on cable fees.
8. Sling TV
SERVICE: Sling TV
CHANNELS: 30+ or 50+
TRIAL: 3 days
Sling TV is a streaming service that operates more like actual cable or satellite television, making it a great option for those looking to cut the cord. They offer three packages (two actually, with the third option being a combination of the first two).
- The Orange package, available for $35, includes 31 live channels, including popular ones like HGTV, ESPN, and Disney. Its lineup is geared towards college sports and families. This package only allows one device to stream.
- The Blue package from Sling TV contains 41 channels and is also $35; however, it consists of more news and entertainment channels and doesn’t include ESPN. It also allows you three devices for streaming.
- The Orange and Blue package is a combination of both the above packages. It’s $50 per month and includes 47 channels. The number of allowed streaming devices depends on if the channels are originally from the Orange or Blue package.
Each package includes 50 hours of DVR storage. Also note that to watch local coverage like news and sports, you’ll need to pair an HD antenna with your Sling TV subscription.
There are also several other add-ons (like Showtime) that give you the ability to customize your service a bit. Sling TV is probably the closest thing to an à la carte television service available, so it’s worth exploring.
Sling also offers the Sling Watch Party (think Netflix Party for those of you familiar with that platform). This allows you to watch live TV while video chatting with up to three friends or family members.
Additional Offers to Choose From:
- SHOWTIME features eight different channels and is available for $10 per month to new and existing Sling TV customers.
- Sports Extra offers 14 channels for $11/mo including NBA TV, NHL Network, MLB Network, ESPNews, and many other collegiate channels.
- Get a Chromecast with Google TV when you sign up for Sling and prepay for 1 month.
9. Disney Plus
SERVICE: Disney Plus
PRICE: $7.99/mo or $79.99/yr
CHANNELS: On-demand content
Disney Plus gives you access to most titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, along with some 20th Century Fox titles. This includes all the classics from the Disney vault and Disney Channel original movies and series.
Sports fans can save by bundling Disney Plus with Hulu and ESPN+ for $14 a month. Just note that ESPN+ is its own app and doesn’t include access to ESPN2’s live content.
Disney Plus lets download any show or movie in its library to watch on the go. You get unlimited downloads on up to 10 devices that you can keep as long as you’re subscribed. You can also watch on four screens at once.
All of Disney Plus’s content is also ad-free and more than 300 of its titles are available in 4k UHD and HDR. While some platforms charge for these upgraded features, both are free.
10. Apple TV+
SERVICE: Apple TV+
PRICE: $5 per month
CHANNELS: On-demand content
FREE TRIAL: 7 days
At only $5/mo, Apple TV+ has made quite the inroads with hit shows like Ted Lasso and Schmigadoon! This is a fairly new service so there isn’t a deep legacy of shows and movies to choose from, but the library of original content is being built up and is getting rave reviews.
Apple TV+ is a streaming service only and not to be confused with the Apple TV streaming device or the Apple TV app. Apple TV+ offers a free 7-day trial and is ad-free and is all available in 4K. You can watch 6 screens at the same time and downloads last for 30 days.
If you recently bought a new Apple device, you likely received a free year of access to Apple TV+ (must be activated within 3 months of purchase). It is also offered as part of bundle plans such as Apple One which includes Apple TV+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, iCloud+, Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+ for $14.99/mo. Apple music subscribers on a student plan also receive free access to Apple TV+.
PRICE: $7 (bundled options may add to price)
Are you one of the many millennials that only have cable TV for sports? Consider that ESPN+ offers a standalone service to stream thousands of live sports, commentary shows, and ESPN+ originals for only $6.99 per month.
Need a little more? Bundle with Hulu and Disney Plus for only $13.99 per month. For many, this is the cord-cutter’s dream, offering access to a wide range of shows for just a fraction of what a typical cable company or satellite service provider charges.
Pro Tip: Save with a yearly plan at $69.99 (that’s a savings of over 15%)!
There are also options for those wanting to tack on UFC pay-per-view at a deep discount for new and existing subscribers.
12. Amazon Prime Video
SERVICE: Amazon Prime Video
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: 30-day
If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you already get access to their alternative to cable: Amazon Prime Video. Amazon Video used to be a stand-alone service, but now it is only bundled in their full membership offering, which is $12.99 per month.
Like other streaming service giants, you gain access to a giant library of content and original programming. As a bonus, if something you want isn’t on Prime but is available through Amazon, you may have the ability to rent it, including single tv show episodes or even full channel options.
Amazon also has a great device called Amazon Fire TV Stick. You can use the Amazon Fire TV Stick as your main streaming console and log into multiple apps from the device menu.
13. Local Networks with an Antenna
PRICE: $0 (after hardware purchase)
FREE TRIAL: None
For those who want to scale back completely, consider an antenna.
