16 Best Alternatives to Cable TV for 2021

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When it comes to services that help you save money, cable is never on that list. Most people despise that monthly bill, even if they enjoy watching television, as the cost often seems extreme compared to the value.

This general disdain for the price of television services spurred a new market of options that function as alternatives to cable tv and satellite tv.

Over time, people have adopted these cable alternatives, officially ditching cable and satellite television (cord cutters!) without having to miss out on their favorite shows.

But these days, there are so many options that it can actually be hard to choose.

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

Here are 15 alternatives to cable tv you can sign up for today:

  1. 🏆 Philo: Best Overall
  2. Sling TV
  3. Hulu
  4. fuboTV
  5. ESPN+
  6. Amazon Prime Video
  7. Paramount+
  8. Vudu
  9. Local Networks with an Antenna
  10. Television Channels Online
  11. YouTube Premium
  12. YouTube TV
  13. Netflix
  14. Premium Channel Online Subscriptions
  15. AT&T TV Now
  16. The Local Library

1. Philo

Philo is a streaming service for all your devices (computer, phone, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire), offers personalized profiles, and lets you DVR unlimited shows to watch up to 30 days later.

A relative newcomer to the video streaming scene, Philo gives you access to live tv access to cable channels at a fraction of the cost, making it one of the best alternatives to cable around.

Philo allows you to stream 3 devices at the same time and create up to 10 different accounts. They offer one package of 63 channels for $20/month. These channels include:

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • BBC America
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery Channel
  • Food Network
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • Lifetime
  • MTV
  • Nickelodeon
  • and many more…

PRICE: $20
TRIAL: 7-day
LEARN MORE: Read our full Philo review

2. Sling TV

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.

The “orange” package, available for $30, includes 30+ live channels, including popular ones like HGTV, ESPN, and Disney. Its lineup is geared towards sports and families.

The “blue” package from Sling TV contains 50+ channels and is also $30; however, it consists of more news and entertainment channels and doesn’t include ESPN. It also gives you 2 additional allowed devices for streaming. (Pro tip: Sign up for Sling TV “Blue” and ESPN+ below for only $4.99 more per month.)

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 à la carte television service available, so it’s worth exploring.

Limited Time Offer: Get a FREE TiVo Stream 4K ($49.99) when you subscribe and prepay for 2 months of SLING using the link below.

PRICE: $30
CHANNELS: 30+ or 50+
TRIAL: 3 days

3. Hulu

Hulu is one of the best streaming service available and an affordable alternatives to cable tv and satellite tv.

Not only is there original Hulu content, but you can also view shows from local channels and some cable networks soon after they air.

The best part about Hulu is that they have options for every budget, letting you decide what features or channels you’re willing to pay for. There are many bundle options available with Hulu also, allowing you to save on other streaming apps together.

Basic No Ads Bundle Live TV
on-demand content
on-demand content
on-demand content
+ Disney+
+ ESPN+ (live sports)
60+ live channels
+ ad-supported
on-demand content
$6 $12 $13 $65

It’s right in line with the original inspiration for the “cord-cutting” movement.

PRICE: $6 – $65
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content Basic Service; 60+ Live
TRIAL: 30-day for basic; 7-day for Live TV

4. fuboTV

fuboTV is a cord-cutting option that provides access to over 167 channels in their “Elite” plan starting at $79.99 / 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.

They also have a “Family” plan offering 122 channels for $64.99 per month. You are granted 3 simultaneous devices and 250GB of Cloud DVR.

The Family plan comes with a 7-day free trial option, while the Elite plan does not. There are no contracts with fuboTV and you can cancel any time.

If you’re looking for a streaming service with no contracts or hidden fees, check out fuboTV.

PRICE: $65 – $80
CHANNELS: 115 – 159+

5. ESPN+

Are you one of the many millennials that only has Cable TV for sports? Consider ESPN+ offers a standalone service to stream thousands of live sports, commentary shows and ESPN+ originals for only $5.99 per month.

Need a little more? Bundle with Hulu and Disney+ for only $12.99 per month. For many, this is the cordcutter’s dream, offering access to a wide range of shows for just a fraction of typical cable or satellite service providers.

Pro Tip: Save with a yearly plan at $49.99 (That’s less than $4.17 per month).

There are also options for those wanting to tack on UFC pay-per-view at a deep discount for new and existing subscribers.

PRICE: $6 (bundled options may add to price)

6. Amazon Prime Video

If you pay for Amazon Prime, you already have access to their alternative to cable: Amazon Prime Video. But, if you don’t need Prime shipping, you can pay for the service on its own for about $9 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 television episodes.

