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The 7 Best Alternatives to Cable TV in 2018

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The 7 Best Alternatives to Cable TV in 2018

As technology races on, there are more options for TV viewing. People are becoming aware of the many alternatives to cable TV. Expensive cable TV packages can put a serious dent in people’s budgets and their financial goals.

It’s not uncommon for people to pay $100 a month, $200 a month or more for their cable or satellite TV packages. Once you start adding in all of the bells and whistles, such as movie channels, sports packages, etc., the costs start to increase.

If you get a good deal on a cable TV package, you can pay a smaller monthly fee for a period of time. But, your cable TV premiums are doubled or even tripled after the trial period ends. Installation fees, rental fees and other charges that can come with cable packages can be expensive.

A cable package without movie channel choices might be more affordable. However, that leaves you with not much more than traditional TV show viewing choices.

The bigger cable packages offer a lot more shows and movies. But they are expensive, and many people can not afford them.

Alternatives to Cable TV are Actually Better

I remember when cable TV first hit the major city I grew up in. It was in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. The first family to get cable TV lived just a couple of miles away from us. They were famous, that’s for sure. Later, I went to tech school with their next-door-neighbor.

Everyone was amazed at the fact that there were options to have a variety of channels available instead of the usual 5 or 6 local channels. The cost of cable at that time? $7.95 a month.

That would be $26.78 a month in today’s dollars – still an affordable TV viewing option for many families. Today things are different. These days most cable and satellite companies are charging a much higher rate than that.

Luckily, advancements in technology such as live streaming are changing that. New technology means there are more ways for people to have access to a broader range of TV shows and movies than paying for a costly cable or satellite package.

Here are some of the options you have available to you if you’re ready to cut the cord to cable TV. Many of these options still allow you to have a larger selection of viewing choices than with traditional TV, but they’re a lot more affordable.

Note: You will need to have Internet access to take advantage of some of these cable TV alternatives.

1. Sling TV (The best alternative to cable)

Sling TV is cool because you don’t need rental equipment and you won’t pay installation fees. You can stream shows from your TV, tablet phone or computer.

Another nice thing about Sling TV  is that it offers customers several viewing options. There is the Sling Orange package. It currently costs $25 a month and offers 28 channels. The package includes ESPN1, 2 and 3, HGTV, and one of my personal favorites: the Food Network.

They also offer the Sling Blue package. It currently offers 44 channels and costs just $25 a month as well. Sling Blue offers different channels than the orange package, such as the Fox Sports and NBC sports network, Bravo, AMC, the Cartoon Network and the History Channel. However, some channels are the same.

The company also offers a third option: Sling Orange/Blue. You can get both packages for a total of $40 a month (a $10 discount from regular pricing). Or, you can get one package and choose from some add-on packages that range in price between $5 and $15 per month.

As of this writing, Sling Orange offers 29 channels, Sling Blue offers 42 channels, and the combo package comes with 48 channels. The package you choose will probably depend on the channel selections you’re most interested in.

Bonus: Bonus Channels!

Bonus: When you have Sling you can also order “extras.” These add-on packages come with several variations.

  • The Kids extra, Sports extra or News extra (starting at $5 a month)
  • Ala Carte premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and Cinemax
  • The International extra (viewing options for International shows)
  • The Comedy extra (comedy channel viewing options)

And more. By being able to customize your viewing choices, you can save money off of cable TV packages. Sling’s a la carte offering puts you more in charge of which channels you are paying for as you watch TV.

Note: Local network channels are only available in select markets with Sling.

2. Hulu

Hulu is most similar to Netflix when it comes to streaming subscriptions. But, it also has some cool features that you won’t find with Netflix.

Hulu’s basic $7.99 per month package gives you the ability to view all the movies in the Hulu library. You can also watch complete episodes of many popular TV shows. One downfall with Hulu’s $7.99 package is that you’ll view your shows complete with commercials.

However, if you’re willing to pay $11.99 per month you can view TV show episodes commercial-free. The smaller package includes current TV shows, classic favorites, kids shows, Hulu originals and more. However, it comes with a limit of streaming to only one device at a time.

