13 Best Alternatives to Cable TV for 2019

Grant Sabatier

Creator of Millennial Money and Author of Financial Freedom (Penguin Random House). Dubbed "The Millennial Millionaire" by CNBC, Grant went from $2.26 to over $1 million in 5 years, reaching financial independence at age 30. Grant has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, NPR, Money Magazine and many others.

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How much are you paying for cable tv? Do you really need to spend that much? Here are the best alternatives to cable tv.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 each and every time.

This general disdain for the price of television services actually spurred a new industry, additional viewing options that function as alternatives to cable and satellite tv.

Over time, people have learned to use these approaches to officially ditch cable and satellite television without having to miss out on their favorite shows.

Best Alternatives to Cable

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.

If you want to lower or eliminate that burdensome tv bill, here are the 12 best alternatives to cable for 2019.

1. Hulu

Hulu is one of the most affordable alternatives to cable and satellite tv.

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

The baseline service comes in at a reasonable $8 per month, though you do have to tolerate some highly repetitive ads if you choose this option.

If the ads get under your skin, for a $12 a month, you can upgrade to the commercial-free service.

Recently, Hulu also added a live TV plan starting at around $40 per month. With this plan, you can watch a show right when it airs as well as enjoy on-demand entertainment.

Sign Up With Hulu!

2. 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.

Sign up with Vudu!

3. Local Networks with an Antenna

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

HDTV antennas are fairly affordable 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 an alternative to cable tv 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.

4. 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.

5. YouTube

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 the service is around $12, which is comparable to other video streaming companies.

6. 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 $8 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.

7. Amazon Prime Video

If you pay for Amazon Prime, you already have access to one of the best alternatives to cable available: Amazon Prime Video. But, even if you don’t need Prime shipping, you can also pay for the service on its own for about $9 per month.

Like other streaming 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.

8. 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.

9. Sling TV

Sling TV operates more like actual cable or satellite television, making it a great option for those looking to cut the cord.

The basic package, available for about $20, includes 30 live channels, including popular ones like HGTV, ESPN, and Disney.

There are also several other line-ups and add-ons 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.

10. Philo

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

Philo offers one package of 58 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…

Additionally, Philo is available for streaming on all your devices – such as your computer, TV, phone, and TV Everywhere apps.

Making the offer even sweeter is the free 7-day trial they are currently offering.

Start Your 7 Day Free Trial with Philo

11. DirecTV Now

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

The service, which runs between $35 and $70, depending on your package, is a no-contract alternative to satellite television.

In total, you gain access to between 60 and 120 channels, making it one of the largest offerings that most closely mimics genuine cable.

12. PlayStation VUE

Similar to DirecTV Now, PlayStation VUE offers multiple packages between $30 and $64 a month, ranging from 45 to 90 channels.

Unlike many of the other services, HBO and Showtime are included in the higher end plan, making it worth exploring for anyone who would want these premium channels.

13. The Local Library

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

Borrowing one is completely free as long as you are eligible for a library card, and you usually have a generous return window too.

The only caveats are that your selection may be limited and other borrowers may not have been kind to the DVD when they borrowed it, so some of them may not work.

But, when the cost is $0, it isn’t as painful when that happens.

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

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, even if you do have to pay for internet, that doesn’t mean you can’t 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.

    Matt @ Millennial Mutiny
    Posted Nov 23 2018
    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.
    Nuck Buckner
    Posted Jun 15 2019
    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.
    Donna Deverona
    Posted Jul 11 2019
    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
      Grant Sabatier
      Grant Sabatier
      Posted Jul 12 2019
      Thanks Donna. Cable bills are so crazy. I don't miss mine!
    Ellen Pleasants
    Posted Jul 15 2019
    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.
    Kenneth D Aston Jr
    Posted Jul 17 2019
    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
      Posted Jul 18 2019
      Thanks Kenneth. Yeah they can definitely add up. $77.71 seems like a lot for internet these days.
    Micki Weitzel
    Posted Jul 18 2019
    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.
      Grant Sabatier
      Grant Sabatier
      Posted Jul 21 2019
      You're welcome Micki
    John Rainey
    Posted Jul 19 2019
    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!
      Grant Sabatier
      Grant Sabatier
      Posted Jul 21 2019
      Thanks John. Happy to help.
    Charli Herrera
    Posted Aug 13 2019
    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!?!

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