Alternatives to Cable TV: A Comprehensive Guide

Alternatives to Cable TV: A Comprehensive Guide

Quick Picks:

Looking for the best streaming options? Here are some top picks:

  • Get FREE local channels with an HD digital antenna.
  • Get the best bundle pricing with Hulu.
  • Save money with the least expensive streaming option, Paramount+.
  • Join the millions of viewers with the most popular streaming service, Netflix.
  • Enjoy live TV for free with Pluto TV.

1. Netflix

If you’re looking for a streaming service that’s both affordable and convenient, Netflix is a great option. With a wide range of TV programs and films to choose from, it’s easy to find something to watch that suits your interests. Additionally, Netflix offers a lot of original shows that are exclusive to the service.

It’s important to note that Netflix doesn’t offer live TV, so you won’t be able to tune in to your favorite cable channels. However, this also means that you have complete control over what you watch and when you watch it.

At just $6.99 a month for the basic package with ads included, Netflix is an affordable option for anyone on a budget. The basic package allows you to use one screen at a time, and while there aren’t HD options, you still get access to all the movies and shows available on the platform.

If you want to use Netflix on more than one device at a time, you can upgrade to the 2-screen or 4-screen plans for $15.49 and $19.99 per month, respectively. This may be a good option for larger families who want to watch different things at the same time.

Overall, Netflix is a great choice for anyone who wants access to a wide variety of TV shows and movies without breaking the bank.

2. Local Channels: HD Digital Antenna

Looking for a cost-effective way to watch basic cable TV without the need for internet? Consider investing in an HD Digital Antenna. While this option does not include premium channels, it provides access to basic cable channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX, among others.

The initial cost of the antenna setup is typically around $20, making it a great alternative to cable TV. However, it is important to note that the types of cable channels available may vary depending on your location. Before cutting the cord for cable, ensure that you have a decent signal. Some areas may require a different type of antenna or one with a longer range if you live further away from a town or city.

Overall, an HD Digital Antenna is a great option for those looking to save money on cable TV while still having access to basic cable channels. No internet is needed for this option, making it a convenient and affordable choice for many households.

3. Hulu

Hulu offers a basic plan for $7.99 per month, which includes commercials, similar to cable TV. However, the cost is significantly lower. If you prefer to watch your shows without commercials, you can upgrade to the $17.99 per month plan. The only downside is that you can only watch Hulu on two streaming devices at a time, unlike Netflix’s top plan, which allows four devices.

If you’re a fan of TV shows, Hulu is a great option because they stream shows on the same day they air. This feature is not available on other streaming services like Netflix. Hulu also offers live TV and channels such as FX, Disney, Discovery, Food Network, and HGTV, providing a wide range of options for every member of your family.

Hulu also offers a bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ at a discounted price, making it a great choice if you’re looking for multiple streaming services. Overall, Hulu is an affordable and convenient option for streaming TV shows and live TV.

4. YouTube

YouTube is a popular video-sharing platform that is completely free to use. While it may not be the best option for finding TV shows and movies, it is a great source for original content on a wide range of topics. With countless contributors, there is always something new to discover.

One of the best things about YouTube is the vast range of videos available. Whether you are interested in learning something new or simply enjoy watching vloggers, there is a video for everything. You can easily get lost in a YouTube rabbit hole, watching video after video for hours on end.

While some films and shows are available on YouTube, you may have to pay a small fee for access. This is similar to a rental streaming service and allows you to watch specific content at any time.

Overall, YouTube is a fantastic alternative to cable and a great way to discover new content. With its vast library of videos and easy-to-use interface, it is no wonder that it has remained popular for so long.

5. YouTube TV

YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service that offers over 100 channels and networks. It is perfect for those who want access to local news and sports channels. With YouTube TV, you can access your local channels and live TV, as well as other channels and networks such as CNN and ESPN.

You can use YouTube TV on up to 3 streaming devices at a time, which is great for families who want to watch different shows simultaneously. Kids can enjoy channels like Cartoon Network and Disney without any issues.

One of the best features of YouTube TV is the unlimited Cloud DVR for 9 months. You can record as much live TV as you want without worrying about running out of space. However, YouTube TV is a bit more expensive than other options we have looked at, costing $65 a month.

If you’re unsure about switching to YouTube TV, you can take advantage of their free 2-week trial to see if it’s the right fit for you. Overall, YouTube TV is a great option for those looking for a comprehensive live TV streaming service.

