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Cord-Cutting Cable TV Alternatives

  • 9 min read

Have you cut-the-cord? If you haven't gotten in on this trend here is what you need to know.

Cord-cutting means that you cancel your cable or satellite service and receive TV programs, movies, and other content via alternative sources. 

  • Use an Antenna: The easiest and least expensive way to cut the cord is to cancel your cable or satellite service and receive your content from over-the-air local and network affiliate TV channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, and PBS) free using an indoor or outdoor antenna. 
  • Take Advantage of Streaming:If you have a smart TV, media streamer (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV box), or most Blu-ray Disc players, and subscribe to an internet service, you can access a large selection of content from online streaming services.
  • Combine Antenna with Streaming: You can use an antenna to receive local TV stations and internet streaming to access online content.

Streaming Options That Can Replace Cable

Many prefer watching movies and TV shows from streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+, but there are also a large number of people that would still like to access cable channels, but without the box and higher bills. For those viewers, there are several streaming options that provide a similar experience.

Each of these services offers popular "cable" channels delivered via the internet so no extra box or installation is required. Some services also provide access to select local Network affiliated channels, which means, depending on the service, you may not have to also connect an antenna to your TV. 

NOTE: Streaming apps, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc... are not included within these types of services. However, Hulu + Live TV provides access to the Hulu streaming service and cable-type channels. Also, the number of channels offered by each service is subject to change. 

Let’s take a look at six top alternative-to-cable streaming services.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV (not to be confused with the standard YouTube or YouTube Premium streaming apps) offers a package of channels (over 85 total) for $65 a month. A selection of premium channels can also be added individually for an extra charge. 

The major networks are included (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) along with CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, other cable entertainment channels, and several sports channels. 

You can also add premium channels (each for an extra charge) including HBO MAX, Showtime, Starz, Epix, Cinemax, AMC Premiere, Curiosity Stream, and Acorn TV.

Check out the entire list of included and add-on channels offered by YouTube TV.

A Cloud DVR is also included. This allows you to record as much selected content you want for later viewing (up to 9 months for most recordings). The recorded content is stored online (no need to fill up a PC hard drive). The programs are placed in your YouTube TV Library.

Devices compatible with YouTube TV include Android TV and phones, iPhones, Samsung and LG TVs (2016 and newer), Vizio (select Smartcast models), Hisense (select models), Sharp (select models), Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox One/S/X and Playstation 4.

YouTube TV suggests you have access to the following internet speeds: 3 Mbps (SD), 7 Mbps (HD with single device), 13Mbps, or more (HD when using multiple devices are used on the same network at the same time).

YouTube TV allows streaming to three devices at the same time. 

Hulu + Live TV

In addition to Hulu's dedicated streaming service, you can get Hulu + Live TV for $54.99 per month. You can also opt for the plan that offers the Hulu streaming service with no-Ads bundled with Live TV for $60.99 month. 

The Live TV portion includes up to 60 "cable" channels accessible online. Select local channels are also offered (location dependent), as well as individually priced premium channels (such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Starz).

Check out a listing of all the channels that Hulu Live offers.

Additional feature Add-ons include: 

  • Unlimited Screens ($9.99 mo)
  • Enhanced Cloud DVR + Unlimited Screens Bundle ($14.98 mo)
  • Spanish Networks ($4.99 mo)

The Hulu + Live TV Cloud DVR feature provides 50 hours of storage space. For $9.99 extra per month, you can access an enhanced version of the Cloud DVR with 200 hours of available storage space. 

Devices compatible with Hulu + Live TV include: 

  • Android phones/tablet/Android TV 
  • Amazon Fire TV, Fire Tablets, and Echo Show
  • Apple TV (4th generation or later)
  • Chromecast (includes TVs with Chromecast Built-in)
  • iPhones/iPads 
  • LG and Samsung Smart TVs (select models)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Mac and PC browsers/apps
  • PlayStation 3/4
  • Roku (select models)
  • VIZIO SmartCast TVs
  • Xbox 360/One
  • Xfinity Flex Streaming TV Box and X1 TV Boxes

Internet speed recommendations are 1.5 Mbps minimum (SD) and 3 to 8 Mbps (HD)

Hulu + Live TV allows up to two streams simultaneously. An unlimited number of streams are available for an extra $9.99 per month.

AT&T TV Now

AT&T has taken its cable experience and repackaged it for cord-cutters under the banner: AT&T TV Now

The two main packages promoted are Plus(45+ channels - $55 mo.) and Max (60+ channels - $80 mo.).

