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More and more people are opting to cut the cord and outright cancelling their cable TV service, and why not? It’s a great way to save money, and there are a wide variety of quality streaming services available at a fraction of the cost—with new content being added every day.
Even better, unlike cable, you can access these on-demand and live streaming platforms at home or on the go through your computer, tv, tablet, and even your smartphone.
If you are considering making the switch, this guide is for you. Whether you are looking to cut costs and retain access to your favourite channels and shows, or you’re ready to completely transition to an on-demand streaming service—this list has something to suit every need and budget.
Keep reading to learn more about the best alternatives to cable TV and find out which one is right for you.
Best Alternatives to Cable TV
On-Demand Streaming Services
On-demand streaming services are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about alternatives to cable TV—you might even already be subscribed to one (or more).
Generally, they consist of platforms that are accessible online or through apps on your devices— smart TV, gaming console, or set-top box—that provide you with a library of shows and movies you can watch and rewatch at anytime. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are all great examples.
Netflix was one of the first online streaming services to come to market and it remains one of the most popular, boasting nearly 150 million subscribers and servicing 190 countries.
The service hosts a large variety of popular TV shows, movies and documentaries on rotation in addition to an ever-growing library of original content and exclusives, including customer favourites like Stranger Things, The Get Down, Grace and Frankie, and Orange Is The New Black.
The platform has also purchased the rights to and rebooted a number of popular shows including Arrested Development, Black Mirror, and the Gilmore Girls.
A subscription to Netflix starts at $8 per month, with the option to pay an additional $4 a month to unlock 4K HD streaming on applicable content and enable streaming to multiple devices at once. The premium subscription is well worth the additional cost if you have a family or are going to be sharing your account with friends or roommates.
Netflix also allows you to make individual user accounts, so you never have to worry about losing your progress on a show.
There’s even a profile option for kids which filters out all of the age-inappropriate content, so you don’t have to worry about your children accidentally seeing something they shouldn’t.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video doesn’t quite have the content library of Netflix, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have plenty of quality content of its own to offer.
The platform offers a variety of popular cable TV shows both new and old—including Downton Abbey, Law & Order, House, The Sopranos, Suits, and True Blood—along with a number of wildly popular original shows like Good Omens, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Bosch, and The Man in the High Castle.
One of the things that really sets Prime Video apart is that you can access it for free with an Amazon Prime or Amazon Prime Student subscription, making it accessible to more than 90 million households in the US alone. If you don’t have any use for a Prime subscription, the service is also available for just $8.99 a month.
One downside, however, is the Amazon Prime Video interface which is quite outdated and amateurish looking compared to Netflix.
Hulu is another one of the original on-demand streaming services, offering original content as well as a number of your network television favourites like Brooklyn Nine Nine, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Community, and Family Guy, along with classics like Seinfeld, Will and Grace, and The Golden Girls.
New episodes of your favourite shows are added shortly after they premiere on TV, so you won’t be missing out and you’ll save a substantial amount each month.
A basic Hulu subscription is $8 per month and provides you with access to the platform’s full catalogue of shows, but like TV it comes with advertisement breaks. For an additional $4 you can upgrade and get unrestricted access to Hulu without the ads.
Recently, the platform added a live TV option for $40 per month. While the price is much closer to what you’d pay for your cable subscription, this could be a good option for those who don’t want to miss out on the live TV experience or who just can’t wait to watch the latest episodes of their favourite shows.
Apple TV is a unique entry on the list. For starters, the Apple TV is a device to be purchased as an alternative to cable TV, rather than simply a service alternative. Through the Apple TV you can access many of the services from this list including Netflix and Hulu, but you’ll still need to subscribe to them.
It does come with the same basic free channels offered by other services, as well as subscription options for lots of your premium favourites like HBO and Showtime, and a huge library of content available for rent or purchase through the iTunes store.
The device starts at $149 for the 32 GB model and goes all the way up to $199 for the 64GB 4K model, which isn’t terribly competitive pricing considering the content it offers, but it seems like that’s about to change.
The company is expanding its catalogue with the addition of Apple TV+ in Fall 2019. The service will offer a combination of pre-existing titles and original content created by A-list writers, directors, and actors.
