According to the latest data, the average American household now pays more than $200/month for cable TV.
This is clearly too much. For that amount of money, you could subscribe to Sling, Hulu + Live TV, Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, and still have cash left over.
If you’ve decided that enough is enough, keep reading. Here are the best alternatives to cable TV that will let you cut the cord and save some money.
It’s important to realize that there’s not a single like-for-like replacement for cable TV. If you cut the cord, you’ll need to perform some due diligence on your viewing habits and build a package of services that meets your needs.
Here are some important things to consider:
- Location: Some services are only available in specific markets.
- Movies or TV: Do you have a strong preference for a particular form of content?
- Live Events: Are you a sports fanatic or a 24-hour news nerd?
- Favorite TV Channels: Most people gravitate to a small handful of their favorite TV channels.
- Age of Content: Are you desperate to watch the latest hit shows or are you more interested in reruns of older classics?
- Extra Features: Do you need DVR capabilities? How many screens are in your home? Do you want to watch the content in 4K?
Spend some time thinking about the answers to those questions, then cross-reference your requirements with the best alternatives to cable that we’re going to look at in the rest of the article.
Have a look at our guide on how to ditch cable to learn more.
Broadly speaking, the providers of cord-cutting services can be divided into two categories: live TV services and video on demand (VOD) services (some providers straddle both categories). They can both be further subdivided into free and paid solutions. Let’s start with live TV.
If you live in the United States, there are arguably six affordable TV services worth looking into. They are among the best cord-cutting options.
Each of the providers offers a large selection of channels across many genres. Depending on which service you opt for, you will be able to watch ABC, FOX, CBS, AMC, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, FOX Sports, ESPN, CNN, MTV, NBC, Disney, and many more.
Most of the providers offer multiple payment tiers. The more you pay, the more channels you will have access to. Given that the aim of cutting the cord is to save money, make sure you don’t sign up for a package that you’ll barely use.
Many of the providers also offer add-ons. They can take the form of foreign TV channels, expanded sports packages, additional screens, and premium channels like HBO and SHOWTIME.
If you would like to learn more about each of the providers individually, read our article listing the best live TV streaming services for cord cutters.
If you live in the UK, your paid options are more limited. Sky offers an online-only cheap TV service (with no contract) called NOW TV. Five packages are available—Sports, Kids, Entertainment, Cinema, and Reality TV. The most expensive package, Sports, is more than £30/month; a sports day pass is available for £10. The packages are a great way to get cheap cable.
For a more extreme form of saving money, you could use a free live TV streaming service instead.
Two names dominate the area: Pluto and Plex. Between them, the two services broadcast a surprising number of premium networks, including CBSN, CNN, NBC, Sky News, and Bloomberg, as well as dozens of music channels, kids channels, and niche interest channels.
In the UK, the two major free services are BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. Both provide live access to the full suite of TV channels for each network. If you are outside the UK, you can use a VPN to access them. We recommend ExpressVPN.
An oft-overlooked part of a cord cutter’s weaponry is a trusty old TV antenna.
If you live in a major US city, you’ll be able to watch networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, The CW, PBS Kids, Create, MyNetworkTV, MeTV, Antenna TV, Escape, Grit, Laff, and This TV for free.
That means you’ll be able to keep an eye on major sporting events without paying a cent. In the last 12 months, those networks have broadcast the Super Bowl, the NBA finals, the US Open, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the UEFA Champions League final, the French Open, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, NASCAR, and MLB.
You can even integrate your OTA antenna with apps like Plex and Kodi so you can watch through your smart TV. You’ll just need a tuner like an HDHomeRun to get started.
Check out our article detailing what you can watch with a TV antenna to learn more.
In the UK, you’ll need Freeview to watch OTA TV. Channels available on Freeview include BBC 1 and BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4, Dave, Paramount, HGTV, Sony, and PBS.
If you mainly watch movies and series, it is possible to make an argument that you don’t need a live TV package at all. Instead, you can get rid of cable TV by relying on some of the leading VOD streaming services to supply your entertainment needs.
Once again, free and paid options are available.
However, we’ve also seen an uptick in the number of networks running their own streaming services. If you want access to the latest series as they’re aired, you might need to turn to one of these providers instead.
Lastly, people who are interested in British series should choose between Acorn TV and Britbox. Britbox is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, so it has a lot of classic UK shows on it. Acorn TV generally leans towards more modern content.
Read our comparison of Acorn TV and Britbox to learn more.
If you’re less concerned with watching whatever is trendy, there are plenty of free VOD providers that stream old movies and TV shows.
Lastly, don’t forget about YouTube. The site is a goldmine for old series, classic movies, kids shows, and music content. Most shows and networks have their own official channels that stream full-length episodes and clips.
It doesn’t matter which combination of these alternatives to cable TV that you use. You are guaranteed to save money when compared to your cable TV bill. Not to mention that you won’t have to put up with any of those annoying “hidden fees” any more.