alternatives to cable

Alternatives to Cable: The Ultimate Guide

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Cable is a dying industry. In fact, I cut my cable cord years ago and haven’t looked back. There are so many amazing alternatives to cable out there that are cheaper, have less commercials, or are more niche specific that there’s almost no for anyone to even have cable anymore. The problem is that many people don’t even know so many other options exist!

There are over 20 alternatives to cable on this list alone, and I’m sure there are other niche services that I don’t even know about. But regardless of your television watching needs, I’m positive that you will find something on this list that fits them!

What Device Can Replace Cable TV?

The device that acts as a cable alternative is a fire stick. Amazon offers a Fire stick for a fairly low price. All you have to do is plug it into your tv’s HDMI port.

A firestick provides access to a ton of channels and streaming services. However, a common misconception is that all these services will be free, and that’s not the case. Although there are some channels and networks you can access for free with a firestick, you will still need your subscription to access streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Another misconception is that everyone needs a firestick. You can get access to many of these services and channels with just a smart tv, depending on the brand.

Even though you still have to pay for your subscription services, a firestick is a great option for those without a smart tv, or those who have smart tv with limited app options.

What are the Best Alternatives to Cable?

Traditionally, people would say that the best alternative to cable is satellite tv. Satellite providers like Direct TV and Dish Network offer the same services as basic cable. The problem is that Satellite tv has become just as expensive as regular cable. In fact, for many people the two are now nearly synonymous.

The best cable alternatives now-a-days are streaming services. Although you still need some type of high-speed internet connection (which you might be able to get for free!), there are some amazing options online for all of your television watching needs.

What are the Best Streaming Services?             

There are a few services that everyone has heard of by now, and for good reason. They have tons of content and are reasonably priced. The question becomes: Which one should you get? Or should you get them all?

Netflix

Netflix is the grandfather of all the streaming services. Though it began as a way to rent DVDs online, it changed with the times, and now it’s one of the most popular and well-known streaming services available.

Netflix has an extensive library of movies and television shows. They have even branched out into creating their own original series, to include massive hits like “Stranger Things” and “House of Cards”.

Although they do have tons of content, Netflix has been steeped in controversy lately. Many people are looking for alternatives. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options.

Hulu

Hulu is my favorite streaming service, and not just because they have “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“. Ok, that’s a big reason. But they also have a wide variety of other shows and movies.

Hulu also offers original content, such as the award winning “A Handmaid’s Tale”, and critically acclaimed shows like “Pen15” and “Ramy”.

 

One great advantage to Hulu that puts it ahead of Netflix is the live television option. You get access to 65 channels and their entire library of on-demand streamable content for less than sixty dollars a month – which is a much better deal than most cable companies offer.

If you don’t want to pay that much, you can stick to their streaming services, with plans starting as low as six dollars a month.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime has its hands in everything. For only $13 a month, you get access to free and fast shipping, one free Twitch subscription, and on demand video for thousands of movies and tv shows. If you don’t want all the shopping bonuses, you can get Amazon Prime video a la cart for only nine dollars a month.

Amazon Prime has some fantastic original content, including shows like “The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel” and “Good Omens”. One bad thing about Amazon Prime video is that they don’t offer many of the traditional series of old school television that Hulu and Netflix offer. You won’t find sitcoms like “Friends“, “Seinfeld”, or “Family Guy” for free on Amazon prime, or long running dramas network dramas like “Supernatural” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“. 

                                                       

But these old shows are on their way out, and Amazon does offer a ton of fresh, new content. Another bonus of Amazon is that they found a way to give you more movies and shows, but the downside is you have to pay for them. If something isn’t included for free in their streaming library, you may be able to rent it for a low cost.

All-Access Plans

Pretty much every major television channel is getting into the streaming service. Many have realized that people would rather pay for only the channels they want, rather than pay for hundreds of channels they never watch. This new normal in accessing television gives consumers more of a choice in what they have access to and reduces their costs.

