Both cable TV and satellite TV costs have risen drastically over the last several years. In fact, the average household cable bill is now over $200 per month!
This may be out of reach if you’re living on a tight budget and you still want to watch your favorite TV shows.
Or, if you’re busy and not always able to watch much TV anyway, you may decide that the high price of cable isn’t even worth it! That’s what happened to me a few years ago.
I found other hobbies to occupy my time instead of TV. Then, since I wasn’t watching much TV anymore, I couldn’t justify paying such a high price for my cable subscription. So, I canceled it and I’ve never looked back!
If you’re looking for ways to watch your favorite shows on TV without cable, consider these alternatives.
How to Watch TV Without Cable
I’ve saved over $4,000 just because I eliminated that one bill from my budget over four years ago.
The best part? I still get to watch all of my favorite TV shows, even though I don’t have a cable subscription. Here are a few ways you can watch TV without cable, too.
1. Hulu or Hulu with Live TV
Hulu is my personal favorite way to watch TV without cable. You don’t have to worry about setting up an appointment or getting any special equipment to watch programming because you can stream it on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Plus, there are a number of tiers to fit just about any budget.
The basic plan has two tiers depending upon whether you want to sit through commercials. The ad-supported plan starts at $5.99 per month. Selecting this plan gives you unlimited access to stream on your choice of devices, with limited commercials.
You can upgrade and pay $11.99 per month to get Hulu without commercials, but I don’t mind the few commercials that come with this basic plan. There are way fewer commercials with Hulu than with cable, and it’s also way cheaper. And, you can always mute the TV during commercials.
Hulu with Live TV
You could also choose Hulu with Live TV as another alternative to cable TV. Just like the basic plan, Hulu with Live TV has two tiers: Ad-supported and no ads.
The ad-supported plan is $64.99 per month. With this plan, you can stream 50+ live TV channels in addition to what you get with the basic plan.
Don’t want to sit through commercials when you watch on-demand programming? No problem. The Hulu with Live TV without ads plan costs $70.99 per month.
With Live TV, you will have access to major networks, along with sports networks. This means you can watch live sports, which is often a deal-breaker when trying to watch TV without cable.
Hulu with Live TV offers subscribers 50 hours of cloud DVR storage to save your favorite live programs. If you need more storage space, you can upgrade to 200 hours for less than $10 a month.
Save with Hulu
Even if you sign up for the higher-priced plan you could still save money vs having cable. You can also cancel or switch plans at any time without having to pay a disconnect fee.
Hulu is easy to use with many different devices to stream it to your TV. You can have your choice of the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, and more.
One of the downsides of Hulu is that you may not be able to watch local sports or news in every city. In addition, if you like to watch movies that aren’t available on the basic plan, you can add HBO, Cinemax or Showtime. But it will cost an additional fee for each.
Tip: You can save even more on Hulu if you use Rakuten!
2. Sling TV
Sling TV is another alternative to cable TV that promises à la carte TV viewing with two plans to choose from for $35 per month. It allows you to stream live programs or record them for later using its cloud-based DVR.
Sling Blue or Sling Orange?
Sling TV offers viewers two base plans: Orange or Blue, plus you can also choose from some premium add-on services if you like sports, comedy, kids, news, or lifestyle shows.
If you choose the Blue plan, you can stream on 3 devices at a time and you get more channels than with the Orange, but the options for watching sports may be limited, though it does include the NFL Network, FS1, and Stadium. The channels in this package are better for news and entertainment watchers.
But, if you purchase the Orange plan, there are fewer channels to choose from and you can only stream on one device at a time. However, the channels in this package may be better suited for sports fans and families as it comes with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and Disney. This is one of the easiest ways to watch sports without cable.
Why not Blue + Orange?
For only $15 more a month ($50), you can select both the Blue and Orange plans and avoid the FOMO that is sure to come with picking just one of the Sling TV packages.
You can watch SlingTV on nearly any device. Plus, you can try it free for 3 days when you use my link.
Tip: You can save even more on Sling if you use Rakuten!
3. Amazon Prime Video
If you have an Amazon Prime membership already, you have access to Amazon Prime Video. Amazon Prime Video includes thousands of videos and TV channels Prime members can watch without paying any additional fees.
If you aren’t already an Amazon Prime member, the monthly charge is $12.99. Paying for an Amazon Prime annual membership is a much better deal. It’s $119 up-front, but it saves you about $37 vs paying monthly.
Or, if you don’t want to become a Prime member, you can choose to only subscribe to Amazon Prime Video for $8.99 per month.
