Pay Less For TV: The 5 Best Cable Alternatives

Pay Less For TV: The 3 Best Cable Alternatives

In 2019, the average monthly cable bill in America was a whopping $217.00 per month. You don't have to be a financial whiz to do the math and realize this equals more than $2,600 a year. This is a huge amount of money to spend just to flip through channels, browsing for something to watch. Why not make the switch to cable alternatives instead?

This high cost (and it just keeps going up) is the reason that many people are deciding to pay less for TV and cut the cord to traditional cable. They're choosing to get the exact channels they want from one of the cable alternatives.

Paying less for TV isn't hard, but it might require some research on your part to get the channels you want. You need to know how to switch away from cable and what the best cable alternatives are so you can make the best choice.

Table of Contents

What You Need To Switch

In order to switch from traditional cable to an alternative, you need a device capable of streaming. If you have a Smart TV, like those that are Roku-enabled, you can easily download today's most popular cable alternative apps.

Don't panic if you don't have a Smart TV. As long as your television has at least one HDMI port, you can still use the streaming players that allow you to access your cable alternatives. Two of the most popular streaming players are Roku and Amazon Fire Stick.

Roku Streaming Stick

Today, it seems as though more televisions are Roku-enabled than not. However, many people are still living with TVs that don't have Roku. If you are one of those people, you can purchase a Roku Streaming Stick for just $49.00 Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link at no additional cost to you. !

To use, just plug in to your TV's HDMI port, connect to the internet, and make an account Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link at no additional cost to you. ! Roku's Streaming Stick will have you enjoying some of your favorite streaming services in no time.

Amazon Fire Stick

The Fire Stick is another popular option when it comes to setting your TV up for streaming. The most basic of three options through Amazon, this device is a great starting place for those seeking cable alternatives.

At just $39.99, the Fire Stick is a small investment with big returns. All you need to do to get started is to plug the Fire Stick into your television and wall outlet, then connect to the internet. From there, you can start exploring your options!

Related: How To Maximize Your Amazon Prime Membership

The 5 Best Cable Alternatives

CBS All Access

Pay Less For TV: The 5 Best Cable Alternatives - CBS All Access

If you like binge-watching shows like NCIS, or catching the latest drama on Big Brother, you are going to want to sign-up for CBS All Access. They’re a streaming service that packs many features into one easy-to-use platform, and they should be at the top of your list when considering what to replace your cable with.

Whether you are looking to watch live TV, catch up on your favorite sports, or watch an entire season of your new favorite show, CBS All Access has you covered.

What Can You Stream?

On CBS All Access, you can stream all of your favorite CBS shows like The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Blue Bloods, and Young Sheldon.

If live TV is more your thing, they also have you covered! CBS All Access lets you stream some live channels around the clock, including sports.

Live TV

Only a couple of channels are available to stream live, but they might be just enough to satisfy you when you cut the cord. Included are your local CBS station, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live 24/7.

The best part? Live TV comes standard in all CBS All Access plans.

Plans

CBS All Access offers two different plans.

  • Limited Commericals: If you don’t mind the occasional commercial, their Limited Commercials Plan is a bargain at only $5.99 a month.
  • Commercial Free: If you would rather stream without the ads, you can pay $9.99 per month for their Commerical Free Plan.

How To Use It

CBS All Access can be streamed on your computer, your tablet, your phone, and TV. If you choose to watch on your computer, tablet, or phone, all you need to do is log in and start browsing.

For cord-cutters who want to feel like they haven’t even given up cable, CBS All Access can be streamed using devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku.

Once you are in, finding something to stream is as easy as navigating the menu on the top of their site. Here you can find full episodes, live TV, movies, and even search if you already know what you are looking for.

Why It Is A Good Alternative

Whether all of your favorite shows happen to be on CBS or not, there is sure to be something on CBS All Access for everyone. One of the most well-rounded platforms, subscribers can choose from multiple different ways to stream, meaning that all kinds of TV junkies will find plenty to watch.

Why It May Not Be The Best Alternative For You

While some people may not mind having multiple different streaming platforms at their fingertips, others don’t want to miss out on the convenience of having everything in one place. Because CBS All Access focuses on content hosted on their network, including channels that they own, subscribers could find themselves missing out.

Start streaming CBS All Access now

Redbox On Demand

Pay Less For TV: The 5 Best Cable Alternatives - Redbox On Demand

If you like to go old-school and rent your favorite movies for a night, rather than buying them outright, Redbox on Demand is the service you’ve been looking for. Bringing those big red Red Box kiosks directly into your home, you may find yourself never having to remember to return a DVD again.

