Let’s be real: Cable television is ex-pen-sive. The average monthly price for cable TV is about $217 a month—that’s over $2,600 a year!1 Holy cow. And if you’re trying to pay down debt or save up some cash, one of the best ways to free up extra cash is to cut the cable cord.
We know—nothing beats kicking back on the couch and getting lost in your favorite show. But these days, you don’t need cable to do that. There are plenty of cheaper cable alternatives out there (some are even free!). And if you make the switch, chances are you won’t even miss it. Ready, set, cut the cord!
19 Cost-Effective Cable Alternatives
1. Disney+ ($8–14 per month)
A whole new world is here thanks to Disney’s streaming service. You can watch original shows and films along with classic favorites from Disney’s catalog, like Frozen, Mary Poppins and everything else in between. Oh, and we do mean everything else. Let’s not forget all the Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and National Geographic you can handle (because remember, Disney rules the world and owns all of those things).
Start budgeting with EveryDollar today!
But get this: The Disney+ triple package bundle also offers Hulu and ESPN+. So if watching sports was the only reason you were clinging to your cable cord, your excuse just met its match. Of course, ESPN+ doesn’t carry every single athletic game known to humankind, so just keep that in mind there, sport.
2. Discovery+ ($5–7 per month)
If the first thing you do when staying at a hotel is turn on HGTV or Food Network, then listen up—Discovery+ is here to make all your dreams come true. The streaming service carries those two ever-popular channels plus TLC, Travel Channel, History Channel, Animal Planet, A&E, Lifetime, the Magnolia Network and the Discovery Channel (obviously). These guys have you covered with cabin home shows, reality shows, food shows and a whole lot of other educational stuff. If you’re looking for a good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon, this is it!
3. Peacock (free–$10 per month)
Alert: TV shows like The Office and Parks and Rec have left Netflix forever. This is not a drill. The good news? They went to NBCUniversal’s new streaming service Peacock. The even better news? The basic version of Peacock is free. All you have to do is sign up with an email and password (no payment info needed!). But have no fear if you want to upgrade to the premium version. It’ll only set you back five bucks. That’s a small price to pay for some bears, beets and Battlestar Galactica. And if you want to opt for the no-commercial experience, that’ll run you $10.
4. Paramount+ ($6–10 per month)
Sure, this one has classic TV shows and movies (like the rest do), but it’s the movie theater experience that really sets this one apart. Get this—their streaming service will carry newly released Paramount movies 45 days after they hit theaters. So instead of hauling your gang to the real movie theater and spending an arm and a leg on tickets and candy, you can save a bundle just watching the flick in your own home.
5. HBO Max ($15 per month)
HBO Max is where you’ll find a little something for everyone. There’s Sesame Street, DC movies (think all those Batman flicks), Warner Bros. films, Friends and, of course, their own original content too. Oh, wait—we almost forgot about Lord of the Rings, Looney Tunes and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Basically, there’s a ton of content here you won’t find anywhere else.
6. Hulu ($6–12 per month)
Hulu is a great option if you want to watch a Hulu original series or currently airing shows right after they broadcast. The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching your favorite show, maybe cough up the extra six bucks.
And if that wasn‘t enough for you, Hulu also offers add-ons like HBO Max, Starz and Showtime (all for an extra fee, of course). But you can try it out for free for the first month. Hulu is an oldie but a goodie, and it’s still one of the best cable alternatives on the market.
7. Hulu Live ($65–71 per month)
If you love streaming Hulu’s shows but also want access to things like live sports and news, then opting for Hulu Live might be the right fit for you. Sure, watching shows live in real time is nice, but the best thing about Hulu Live might just be the ability to record shows and watch them later. Not ready to commit? You can check it out free for seven days!
8. Netflix ($9–18 per month)
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series (or a blast-from-the-past show that’s already over), you’ll have to wait until the season finishes airing on network TV before it’s released to Netflix. But hey, no commercials!
And you just can’t beat how easy it is to access Netflix. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the standard ($14) or premium ($18) plan.
Last year, Netflix upped their game and came out with a new way to watch: Netflix Party. This meant you could watch your favorite shows and movies with family and friends while social distancing in your own homes. How very 2020 of them.
9. Amazon Prime Video ($9 per month)
Amazon—it’s not just for shopping. It’s a major contender in the online streaming market. A membership to Amazon Prime Video gives you access to a wide selection of popular movies and TV series, plus a bunch of Amazon original series too.
And if Prime Video doesn’t include the show or movie you want to watch, you can usually buy or rent it as a digital download. But just remember, if it’s a rental, your access to watching it will expire.
If you can afford it and you’re a frequent Amazon shopper anyway, an even more cost-effective option is to opt for Amazon Prime for $13 a month. If you pay for it as an annual membership, it’s one payment of $119 a year. That comes out to just $9.92 per month (which is about a dollar more than the monthly basic Prime Video rate). Plus, you get access to all the other Amazon Prime perks, like free two-day shipping. Can’t beat that!
10. Apple TV+ ($5 per month)
Being the dominant tech company of the universe wasn’t good enough for them. Look out, world—Apple has its own streaming service too! Just like their powerhouse contenders Netflix and Amazon, Apple TV+ showcases their own original television series and movies. In fact, that’s what most of its content is made of. So unlike the other options, there aren’t a ton of classic favorites to watch here—still, it’s just five bucks per month.
