Scared to cut the cord and ditch cable because you’re worried about being able to watch your favorite shows, sports, and movies? I have 17 of the best cable alternatives that will make it easy to finally take the leap.
Whenever I talk to people who are trying to pay off debt, save for retirement, or just want to reduce their monthly spending, I typically ask if they’re still paying for cable.
I’m always shocked when someone says they are because finding a cheap cable alternative can save you anywhere from $50-$150/month. That’s an easy $600-$1,800 back in your pocket every year.
And if you’re paying for cable TV, you can expect costs to only increase anywhere from $1-$12/month in the future.
The good news is that there are now even more affordable cable alternatives on the market in 2020, and I expect this list to keep growing in the next few years.
Start saving money with 17 of the best cable alternatives for 2020
$8.99-$15.99/month with a 30-day free trial
With over 167 million worldwide subscribers, it’s safe to say that Netflix is one of the most popular and best cable alternatives on the market in 2020. In addition to network favorites, Netflix consistently churns out quality programming, including several award-nominated original TV shows and movies, like The Irishman, Marriage Story, Making a Murderer, and Orange Is the New Black.
Netflix’s lineup changes regularly, so the content continues to feel fresh, and there really is something for the whole family.
Netflix has a three-tier pricing structure:
- $8.99/month on one screen at a time
- $12.99/month for two screens
- $15.99/month for four screens
2. Sling TV
Sling TV is one of the best cable alternatives because it offers many of your favorite cable networks at a much more affordable price, including A&E, AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, and Food Network.
Sling TV has three levels: Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and Orange + Blue. The plans vary by which channels you want access to and how many devices you want to stream on.
There are also a bunch of customizable add-ons starting at $5 per month, giving you things like more sports, comedy, or premium channels. Sling also runs offers for things like a free Roku if you pay for a couple of months of service upfront.
Read more at 7 Easy Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget.
$5.99/month or Hulu (No Ads) $11.99/month, new members receive their first month for free
Hulu is one of the best cable alternatives because, at the base level, it’s one of the most affordable options, and you have access to the current season of many of your favorite network shows. There are also a ton of original series, movies, and add-on channels, like Showtime, HBO, Cinemax, and Starz.
The least expensive level of Hulu is now only $5.99 per month (it was lowered in 2018) and comes with a 30-day free trial. With this option, you’re going to get some commercials, but you can go ad-free for $11.99 per month.
Hulu recently started offering a bundle option that gives you access to Hulu (with ads), Disney+, and ESPN+ for $12.99/month.
For sports fans who are concerned about cutting the cord, ESPN+ is an affordable alternative to cable. There are live sports, exclusive ESPN+ originals, the 30 for 30 library, plenty of shows to help you build your Fantasy League lineup, and access to premium articles.
You can stream ESPN+, rewind and replay, or download your shows for later. ESPN+ is available on up to three devices at once.
Read more at 36 Ways to Save Money Fast.
$6.99/month, 7-day free trial
Fans of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars waited a long time for the release of Disney+, and more than 10 million people signed for this on-demand cable alternative on the day it was released.
Disney+ includes out-of-the-vault Disney movies from your childhood, your favorite after school shows, plus a ton of new original content that’s only available on Disney+.
You can stream Disney+ on up to four devices at a time and create up to seven user profiles.
6. Hulu + Live TV
$54.99/month, new members receive a 7-day free trial
Hulu + Live TV gives you access to Hulu’s entire streaming library plus your favorite live sports, news, and entertainment channels – over 65 channels included.
The channels you get on Hulu + Live TV will depend on your area. You can watch on two screens at a time and record live TV with 50 hours of cloud storage.