What Can You Stream?

If you have ever used a Redbox kiosk before, you will be familiar with the endless pages of movies available to rent. Redbox On Demand is no different. From the hilarious new Jumanji movie to Adam Sandler’s inspiring performance in Uncut Gems, there is something for everyone.

Live TV

Redbox not only offers an on-demand service, but they also offer free Live TV. Yup, free! Although you can only stream a couple of channels, like USA Today and TMZ, you won’t have to drop a dime to take advantage of this service.

Plans

The great thing about Redbox on Demand is that it doesn’t require a subscription. After you create an account, you only have to pay when you want to rent a movie.

Redbox On Demand operates similarly to the traditional Redbox service, it’s just online. You can rent movies to stream, starting at $1.99, and rack up points to earn free rentals. It’s a simple service, but their pay-as-you-go method works well for those who are only part-time TV watchers.

How To Use It

Signing up is super simple. You just create a basic account and then you can start browsing for movies. There’s no monthly fee, you just pick the movies you want to watch and pay when you go to watch it.

Once you rent a movie, you’ll have 30 days to watch it. But, when you start watching it you’ll have 48 hours to finish it.

Why It Is A Good Alternative

Redbox on Demand is a great cable alternative for families who love to stay in and cuddle up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. Because of the low price point and a large selection of new movies, families can save some serious cash by not only cutting cable, but also staying away from the movie theater.

Redbox On Demand’s offerings are not just for families. People who prefer movies made for a more adult audience will find what they are looking for.

Why It May Not Be The Best Alternative For You

Redbox On Demand is not for everyone and that is okay. Some may prefer the kiosk method, where they can choose to rent movies in higher quality, like Blu Ray. Others may find an issue in the lack of older content available to stream.

Check out Redbox On Demand today

Netflix

Netflix

Netflix was founded in 1997 as a way to rent DVDs online. While DVDs seem to be a thing of the past, Netflix made sure that they didn't die off with them.

While you can still rent DVDs, Netflix is now best-known for their online streaming services. Possibly the most well-loved alternative to cable, Netflix is on their way to over 150 million subscribers.

What Can You Stream?

From reruns of The Office to binge-watching the upcoming third season of Stranger Things, Netflix has you covered. With a wide variety of movies, TV shows, and their own Netflix originals, there is something for everyone.

Profiles

Truly one of the best cable alternatives for families, Netflix allows you to create separate profiles for each member of your family.

This keeps your kids from filling up your personalized selections with their favorite TV shows and adds extra features to protect them. By making your child's profile a Kids profile, they will only see content appropriate for those 12 and under.

You can also set a four-digit PIN that must be entered before viewing content outside of the designated maturity level.

Plans

Netflix offers three different tiers of service. All of them provide unlimited access to TV and movies, your first month free, the ability to cancel anytime, and the capability to stream on almost any device.

  • Basic: At $8.99 a month, Netflix's most basic plan is perfect for the single person, or those who are fine with standard definition. The biggest downside to this plan is that you can only stream on one device at a time. This is a problem if you have more than one person accessing the account.
  • Standard: The standard plan costs $12.99 a month and is great for those who are looking for a little more out of their account. You can stream Longmire in one room while your kids watch their favorite rerun of Larva Island on another, and no one gets kicked off their show. This is thanks to the Standard plan's capability to stream content to two different devices at once. You also have the option to stream in HD.
  • Premium: This plan is ideal for large families, allowing you to stream from four different devices at once. The most expensive, but also the one that offers the most features, is the Premium plan. It will set you back $15.99 per month. However, it comes with Ultra HD streaming options, making it perfect for those who love seeing every detail of their favorite shows.

How To Use It

Once you sign up for your Netflix account, you can dive right in to your favorite content. Netflix has one of the easiest interfaces of all of the cable alternatives. With an endless amount of categories curated to your preferences, it is easy to click and watch. If you don't see what you are looking for, simply search for it in the toolbar.

Downloading Content

Let's be honest. Most of us are constantly on the go and don't always have access to reliable internet. Luckily, Netflix makes it easy to download your favorite content to watch offline.

After downloading their app, search for the title you wish to download, and hit the download icon on the description page. To access the title after you have downloaded it, open the app and press the “Downloads” button on the bottom toolbar.

An important thing to keep in mind is that you can only watch your downloads on the device that you downloaded them on.