After you sign up, all you need to get started watching is an Amazon account and a device that is connected to the internet.
You can also use streaming devices such as an Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, or several other devices. But you can’t use a Google Chromecast. I found that one out the hard way as it didn’t work for me. ?
One other drawback to choosing Amazon Prime Video is that your credit card will automatically be charged for the next month if you do not cancel it. However, as long as you did not use the service, Amazon should issue you a refund if you contact them.
Another way to watch TV without cable is to sign up for Netflix.
The lowest-priced Basic plan starts at $8.99 per month. You can watch on just about any device from anywhere, but only on one at a time unless you upgrade to another plan.
The Standard plan for Netflix is $13.99 per month and allows you to watch on two devices simultaneously and in high definition.
There is also a Premium option for $17.99 per month that has ultra high definition available and allows viewing on four devices at the same time.
After you sign up for Netflix, you can add additional users so each person has their own queue of shows and watch history. This is helpful if you have a roommate or if other family members watch Netflix and enjoy different shows.
Many devices have a connection for Netflix on them, which may eliminate the need for a streaming device. If yours doesn’t, however, you can choose from Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, PlayStation 4, and more. Netflix is commercial-free, so you only watch what you want to see.
However, one of the drawbacks of using Netflix is that you won’t be able to get local news or sports programs.
5. Paramount Plus
Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access) is a streaming service starting at $5.99 each month. For that price, you can watch your favorite shows with limited commercials. Or, you can get commercial-free streaming for $9.99 per month.
You can save additional money by signing up for their annual plan, saving you 15%. Or if you’re a student, you can save 25% on Paramount+.
You can watch Paramount+ via any smart devices, such as your laptop, tablet, or phone. Paramount Plus also supports a wide variety of streaming devices such as Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku, and more.
But there are drawbacks to Paramount+. Not all live-access TV is available in every city or town. In addition, some programs are not available for viewing by cell phone.
The 2 Biggest Drawbacks When You Want to Watch TV Without Cable
When you cut the cord offers a tremendous opportunity to cut expenses, but you will face a couple of drawbacks: Local channels and live sports.
How to Watch Local Channels Without Cable
Believe it or not, there was a time when stations broadcast shows, movies, and news only over the airwaves … there was no cable or satellite TV or internet. However, the way we consume watching our favorite shows and movies has switched to cable, satellite TV, or streaming.
When you opt to cut the cord and stream programming, it can be difficult to find local programming. Fortunately, you can get local channels (in select areas) from Paramount+, Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, fuboTV, and YouTube TV.
But, there is still another way. You can always go old skool.
Bonus: The No-Internet Needed Alternative to Cable TV
If you don’t already have internet and you’ve crunched the numbers only to find that you can’t save money with these TV streaming options, don’t worry! There’s still an alternative that may work for you: using a TV antenna.
Before you write this off, hear me out. These days antennas are much more powerful and TV signals much stronger than they used to be.
Using the right antenna can help you get as many as 50 channels without paying for a monthly subscription to anything.
The exact number of channels you can get with a TV antenna will depend on what antenna you get and where you live. But, if you don’t watch TV much anyway, this is a great no-internet-needed option.
Here are a couple of the highest-rated TV antennas from Amazon:
How to Watch Sports Without Cable
Perhaps the No. 1 reason people are reluctant to cut the cord is watching live sports. Streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Video are great to watch TV shows, movies, documentaries, and mini-series on-demand, but they lack live programming.
If you cannot live without sports, then you will need to subscribe to a service like Paramount Plus, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV (we recommend Blue + Orange), or go with something like YouTube TV (a relatively new player in the game at about $65 a month in select areas) or fuboTV (around $65 a month; 40 of the approximately 100 channels are sports channels).
Sports programming adds another layer of cost when you are trying to cut the cord so you can watch TV without cable. A friend felt really proud of himself after canceling his satellite TV service and its $160-a-month bill … until football season started. He opted for YouTube TV during football season, but still saved a lot of money over satellite TV.
Find Free Shows and Movies with Streaming Sticks
People who own an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku streaming stick know they are great to get Netflix, Amazon Video, Disney+, Hulu and more on their TVs. But, they also know they are great for finding a wide selection of free television shows and movies.
You can access services that offer free TV shows and movies on both streaming sticks. The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Tubi, and Filmrise are just a small sample of the channels you can view with either for the streaming sticks. You can also access YouTube videos from them, too.
If you don’t have an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku stick, then seriously consider one.
