A Beginner’s Guide to The Best Cable Alternatives

If you’re like most people, you’re starting to wonder if cable is something that you can do without. With all of the ways that we receive media today, including online video and broadcast television, you might catch yourself wondering if the technology has caught up to paid television services, too. You want to know if there are cable alternatives. Fortunately today, you can watch the best paid television without having to put up with cable or a satellite company. These companies have been in the driver’s seat for far too long, and new companies have come along that put control back in your hands.

With so many alternatives to cable available on the market today, you might be wondering where to start. There are streaming services, digital catalogs of on-demand content, and television recording services to meet every taste and price point. Keep reading to see a complete list of the alternatives available to you. There are pros and cons to each service, of course, but there is something for everyone.

Streaming Services

Cutting the cable has to start with a discussion of streaming services. That is, most people want to know that if they cut their cable they can still see their favorite television shows streamed to them, just like if they had cable. The answer is that yes, there are many companies today that provide this service as alternatives to cable tv.

Streaming television seems a lot like cable or satellite, only it uses the internet to bring you the channel instead of a cable or satellite. The internet connection has to be high-speed. If you have the internet and a computer, smartphone or television with an attached streaming device, you can watch the channels just as you would watch a video embedded on a website. You just log in to your streamed tv service, find the channel or other content that you want to watch, and sit back and enjoy.

Sling TV is the Industry Leader

Choosy television consumers are wise to choose Sling TV for their television streaming service. Sling TV lets you pay a low monthly fee to get a package of just the most popular television channels. In fact, they let you choose from two different entry-level packages, the Orange package with ABC and ESPN and the Blue package with NBC Sports and FOX. The entry level package is just $20 or $25, depending on which one you choose.

If that’s all you want to do, you can stop right there. That’s right, you can see the most popular paid television channels for just $20 per month. What’s even better is that, unlike cable and satellite, you don’t have to agree to a term of service that can be years long. Sling TV allows you to pay as you go and cancel in an instant if you no longer need or want your service.

For consumers that want a little bit extra, you can upgrade to other packages. There is a Sports Extra package for $5 per month for the biggest sports fans. If you like news there’s a News Extra package that’s waiting for you. You can add HBO for $15 per month. Change your channel choices around any time you want. Sling TV also lets you log in from other places, so you’re not stuck just watching at home. New users can try out the service for seven days to see what they think.

DirecTV NOW – Free Trial

This service is AT&T’s answer to streamed television. It’s similar to Sling TV in that it uses the internet to bring you live television, but it has a few different features. It gives you a bigger base package of channels and it starts at $35 per month.

DirecTV NOW uses the power of AT&T to develop its service so that it’s compatible with a wide range of devices, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and web browsers including Chrome and Firefox. There’s a seven day trial, just like Sling TV offers.

The entry-level package is called the “Live a Little” option. You get what you would expect with basic cable, including TNT, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, ESPN, HGTV, Discovery, TV Land and Food, to name just a few. One of the ways that DirecTV NOW distinguishes itself from Sling TV is that with DirecTV NOW you can get HBO for just a $5 add-on each month, instead of Sling TV’s $15 monthly upcharge for the same add-on option. With DirecTV NOW you can get Cinemax for the $5 add-on, too.

PlayStation Vue

This is another internet-based television streaming service, but it was originally designed for PlayStation consoles, so it’s not as portable as DirecTV NOW or Sling TV. For $30 or $40, depending on your city of location. The service has recently expanded to include other device compatibilities including Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS and Roku. For people looking for cable tv alternatives, this is a strong option because it offers a large number of case channels.

On-Demand Content and Premium Channels

There are ways to watch your favorite channels and on-demand content without cable. Many times today, the channels themselves offer direct service for a fee as cable alternatives. HBO NOW is one such service. This is a standalone option that lets you get just HBO. You don’t have to have any basic paid television service. HBO’s price is just $14.99 per month.

If you’re confused as to the difference between HBO GO and HBO NOW, the only difference is how you receive the channel. HBO NOW is the service you order by itself. If you get the service as part of a paid television package, it’s called HBO GO. That’s really the only difference.

Amazon Prime

Amazon has a loyal customer base for its Amazon Prime service, and they have expanded into offering alternatives to cable tv. The service costs $99 per year and it comes with free two-day shipping and a music library, as well as premium television channels. The free trial from Amazon is thirty days, which is longer than the seven days offered for television streaming services.

With Amazon Prime you can add Showtime and Starz with your subscription. That add-on option is $8.99 a month. Amazon always seems to be at the forefront of new developments, so it’s likely that with a subscription to Amazon Prime you’re first in line to try out whatever is next.

Buying Content By the Show

As of yet, there is no service that gives you 100 percent control over a la carte cable. That is, no service truly lets you pick and choose down to the channel what you want to pay for. However, you can buy single episodes for cable alternatives. There are a number of places that you can go to do this. iTunes is an option, VUDU, and even Amazon allows you to buy individual shows, even if you don’t have an Amazon Prime membership. Single episodes usually cost just a dollar or a few dollars, depending on the show.

This is a good way to go if you know exactly what you want to watch. It’s also a good option if you want to watch something specific that you don’t have access to through any other paid option. Sometimes you get a discount on a season pass when you buy a single episode.

