If you’re evaluating your budget and looking for ways to cut back, one of the first options you should consider is changing your TV service. Millions of Americans have been ditching cable and satellite TV services in favor of some of the best cable alternatives.
You can easily spend over $100 per month on TV, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a growing number of cheaper options that also offer a great deal of flexibility.
In this article we’ll look at 10 options that are cheaper than traditional cable or satellite packages. Some of these options offer live TV, and others favor streaming of TV shows and movies.
Many households, including mine, use a combination of a few of these options to replace cable TV and still save a good bit of money each month.
→ Related reading: 101 Practical and Realistic Ways to Save Money
The Best Cable Alternatives
1. HD Antenna
One of the most cost-effective ways to watch television is to use an antenna. The modern HD antennas provide an incredible HD picture for channels that are within your range.
The number and variety of channels you get will depend on your location and the range of your antenna. In general, the closer you are to a major urban area, the more channels you will get. Most major cities have NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox-affiliated channels within range.
One of the reasons this is such a great option is that you’ll have the upfront cost of buying the antenna, but there is no monthly cost. Antennas are not expensive and you could be watching free network TV with just a small upfront cost.Table could not be displayed.
My wife and I purchased an antenna when we canceled cable five years ago, and we’ve been using the same antenna ever since. I’d recommend getting one with some range, especially if you don’t live in an urban area.
With a simple antenna you can get free over-the-air programming of local news, lives sports (most NFL games are on the major networks), and many of your favorite shows. You can purchase an antenna today for $20-$50 and enjoy free TV for years.
For most people, an antenna will be part of the plan to replace cable, but not the entire plan. Use an antenna in combination with some of the other options featured in this article.
Highlights of Using an HD Antenna:
- No monthly cost
- HD quality
- The number of channels you get will depend on where you live and the range of your antenna
- Many channels are not available through an antenna
2. Sling TV
There are a lot of things to love about Sling, including the price. At just $25 per month, the price is much lower than you are paying now for cable or satellite TV. Another thing that makes Sling great is the selection. No one watches hundreds of different channels, and with Sling you don’t have to pay for lots of channels that you don’t want.
Sling offers a few different packages that you can choose to get the channels that you want the most. Their packages include networks like NBC and Fox, as well as cable channels like ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, HGTV, USA, TBS, TNT, and more.
With Sling you’ll be able to watch live TV via streaming. You’ll need a streaming device like a Roku, Amazon FireTV, Apple TV or others in order to watch Sling on your TV. They usually have an offer where you can get a free device (like the Roku for example) if you pre-pay for a few months of Sling.
Sling also offers some upgrade packages at very reasonable prices. I’ve used Sling in the fall and winter the past several years to watch college football on ESPN. Their sports package upgrade includes channels like ESPNU and the SEC Network for just an extra $5 per month.
They also offer a cloud DVR upgrade for $5 per month. Premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz are all available as well.
With Sling there are no contracts, so you can start and stop the service anytime.
Highlights of Sling TV:
- Prices start at $25 per month
- Multiple different packages allow you to get the channels that you want
- Stream live TV over the internet
Hulu is another great alternative, and also gives you a few different options. The cheapest plan is $7.99 per month ($5.99 per month for the first year) and that allows you to stream from their library of thousands of TV shows and movies. Possibly the nicest thing about Hulu is that most of the episodes become available shortly after they air (like maybe the next day). Most other services, like Netflix, require you to wait a long time (a year in some cases) before the new episodes are added.
The cheapest Hulu plan includes some commercials You can upgrade to a no-commercial plan if you’re like.
Another option is Hulu with Live TV, which starts at $39.99 per month. With this plan you’ll get access to the full Hulu library of movies and TV shows (with limited commercials) and you’ll also be able to watch more than 50 channels live (ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN, ESPN2, CNN, HGTV, A&E, and more), including news and sports.
An enhanced cloud DVR is available as an add-on, and so are premium channels like HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.
Highlights of Hulu:
- Prices start at $7.99 per month, which gives you access to stream their library of TV shows and movies (cheapest plan includes commercials)
- Most TV episodes become available shortly after they air
- Upgrade to include live TV from 50 channels for $39.99 per month
Netflix is, of course, incredibly popular. While it doesn’t offer live streaming, the vast (and growing) library of movies and TV shows makes it a viable cable replacement. My wife and I canceled cable five years ago, and our family uses Netflix for 80%-90% or what we watch now.
Pricing for Netflix starts at just $7.99 per month, but that plan does not include HD. With the $10.99 per month plan you’ll get HD, and you’ll be able to stream on 2 different devices at the same time. You can also upgrade to the $13.99 per month plan for ultra HD and to stream on 4 devices at the same time.
You can use a device like Roku or Amazon Fire TV to stream Netflix. A lot of Bluray players and smart TVs also have Netflix apps built in, which makes it really easy and convenient.