In this guide we’ll share a list of the best cable TV alternatives and tell you everything you need to know before you switch. One of your biggest expenses each month is the cable bill, right? If you’re fed up with paying huge cable or satellite fees but still want sports and popular cable channels, we’re here to help.
I just cut the cord and I’ll save nearly $1,500 this year. That’s a big deal. Why pay for hundreds of channels you’ll never use when Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video have plenty to binge-watch for a fraction of the cost. These are all TV streaming services that give you live or on-demand TV and movies over the internet.
And while all these cable-replacement services aren’t cheap, they’re way more affordable than traditional cable. Especially if you know exactly what channels you want or need. Here in 2018, we have more ways than ever before to stream live TV. So, if you’re trying to watch your budget or are simply trying to save money, this is a great place to start. These are my favorite alternatives to cable.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting that each service has pros and cons, or different channels and content. Sling TV has tons of options, while something like DirecTV Now is somewhat lacking. However, AT&T customers can stream DirecTV Now to their phone for free.
So while you’ll need to decide what you want to watch, if you need DVR recording capabilities or streaming for multiple users, our breakdown below will help you decide which one is right for you and your money.
Sling TV – $20 a month
First up is Sling TV. They were one of the first live TV streaming services, and are still one of the best. They give you all the channels you probably want, and none you don’t. There are no contracts, no equipment, and no hidden fees. Sling TV starts off at just $20 a month and delivers 30+ of the most popular channels. Some of these include AMC, TNT, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, and Disney Channel.
You can get a slightly different lineup of “a la carte TV” channels that better suits your needs for $25 a month, or, get both for $40. So if you don’t want CNN and prefer Fox News or MSNBC, there’s a different base package to start with. These are Sling Blue and Sling Orange.
Then, there are $5-10 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs, kids channels, regional sports packs, or foreign language channels. Additionally, they offer on-demand movies or TV, and new release rentals as well. And finally, you can add 100 hours of DVR recording for only $5 more a month, stream to multiple devices at a time, and it works virtually everywhere.
Sling TV works on smartphones, tablets, the Chrome browser, Android or Apple TV, Roku devices and more. Oh, and if your spouse doesn’t want to cancel cable to miss sports or the NFL, they have NFL Network and Redzone too. Sling TV starts at $20 a month, but can quickly increase to over $40 if you’re not careful.
PlayStation Vue – $30 a month
If Sling TV is one of the best overall values, PlayStation Vue is equally impressive if not slightly better. And no, you don’t need a PlayStation to subscribe to and enjoy PlayStation’s Vue service. It started out as an exclusive, but now it works on almost every platform. PS Vue streams sports, news, movies and your favorite TV shows along with a great user interface and powerful DVR features.
PlayStation Vue lets viewers choose from one of four different packages starting at $30 a month with 45 channels. However, depending on your region that base package might be $39 a month, so keep that in mind. Then, bigger packages or add-ons are available up to over $70 a month. At that point, you’re not saving much over traditional cable, but you get a comparable experience.
Each plan delivers most of the essential channels like AMC, TBS, Cartoon Network, Disney, Discovery, CNN, NBC, FX, USA and the main four broadcast networks. The Ultra channel lineup costs $74 and has almost everything you’d ever want.
PS Vue has a great user interface, and you can DVR hundreds of shows with ease. Like Sling TV it works on multiple devices, allows multi-user streams and doesn’t have any contracts.
YouTube TV – $35 a month
YouTube is by far the biggest video site on the internet, so it was only a matter of time before they jumped into live TV. In 2017 Google launched YouTube TV, and it might be the best option for most families. That’s because you each get your own login, up to 6 accounts, unlimited live TV DVR recording, and tons of content everyone can appreciate.
The base package of $35 a month gets you around 50+ channels of live TV and local sports. There’s no cable box required, and you can cancel at any time. Just like Sling TV and everyone else.
With YouTube TV you get the big four broadcasters, NBC Sports, AMC, NCC, CW, Disney, TNT, USA, E, ESPN, TCM, YouTube Red original series and more. The lineup is comparable to everyone else, but they don’t have other expanded packages yet.
That said, the best part about YouTube TV is the truly unlimited DVR recording. There’s no 100 hour limit like Sling TV. Furthermore, you can set it to record every Golden State Warriors game, and it will, no matter which channel the game is on.
You can add-on a few things like soccer or Showtime, and YouTube TV works on pretty much everything. Android, iOS, Apple TV, Android TV, browsers and more.
DirecTV Now – $35 a month
While DirecTV Now is probably the least exciting option available, there are a few important aspects that make it a great choice for millions of potential users. AT&T owns DirecTV. If you have an AT&T family or unlimited plan you can stream endless TV and movies for free, and DirecTV Now is only $20 a month.
For just $35 a month you’ll get access to 60+ channels, or you can choose from three other packages ranging between $50-70 a month. Yes, the base $35 a month gets you ABC, AMC, CMT, ESPN, CW, Disney, CNN, Fox, and tons of sports. DirecTV might have the most channels for the money, but the platform isn’t as nice as Sling, PlayStation, or YouTube.
DirecTV has an average user interface, DVR features aren’t fully available and are still in beta, and it doesn’t work everywhere like the others. Yes, it’s an app you can use on Android, iPhone, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Roku and such, but the others are all available on more platforms or built into Smart TVs.