6. Sling TV

If you’re looking for a live TV streaming service that’s similar to cable TV, Sling TV might be a good option for you. With Sling Orange and Sling Blue, you can choose from 32 and 43 channels, respectively. Both packages cost $40 per month, but you can get the first month for only $20. If you want both packages, you can get them for $55 per month.

Sling TV is a great choice if you want a more customizable package based on the channels you watch. With Sling TV, you can choose the channels you want and create a package that fits your needs. It’s a great option for those who miss cable TV but want a more flexible and affordable option.

7. Amazon Prime Video

If you have an Amazon Prime account, you already have access to their video streaming service. For $8.99 per month, you can access TV shows and movies. However, if you pay $14.99 a month for Prime membership, you get Prime Video plus Prime Shipping and other perks.

The great thing about Prime Video is that if the content you want to watch isn’t available, you can rent it. Additionally, you can purchase a FireStick streaming device to hook up to your TV and use Prime Video and any other streaming apps you have.

It’s important to note that you won’t have access to sports channels, so that’s something to consider when choosing your best cable TV alternative.

8. Max (HBO)

If you’re looking to stream HBO content without a cable subscription, you can sign up for HBO Max. The service costs $9.99 per month with ads and comes with a free 7-day trial. You can cancel at any time. Alternatively, you can pay $15.99 per month for ad-free streaming on two devices, or $19.99 per month for streaming on up to four devices. HBO Max can also be accessed through other streaming services, including Hulu and Amazon Prime.

9. Local Library

Your local library is not just a place to borrow books anymore. It has evolved into a multimedia center where you can borrow movies and TV shows on DVD. This is a great option for a movie night with friends or family. If you have a library card, borrowing DVDs is free, but make sure to return them on time to avoid late fees.

If your local library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, don’t worry. Libraries work together, so they can request items from other locations and have them mailed to your library. You can also visit other library locations to see what they have to offer.

In addition to physical media, some libraries have online streaming services like Kanopy or Hoopla. Check your local library’s website to see what streaming options they have available.

Overall, your local library is a great resource for entertainment options beyond just books. Take advantage of the many services they offer and explore all that your library has to offer.

10. ESPN +

For sports fans who want to stay up-to-date with the latest games, ESPN + is the perfect solution. This new streaming service is available within the ESPN app, so you won’t need to download anything extra.

With ESPN +, you’ll have access to live games and events, as well as films and more with regional sports networks. The service costs $9.99 per month, but you can bundle it with Hulu and Disney+ for only $12.99 per month for all three services.

11. DIRECTV Stream

If you’re looking for a streaming service that offers live TV, regional sports networks, news, movies, and more, then DIRECTV Stream could be the service for you. Formerly known as AT&T TV Now, DIRECTV Stream provides a cable-like experience, but at a higher price point of $64.99 to $144.99 per month, depending on the package you choose. While it may not be as cost-effective as some other streaming services, it is still less expensive than regular cable. Depending on the package you choose, you can access between 75 to 150+ channels. Additionally, DIRECTV Stream offers access to movies and other live TV options, such as National Geographic and Discovery.

12. Apple TV+

Apple TV+ is a streaming service offered by Apple that aims to compete with other streaming services in the market. The service costs $6.99 per month, which is relatively low compared to other streaming services. One unique aspect of Apple TV+ is that you can get it for free if you purchase an Apple device for 3 months.

In addition to the app, Apple also offers a streaming device for those who prefer it. However, unlike other streaming services, Apple TV+ doesn’t have a vast library of typical shows or movies. Instead, it focuses on producing unique content from its own brand.

While Apple TV+ may not have as much content as other streaming services, it’s catching up and adding more over time. If you’re an Apple device user and enjoy exclusive shows, Apple TV+ may be a great option for you.

13. Disney+

If you’re a Disney fan, you’ll be pleased to know that Disney+ is now available. The platform offers a wide range of content, including the usual Disney classics, as well as Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and more. Disney owns an extensive library of content, so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

The service is priced affordably at $7.99 per month. You can also bundle it with Hulu for $9.99 per month or with Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month. With this bundle, you’ll have access to a vast library of TV shows, movies, and live sports.

Overall, Disney+ is an excellent choice for anyone who loves Disney and wants to access a wide range of content at an affordable price.

14. Philo

Philo is a streaming service that offers great value for money, providing a cable TV-like experience with a wide range of channel options. With Philo, you can access more than 70 channels, including popular networks like AMC, BBC America, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. You can enjoy Philo on all your streaming devices for just $25 per month, with a free 7-day trial. However, one downside of Philo is that it lacks sports channels and news networks.