Some of the most promising offerings include a reboot of the 80’s cult classic anthology series Amazing Stories directed by Stephen Spielberg, post-apocalyptic drama series See written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders), directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games movies), and a new educational series for preschoolers called Helpsters.
Everybody knows about YouTube, it’s the world’s largest video platform for independent creators, but what you might not know is that the platform has a lot to offer aside from short videos and vlogs.
YouTube has a wide variety of quality content including original shows, documentaries, and movies available in every genre.
Basic use of YouTube is free, but the platform has also introduced a premium subscription service in YouTube Premium, offering users access to a wide range of exclusive content from the platforms most popular creators and provides a number of handy features for $12 per month.
If subscribing doesn’t interest you, most of the exclusive content can also be purchased on the platform, which gives you permanent access to it. However, it’s not as cost-effective especially if you don’t plan on rewatching it.
Another great feature is its YouTube Kids platform and app which provides a filtered version of the platform filled with educational and family-friendly content for children ages 12 and under. It also offers three age-based categories to ensure the content is appropriate and engaging for each age group.
Vimeo is similar to YouTube, providing free and paid access to a large library of on-demand content uploaded by creator. Unlike YouTube’s viral videos and vlogs, Vimeo is more focused on indie films, documentaries, and art pieces.
The platform is also host to a number of highly-rated TV and web shows such as Yappie, Mammon, and The Impossibilities, which are probably not available on cable TV.
If you are looking for something a little different than your standard cable offerings and other services on this list, Vimeo is a great option to check out.
Vudu was created by Walmart in an effort to capture a section of the online rental and streaming market. It launched a bit behind many of the major streaming platforms, but it has a lot of unique features that make it stand out in a crowded category.
For example, the platform has a large selection of free content with ads that are shorter than your standard TV commercial. Although the free content is plentiful it does seem to be at least two years old, so you won’t be able to see the latest movies and shows for free.
In addition to the free content Vudu provides, you can rent movies from the platform without a subscription. High Definition movies are available for rent for $5.99, with ultra HD available on some titles for $6.99, and if you’re not picky about picture quality you can save a dollar on every rental by choosing the Standard Definition version.
If you already own a physical copy of a movie that came with a digital download code—you can redeem the code directly through the Walmart website and have the title automatically added to your Vudu library—making it available on any device to stream. This is great for anyone who has been collecting movies and can really save you a lot of money.
Live Streaming Services
Live TV streaming services are the best alternative to cable TV for those who want to continue watching their favourite channels. Very few on-demand streaming services offer the shows featured on networks like HGTV and Food Network, and none give you access to live sports coverage. If those are important to you, a live TV option might be right for you.
Most live options will be more expensive than their on-demand counterparts, but they are still considerably cheaper than a cable contract and offer you an option with much less compromise to ease the transition.
Sling is as close as you can get to having cable while still cutting the cord. It provides its subscribers with access to a wide variety of live cable channels without the need for rented hardware or a contract.
It’s also one of the more expensive options on this list, with packages starting at $25 per month. But it makes up for the difference in cost by providing more than your basic on-demand streaming experience. Also, if you don’t want to completely ditch the live experience, it’s one of the best alternatives to cable TV.
Sling has three packages for you to choose from, Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and the combination package Sling Orange/Blue. They also offer add on options for between $5 to $15, allowing you to get access to channels from the other package without subscribing to both.
Sling Orange and Blue are both available for $25 per month.
Sling Orange provides access to 29 channels including ESPN1, 2, and 3, HGTV, and the Food Network. Sling Blue offers 42 channels including AMC, Bravo, the Cartoon Network, the History Channel, Fox Sports, and the NBC sports network.
Both packages are unique, with only a few channels that overlap between them.
If you don’t want to have to choose between the plans, sign up for Sling Orange/Blue and you can get access to all 48 available channels for a reduced rate of $40 per month.
Philo is similar to many of the live TV streaming options on this list, but its price point is considerably lower. That’s because it doesn’t offer any of the premium sports channels provided by other video streaming services.
So if you’re not that into sports—it’s the best option—especially if you want access to channels like A&E, AMC, BET, CMT, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, among others at a reduced cost.