SERVICE: Amazon Prime Video
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: 30-day

7. Paramount+

Paramount+ is a TV streaming service that replaced CBS All Access in March 2021. For only $6 per month, you can stream 100+ channels including CBS, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Paramount Network, plus the Paramount Pictures movie studio.

Paramount+ offer a slightly higher premium membership for $10, which removes all advertisements.  Since Paramount is still a relatively new live streaming, 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.

SERVICE: Paramount Plus

8. Vudu

In an attempt to get in on the movie rental and content delivery game, Walmart created Vudu.

While they were a little late to the game when compared to other online content services, Vudu has been aggressive in using Walmart’s retail backing to grow and bring a quality product to market.

There are several features that make the service unique from many of the other video streaming services. First, there is a TON of free content that is supported by showing short ads.

This applies to both movies and full seasons of television shows. Both in the movies and television categories the best options to watch for free seem to be at least two years old. So you are not going to get the latest and greatest options for free and will have to purchase and rent those kinds of titles.

Second, for those who like to rent and do not care so much about picture quality, you can still rent many of the movies in the “Standard Definition” format for $1 less than the HD format. This is a great way to save money on getting movies for your kids since they don’t seem to even care if the movie is in English.

If you are a person that likes to physically own your movies, Walmart makes watching them amazingly easy.  If you purchase a physical copy that includes the digital copy you can order it on the Walmart website, have it delivered to your house, and watch the movie INSTANTLY on Vudu.

That’s a pretty cool way to sync the two business models.

PRICE: Varies
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content

9. Local Networks with an Antenna

For those who want to scale back completely, then consider an antenna.

HDTV antennas are fairly affordable (for example: this one on Amazon has great reviews, 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:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • NBC
  • FOX
  • CW

…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.

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.

SERVICE: Antenna
PRICE: $0 (after hardware purchase)

10. Television Channels Online

Most major television networks post recently aired 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 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.


11. YouTube 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.

The price tag for Youtube Premium service is around $12, which is comparable to other video streaming companies.

SERVICE: YouTube Premium
PRICE: $12
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content Premium
FREE TRIAL: 30-day for Premium

12. YouTube TV

YouTube TV lets you stream live & 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.

YouTube TV is available anywhere you go, on any device, and allows you to have 3 concurrent watching sessions. This is perfect if you have multiple TVs in the family, or multiple devices that are in use at the same time. Perfect for family sharing!

A couple other awesome features that YouTube TV offer is the unlimited ability to DVR and save recordings for up to 1 year (or more if renewed), and you can also set up a personal library of your favorite tv shows and movies. You can even custom-sort the listings in your channel guide so your favorite channels are grouped how you want.

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.

PRICE: $65
CHANNELS: 85+ broadcast and cable network channels
FREE TRIAL: 2 weeks

13. Netflix

Netflix is both highly affordable and incredibly accessible. Nearly any internet-connected device can be used to watch Netflix, so it’s about as convenient as possible.

There are multiple pricing plans to choose from, starting around $9 a month. However, every option is commercial-free, which is certainly a bonus.

Along with a massive library of movies and television shows, you also gain access to original series and movies.

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.

SERVICE: Netflix
PRICE: $14 – $18
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: 30-day

14. Premium Channel Online Subscriptions

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 alternative to cable for certain original series and movies anywhere close to their original air date.

SERVICE: Premium Channel Online Subscriptions
PRICE: $9 – $15
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content

15. AT&T TV Now

Once DirecTV figured out that the best way to beat the streaming services was actually to join them, AT&T TV Now entered the mix.

The service, which runs between $65 and $135, depending on your package, is a no-contract alternative to satellite television (though priced about the same).

In total, you gain access to between 45 and 125 channels – including some premiums like HBO – making it one of the largest offerings that most closely mimics genuine cable.

PRICE: $65 – $135
CHANNELS: 45 – 125

16. Your Local Library

Many local libraries have movies and television shows on DVD, and some even offer BluRay. 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 are 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.

SERVICE: Local Library
CHANNELS: On-Demand Content
FREE TRIAL: Yes! Libraries are FREE

Quick Summary: Best Alternatives to Cable TV

Service: Cost / month Channels Free Trial
Philo $20 60+ 7 days
Sling TV $30 30 or 50 3 days
Hulu $6 – $65 60+ Live
30 day (basic), 7 day (live)
fuboTV $65 – $80 115 – 159+ 7 days
Amazon Prime Video $9 On-demand content 30 days
Paramount Plus $6 100+ 7 days
Vudu Varies On-demand content None
Digital Antenna None Varies locally None
YouTube Premium $12 On-demand content 30 days
YouTube TV $65 85+ 2 weeks
Netflix $14 – $18 On-demand content 30 days
Premium Channel Online Subscriptions $9 – $15 On-demand content Varies
AT&T TV Now $65 – $135 45 – 125+ 7 days
The Local Library Free On-demand content Free

Do You Need Internet to Use the Best Alternatives to Cable?