Netflix

This is a brand that you’ve probably heard of. Older generations remember the days when Netflix was a mail-order DVD rental service. Subscribers appreciate Netflix’s relatively large library of options, compared to other paid services. They have a great deal of children’s content for strong alternatives to cable tv. You pay $8.99 per month to access Netflix’s service, but once you pay it’s unlimited. You can cancel when you want to.

Usually with Netflix, you don’t get a new series as it airs. You have to wait a few months until it finds its way to the service. However, there are some original programs that you get with Netflix, and Netflix sells some subscriptions just for these programs. House of Cards is one Netflix original, and there is a great deal of hype surrounding the Full House relaunch, Fuller House. Orange is the New Black is another Netflix original series.

Hulu

If you want a big catalog of television shows to choose from, Hulu might be your service of choice. This service is priced about the same as Netflix, but its specialty is television shows. You can find great options that originally air on NBC, ABC and FOX. You’re more likely to find currently-airing seasons on Hulu then on Netflix or any other service.

Hulu also offers a great deal of original programming for the $7.99 monthly price. They also have a great deal of old and classic television for your enjoyment, too. You can cancel the service at any time.

CBS All Access

CBS is also in on the streaming and paid television game, as they compete for your business as one of the alternatives to cable tv. They offer a service for $5.99 per month if you’re willing to put up with some ads. The service lets you see any CBS-aired show in almost every CBS market across the country, wherever you are. This is a great option for local news fans.

CW App

The CW channel has a generous offer for fans. You can watch free, and the channel gives you lots of current shows this way. You don’t have to have a paid television login, either. The service works as an app or with most streamers available today.

TV For Free

There are lots of options out there that either give you free television or help you find it as cable alternatives. Some options just point you in the right direction to where you can find your show of choice. Crackle is a great option and ConTV, Shout Factory TV and Tubi TV are other great examples. CuriosityStream costs $2.99 per month and you can use it to watch documentaries online to your heart’s content.

Streaming Devices

Once you’ve chosen your streaming service, you need to choose a streaming device. A streaming device connects the television to your television. That way you can watch on the big screen instead of on a phone or computer. There are lots of options available on the market today.

Roku is a good option. Users like the intuitive interface that it offers. If you get PlayStation Vue you can use a PlayStation Console, or you can get Fire TV from Amazon. Apple TV is your best bet if you’re an iOS person.

Television Antenna

You can still go super old school and watch free broadcast television with an antenna. Although we’re more than a decade past the switchover from analog to digital, this technology hasn’t changed much. It uses an antenna to pull down broadcast signals sent through the airways for free. You need to buy an antenna, though. You can consider Mohu Leaf 50 or a Mohu Curve. You might not need an amplifier to go with the antenna. You can get an antenna from a big box store like Best Buy, or even just a major retailer like Target or Walmart.

If you go the antenna route, you run the risk of putting up with a poor picture. The quality of the picture depends on how far away you are from the signal and the quality of the antenna. All antennas are not created the same, so do your research and get one that’s powerful, especially if you’re far away from a station’s broadcast point.

If your tv is newer than 2007, it should have a digital tuner. If your television is older than that, you might need a box to convert it from analog to digital in order to find alternatives to cable tv. With television prices as low as $100 these days, however, it might be time to replace that analog television set.

Practical Things to Consider

When you cut cable, you have to keep a number of things in mind. You need fast internet, but there’s no sense in paying for more power than you need. Your internet company might sell you cable that they claim is ten times as fast as what you’re getting, but that might not mean anything to you if you couldn’t ever possibly use that much data. There’s no reason you need any more than 12 Mbps, and even that might be too much. Think about how many devices your family might use at once and whether you’re watching in standard definition or high definition.

Next, you need to choose your internet service. Most providers still try to sell you the boring bundle that includes landline phone, internet and cable television whether you want it or not. But if you’re insistent and you dig around, you can find a service that sells you just internet. That’s all you need if you want to buy a streaming service or on-demand streamed content. When you’re searching, make sure that you don’t run into problems with the provider wanting to cap the amount of data that you can transfer in a month.

A lot of times, cable companies try to sell you a contract with an introductory price. Don’t be fooled. Your rates rise as soon as the introductory rates are over. Then you’re stuck with the rest of the contract term. Also, shop around for promotional offers. Usually they aren’t hard to find. Also, if the cable company wants you to rent a modem, consider purchasing your own to save a few bucks in the long run. If you’re one of those people who still wants a home phone, there are options for that besides cable, too.

More About Streaming Devices

Roku is a good option because it’s flexible with a lot of services and streaming options available today. Roku is quick to adapt to new technology, too. Fire TV from Amazon offers support for Amazon Instant Video, Sling TV, Hulu and Netflix. It also works with ethernet as well as internet. Apple TV has Siri and you can install new apps with it. Google Chromecast is a thrifty option at $35.99 each.

DVR

A DVR might be a helpful add-on, especially if you go the antenna television route. You might find that if you’re going to streamed television there are on-demand options that mean you don’t miss not having the DVR. The DVR lets you record shows as they air to watch later. This can cost $10-$20 per month, depending on the service provider.

Cut Off Cable and Watch Today

Anyone today can find a way to cut cable that works for them with the cable tv alternatives available today. The options today are cheaper, and you have more control than ever before. Consider what’s most important to you and find the service that caters to your interest niche. You’re going to love what’s waiting for you.