HBO started the phenomena with HBO on the Go, but Starz and Showtime now offer their own streaming networks as well. Now, HBO disbanded their on the go platform in favor of HBO Max, where you can find all the iconic HBO content that you know and love, along with additional streaming options. HBO bought the rights to some of the most popular prime-time television series, to include “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory“. It’s safe to say that HBO is branching out of the premium channel business and into the streaming platform business. 

Some basic cable channels even decided to make their own premium streaming services. CBS All access is only six dollars a month, and provides access to all CBS, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and MTV programing, in addition to providing access to their sports programing and some original content. Fox is experimenting with an app, but currently you can’t access their programing through it unless you are a paid customer of a different provider. I imagine that will change soon as streaming takes over cable more and more.

YouTube

YouTube is known as a top streaming service, but it’s in a bit different in that you won’t find traditional television shows on it (though you may find clips and compilations). But you can find amazing original content on YouTube that you won’t find anywhere else.

Another cool thing about YouTube is that often times, you are supporting the little guy rather than major corporations when you watch YouTube. Many of the channels are run by small creators (I even have my own channel) just trying to make a small name for themselves. YouTube is owned by Google, so of course a giant company is going to get its cut, but it is one of the only options here where you can support individual content creators. And some of the stuff is really good! Whatever you are interested in, I’m sure you can find a YouTube channel that is related.

Which Streaming Service is Best for Live TV?

There are a few streaming services that are great for live tv, but the best one depends on a lot of factors. First, what is your definition of live tv? The traditional meaning is sporting events, awards shows, news, and other things that you catch live as they are being recorded.

A secondary definition, and one that is becoming more common in the world of streaming, is catching a program the first time it airs. Any show, sitcom, or movie can be considered “live tv” if it’s the first time it’s being aired. And sometimes it’s important to watch on the premier viewing, especially in this age of rampant spoilers.

It’s difficult to say which streaming service is best, because that greatly depends on what you want to catch live. If you’re only worried about catching the latest episodes of Supernatural and Riverdale before getting spoilers,CBS all access is probably the best choice for you. But if you want live sports, ESPN+ might be a better option.

But, there are a few cable alternatives that offer a plethora of channels for your viewing pleasure, where you can watch your favorite shows and sporting events live as they happen. Here are the best ones.

Sling TV

Sling TV is a great alternative to cable. They offer a ton of basic cable channels for only thirty dollars a month. They offer two plans, the orange plan and the blue plan. The Blue plan has a few more channels and allows you to stream on up to three devices, but the orange plan includes sports channels and the Disney channel. You will have to look at both options to see which channels you’d prefer to have.

A disadvantage to Sling TV is that they don’t seem to include the normal network channels. Fox and NBC seem to be available in select markets with the Blue plan, but I didn’t see ABC or CBS on either plan. However, if you aren’t interested in any of the shows on those networks, Sling is a great choice.

FUBO TV

Fubo TV is an excellent alternative to cable in that it is very similar to cable. The basic plan is only $65 a month and offers over 100 channels and streaming on up to three devices. The Elite plan is $80 a month and offers over 150 channels with streaming on up to five devices.

The biggest advantage of Fubo TV over cable is that there is no obligation. Most cable providers offer similar deals (XFINITY offers a cable and internet bundle with over 100 channels for only $100 a month) but they get you with the year long contract, and then raise the price significantly after the first year. Fubo TV doesn’t have any contracts, so you can cancel at any time with no penalty. They even offer a 7-day free trial on their basic plan so you can see if you like it!

Philo

Philo is one of the best alternatives to cable I’ve found. They offer access to over 60 channels for as low as $20 a month! That’s a great deal. They also have both a Starz and Epicz add on, so you can get access to premium channels and hit movies for $9 and $6 a month, respectively.

 

The only downside to Philo is the channels that they offer. Although they do offer some of the staples of basic cable, like Comedy Central, AMC, Lifetime, and the Hallmark Channel, they are missing the major network channels, sports channels, and most major news channels.

However, Philo makes up for its lack of channels in access options. It has unlimited DVR so you can store your favorite shows for up to 30 days, and offers streaming on three devices. There’s also no contract, so you can cancel at any time. At only twenty bucks a month, it’s a great option.