Another nice thing about Hulu is that most current TV show episodes are available on Hulu the day after they air. With other streaming options such as Netflix, you often have to wait much longer to view new episodes.

Hulu also offers its Hulu With Live TV package. This package includes everything Hulu basic includes. It also gives you the ability to stream over 50 of the top live and on-demand TV channels including sports, news and entertainment.

The cost? $39.99 per month. That’s getting a little closer to cable TV package prices. However, it offers a lot more than you’d get with a basic cable package. It includes popular cable channels such as:

  • The History channel
  • HGTV
  • The Golf Channel
  • ESPN1, 2 and ESPN News
  • Fox News, and Fox Sports 1 and 2
  • FX, FMX and FXX
  • The National Geographic channel
  • Oxygen
  • Disney and Disney Junior

There are other channels on Hulu Live as well. I checked with one of our main local cable TV suppliers. They were offering 140+ channels for $70 a month, but this was a limited offer that expired after a mandatory two-year agreement.

So, Hulu may not offer all of the cable channels. But, it offers many of the popular ones at a fraction of the cost of cable TV packages.

Bonus: You can purchase HBO, Cinemax and Showtime streaming with Hulu for an additional monthly fee.

3. Netflix

Netflix is one of the more popular streaming services available as an alternative to cable TV. They offer three packages.

The Basic Package

Here are the details behind Netflix’s basic package.

  • $7.99 per month, plus taxes
  • HD and Ultra HD not available
  • One streaming device at a time
  • Unlimited viewing
  • Viewing on your laptop, desktop, phone, tablet or TV
  • Cancel any time
  • The first month free

This is an acceptable package if you live alone or in a smaller household. It would also work if you don’t watch a lot of TV and don’t care about the ability to stream in high definition.

The Standard Package

Netflix’s standard package costs a bit more but is worth it if there is more than one person in the household. This is the package we currently use at our house. Here are the features.

  • $10.99 per month, plus taxes
  • HD available, but not Ultra HD
  • Two streaming devices max
  • Unlimited viewing
  • Viewing on your laptop, desktop, phone, tablet or TV
  • Cancel anytime
  • The first month free

The Standard Package is good if you will have more than one person watching at a time. But it does depend on your viewing habits. We rarely have more than two family members streaming at the same time. Therefore the Standard package works for us.

The Premium Package

Netflix also offers a premium package. Here are the details.

  • $13.99 per month, plus taxes
  • HD and Ultra HD available
  • Four streaming devices max
  • Unlimited viewing
  • Viewing on your laptop, desktop, phone, tablet or TV
  • Cancel anytime
  • The first month free

This would be a good package for a larger household with many viewers. Our family of six generally doesn’t have more than two people on Netflix at a time, so we stick with the Standard package.

A Large Selection and Other Features

Netflix is currently offering over 10,000 movies and TV shows to viewers. But, the real draw for many seems to be their Netflix original TV series offerings. The company boasts of the more popular exclusive TV series, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

They’re also backing the Mystery Science Theater 3000 reboot that was released this year. We’ve been subscribing to Netflix for about three years now, and have been fairly satisfied with our time there.

They’ve got a decent selection of movies and TV shows in a wide range of genres. They will keep you entertained if you decide to cut the cable TV cord. If I had anything negative to say about Netflix, it would be that the movie choices are pretty average. They don’t offer a lot of super exciting choices.

4. Amazon Instant Video

Amazon Instant Video is a streaming service that is free when you purchase Amazon Prime. Or, it can also be purchased separately for $8.99 a month.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to purchase it separately, however. Amazon Prime is only $99 a year ($8.25 per month). If you’d rather pay on a monthly basis, it’s $10.99 per month. You’re probably better off getting the entire Prime package as it comes with a host of benefits such as free two-day shipping.