Why It Is A Good Alternative

One of the industry leaders in online streaming, there is no doubt that Netflix is one of the best alternatives to cable. With an ever-changing variety of titles, parental control options to keep your kids safe, and the ability to download your favorites, Netflix makes it easy to replace your current cable service.

Why It May Not Be The Best Alternative For You

Just like anything, Netflix has its flaws. Unfortunately, Netflix does not currently offer live TV streaming, which many look for when trying to cut the cord on cable.

While Netflix has thousands of titles to stream, their catalog is not endless. You won't find your favorite season of Game of Thrones or Brooklyn 99, a reason some people decide against Netflix.

Stream Netflix at home today

Hulu

Hulu

Hulu is a streaming service similar to Netflix, but with its own unique approach. Launched in 2008 and owned by the Walt Disney Company, Hulu has made big strides in the online streaming industry.

A truly customizable experience, Hulu has several plan options, premium channel add-ons, and options for commercial-free streaming.

What Can You Stream?

With a wider variety of TV shows than movies, Hulu takes the cake for catching up on your favorite current TV shows. From originals including The Handmaid's Tale to network favorites like Masterchef, it easy to find something to watch.

New episodes of your favorite shows are uploaded daily, with most becoming available the day after they have aired. If movies are more your thing, Hulu has a large library of movies. However, some customers find it lacking when it comes to newer releases.

How To Use It

Once you've subscribed to any of Hulu's plans, you can begin streaming on their easy-to-use website or app.

Hulu will suggest content it thinks you will enjoy based on your previously watched shows. You will want to set up a profile for every member of your family so you're not getting recommendations based on your first-grader's viewing habits.

Luckily, Hulu has similar profile options to Netflix, even allowing you to tailor content towards your children.

Plans

Hulu has a number of different plans to choose from, and you can pick the best one for your budget.

  • Basic: The most basic plan that Hulu offers costs $5.99 a month, a great deal for the budget-conscious. This plan will give you access to Hulu's catalog of over 85,000 TV episodes and thousands of movies. If you don't mind ad breaks, this could be part of a big reduction in your budget.
  • Premium: This is for the people who hate the ad breaks. If that's you, you can upgrade to an ad-free streaming experience for just $11.99 a month.
  • Basic + Live TV: Hulu's Live TV plan costs $54.99 a month, and is tailor-made for consumers who want to keep some of cable's creature comforts. This plan offers all that the basic Hulu plan offers and adds live TV to it. There are more than 60 live TV channels that come with this package.
  • Premium + Live TV: This package gives you access to all of the live TV channels and all of the movie channels. It will cost you $60.99 a month.

Why It Is A Good Alternative

If you're finding it difficult breaking up with cable, Hulu can soften the blow. Hulu provides great options for everyone, from the occasional binge-watcher to the die-hard TV fanatic.

One of the best features for cable cutters is the live TV option, which means you won't have to spend half of the next day avoiding spoilers of your favorite shows.

Why It May Not Be The Best Alternative For You

For the penny-pinching consumer, many of Hulu's best features are not cheap. Without upgrading to live TV, consumers who want to watch their favorite shows typically have to wait until the day after they have aired. It's often difficult to wait for your favorite shows, especially those you know everyone will be talking about.

While Hulu is a well-rounded service, their sparse movie catalog scares some people away. Since movies are added less often than TV shows, it is clear that Hulu's focus is not on staying current on movies.

Start with Hulu today

YouTube TV

YoutubeTV

Owned by Google, YouTube TV, founded in 2017, is relatively new. Although still in their early years, YouTube TV has become a consumer favorite, offering live TV streaming that closely resembles cable.

With the ability to record your favorite TV shows, movies, and even sporting events, YouTube TV is a no-brainer.

What Can You Stream?

YouTube TV allows you to stream TV live from some of your favorite networks including Animal Planet, SYFY, and even baseball games on NESN.

For the movie buff, YouTube TV has an impressive library for a service focused on streaming TV. However, if you want premium channels like Showtime or Starz, you can add them on to your subscription for an additional fee.

How To Use It

YouTube TV will have you flipping through their channels as soon as you sign up. With an interface that closely resembles a traditional cable subscription, YouTube TV is an easy transition for those that are used to cable.

When you open the website or app on your TV or compatible device, the home screen appears. Your home screen will list your recently watched shows, allowing you to dive right back into some of your favorite content.

If you navigate left, to the library, you will see a categorized list of all that you have recorded through the DVR feature. To the right of your home screen, you will see YouTube TV's version of a TV guide. Click on any show or movie to watch live.

