September 30, 2018 12:00 PM PT

Cable TV Alternatives

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Cable TV prices are rising steadily. Today, the average monthly TV bill is over $100. Looking to cut costs? Here are some options you can't afford to ignore.

Cable and satellite TV cost 53% more than they did in 2007. As prices continue to rise, people than ever are cutting the cord to save money.

But you don't have to give up your favorite TV shows - there are plenty of other choices if you decide to cancel your cable or satellite TV subscription.

Read on to find out the best alternatives.

Streaming Services

Streaming TV services are the best replacement for a cable/ satellite TV subscription. Also known as over-the-top providers (OTT), they provide either live TV or on-demand content.

Unlike traditional TV providers, OTT providers stream content from the internet. This means no equipment, no installations, and no contract.

This allows you to be flexible with your subscription. You can start, stop, and resume the service anytime without being locked into a monthly bill.

TIP: Consider ordering a "skinny bundle."

OTT providers offer bundles of live TV channels offered. They're smaller AND cheaper than those offered by cable. You'll pay less for fewer channels, instead of splurging for channels you won't watch anyway.

Here are OTT providers you may want to consider:

SLING TV

Sling TV is one of the cheapest streaming TV providers on the market. They have two main packages: Sling Orange and Sling Blue.

  • Sling Orange has 25+ channels, which include ESPN and Disney.

  • Sling Blue has over 40 channels, which include Fox Sports and Bravo.

You can combine both packages for 45+ channels. (Some of these channels may overlap.)

TIP: Combining both packages also gives you additional streams. You can have up to four devices with Sling TV running.

Sling also offers Add-Ons or extra channels for purchase. They include:

  • "Sports Extras"
  • "Comedy Extras"
  • "Kids Extras"
  • Premium channels like HBO and Showtime

NOTE: Sling only offers FOX and NBC in select markets. You should check first for availability in your area.

Sling TV has no contracts--you can stop your service anytime. There are also no equipment or installation fees either, so you can be flexible with your subscription.

It works with most smart devices, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, PCs, and smartphones. They also have a Cloud DVR feature with 50 hours of storage.

DIRECTV NOW

DIRECTV NOW is DIRECTV's version of a streaming TV service. It's compatible with Apple TV, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and web browsers.

DIRECTV NOW is cheaper than DIRECTV, too. They have four English packages, ranging from 65+ channels to 125+ channels.

You can also add on premium channels, like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and STARZ, at a lower cost than other providers.

ESPN+

ESPN+, a new streaming service from the Disney-owned sports network, is a great supplement for sports fans. This is especially true you're into non-mainstream (in the U.S., anyway) sports.

They offer:

  • Soccer
  • Boxing
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Rugby
  • Cricket
  • Several college sports

You'll also find original programming and studio shows like Detail (basketball analysis show) and the 30 for 30 documentary film series.

For mainstream sports, you'll still want a subscription of ESPN. It has fan favorites such as Monday Night Football, NBA, College Basketball, College Football, and many others.

Cable cutters can still get a main ESPN subscription from OTT providers like DIRECTV Now and Sling TV.

FUBOTV

Many seem to think that you can only watch sports on cable. However, FuboTV is an online streaming service that focuses on live sports. They also offer pay-TV channels like A&E, Bravo, The Weather Channel, and more.

For sports, FuboTV offers live streams of games from MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA. They're a great provider of soccer games too. Their biggest downside is that they don't have ESPN.

FYI FuboTV has a Cloud DVR service that records up to 30 hours. You can upgrade to 500 hours for an additional monthly fee.

FuboTV isn't the cheapest online provider, but it's great for sports fans. If you want to cut the cable but still get your sports fix, go with FuboTV.

PHILO

New to the scene, PHILO but it's one of the cheapest streaming TV options on this list. They don't offer sports channels, which is how they keep their monthly fees low.

They offer just two packages: their base package and the upgrade.

  • The base package has 40 channels, including AMC, Comedy Central, Lifetime, HGTV, and TLC.

  • The upgraded package has nine additional channels, including MTV Live, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America.

They also have a decent Cloud DVR system. It lets you record as many shows as you'd like, although the recordings are kept for 30 days only.