15. Paramount+

If you’re looking for a cost-effective streaming service, Paramount+ might be the perfect option for you. With its essential plan costing just $5 per month, it’s one of the most affordable options available. You can also sign up for the no-ads plan for only $10 per month.

Paramount+ offers a wide range of shows from popular networks like CBS, Nickelodeon, BET, and Comedy Central. Plus, they’re currently offering a 50% discount on annual plans, which means you can get a subscription for as little as $30 or $50 per year instead of the usual $60 or $100.

Overall, Paramount+ is an excellent choice if you want to save money while still having access to a variety of shows and networks.

16. Free Live TV Streaming Services

If you’re looking to save money on your entertainment budget, there are plenty of free streaming services available. While these services may have ads, they offer access to an endless amount of shows and movies for you and your family to enjoy.

One popular option is Pluto TV, which offers a wide range of channels that you can scroll through just like regular cable. Another option is Freevee, which features a variety of TV shows and movies for free.

Other free streaming services to check out include Crackle, Tubi, Vudu, and Sling Freestream (not to be confused with Sling TV). These services offer a range of content, from classic movies to popular TV shows.

If you’re looking for live TV, DirecTV Stream is a great option, especially for sports channels. However, it’s important to note that this service is not free.

Ultimately, the decision to use a free streaming service with ads or pay for a subscription without ads is up to you. But with so many free options available, it’s worth exploring these services to see if they meet your entertainment needs.

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Or… Start a Different Hobby

If you’re tired of spending your free time watching TV, there are plenty of other hobbies you can try. Here are some ideas to get you started:


Reading is a great way to improve your writing, spelling, grammar, and imagination. Instead of watching TV, try picking up a good book and learning something new. Plus, you could even get paid to read new books or books before they’re published!


If you’re worried that TV has taken over your free time, it may be time to try something healthier. Exercise is a great way to improve your physical and mental health. Even if you hate the idea at first, you’ll feel much better afterward.

Get Outside, Be Active

Take advantage of the beautiful country we live in and get outside! Whether it’s a sunny day or a rainy one, a stroll outside is good for you. So instead of watching TV, go for a walk or a hike and enjoy the outdoors.

Play Board Games

Game night is a fun tradition that can bring the whole family together. Instead of watching TV, break out some board games and spend quality time with your loved ones. It’s a great way to make memories and have fun.

Start a Side Hustle

Starting a side hustle can be a great way to spend your free time and make some extra money. There are plenty of options to choose from, so pick something you enjoy. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Side HustleDescription
Become a ProofreaderLove to read? Get paid to read others’ work and find spelling/grammatical errors.
Take Online SurveysAnswer quick questions for money while you wait in the doctor’s office or even sit on the toilet.
Start a Money Making BlogWrite about your passions and make money from it.
Start a Facebook Side HustleCreate Facebook ads for businesses and get paid $25+ per hour.
Become a Freelance WriterMake $20+ per hour writing for clients.

So instead of spending all your free time watching TV, try one of these hobbies instead. You might just discover a new passion!


What are the best streaming services?

Netflix is the most popular streaming service, but the best one for you depends on your needs. For live TV with unlimited Cloud DVR, YouTube TV might be your best bet. If you can’t afford streaming services, a free streaming service like Pluto TV might be best. If you can afford less than $20 a month on streaming, you can get Hulu or even bundle it with Disney+ and ESPN+ for only $12.99 per month. Or, if you want specific live TV channels, you can pay $40 a month with Sling TV. Any one of these options will still save you money compared to regular cable, so one or multiple services might be the best pick(s) for you.

How much money can you save cutting the cord?

The amount of money you can save by cutting the cord depends on how much you were originally paying for your cable and which streaming service you decide to go with. For example, if you were paying around $100 for your cable, choosing a streaming service like Netflix at $9 per month would save you $1092 per year. However, if you stick strictly with free streaming services, you’ll save much more every year. Just be careful to pay for only the services you use.

Do you need internet to use cable alternatives?

Yes, you need the internet to use cable alternatives like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Apple TV+. Most streaming services or live TV are through apps or websites, meaning you’ll need devices to use and the internet to connect to. However, it’s possible to get free or cheaper internet options from your provider. If you already pay for data, especially unlimited data, you could use your phone to watch these cable alternatives. Additionally, borrowing physical movies from the library with your library card doesn’t require internet access.

Martin Hamilton

Martin Hamilton is the founder of Guiding Cents. Martin is a Writer, Solopreneur, and Financial Researcher. Before starting Guiding Cents, Martin has been involved in Personal Finance as a Mortgage Planning Consultant, Licensed Real Estate Agent, and Real Estate Investor.

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