Amazon Instant Video includes a variety of TV watching options in different categories, such as:

  • Popular movies
  • Various sporting shows
  • Amazon original shows
  • Popular TV shows
  • Documentaries
  • Kids TV and movies
  • Classic movies
  • Exercise and fitness shows and movies

The service also offers other genres such as a Faith and Family movies and Award Winning Short Films. The Amazon Instant Video service is currently boasting over 18,000 movies and 2,000 TV shows, according to this recent report from the Video Advertising Bureau.

That’s a hefty offering compared to Netflix’s combined 10,000 available movies and TV shows.

Other Amazon Benefits

Bonus: Those who take advantage of Amazon Instant Video by purchasing Amazon Prime also get on-demand, ad-free music streaming, Kindle Unlimited (free reading of over 1,000 Kindle books and magazines), free unlimited photo storage and more.

Other benefits to Amazon Prime members include the 5% cash back rewards program that comes with the Prime credit card, and a thirty-minute head start on Amazon Lightning Deals.

Amazon Instant Video won’t give you access to cable TV goodies such as sports channels or popular movie channels. Still, it will greatly increase the number of TV shows and movies you have available to watch at a super affordable price.

Note: Amazon Instant Video wasn’t compatible with Apple devices for years. This has changed with the recent development of the Amazon Prime Video App for Apple. Now, Apple users can watch Amazon Instant Video selections on their Apple devices.

5. PlayStation Vue

One of the more recently released streaming subscription services is PlayStation Vue. Despite the name, PlayStation Vue streaming isn’t only available on the newer PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 devices.

You can also stream with them on your web browser, your Apple or Android TV, your Amazon Fire TV and on other devices as well, including mobile devices.

While PlayStation Vue costs more than the other services we’ve talked about, it still may be cheaper than what you would pay for your local cable or satellite packages. Here are the details on their available packages:

The Access Package

The PlayStation Vue Access Package costs $44.99 per month and includes almost fifty channels. It includes ESPN 1 and 2, the Learning Channel, Food Network, Fox Business and some local channels including CBS and Fox.

The Core Package

Their Core Package is just $5 more than the Access package at $49.99 per month. It contains nearly sixty channels. You’ll find offerings such as Bravo, HGTV, ESPN 1, 2 and ESPN News, the Travel Channel, USA, WE, Disney and Disney Junior and more.

The Elite Package

Their Elite Package offers roughly ninety channels and costs $59.99 per month. It includes the channels mentioned in the Access and Core packages. Some of the favorites in this package are the E! Entertainment channel, the Family Channel, the Cooking channel, Fusion, and National Geographic.

Also, the Elite Package includes many sports channels such as:

  • Fox Sports North and Fox Sports North Plus
  • MLB Tv
  • The Olympic Channel

And others. If you’re a sports fan, this Playstation VUE package might be the one you want to choose.

The Ultra Package

PlayStation Vue’s Ultra Package is $79.99 a month. That may sound pricey. However, it includes all of the channels in the Elite package, plus HBO and Showtime.

You may want to compare the PlayStation Vue package prices to your local available cable or satellite packages. You may find that the PlayStation Vue is a better deal – or you may not. In my city, the PlayStation Vue pricing beat out many of the popular comparable cable and satellite packages.

6. HD Antenna

Along with all of the streaming options mentioned above, other TV viewing options help you avoid paying for cable. You might be amazed at how many channels you can view without a cable package by simply hooking up an HD antenna in your home.

Using a site called Antenna Web, I looked up our rural area address. I found out that we could get access up to 55 channels if we installed an HD antenna at least 30 feet above the ground. For free! When I checked an urban zip code in our state, Antenna Web said they could get 73 channels by installing an HD antenna!

Not everyone can install an HD antenna 30 feet above their house or apartment. Even lower level apartment TV viewers can add several channels to their viewing capabilities by using other types of HD antennas.

Here is some basic information about HD antennas, how they work, and which types of antennas may be best suited for your living situation. The first thing you might be wondering about is what types of HD antennas are out there.

What Types of HD Antennas Are There?

There are a few variations when it comes to HD antennas. You have a choice to make as to whether to install an indoor antenna or an outdoor antenna. You’ve also got choices about whether to buy a directional antenna, a multi-directional antenna or an omni-directional antenna.