Plans

YouTube TV offers one plan, and it costs $49.99 a month. This provides access to over 70 channels, unlimited DVR space, and the ability to stream from three devices at once.

Adding premium channel add-ons will run you as little as $5.00 a month for AMC Premier, or as much as $40 a month for NBA League Pass.

Why It Is A Good Alternative

YouTube TV is perfect for consumers who want a subscription that looks, feels, and operates similarly to cable. Unlimited DVR makes it easy to build a library curated to your taste.

With a competitive price and plenty of content to stream, there is no question why so many people are using it as their main, or only, cable alternative.

Why It May Not Be The Best Alternative For You

Just like traditional cable, sometimes there isn't anything to watch. Since YouTube TV is streaming live TV, sometimes you are stuck watching unexciting infomercials or reruns of Law & Order. For some, this isn't a problem but might make it difficult for those who want near-constant entertainment.

Click here to check out YouTube TV

How To Choose The Best Alternative For You

The best alternative is totally dependent on each person and what they want and need from TV. Which channels are must-haves? Do you need live TV? Is access to a large movie database important to you?

For most cord cutters, a combination of multiple services works best to keep them entertained, and still keep their budget happy. Here's a table so you can compare the five best cable alternatives that we highlighted in this article and easily see what works for you.

 Starting CostLive TV?Sports?
CBS All Access$5.99/monthYes, but limited to your local CBS station, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, and ET Live 24/7Yes, but it's limited to what's shown on the CBS channels.
Redbox On DemandNo monthly cost; pay per movieYes, but limited (see site for channels)No
Netflix$8.99/month
$12.99/month
$15.99/month
NoNo
Hulu$5.99/month $11.99/month
$54.99/month $60.99/month
Yes, depending on your plan.Yes, depending on your plan.
YouTube TV$49.99/monthYesYes

When Is It Worth It To Stick With Cable

There are only two reasons it makes sense for people to stick with cable. The first is familiarity. Some people loathe change no matter how much their budget takes a hit. They're used to how cable functions and they're going to keep it, even if it means cutting other areas of their budget.

The second reason is sports. Even though Hulu's Live TV packages and YouTube TV have most of your local channels and the major sports channels, they might not have all of the affiliate local stations that play every one of your city's sporting events. If you are a true sports fanatic who wants to have access to all of your teams at all times, you might have a hard time cutting the cable cord.

However, before you use one of those as your reason to stick with cable, let's revisit the cost. As we mentioned, the average cable bill adds up to $2,600 per year. If you switch to Hulu + Premium Live TV, which isn't even the cheapest service we profiled but will give you all the live TV you want and access to a huge movie database, you'll pay about $61/month or $732/ year. That's a savings of more than $1,800 per year just by changing the way that you watch TV. If you're pursuing FI, you know you can't argue with that savings and you need to cut the cord.

Related: 20 Household Expenses You Can Cut Today To Save Money

Which Alternative Is The Most Like Cable

If you are looking for a cable alternative that mimics the experience of cable, you are in luck. Hulu's Basic + Live TV and YouTube TV offer many of the same features.

One of the best features of both services is the DVR, a tool that many already use to stay current on their favorite shows, especially if their schedule doesn't align with air times.

What About Sports

Perhaps the biggest reason folks don't want to part with cable is access to sports. Fortunately, many of these streaming companies are focusing on making deals with major sports networks.

Both Hulu's Live TV (either Basic or Premium) and YouTube TV provide access to a lot of games. On occasion, both services will black out some of the most popular games. But with channels like ESPN, NESN, and MLB, you can stream most of the sports content that you watch on traditional cable.

If you want to get around blackouts, you can always add on sports packages like NBA League Pass through YouTube TV.

Summary

It's very possible to cut the cord to cable and still have access to all the shows and movies that you want to watch. More than that, it's a no-brainer for people who are pursuing FI. It may take you some time to go through the options to figure out what's best for you, but it's well worth your time when you see how much money you can save by switching to streaming. Make the switch today!

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8 thoughts on “Pay Less For TV: The 5 Best Cable Alternatives”

  1. This is a good overview of cord cutting options. When my first year initial promo package with DIRECTV expired in June, I considered YouTube and Hulu for live TV with DVR. In the end, I was able to renegotiate my DTV package for a better value of price for technology.

    Without entering a new long-term contract, I was able to downgrade my package to about $57 per month including taxes (no sports package because I do not need one), NOT including the $10 per month discount I get on my AT&T gigabit fiber Internet service due to bundling.