To top it all off, if you buy an Apple device, you’ll get the streaming service for free for an entire year. If you were already saving up for a new gadget, they just sweetened the deal. But look out, your subscription will auto-renew after those 365 days are up.
11. Sling TV ($35–50 per month)
With Sling, there’s no more waiting on a show to air. You can watch it live just like with cable or satellite, except you’re watching over the internet! The basic package includes 30 live channels like AMC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV and the Disney Channel. You can get Sling Blue or Sling Orange (each with a different lineup of networks) for $35 or get both for $50. There are also $5–10 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs and your little ones.
If you’ve made your way through the bowels of Netflix and Hulu already, try out Sling. They run pricing discounts pretty often, so wait for a price cut to hit before you sign up if you want to save even more.
12. Philo ($20 per month)
If traditional cable still has your heart, fear not—here comes Philo to the rescue. You can get 64 popular cable channels like Nick, AMC, TLC and, yes, even Hallmark for $20 a month. Philo’s biggest claim to fame? You can stream it on up to three devices and record as many shows as you want. That means no more family feuds over what you watch every Friday night!
13. FuboTV ($65–80 per month)
FuboTV lets you stream local sports, entertainment and news channels in your area depending on the plan you choose. The starter plan covers over 100 channels, cloud DVR (for recording your favorite shows), and family share on three screens. The elite plan gives you over 200 channels, 1,000 hours of Cloud DVR and more. Starting at $65 a month, you definitely get your money’s worth here.
14. YouTube TV ($65 per month)
Not to be confused with the viral video app where everyone watches cute cat videos, YouTube TV actually lets you stream your favorite channels—more than 85 of them, to be exact. You also get access to local cable TV channels in your area, plus 24-hour news networks like CNBC, Fox News and CNN.
YouTube TV boasts a pretty good lineup of sports programming like ESPN and CBS Sports, plus very specific channels like the Tennis Channel and the Olympic Channel, if that’s your thing.
15. YouTube (free)
Sure, YouTube is known for hosting thousands of viral videos (like the cute cat variety we just mentioned). But it’s also a great place to brush up on new recipes, practice your DIY blanket knitting abilities, and learn sign language. In the span of a few minutes, you can discover everything from how to fold a fitted sheet to how to make delicious recipes that won’t bust the budget. You can even watch a ton of nostalgic TV shows and movies there too!
16. Pluto TV (free)
Pluto might or might not be a planet anymore (depending on who you talk to), but either way—its namesake is living on in the world of streaming. All you need is a smart TV or a device like Roku, AmazonFire or Chromecast to get it. Most of the content on Pluto TV is random television shows and movies, but then again, the same goes for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video—and you’re paying money for that. You can’t beat free.
With over 100 channels to choose from, there’s something for everybody here. And we do mean everybody. Do you like cats? There’s a Cats 24/7 channel. More of a dog lover? Explore the Dogs 24/7 channel. Into retro TV classics? Kick back with the Classic TV Comedy channel and Johnny Carson TV.
17. Cable Network Channels Online (free)
Most major networks post recently aired episodes to their websites for a limited amount of time. CBS even offers online viewers an additional paid subscription option (starting at $6 per month) to unlock more than 10,000 episodes of everything from Frasier to The Brady Bunch.
And if you own a smart TV or other streaming device (like Apple TV or Roku), you can download a lot of network apps straight to your device and watch there—and most of them are free! Why, hello, reruns of Fixer Upper.
18. HDTV Antenna (prices vary)
If you really want to cut back (and we mean way back), all it takes is an antenna. Luckily, they’ve come a long way since your grandma’s rabbit ears. Not only do they look better than the finicky metal rods, but the HD quality is better too.
19. Library (free)
Here’s a shocker: You can find everything from modern TV shows to workout DVDs at your local public library. The only downside is that you actually have to drive to a physical location—but at least you can keep your rentals for a week or two! Check out your local library’s website for information on digital rentals and other free perks they might offer.
Bundle Your Cable Alternatives With Other Media
Remember when people would bundle their cable, phone and internet providers to save money? Well, here’s a way you can (sort of) do that with your cable alternative streaming services. Look for deals with companies you’re already using! Have internet through AT&T? Use T-Mobile for phone service? Check out these deals that companies are offering—and since promos are always changing, be sure to ask what they’re offering:
- AT&T: Free HBO Max
- Verizon: Free Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu
- T-Mobile: Free Netflix
- Sprint: Free Hulu
What Are You Waiting For? Just Cut the Cord
So, why pay for premium channels you never use when, for a fraction of the cost, these cable alternatives can fulfill all your television binge-watching needs? This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the cable alternatives that exist, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started.
If you aren’t sure what’s worth it and what isn’t, just dip your toe in the water. You can usually get a free trial of almost any of these streaming services before you fully commit. If you’re still not quite ready to give up cable (even after all of these fine options), you can always call your provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
Something to watch out for though: If you sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Paramount+, Disney+ and Hulu, those dollar signs will start to add up. Will it still be cheaper than a cable bill? Probably. But be sure you’re actually saving money here. And be careful that you’re using the streaming services you signed up for. If you end up not really watching one of the streaming services—just cancel it.
If you’re looking for more ways to cut back, getting on a monthly budget is the only way to go. It shows you exactly where you’re spending too much and lays it all out for you in black and white. Plus, you’re going to need to budget for whatever streaming services you sign up for.
Get started budgeting with our free app, EveryDollar.