We’ll explain a bit about how to determine your antenna-buying choices here:

Indoor or Outdoor?

HD antennas are available in both indoor and outdoor models. Outdoor antennas generally go on the roof of a dwelling. They are more often used by homeowners or renters. Indoor antennas are a bit more discreet looking and are placed in various areas in a home or apartment.

Most of the time indoor antennas work fine as long as your home is located within twenty miles of broadcasting stations. If you are further away than that, an outdoor antenna would be best. Even if you are close to broadcasting stations, however, an outdoor antenna will likely give you the best viewing results.

Directional, Multi-Directional, or Omni-Directional?

When you shop for antennas, you’ll find three descriptions: directional, multi-directional or omni-directional. A directional antenna works best if all of the broadcasting stations near you are near each other. If you visit the Antenna Web website, it will show you where the broadcasting stations are in proximity to your house.

On the other hand, if the stations are in the same general direction but are a bit further away from each other, the multi-directional antenna may work best.

If the broadcasting stations in your area are in opposite directions from each other, the omni-directional antenna will likely be your best choice.

Again, if you visit the Antenna Web website mentioned above, it will show you a map of where broadcasting stations are when you enter your home’s zip code. This map will help you determine which direction the stations are from your house.

On another note, not all antennas are the same as far as function and quality. It’s important that you read the reviews when antenna shopping and find the best-rated antenna for your home or apartment. For your convenience, we did some antenna shopping comparison for you. Here are four of the higher rated HD antennas we found on Amazon.

Outdoor Antennas

Here are a couple of links to outdoor antennas that had high ratings and good reviews.

Indoor Antennas

Here are a couple of links to indoor antennas that had high ratings and good reviews.

While an HD antenna won’t give you all of the channels you would have access to if you purchased a monthly cable subscription, it will increase the number of channels you can watch on local TV. And the one-time cost (as opposed to an ongoing monthly fee) can be another attractive feature of using antennas to expand your viewing choices.

7. Online Viewing

Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available online for web site visitors.

Each channel has different guidelines in terms of what it offers regarding online viewing. Some channels offer all episodes for online viewing, while others only offer a designated selection. Note that some channels will charge money for online viewing capabilities, while other channels offer free viewing online.

YouTube as a Viewing Option

YouTube is another option for online viewing that can take the place of your cable or satellite package. The popular web channel shares many movies and TV show episodes for legal viewing. YouTube won’t offer an abundant selection of quality movies and TV show episodes. Still, there are some available, and it’s free with your Internet access package.

Most of what you’ll find on YouTube will be learning videos and entertainment videos. You may have to pay a small fee to watch some of the available movies or shows you find on YouTube. For instance, we recently watched an old classic movie on YouTube. It cost us $2 to stream it.

And keep in mind that you may also run across illegally published TV episodes for viewing on YouTube. YouTube does their best to get illegally uploaded videos off their site as soon as possible, but some will slip through.

The illegally uploaded videos on YouTube are usually evident by a poor quality video.


If you want to watch your favorite TV shows or movies without having a cable or satellite package, you have options. Consider checking out your favorite TV stations online at their channel websites or by browsing YouTube. You may find episodes and movies that they broadcast for free or for a small fee online.

Or for a more substantial viewing menu, consider signing up for one of the streaming services mentioned above. Most of them come with a free trial – anywhere from seven days to thirty days long. And many don’t require you sign a contract. You can stop or start the service as you please.

Considering canceling your cable TV subscription to find cheaper ways to watch your favorite TV shows and movies? There is a good chance that one of the options mentioned above will be right for you.

We’ve been using streaming services like Netflix and Hulu for nearly six years now. We find they fit our viewing needs. And, we have no desire whatsoever to go back to paying for a cable TV or satellite package.

With the variety of popular TV shows and movies available through venues other than cable or satellite, there’s no need to spend more for your TV viewing selections.

Have you tried any of the cable alternatives mentioned here? If so, which ones have you tried? How did you like them? For those who have tried multiple services, which one did you like best?

Share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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