However, there are additional packages available (priced per month):

  • Entertainment (65+ channels - $93)
  • Choice (85+ channels - $110.00)
  • XTRA (105+ channels - $124.00)
  • Ultimate (125+ channels - $135.00)
  • Premier (140+ channels - $183.00)
  • Optimo MAS ($90+ Spanish language channels - $86.00)

HBO Max is included in the Max package (includes all HBO channels and Cinemax).

HBO Max can be added to the Plus package for $14.99/mo. 

Showtime, Starz, or Cinemax can be added to any plan for $11/mo. each. EPIX can be added for $6 mo. and Movies Extra Pack for $5 mo.

The Movies Extra Pack includes:

  • Hallmark Drama HD
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • HDNet Movies 
  • MGM HD 
  • Sony Movie Channel HD 
  • Smithsonian Channel HD 
  • Crime and Investigation Network HD 
  • MTV Live 
  • ShortsTV HD 

Check out the channel listings for all packages. Select Featured Packages for the Plus and Max plan listings and Other Packages for the other plan listings.

AT&T TV Now provides a Cloud DVR that allows up to 500 hours of recording. Recordings are automatically deleted after 90 days.

AT&T TV Now can be used with Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, Samsung Smart TV, iOS, iPad (11+ or higher), Android 5.0 and higher, Chrome 58+ and higher, Safari 10+ or higher.

Recommended internet speeds are 2.5 To 7.5 Mbps (HD), 12 Mbps, or higher (when multiple devices are being used on the same network).

Up to three simultaneous streams are allowed. 

Sling TV

In addition to its traditional satellite TV service, Dish Network offers Sling TV to attract cord-cutters. You don’t need to be a Dish subscriber to use Sling TV. However, just as with other cord-cutting services, Sling TV requires its own subscription.

It offers two service categories: Sling Blue and Sling Orange which are both priced at $30 per month. 

Both plans have some channels in common, but Sling Blue emphasizes entertainment, while Sling Orange emphasizes sports. Neither Sling TV package offers many local channels. The ones that may be available are NBC or Fox affiliates only. You will need to connect an antenna to your TV to receive the other local stations.

You have the option to combine both Blue and Orange services for $45 per month.

10 hours of Cloud DVR storage is included with both plans.

Devices that provide access to Sling TV include: Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, LG and Samsung smart TV's, TIVO Stream, AirTV, Xbox One, Android and iOS phones, Windows PCs, and the Chrome Web Browser

Suggested Internet Speed Requirementsfor Sling TV are 3 Mbps (SD), 7 Mbps (HD with single device), 13Mbps, or more (HD when using multiple devices are used on the same network at the same time).

Sling Orange is limited to a single stream. Sling Blue allows you to watch on three screens at a time.

Philo TV

Philo TV isn't as well-known as the ones discussed above but is very affordable. For $20 a month you get access to 61 popular "cable" channels. 

However, unlike some other services access to network affiliates (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc...) are not included and there is no provision to access local channels. This means to access those channel options, you have to connect an antenna to your TV. 

On the other hand, Philo TV does offer a selection of premium channels that you can pay extra for. 

  • Epix, Epix Hits, Epix 2 - Extra $6 a month.
  • Starz, Starz Encore, Starz Kids, and Family - Extra $9 per month.

Philo TV comes with a Cloud DVR with unlimited storage, but recordings are deleted after 30 days.

Philo TV is available for Roku, Fire TV and Fire Tablets, Android (5.0 and higher), iOS, Chromecast, PC/MAC via Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Recommended internet speed requirements are 1.5 Mbps (SD), 5.0 Mbps (HD). If you want to stream to more than one device at a time, higher internet speeds are suggested. 

Philo TV allows viewing on up to three devices at a time. 

Fubo TV

If you are a sports fan, Fubo TV might be a good cable or satellite TV alternative. In addition to the selection of network and basic entertainment channels, Fubo TV offers a large number of sports channels.

Entertainment channels (subject to plan and location) include FOX, CBS, NBC as well as AMC, CNBC, SHOWTIME®, FX, HGTV, SYFY, USA, Bravo, A&E, Food Network, E!, Oxygen, Fuse, Lifetime and History Channel and more. 