Vidgo

Vidgo is one of the alternatives to cable with the most interesting twists. It offers most of the channels that you would expect from basic cable (Including some network channels like FOX and ABC), but it incorporates a social aspect to television viewing.

With Vidgo, you can join or create watch parties and comment on your favorite shows while you watch them with friends and family, even from a distance.  Vidgo calls this innovation “social tv” and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future.

 

Vidgo offers two packages, the core package and the plus package. The core package is $45 a month, while the plus is $55. The plus doesn’t appear to offer that much more value, but take a look at the different channel offerings before making a final decision.

SelectTV

SelectTV is an amazing alternative to cable, and one of the cheapest on this list. At only twenty bucks a year (yes, year!) it offers a variety of content and multiple ways to watch it.

SelectTV is one of the only cable alternatives that offers prime time network television. Many of the prime-time shows are available to watch on SelectTV the day after they air. However, if you are obsessed with a show and don’t want spoilers, SelectTV offers an interesting option. They provide a free cable cutting kit with their service, which is basically just the HDMI antennae system that you need in order to pick up network television. This will allow you to get local channels at no additional charge, so you can watch network shows the minute they air.

 

A disadvantage of SelectTV is that they don’t offer many of the basic cable channels that you know and love. I didn’t see any options for Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, or TLC in their lineup. However, they do make up for that with on demand movies and live streaming of different channels, like C-SPAN, the Humor Mill channel, and Red Bull TV. Maybe it’s time we gave these alternative channels a chance!

Crackle

Do you love B-movies, independent series, and classic movies from before the turn of the century? Then Crackle might be the service for you. A quick look at their offerings shows movies like the Nineties classic “Indecent Proposal”, B-Films like “Boogeyman 2” or “Hostel 3” and a bunch of other movies from the early 2000s that seem older than they actually are.

Crackle also offers live streaming of older classics, like the original “Bewitched” and “The Carol Burnett Show”.  This is definitely a great option if you want to enjoy some movie and television nostalgia, or if you just want something a little different than what all the other channels are offering.

The best thing about Crackle is the price. It’s absolutely free. You get to take this walk down memory lane and watch all these old classics for free. All you need is a broadband internet connection and a device. 

Sports

If you only have cable for sports programing, there are a variety of cheaper options that will get you the content that you want without all the bells and whistles of cable. These three options are excellent alternatives to cable if you are mostly interested in watching sports. 

DAZN

DAZN (pronounced Da Zone) is the ultimate streaming platform for boxing. This platform allows live streaming of all the big fights, and you can pause, rewind, and watch at your leisure.

DAZN offers two subscription plans, the yearly at a hundred dollars, and a monthly subscription for twenty dollars a month. Although the yearly plan is a better value, the monthly has no obligation, so if you only want to catch a fight or two, this might be the better option.

NFL Game Pass

A few years ago, I paid over a hundred dollars a month for DirectTV specifically so I could get NFL Sunday Ticket and watch my beloved Chicago Bears play. Although watching the games live while they happen is still only available on DirectTV, NFL Game Pass has the second-best viewing option.

 

With this program, you get to watch every NFL game, commercial free! The only problem is that you have to wait until after it originally aired. However, if you don’t mind avoiding spoilers or wouldn’t be able to watch the live game anyway, this a great way to watch them. And, at only $99 a season, it’s only about twenty bucks a month (if you include preseason – which you can watch live in some markets with NFL game pass!).

Another great thing about NFL Game Pass is that you can catch the live audio feed of a game. So if you can’t watch it, you can still listen to your local radio channel’s broadcast. This gives you the opportunity to keep up with your favorite team on the go!

ESPN +

If you are interested in sports outside of football and boxing, ESPN + is the cable alternative for you. They offer livestreaming of thousands of live events from a variety of major sports organizations, to include Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL), the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and more.

You also get access to a variety of ESPN original programing, like 30 for 30 and all of the other sports talk shows that ESPN created. At only six bucks a month, it’s a great option for anyone who is into all things sports.