There are additional add-ons for:
- Premium networks (HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz)
- Unlimited screens
- Enhanced Cloud DVR
$54.99-$74.99/month, one week free
FuboTV is another one of the best cable alternatives for sports lovers, because it’s geared towards sports fans with three tiers of service:
- Standard: $54.99, 99 channels, 130+ events in 4K, 30 hours of Cloud DVR, sharing for 2 screens at a time
- Family: $59.99, 99 channels, 130+ events in 4K, 500 hours of cloud DVR, sharing for 3 screens
- Ultra: $79.99, 168 channels 130+ events in 4K, 39 entertainment channels, Showtime with 9 channels on demand, 21 sports channels, 500 hours of DVR space, sharing for three screens
If you’re worried about catching games from your favorite local teams, check this list to find out which teams FuboTV covers.
Read more at 29 Easy Ways to Lower Your Monthly Household Expenses.
8. Amazon Prime Video
$119/year, student membership $59/year, 30-day free trial
If you’re already paying for Amazon Prime for free one-day or two-day shipping, then you should also be taking advantage of their Prime Video library. Amazon Prime has award-winning shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Fleabag, but you can also get add-ons for HBO, Showtime, Starz, and even PBS.
Read more at 24 Amazon and Amazon Prime Hacks That You Have to Use.
YouTube has come a long way from videos about slime to offering a ton of educational and entertaining content. You can catch clips from your favorite late-night shows, watch travel videos, and even find amazing home decorating tips.
Okay, that link is to my wife’s new YouTube channel because it’s awesome (I’m also trying to stay married as hell), but I also wanted to point out that independent creators fill out YouTube’s ever-growing collection of content. You can follow your favorite creators, create playlists, and more.
YouTube and its creators make money on advertiser content, so you’re going to see ads. But seriously, if we’re talking about the best cable alternatives, what’s better than free?
10. Youtube TV
$49.99/month, free trial
To offer more traditional cable alternatives, YouTube TV gives you everything you love about YouTube plus live TV from over 70 channels, including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, AMC, CNN, Food Network, Fox Sports, HGTV, TNT, Discovery, E!, and a ton more.
Available channels depend on your area, and YouTube TV can be shared with up to six YouTube accounts. There is an unlimited cloud storage and sharing for up to three screens at a time.
11. Apple TV+
$4.99/month with a 7-day free trial period
Apple has joined the growing list of cable alternatives with its own lineup of original shows, including the Golden Globe-nominated The Morning Show. This streaming service is fairly new, but because it’s from Apple, you know it’s going to be beautiful and well designed.
Apple TV+ is ad-free and can be downloaded to watch offline. There is family sharing for up to six family members, and most Apple devices come with a free year of Apple TV+.
12. Acorn TV
$5.99/month, 7-day free trial
Acorn TV is a cable replacement specifically for fans of British television, from mysteries, dramas, comedies, and documentaries. It’s 100% commercial free. You can watch current series or old favorites, like Doc Marten and Agatha Christie Murders.
$20/month with a 7-day free trial
Philo has straightforward pricing, one option at $20/month, and offers 59 channels from cable network favorites like HGTV, Food Network, TLC, MTV, Comedy Central, Discovery, Hallmark Channel, and more.
You can stream both live and on-demand TV on up to three devices at a time. Cloud DVR storage will save an unlimited number of shows for up to 30 days each, and you get 10 profiles per account.
When the seventh season of Game of Thrones aired, HBO Now saw a 91% jump in subscription rates, but only 26% of those subscribers stayed in the months after the season ended.
With HBO Now, Showtime, and Starz all having their own premium streaming options, many viewers are following this trend – subscribing when your shows are on and canceling when they go off the air. This DIY, a la carte style cable alternative is a much more affordable option than paying for premium cable year round.
Here are a few of the most popular premium channels to stream:
- HBO Now $14.99/month, 7-day free trial
- Showtime $10.99/month, 30-day free trial
- Starz $8.99/month, 7-day free trial
Many of the streaming services I listed already give you optional add-ons for premium channels, including Hulu and Amazon, or you can subscribe to them separately. Other than the occasional promotion (Amazon recently ran a deal $9.99/month for HBO Now), the prices stay the same when you purchase them as stand-alone channels.