Select local channels are available in some markets

  • Fubo Standard ($59.99) - 108 channels, 30-hour capacity Cloud DVR (500 hour Cloud DVR Plus is available for $9.99).
  • Family Plan ($64.99) - 108 channels, 130 events of 4k, Cloud DVR Plus, Family share included which allows viewing on three screens at once.
  • Family Plan with Nine Showtime Channels ($74.99) - 117 channels, 130+ events in 4K, Cloud DVR Plus, Family Share included.
  • Ultra ($85.99) - 193 channels (130+ events in 4K), Fubo Extra (47 additional entertainment channels), Showtime (9 channels), and Sports Plus (29 channels) included, Cloud DVR Plus and Family Share also included.
  • Fubo Latino: ($29.99) - 32 channels, 100+ sporting events, Cloud DVR Plus, Standard Share included which allows viewing on 2 screens at once.

Depending on the plan FuboTV networks broadcast La Liga, Premier League, Champions League, MLS, Ligue 1, Liga MX, and many other leagues and tournaments. Fubo TV added ESPN channels in August of 2020.

Select FuboTV plans also include the NFL, NBA, and MLB, as well as the NHL, NASCAR, golf, boxing, MMA, tennis, and college sports. Select special event offerings include the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup Playoffs, Triple Crown, and the Olympics.

Premium Entertainment Channel add-ons include Showtime ($10.99 - already included in Family Plan with Showtime package) and AMC Premiere ($4.99 - ad-free version of AMC).

Sports Channel Add-ons

  • Sports Plus with NFL RedZone ($10.99) - NCAA, NFL RedZone from NFL Network, and more prime sports channels. 
  • Fubo cycling ($11.99) - Live coverage of major international cycling events as other select sports channels. 
  • International Sports Plus ($6.99) - Live coverage of world-class soccer tournaments.
  • Adventure Plus ($4.99) - International Auto racing and extreme sports. 

Entertainment/Sports Channel Combination Add-ons

  • Fubo Extra ($5.99) - Extra TV shows, movies, news, sports, music, and Kids TV channels.
  • Latino Plus ($19.99) - Spanish-language live sports, TV shows, movies, and documentaries.
  • RAI Italia ($7.99) - Sports, News, and entertainment from the RAI Italia channel. 
  • TV5MONDE ($9.99) - Sports, TV shows, and movies from the popular French TV network.
  • Portuguese Plus ($14.99) - Sports, News, and entertainment in Portuguese. 
  • Entretenimiento Plus ($4.99) - Movies, TV, and Lucha content from Mexico, Spain, and other Spanish-language countries

The Fubo TV basic plan comes with a 30 hour DVR which can be upgraded to 500 hours for $9.99 per month. However, all of the other plans come with the 500 hour DVR included. 

All plans allow you to store DVR recordings indefinitely until you need to delete them to make room for more recordings.

Devices compatible with Fubo TV include Amazon Fire TV, Android Mobile, Android TV, Apple TV, Mac and PC (Chrome, EDGE, Firefox, Safari), Chromecast, iPhone/iPad, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox One/S/X

Fubo TV internet speed recommendations are as follows:

  • 3Mbps(480p/SD)
  • 7Mbps(720p/HD)
  • 10mbps (1080p/HD)
  • 25mbps (2160p/4K)

As mentioned previously, the Fubo TV basic and Fubo Latino plans allow for two simultaneous streams (Standard Share) at no extra charge, while most other packages allow for three (Family Share). 

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of cable or satellite service, the above cord-cutting alternatives accessible online is an option. Although the "basic" packages are affordable when compared to cable/satellite, depending on what plan you sign up for and how many add-on extras you may take advantage of, your cord-cutting bill could be almost as much as a cable or satellite bill (especially with some of AT&T Now's plans). 

Just as with cable and satellite services, cord-cutting services may include channels you’re looking for, but they may also include channels that you may seldom or never watch.

Also, channels may be periodically added or deleted depending on changes in licensing and distribution agreements. Be sure to check the channel listings for the service(s) you are considering.

It’s best to install the apps for these services on your Smart TV or connected media streaming device if available.

Video quality on most of the live streaming channels that these services provide is 1080p or less. Also, most audio is stereo (2.0) audio but in some cases 5.1 channel surround (special events, sports events, and movie channels are examples). However, some channels providing older content may even be in mono.

For best audio results, consider connecting your TV to a soundbar or surround sound system. A wireless home theater system, such as the Enclave Audio CineHome II or CineHome Pro is a practical option.

If live-streaming cable-type channels that you have to pay for aren't what you are looking for, there are also free live streaming services (Pluto TV, Pluto TV, Xumo, LG Channels, and Vizio Watch Free). 

To step things up further, there are several individual popular paid subscription or video-on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, Apple TV+, Vudu, and more... These services offer original and library content and often provide a better video and audio experience as some content is offered in 4K/HDRand Dolby Atmos surround sound. 

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