They offer $5-8 add-ons for HBO, Showtime, Stars, etc, and allow two simultaneous streams at the same time. Meaning you can watch DirecTV Now in the living room and the kids’ room at the same time. If a third account tries to watch TV at the same time, you’re out of luck.
Hulu with Live TV – $40 a month
Hulu is a lot more than just your favorite TV shows these days. Yes, they still have that $12 Hulu package, but if you cancel cable you’ll want the “with live TV” package. You can actually watch tons of TV and movies from over 50 channels for only $40 a month. If you’re looking for the most content, Hulu might be the answer. You’ll get everything they’ve always offered and those 50 new channels for one low price.
As you can see above, Hulu has a pretty great selection of channels. You’ll get a little of everything from TNT, ESPN, TBS, news, sports, movies, you name it. They have an easy to use and vibrant user interface, and one of the best “recommended” sections in this post-cable era. Meaning it recommends shows you’ll like, and you’ll actually enjoy what they have to offer.
Hulu charges upwards of $30 extra a month if you want DVR or multiple user streams, and there are ads everywhere. Furthermore, Hulu with Live TV isn’t available on nearly as many platforms or devices as something like Sling TV. It works on Android, iOS, Apple TV, Xbox One, and maybe a few other devices. So you’re limited to what, when, and how you watch your favorite shows.
Interested in Hulu, start a free trial here.
Standalone Packages – $8-15 a month
These days almost everyone has Netflix or Amazon Prime. If not, you should probably get one, or both. When you combine Netflix at $8 a month with Sling TV for $20 a month, you’re spending WAY less than you ever did on traditional cable. These standalone packages are extremely important when you’re looking to replace cable TV.
You can still watch live sports, live TV, and tons of shows from both platforms expansive catalogs.
However, the standalone packages we’re talking about here are HBO, Showtime, and Starz type channels. HBO Now started this trend, and everyone else followed along. You don’t need to spend $200 a month on cable to get HBO and Showtime. Simply sign up for the one you want, when you want it.
Personally, I sign up for HBO Now during Game of Thrones, binge-watch it (and a few other shows) like crazy, then cancel it when the season is over. You could probably watch the entire series during a free 7-day trial. Or, just borrow login information from a friend, and you’re all set.
You can subscribe to each of these as a standalone service, or add them to Amazon Prime, Sling TV, Hulu, Roku and others so you don’t miss any of your favorite shows.
If you really want to cut back and save thousands of dollars, just get an HDTV Antenna. They’re actually cool again, here in 2018, and readily available. An HDTV antenna will give you all the basic live over-the-air local channels in beautiful crisp HD, including some sports.
You can get a small indoor HDTV antenna and mount it behind your TV, or get a big one and throw it on your roof. Set up an Antenna and you’re all set. Then, get something like the TiVo Bolt to pause and record live TV from that antenna. Or, get an analog to digital converter box and turn it into your own personal live TV DVR system.
Select services like Sling TV have an Antenna add-on package too. Basically, Sling TV will let you tie in all the local antenna channels and gives you the best of both worlds while staying affordable.
Alternatives for Sports Fans
The reason it took me so long to replace traditional cable is that I was afraid of losing sports. I love Football and the NFL, and I’m not giving it up. If you want NFL Network, ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, BTN and multiple other sports channels, we have you covered.
You can easily watch sports on Sling TV, PS Vue, or FuboTV, to name a few. You’ll need to check some of these individually and make sure they have what you want. Personally, Sling TV has the most for sports fans, and starting in 2018 and beyond you can watch the NFL live with Yahoo Sports.
Another excellent cable TV alternative is FuboTV. The idea here is they have all the sports for you men and tons of other channels for your wife and kids. It’s a sports-first live TV streaming service that has a little of everything. FuboTV starts out at $19.99 a month and you get over 75 channels. However, they have a “gotcha” like traditional cable and after the first month, it goes up to $45 a month.
That said, $45 a month for over 75 channels and tons of sports is still comparable to Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or anything else available. You just have to decide what channels and options are more important to you.
Things to Know
When it comes down to it the main goal here is saving money. You need a fast internet connection to stream live TV over the internet, so you might have to increase your internet plan with your cable provider. Then, once you add in some of the options mentioned above you might not save as much as expected.
Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is data usage. Yes, you might go over your home internet data usage limit if you don’t know you have one. These days everyone is ditching cable, and providers are starting to put limits on how much monthly data you can use.
I have Cox Cable, and I get 1024GB (1TB) a month. I haven’t gone over yet, but I’ve heard horror stories where some internet providers are putting a limit of 300GB on home internet plans. Then, charging an extra $30-50 a month to increase it to 500 or 750GB. Call your internet provider and check.
This is just a small sample of the nearly 200 different alternatives to cable floating around in 2018. You have tons of options, these are just what we consider the best ones. We’re basically giving you a good idea of what to do and where to start.
Remember, you can get a free trial to almost everything we just mentioned and try it before making any commitments. At the same time, be smart and keep in mind that these are still cable companies. They’ll offer bundles and promotions and try to get as much money from you as possible. Be smart and don’t overspend on stuff you don’t need.
Here’s what I did to start 2018, and you can too. I canceled my $240 monthly Cox cable bill and went with a standalone internet package for $75 a month. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Sling TV with one add-on package. All of that comes out to around $119 a month, and I’m saving roughly $1,500 a month and still watching everything I want.
Now that you know what to do, get started.