If you don't want sports and want your TV at a lower cost, Philo is an excellent choice.

NETFLIX

Netflix is one of the most popular online TV providers today. They don't provide live TV, but they do have a huge library of shows on-demand.

Their biggest selling point is original content - Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and Narcos are some of the most popular shows today.

Netflix works on almost every smart device out there. This includes gaming consoles, smart TVs, streaming devices, and every iOS and Android mobile phone.

TIP: If you like watching current shows in live time, then Netflix isn't for you. But if you're the type to binge on older series, then this streaming platform is perfect.

YOUTUBE TV

YouTube TV is a new service, so check first to see if it's available in your area. You can see the complete list of available areas here.

The service offers plenty of major cable TV channels, including live streams of ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS.

We like YouTube TV because they offer unlimited DVR storage, which lasts for nine months. You can also watch YouTube TV on most smart devices. This includes:

  • Smartphones and tablets
  • PCs
  • Smart TVs
  • Streaming devices
  • Xbox One consoles

If you want a reliable way of getting local channels, YouTube TV is one of the best online providers for it.

PLAYSTATION VUE

The PlayStation Vue is another over-the-top TV service provider, with plenty of live TV channels. It's available on iOS, Android, Roku, and Fire TV.

They offer four main packages: Access, Core, Elite and Ultra.

The Access package features almost 50 channels and includes ESPN and Disney. On the other end, with the Ultra package, you'll get 90+ channels, including HBO and Showtime.

We like that PlayStation Vue's DVR has unlimited recordings that last for 28 days. You'll also get five unique streams, although that's subject to some rules.

PlayStation Vue isn't the cheapest TV provider on the list. But it has a good quality broadcast featuring 60-frames-per-second. If you want great video quality, PlayStation Vue might be for you.

HULU & HULU WITH LIVE TV

Hulu and Hulu with Live TV is a combination of live TV and on-demand TV. You can get the on-demand and live TV services separately, too.

For live TV, you get to stream over 50 live and on-demand TV channels, including sports, news, and entertainment.

Some of the live channels include HGTV, Lifetime, SyFy, ESPN and many others. You can also add premium channels such as HBO and Cinemax to your subscription.

NOTE: Hulu comes with ads, unlike many streaming services. There is an ad-free version available for an extra cost.

For the on-demand content, they offer original content and past seasons of many cable and network TV shows.

The live TV service also offers 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage to record shows and watch them later. You have the option to upgrade this to Enhanced Cloud DVR, which gives you 200 hours.

If you're looking for a mix of on-demand and live TV, Hulu with Live TV is a good provider.

Stream TV on Your Widescreen TV

OTT providers usually design an app that you can use on your smart devices. Unless you have a smart TV, you won't be able to play the app on it.

So how do you get the streaming TV app to work on your regular TV? Here are a few options:

STREAMING DEVICES

Streaming devices are smart devices that you can attach to your TV. They connect to the internet and stream content to your TV.

Essentially, streaming devices convert your regular TV into a "smart" TV. Keep reading to learn more.

ROKU

Roku players are digital streaming devices for your TV. You attach them to your TV via an HDMI cable, and connect it to the internet. The Roku acts like a set-top box.

You can download apps and stream content from OTT providers. Whether it's PlayStation Vue, Hulu, or Netflix, you can simply install the app, log in with your account, and immediately start watching content.

Roku also has an intuitive interface that is easy to navigate. The downside is that higher-end Roku players can be expensive. The latest models may cost you almost a hundred dollars.

Still, it's a good quality player overall that we recommend.

GOOGLE CHROMECAST

If you're looking for something low cost, consider Google Chromecast instead. It's a "lighter" version of the Roku. It lets you cast streams from other smart devices to your TV.

This means you'll need to use it with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. You'll first have to install the app on the smart device.

You then play the app on those devices, but there'll be an option to "cast" the stream to your TV. You can cast a stream directly from your Google browser too.

You Should Know Chromecast doesn't come with a remote so it won't exactly feel like traditional cable/ satellite TV. But it's cheap and easy to use.

If you're okay with using your phone or PC to watch TV, this is a great choice for you.

AMAZON FIRE TV

The Amazon Fire TV works the same way as a Roku. Simply attach it to the TV via the HDMI cable, and then install the apps you want.