And, as a bonus, Hulu offers an amazing packagethat include ESPN + and Disney Plus. For only thirteen dollars a month, you can get access to all three, which is sure to please everyone in the family.

Movies

If you’re more interested in movies than television shows, there are two great options that will help you cut the cable cord and still get to watch all the movies you want.

Redbox

Redbox is a little different in that you pay per movie rather than pay as a monthly service, and you have to travel to the box to get the best and latest movies. But if you only want to watch one or two movies a month, Redbox is the best and cheapest option.

Vudu

Vudu is similar to Redbox in that they offer movie rentals, however they don’t have any physical locations so everything is On Demand. The cool thing about Vudu is that they offer some movies for free, but those free films also include ads. One of the big perks of finding an alternative to cable is to avoid all the incredibly annoying commercials in cable, right! But the other perk is the cost, so if you are looking for an alternative way to watch movies for a lower price, Vudu is a great choice.

Specialty Streaming

Curiosity Stream

If you love documentaries, you need to check out curiosity stream.  They offer thousands of documentaries on a variety of topics from science to lifestyle. And, at less than twenty bucks a year, it’s a great option for folks who only watch tv so they can learn some cool stuff about our world.

Disney +

The biggest hype this year for alternatives to cable is Disney +. Disney, much like Amazon, wants to take over all corners of every market it’s involved in, so it decided to create its own streaming service.

The thing is, Disney has some amazing content. Now that they own Star Wars and Marvel, they have some of the best movies and television shows that are currently being made. And many of them are exclusive to the Disney +streaming network.

A bonus is that Disney has partnered with Hulu and ESPN, so that you can get all three services for only thirteen dollars a month. With all the viewing options each of these services officers, this package deal is one of the best cable alternatives you can get.

Crunchy Roll

If you are into anime, check out Crunchy Roll. It’s a streaming service that’s dedicated to anime content. Plans start as low as eight dollars a month, and you can watch new content as soon as an hour after the original air time.

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Be mindful that this is premium anime content, so it’s likely that most of the shows will be in Japanese with English subtitles. Some may offer English voice dubbing, but if you want to watch mostly English language shows, this may not be the service for you.

Twitch

Twitch isn’t exactly an alternative to cable. You won’t get the programs that you are used to watching, but you will get something vastly different and often better: Live, interactive shows. Twitch started out as a gaming network, and although the majority of the content is still live streaming video games, they have also branched out. Many streamers have cooking shows, work out shows, travel shows, and more that they live stream on Twitch in the “just chatting” category.

A great thing about Twitch that makes it different than any other streaming service is that it’s interactive. You can chat with the content creators in real time, get their opinion on the game they are playing (or life in general) and even make friends with them. This is a bit more difficult with large streamers who have tons of viewers, but there are plenty of small streamers with amazing content who would love to chat with a new viewer.

What is the Cheapest Way to Watch TV Without Cable?

The cheapest alternatives to cable are actually free. There are two ways you can watch tv for free, though you might be limited in your programing choices.

Can You Get Local Channels Without Cable?

It is still possible to get basic network channels with an antenna. Wild, isn’t it? Obviously, you’ll need to get an antenna, which isn’t free, but you can get one that will pick up a ton of channels for less than thirty dollars on Amazon.

The downside of antenna tv is that it’s not on your schedule. Programs are on when you are on, and you can only catch them if you are available at that specific time. If you haven’t been spoiled by on-demand or just want to catch the news or a rerun every now and again, this is a great option.

The Library

When was the last time you visited your local library? They have more than books. Most libraries also have a wide selection of movies and television shows available for rental. The best thing about the library is that you can get access to all these great resources for free! All you need is a library card.

Cable May Be Dying, but TV is Thriving!

If we’ve learned anything from this list, it’s that there are tons of ways to watch your favorite television shows and check out new content. Cable may be dying, but shows and movies are constantly getting created. The only thing that’s evolving is the way we are watching them. What’s your favorite new way to watch tv?

 

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