    For this price, less than YouTube when factoring in the Internet discount, I get far superior technology. HD video quality with 5.1 digital sound for nearly every channel. Special DTV channels with 4K HDR content. A DVR without any limitations on skipping commercials or on how long I can keep my recordings. More channels in the line-up.

    The live TV streaming platforms have raised their prices to the point where they are losing their cost advantage to traditional TV providers. That said, I am sure Internet delivery TV will be the norm in the next 10 years or so.

  2. You forgot to mention one. Sling TV. We have found it is a great alternative with live TV options, adding and removing different packed, etc. $15/month for the blue or orange package, or $25/month for both, plus you can add more kids channel’s for $5/month (love this feature having small children), lifetime for $5/month (usually only watched around the holidays so it is easy to add for a couple months and take off) and sports channels I believe are $10/month (only watched for football, so easy to add for the season and take off after).

    You also need a Roku Stick for this. If you are in an area where there are after work or weekend internet slow down and you want to utilize the full speed of your faster at-home WiFi, or hardwire to you modem, only the “Streaming Stick+” and the “Ultra” are the only ones that can access the higher internet speeds through WiFi. The Ultra can also be hardwired into your modem via a Cat5 cable if you desire to take that route. (We live in an area where we did have to take this route.) Another positive of sling TV. They usually have an offer that you get a free Roku Express (bottom line Roku) or pay minimally for the Roku Ultra with payment of the first two months of service. There is no contract for Sling, so you can cancel or modify your services at any time.

  3. Sling is a great alternative as listed above. I personally have PS Vue and absolutely love it. The one big advantage is I can stream on my PS4 upstairs which has built in WiFi so no Ethernet cords required. I can also stream on my iPad and other devices which I think you can do with sling but at an upgraded price. PS Vue has a very easy interface and the ability to DVR unlimited TV. I think the basic channel upgrade is $48.25 per month which is comparable to a lot of the live TV streaming listed above.

  4. This also doesn’t account for the inordinate cost of reliable internet service without the cable/phone bundle. I have to pay $70/month for AT&T, which results in at least a $120/month cost if you add Hulu or Netflix. If anyone knows how to secure high speed internet some other way, that seems like the real ticket.

  5. I pay $16 per month for Philo, which has been perfect for my needs. My love affair with Philo started when I wanted a couple months of cheesy holiday movies, and it was the best price for accessing Hallmark and Lifetime. And now it’s 7 months later and I’m still enjoying it the service. Since they don’t have news, sports or local channels, they can offer great entertainment and lifestyle channels for less, along with DVR service so you can record shows AND many channels have tons of on-demand content! I keep threatening to cancel it, but we watch it all the time – much more often than Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. We’re currently working our way through all of the past seasons of Naked & Afraid from the Discovery Channel’s on-demand section of Philo. Channels we watch all the time: AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, Game Show Network, Hallmark, HGTV, IFC, Lifetime, TLC, and the Travel Channel. I also enjoy fun cooking shows on the funky little channel Tastemade.

    We also use Hulu (basic) which we got with the Black Friday deal offered by Hulu for 12 months for $12 paid for with a $50 gift card that I bought during a deal at the grocery store offering a $15 rebate on groceries. So, we now have Hulu paid for through April of 2020, I believe. Oh! And since I used ebates to sign up, I got $5 cash back. Probably my proudest entertainment spending win of last year, haha. So be on the lookout for deals! And use ebates!

    I also read recently that Pluto TV offers news, weather, and some sports for FREE, so I might check them out to compliment our Philo, TV antenna, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime line-ups.

  6. how about internet? In order to stream all these, you need internet connection, which cost about $80-$130 per month!! if i add TV alternate plan on top of internet fee, it is better to get triple play plan from cable company.
    What do you guys do for internet connection?

  7. Update on YouTube TV:

    If you have a family member that lives in another state or different household and is willing to split the monthly bill you can stream three devices at once and split up costs by doing shared “family” plans. Trying it for the month to see if I like it as an alternative and it will be $27.50 per month slightly more than Sling but more channels and unlimited DVR and ability to stream through a PS4 :).

  8. Thanks for these alternatives, I didn’t think about some of them, such as YoutubeTV for example. Although, as I was going through the list, I thought that some platforms have geo-restrictions, so that means you have to use a VPN even to access them in the first place. I have Surfshark, so I don’t see an issue myself there, but it might be a problem for others, so I just wanted to point it out. Happy streaming!

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