A basic subscription to Philo will cost you $16 a month for a total of 37 channels, or you can pay an additional $4 and get nine extra channels. At either price, it’s easily one of the cheapest Live TV packages you can get, making it a fantastic option for most people.
AT&T Now, formerly known as DirecTV Now, is the most expensive service on the list. Plans start at $50 and go all the way up to $135 per month, so if you are looking for an alternative to cable TV that will maximize your savings, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its benefits.
Depending on the package you subscribe to, you will get between 40 to 120 channels, and you have the option to add Cinemax or HBO to your plan for just $5, and you can get the service as part of a bundle with any other services you get through AT&T.
Playstation Vue is one of the largest live streaming TV providers. While the service itself doesn’t do much to make it stand out, it does have a few handy features—including built-in DVR capabilities and the option to create as many as five unique user profiles—which can be incredibly useful for family subscribers.
There are four plans for you to choose from, starting at $44.99 and giving you access to 45 channels, and going up to $79.99 for 99 channels. The higher-end plans offer you a bit of a discount in price and provide you with access to exclusive channels including HBO and Showtime, which aren’t available through any of the less expensive streaming services.
Google Fiber TV
If you live in an area where Google Fiber is available, you can get access to more than 150 channels for free when you subscribe to the Google Fiber 100+ and Fiber 1000+ internet plans.
The plans are $140 and $160 per month respectively which sounds expensive, but remember, you aren’t paying for the TV service—the price is for the high-speed internet package which includes the set-top box and channel access.
The service itself is very inclusive for a free add on to your internet package, with 150 HD channels and a handful of SD channels included such as Animal Planet, A&E, AMC, BBC America, BET, Comedy Central, ESPN 1 and 2, Food Network, HGTV, Disney, and Nickelodeon.
The set top box also doubles as a DVR that can record multiple shows at once and has room for 2 Terabytes or 500 hours of HD programming. Google also offers a mobile app which you can use to navigate and manage the content you have saved.
Google Fibre also has a number of add on packages available for between $10 and $70 a month. Through these you can add subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax, or packages of sports channels, family content, and movies.
fuboTV launched as a niche streaming platform for sports but has since expanded to provide regular content with more than 100 channels available in entertainment, lifestyle, news, and sports.
The platform offers a choice of 13 different channel packages starting at $54.99 with add ons available to customize your package to ensure you get all the channels that matter most to you.
Depending on the package you select, you will have access to all the standard local networks and favorites like The History Channel, The Food Network, HGTV, FX, and of course, a massive selection of sports channels.
Online Cable Channels
Lots of regular cable channels offer live streams of specific events or post a selection of their most popular shows online shortly after they’ve aired for cable, at no cost to you.
The availability and selection will vary based on your location, but you can easily find out what’s available by looking up those channels you love online.
You can access the content on your computer or tablet, as well as certain set top TV boxes like the Apple TV or Roku through a quick and easy set up process that will vary by device.
Local Cable Networks
No matter where you are, you should be able to access local cable networks for free by using an HD TV antenna such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Mohu Leaf HD, or with your laptop by connecting it to your TV with an HDMI cable.
While this is an option everywhere, it works best if you are within a major population center due to the strength of the signal. You’ll still be able to access the networks with a weak signal but you won’t get as clear or consistent of a stream.
The channels you can access will vary by what is broadcast in your area but will generally include channels like ABC, NBC, Fox, and PBS, as well as the local news and public broadcast channels unique to your city or town.
You might be able to pick up channels that are further away but local to your province or state if the broadcast signal is boosted near you.
Your local public library has a lot more than books on offer, and many cost nothing to use. You simply need to sign up for a free membership card to gain access to its catalogue of books, movies, music, and even video games.
If your library has a limited selection or doesn’t have the kind of content you are interested in, talk to the librarian. Not only do they make note of popular requests for future purchases, they may be able to bring in fresh content from another library on your behalf.
With so many great alternatives available, there’s not really any reason to keep your cable subscription and the hefty monthly bill that comes with it. Take some time and check out each service through their free trials to figure out which ones you like best and say goodbye to your costly cable subscription! You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
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Founder of The Modest Wallet, Ricardo is an entrepreneur and investor who enjoys working out, spending time with his family and friends, travelling and creating great content. He’s passionate about helping others achieve their financial goals.