15. Visit network websites
Networks like Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS give you access to the most recent episodes of your favorite shows for free. Many cable networks (HGTV, TLC, History Channel, and more) even offer a few “unlocked” episodes of recent and past seasons.
This is a 100% free alternative to cable, so it might be worth checking out if you are really trying to lower your monthly bills, but still want some of your favorite shows.
16. HD antenna
Here’s a short history lesson for those who don’t remember…back in 2009, the U.S. made the switch from analog to full-on digital television, and that meant that if you didn’t have cable, you would need a digital antenna to watch local network television. When this transition went into effect, the government actually gave out coupons for digital converter boxes.
Flash forward to now, digital antennas are the way to go if you want to completely get rid of cable and still access your favorite local stations and shows.
Most people get access to standard network channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and PBS, but some viewers will get dozens more if they live in a large city.
Once you pay for your antenna, that’s it. No monthly charge, nothing, and that makes this one of the cheapest (and nearly free) alternatives to cable TV.
One thing to note is that if you have a smart TV, it won’t work with a digital antenna.
I decided to save one of the most obvious, overlooked, and best cable alternatives for last…your local library! You know that place where you can borrow books for free and make 10¢ copies? Yeah, them! Your library has a ton of popular movies, seasons of your favorite shows, and probably some really weird, obscure stuff you never knew existed available for rent too.
Unless you don’t bring back your DVDs on time, the library is free, and it’s available to anyone. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And if you haven’t visited your local library in a while, some now lend out cameras, video projectors, laptops, museum passes, power tools, board games, and streaming devices. There’s even a library in Philadelphia that lends out cake pans for all your baking needs.
The library is a very budget friendly option!
How to watch TV without cable
If you’re wondering, “But how do I access these cheap cable alternatives?” there are a lot of options for how you can watch.
Your computer, tablet, or smartphone
This is probably the most affordable option because you already have the technology available to you. The streaming services listed above have websites and apps available for online streaming.
The following services even allow you to download select content to watch offline:
- Amazon Prime Video
- Apple TV+
If you have a smart TV, you can download apps for any of these streaming services. Your account login and profiles will all be saved, which makes it easy for instant access.
But remember that digital antennas aren’t compatible with smart TVs. But networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox all have apps that you can download for free onto your smart TV.
This has been the way to go for people who don’t have smart TVs, and the benefit is that you can plug a streaming stick into your TV (as long as it has a USB port) and use that in combination with a digital antenna. You can access local networks and streaming services.
There are a number of options:
- Roku $29.99-$99.99
- Apple TV HD starting at $149.99 (comes with a year of AppleTV+ for free)
- Amazon Fire Stick starting at $39.99, comes with Alexa Voice Remote
I’m a big fan of the Amazon Fire Stick because it’s reasonably priced and it works really well. My only complaint with any of the streaming sticks is how small the remotes are, and trust me…they’re easy to lose.
You can download apps for smartphones to use as a remote, but some of them get pretty expensive if you need to use them over long periods of time. Key takeaway: don’t lose the remote.
Video game console
Video game consoles like Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, and PS3 all offer streaming services. The Nintendo Switch currently only streams Hulu. They’re all really easy to use and you can use the video game controller like a remote… which doesn’t get lost quite as easily.
This is a great option if you already have a compatible gaming system because you don’t have to buy any extra technology.
Smart DVD or Blu-ray players
Many newer DVD and Blu-ray players are capable of streaming your favorite channels or services. This is a good choice for people who want one device that doesn’t make their DVD collection obsolete.
Best cable alternatives – the final word
I just gave you a comprehensive list of cable alternatives which can save you a ton of money every month. BUT, if you find yourself subscribing to more than one or two, you can easily be right back where you started, paying a hundred dollars a month or more to watch TV.
Remember, the point is to save money.
The other thing…if you’re not watching the shows and channels you’re paying to have access to, just cancel your subscription. Because these cable alternatives don’t have contracts, you can cancel when you want and re-up when you’re ready for more. There’s no reason to pay for something if you’re not using it.