HDTV antennas are fairly affordable (this one on Amazon has great reviews, a 130-mile range, and is less than $30) and much less intrusive than the rabbit ears of yore. Plus, thanks to digital television signals, the picture quality can be outstanding.
With an antenna, you can potentially pick up any local broadcast stations, such as:
… and more for absolutely nothing.
However, you may want to check to make sure you have a reasonable signal before making the switch, especially if you have a favorite show you don’t want to miss and live outside of a major city. From my experience, all HD antennas are tuned a little differently so you may need to try at least a couple to see which one is best in your home (and keep your receipts!).
The benefit of using an antenna as a cable TV alternative is that you don’t need internet service either. You can cut the cord entirely and still keep up with network news and shows… all for free.
14. Television Channels Online
SERVICE: CBS All Access
FREE TRIAL: 7-day
Most major television networks post recently aired tv show episodes of their leading shows online.
Each episode may only be available for a short time, and you may have to wait for a week or so after it originally airs on television, but it does give you the ability to watch without an additional cost.
When you start exploring your options, don’t be afraid to look at cable channels as well as networks. While ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox are obvious places to begin, many cable channels also have some of their content available online.
For example, HGTV and Comedy Central both have some of their content up for free online. However, you might not have access to recent shows or episodes, and some shows aren’t available at all without a subscription.
If you have a smart TV, you may be able to download the network’s app onto your television. This allows you to watch the show on your biggest screen without a subscription, making it a great alternative to cable and satellite TV.
Usually, the apps themselves are free. However, some networks offer paid subscription options to access certain shows or old tv show episodes.
But that doesn’t mean the cost isn’t potentially reasonable, depending on how many shows you may watch. For example, CBS All Access is available for as little as $5.99 per month (plus tax), which isn’t bad in comparison to the cost of cable.
15. YouTube Premium
SERVICE: YouTube Premium
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content Premium
FREE TRIAL: 30-day for Premium
The home of everything from viral videos to how-to guides to unique content from a plethora of creators, YouTube is the quintessential destination for free video-based entertainment.
And it’s not just home videos shared by someone you’ve never met; there’s professional-quality programming in nearly every genre.
YouTube also has a paid subscription option known as YouTube Premium. It includes original series and movies, as well as YouTube Music Premium, a newer streaming service. YouTube Premium also allows for Background Play, which allows you to listen to the audio of YouTube while you use other apps. Android takes it a step further and allows picture-in-picture.
The premium service also allows you to download any videos from YouTube, so you can watch them on your phone while offline.
The price tag for YouTube Premium is around $12, which is comparable to other video streaming companies.
16. Premium Channel Online Subscriptions
SERVICE: Premium Channel Online Subscriptions
PRICE: $9 – $15
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: Varies
It wasn’t long ago that the only way to watch programming from HBO, Showtime, and Starz was through add-on subscriptions on a cable package.
Now, these premium channels have their own online streaming services, usually for between $9 and $15 a month.
While you don’t get as much bang for your buck as you do with Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, it may be the only cable alternative for certain original series and movies anywhere close to their original air date.
17. DirecTV Stream
SERVICE: DirecTV Stream
PRICE: $75 – $95
CHANNELS: 45 – 125
FREE TRIAL: None
Formerly called ATT TV Now, DirecTV Stream gives you 65+ channels, Live TV, over 40,000 on-demand titles, and 20 hours of DVR storage.
The service, which runs between $70 and $95, depending on your package, is a no-contract alternative to satellite television (though priced about the same). An extra $10 per month gets you unlimited DVR storage. There is currently an ongoing promotion for free HBO Max for your first three months.
In total, you gain access to between 65 and 130 channels—including some premiums like HBO—making it one of the largest offerings that most closely mimics genuine cable. Parental controls are also available on DirecTV Stream.
18. Your Local Library
SERVICE: Local Library
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: Yes! Libraries are FREE!
Many local libraries have movies and television shows on DVD, and some even offer Blu-ray. But what most people don’t know is that there are apps that offer free streaming of TV shows and movies when connected to your local library account.
Borrowing and streaming is completely free as long as you’re eligible for a library card.
Hoopla is an app that can be downloaded on a streaming device such as an iPhone, iPad, Android, Fire TV, Roku, or Apple TV. Once you create a login and connect your library card, streaming available TV shows and movies is free.
Overdrive is another app for streaming videos available from your local library.
The only caveats are that your selection may be limited. These apps do not offer live TV channels like a cable subscription does. They are more for series TV and movies.
But, when the cost is $0, it isn’t as painful when that happens.