How much are you paying for cable tv? Do you really need to spend that much? Here are the best alternatives to cable tv.Mostly, you do need the internet to use 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.

Just be aware that cable and satellite companies will tout their service bundles to try and convince you to commit to multiple services.

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.

Read Comments

  • Comment Author image blank Cheryl says:

    I watch a lot of tv since I’m retired and quarantined but I can no longer afford to pay $83 for internet and another 100. For cable. I only watch 22 channels total and that includes local channels so I’m trying to figure out what my best alternative is. I’m on a very small fixed income and can’t keep paying these prices but this is my main activity and I can’t imagine not having something to watch.

  • Comment Author image blank Mike says:

    Hi. Wife and I are retired. I watch very little TV, wife watches the local stations, ie: ABC,NBC,CBS,FOX and a few independents. Would like NG Wild, OAN, and perhaps 1 or 2 other premiums. Trying to ditch Directv and lower out cost. Is there a site you can direct me to that spells out what is what. Old guy, new ideas lost on me. Need somewhat to understand this enough to make a proper decision. Can you help??

  • Comment Author image blank Bill Story says:

    Our home has multiple Comcast Adapter Boxes, allowing for different channel selections by numerous household members. Is there an option which will allow 4-5 TVs to have different channels being viewed simultaneously. I want to move away from Comcast, however afraid of this issue,


  • Comment Author image blank Charli Herrera says:

    Looking to cut cable but I’m very hesitant! I want to save money who doesn’t! Which one would you recommend?! We get Netflix paid for by our cell phone company. We also have show box (free download on cell phone devices you can stream on smart tv’s) However neither seem to be enough as I have 4 children (each have their own TV) a TV in the living room and my bedroom! I need something user friendly that even my 6 year old can figure out and simply navigate! So 6 devices total (Netflix is up to 4) Maybe I’m over thinking that we are going to miss cable too much!?!

  • Comment Author image blank John Rainey says:

    This is a great article! I needed a basic uncomplicated article that explains what all the non-cables services are all about. As my services have gone up with no additional services, I want to cut the cord. this is a very good overview. Thank you!

  • Comment Author image blank Micki Weitzel says:

    I pay $72.00 for my internet alone and $220.00 for my Directv package! I am definitely switching how I watch tv. Thanks so much for the tips and information.

  • Comment Author image blank Kenneth D Aston Jr says:

    Your bill might go down but these streaming services add up. I only pay $77.71 for internet only then add Netflix, Sling, Amazon Prime., and my Xbox Live which I need to use to stream and play games, I am back up to over $100 a month

    • Grant Sabatier Grant Sabatier says:

      Thanks Kenneth. Yeah they can definitely add up. $77.71 seems like a lot for internet these days.

  • Comment Author image blank Ellen Pleasants says:

    Great post! After contentious relationships with FiOs and Xfinity, I’m switching to one of the alternatives you listed. I had thought the only alternative was Roku.. Now I have a whole menu to choose from. Thanks.

  • Comment Author image blank Donna Deverona says:

    This is a great read! I’ve been hitting a bunch of articles about cutting the cable, so to speak. I was doing a check on the channels I had and fully 95% of them I never watch. Even if I took a combination of your top 12 I’d still be at 50% of my ridiculously expensive cable bill with Comcast. I appreciate the Intel

  • Comment Author image blank Nuck Buckner says:

    Good reading. We dropped cable about 7 years ago and initially, we used a very nice network tuner which beams free OTA channels through the home. It also has DVR capability, Jeopardy! must not be missed. Then, through a series of fortunate circumstance, we group share one or more of the pay to stream services with family. We also discovered that through our cellular network, we could get another company’s service as part of the cellular company’s partnering. We spend less than 10% of what the cable bill used to be. We have really improved our lives but not watching some of the utter rubbish we used to pay for. I will never go back.

  • Comment Author image blank Matt @ Millennial Mutiny says:

    Great post Thomas. We are finding that we almost never watch cable anymore and watch Netflix almost all the time.

    Our cable package runs around $35 a month, where as netflix is only $8. The cable package is going to be cancelled at the end of the year.

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