The good news is you can access Amazon Video from the Roku stick, and you can watch the Roku Channel from the Fire TV stick. And, don’t overlook the limited free trials you can score through the streaming sticks for premium movie channels. However, be sure to set a reminder so you know when to cancel the service and avoid any fees.
What About the Cost of the Internet?
Admittedly, watching TV without cable does typically require the use of high-speed internet or mobile data (if you choose to watch on your cell phone). So, the biggest assumption here is that you’ll be saving the most money if you already pay for the internet.
If that’s the case, cutting cable and using the internet you’re already paying for to stream these services will save you money.
However, if you don’t already have internet and you want to cut the cord on cable, make sure you do your math first.
The average internet bill is about $50 per month, but can range from $10 to $120 depending on the speed you choose, what company you use, and if you get an introductory offer that lowers the bill temporarily.
With this in mind, make sure you factor in the cost of the internet plus any of the plans above. Depending on what you were paying for cable, it may or may not be worth it to switch.
Why Is Cable So Expensive?
Bundling is one of the big reasons cable TV prices have become so high in recent years. For instance, the average monthly cable bill for consumers ranges from $70 to $100 per month in most homes. Many people believe the cable providers are to blame for bundling and price hikes.
Sure, they do make some good money from the bundling of channels. However, it is the large networks that are actually behind higher prices. They force cable providers to bundle unwanted channels along with the popular ones.
Those big networks have all the power. If the providers refuse to bundle channels, the networks will respond by simply finding a different provider who will.
Therefore, the providers keep agreeing to the demands of the networks and customers keep paying high bills because many are locked into a long-term contract. Nevertheless, dissatisfied customers are looking for—and finding—alternatives.
Should You Cut the Cord?
Before you decide to cut the cord, make sure you’ve considered these four things.
1. What TV shows and channels do I like to watch?
Before you up and cut the cord, you might want to make sure those shows you can’t live without are one at least one of the cable alternative options listed above.
Not every show or every channel’s content is on every cable alternative, but I’ve almost always been able to find the shows and movies I want to watch on at least one of these options.
Thinking about what you like to watch will also help you decide which of these alternatives is right for you. For example, if all you want to watch is the news and shows from the major networks, like CBS and NBC, you might be able to get away with only having an antenna. You might not need a streaming service at all!
However, if you prefer to watch other shows and movies, check to see which streaming service offers the best selection for your tastes before you sign up for one.
2. When do I want to watch TV?
Something to keep in mind is that not all of these alternatives will have the latest and greatest shows. So, if you want to avoid spoilers and keep up with your friends who have still have cable, you’ll want to get something like Hulu that offers new shows right after they air on cable vs Netflix, where you have to wait until the entire season is over and that’s if they acquire the rights to the show.
In my experience, Hulu is better for newer TV shows from cable and Netflix is better for older content, like shows that are no longer airing on cable. Both also have a good variety of original content to choose from too.
3. How do I want to watch TV?
How and where you want to watch TV may affect your decision to cut the cord too. By switching to streaming services you’ll have to have a strong internet connection and a device to use for streaming.
There are a variety of devices you can use to stream, so this is less of a concern now than it was a few years ago, but you’ll still want to think about it before you cut the cord.
If you don’t have a way to hook up a streaming service to your TV (if you have an older TV instead of a smart TV), you’ll have to get a streaming device, like an Amazon Fire TV Stick or a Roku, if you want to watch it on your actual TV.
4. Will this actually save me money?
Here’s where you need to do a little math to make sure the service or services you sign up for will actually help you save money.
After you decide which one or ones to use, make sure it’s less than your monthly cable bill. If your cable bill is bundled with your internet service, you’ll need to find out how much the internet will cost you once it’s no longer bundled with your TV package.
If the discount you’re getting for bundling is significant, it may be cheaper to just stick with your bundle at least until it expires.
What I Use to Watch TV Without Cable
I actually use three of the five options in this article. I personally use the $5.99 Hulu plan, the $13.99 Netflix plan, and I have access to Amazon Prime Video because of my annual Prime membership.
Between these options, I can watch nearly any show or movie that I desire. My monthly cost is $19.98 for Netflix and Hulu. I don’t count the Amazon Prime Video cost because I get that as a part of my $119 annual Prime membership fee.
To stream my favorite movies and shows, I use a Roku device.
It is indisputable that cable prices have gotten high over the last several years. But as consumers, we don’t have to pay those prices. We can use other options to watch TV without cable and save money for other things.
How do you watch television? Are you still paying for cable?