Quick Summary: Best Cable TV Alternatives
|Service:||Cost / month||Channels||Free Trial|
|Hulu||$7 – $70||60+ Live||30-day (basic), 7 days (live)|
|Paramount Plus||$10||100+||7 days|
|fuboTV||$65 – $100||125 – 210+||7 days|
|Peacock||$0 – $10||50+||None|
|Netflix||$10 – $20||On-demand content||30 days|
|YouTube TV||$65||85+||2 weeks|
|Sling TV||$35||32 or 50||3 days|
|Disney Plus||$7.99||On-demand content||None|
|Apple TV+||$5||On-demand content||7 days|
|Amazon Prime Video||$12.99||On-demand content||30 days|
|Local Networks with an Antenna||None||Varies locally||None|
|Television Channels Online||Varies||Varies weekly||None|
|YouTube Premium||$12||On-demand content||30 days|
|Premium Channel Online Subscriptions||$9 – $15||On-demand content||Varies|
|DirecTV Stream||$65 – $135||45 – 125+||7 days|
|The Local Library||Free||On-demand content||Free|
Cord Cutting FAQs
Before getting rid of your cable TV subscription, you might be wondering about some of these common questions…
Do you need the internet to abuse the best alternatives to cable?
Mostly, you do need the internet to use TV alternatives to cable and satellite TV. The only exceptions on this list are using an HDTV antenna or heading to your library, both of which give you the ability to watch movies and television shows while cutting the cord entirely.
However, there are free and cheap internet options available, and you can save a ton by ditching your television service subscription to a TV streaming service. Just be aware that cable and satellite companies will tout their service bundles to try and convince you to commit to multiple services when all you want is streaming TV.
While the promo or introductory prices may look attractive, they will go up when the initial period ends, so think long and hard about the potential consequences, especially if you have to sign a contract.
What is the least expensive way to watch TV?
Your local library (100% free for the cost of being a taxpayer) is the least expensive way to watch TV. A digital antenna is free after the cost of hardware installation. After that, the streaming services on this list are variously inexpensive. If you’re strategic about it, you can mix and match subscriptions to keep costs down depending on the sports season and what shows you’re currently binging.
What is the best streaming service?
The best streaming service is the one that suits your watching preferences the most. only you can determine that! But, we’ve done our best to give you our recommendations based on the best overall, best for sports, value, and original content below:
- Best Overall: We chose YouTube TV as the best overall streaming service. While it appears pricey on the surface, YouTube TV offers a very similar experience to cable TV (customizable channel guide, 85+ channels that provide broad coverage of channels to cover news, sports, shows, and movies, and an unlimited Cloud DVR for 9 months.
- fuboTV is a strong challenger to YouTube TV and has slightly more channels but I do enjoy the unlimited Cloud DVR from YouTube TV which I use to keep plenty of shows and movies in my queue. Also, while YouTube’s parental controls are limited (Restricted Mode on browsers), Fubo TV does not have any features for parental controls.
- Best Value: Despite a recent price hike to $25, Philo still offers great value but if you are fans of news and sports channels, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
- Best Sports: We chose Fubo TV as the best streaming option for Sports not only with its breadth of sports channels which include all 4 major sports networks and other common sports channels but also features many of its sports in 4k (as part of its base packages). Other streaming services like YouTube TV charge a fee for this feature.
- Best Original Content: Netflix has the best original content with shows like Cobra Kai, The Witcher, Emily in Paris, and Squid Game. There’s a reason why the majority of the most streamed shows are from Netflix. This being said, Apple TV+ which launched in late 2019 is starting to turn a lot of heads with its amazing original content.
Which streaming service is best for live TV?
If you want to watch live TV without paying for a cable TV package your best bet is YouTube TV. YouTube TV lets you stream live and local sports, news, and shows from 85+ channels including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, HGTV, CNBC, and TNT. On top of that, you’ll have access to all the content of the best YouTube streamers.
How do I get rid of cable?
Cutting the cord sounds deceptively simple: you call your service provider and ask to cancel your cable. But in reality, cable providers are highly motivated to keep their customers. They’ll try to convince you to stay by offering extra channels, low discounts, and tempting perks. Stay strong and just say no!
After that, it’s just a matter of doing your research and signing up for the best alternative for your lifestyle. The list above should help with that decision!
What are the worst cable TV alternatives?
It’s important to note that ALL cable TV alternatives have some type of downside. Either the pricing is too high (like fuboTV or YouTube TV) or perhaps it has limited channels or no live TV options (like Netflix). Every household has different watching preferences, which is why the best Cable TV alternative is a custom-built package by YOU. And the good news is because all these cable alternatives are fairly cheap, you can subscribe to a couple of them and still pay less monthly.
Just be careful not to subscribe to ALL of them. The reason most people are ditching cable is to save money, so getting hooked on too many new streaming services may actually worsen your monthly finances.
Good luck! And take advantage of those free trials!