The latest model of the Fire TV also has 4K Ultra HD support. It's one of the more affordable 4K streamers on the market. It also has Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa and a MicroSD slot to increase the internal storage.

For what it offers, the Amazon Fire TV is cheaper than other streaming devices. I

You Should Know Amazon Fire TV is also a gaming console. It's not as advanced as a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but you can play certain titles like Minecraft and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Naturally, the Amazon Fire TV is optimized to deliver Amazon Video content. That's not to say it can't play other apps too. But if you don't plan on watching content from Amazon Video, it's better to go with a Roku or Chromecast.

APPLE TV

The Apple TV works like the Amazon Fire TV and Roku. The difference is that it's iOS. It has all the same functions - stream media, play games, and control things with your voice - except you'll be speaking to Siri instead of Alexa.

The Apple TV comes with pre-installed apps. You'll find Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now and other apps already inside the device.

For others, like Amazon Prime, you'll have to download and install them yourself. Of course, it also works with the iTunes Store.

TIP: IOS users enjoy extra perks with Apple TV. You can stream any content from your iOS device that supports Apple Airplay.

But even if you're an Android person, Apple TV is still a solid streaming device.

Apple TV's biggest drawback is its price. It's much more expensive than any other streaming device we've listed here. Expect to pay more than $100 for it.

If you're an iOS person, and spend a lot of time on your devices, then go with Apple TV.

OTHER DEVICES

If you're looking something other than streaming devices, consider these instead:

  • TV Antenna:
    If you want to cut the cord without giving up TV, the antenna is a great alternative. It's free, and you get all the over-the-air local channels.

    Watch channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS and the CW without paying a monthly bill.

    The downside is that you'll be limited to what's available in your area. Also, getting good reception might be tricky - you may need to install an antenna outside.

  • Laptop and HDMI Cable:
    This is the cheapest and simplest way to stream content onto your TV. Just buy a simple HDMI cable (about $7.00 on Amazon) and connect your laptop to your TV.

    Whatever you play on your laptop - saved recordings, streaming TV apps, YouTube - also gets projected onto your TV.

    Of course, you'd need a laptop with an HDMI slot. However, this feature is almost always available with newer models.

  • Xbox One and Playstation 4:
    If you already have the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4, you can watch streaming TV on it too. The console acts like a streaming media device. Simply connect it to the internet and download the streaming TV app.

    Of course, each console has its own limitation. PlayStation Vue, for example, can't be played on the Xbox One. You'll need to check which apps work with which consoles.

    Otherwise, your gaming consoles can already stream content to your TV. Simply install the video app and press play. Additionally, your gaming controller doubles as a wireless remote too.

  • Smart TV:
    If you bought a TV within the past few years, chances are you have a "Smart" TV. These are TVs which can already connect to the internet and play apps.

    While we've listed ways of watching streaming content on your regular TV, the process can be complex. Having a Smart TV with apps pre-installed makes it a lot simpler.

    If you already have a working TV, there's no reason to replace it now. You still have plenty of options to watch streaming TV on your regular television.

    However, if you're thinking of replacing your TV, then get a smart TV - it'll come in handy if you decide to cut the cord.

  • Blu-ray or DVD player:
    Some of the Blu-Ray players and DVD players can connect to Wi-Fi too. It uses the internet to stream video and play it on your TV.

    However, picture quality for Blu-Ray is still better compared to streaming. For streaming, you'll need a fast internet speed.

    If your internet is slow, the quality of the stream drops. it's better to stick with physical Blu-Ray discs for best quality.

BOTTOM LINE

Cable and satellite TV bills are increasing every year. OTT providers are the next best thing. With no contracts, no equipment, and no installation, you can be flexible with your subscription. Start and stop the service anytime.

Although they might not offer as many channels as cable or satellite TV, at least you'll be paying for what you want.

If cost is your biggest concern, then get a TV antenna. You'll be able to access all over-the-air channels at no cost. The biggest drawback is that you'll be limited to the channels available in your area.

Finally, also consider streaming devices and gaming consoles. You'll still need a subscription to an online TV provider. But at least these let you watch your shows on your TV set.

It'll feel just like cable/satellite TV - but for half the price.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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