The 8 Best Cable TV Alternatives for 2021 (Rated & Reviewed)

There are better options than over-paying for 500 channels you don’t watch.

Cable companies are losing thousands of customers each month because people have realized they don’t need hundreds of channels. People like you and me are looking at our cable bills, which can be over a hundred bucks each month, and wondering – “Why in the world are we paying so much for this???”

People are cutting their cable in droves.

Cable TV packages are like buffets – there are a handful of things you like and the rest you never eat.

Instead of paying over a thousand dollars a year for a lot of channels you don’t want, you can pick and choose. And there are no contracts!

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If you want to know how to watch tv without cable, here are the best cable TV alternatives (not counting the free ones if you’re a sports fanatic):

Table of Contents
  1. Network TV Sites Online – Varies
  2. DirecTV Now – $35
  3. Hulu – $7.99
  4. Sling TV – $20+
  5. Amazon Prime Video – $8.99
  6. HBO Now – $14.99
  7. FuboTV – $34.99
  8. HDTV Antenna Systems
  9. Go Outside

Network TV Sites Online – Varies

Many TV networks have free full episodes on their website for a limited time after broadcast.

For example, CBS offers a lot of free full episodes with even more when you sign up for CBS All Access ($59.99/yr with limited commercials or $99.99/yr without commercials after a 7-day free trial). For many shows, like 60 Minutes, you can watch the last 5 episodes for free. Some others have an entire season for free – such as Big Brother: Over the Top.

Other networks aren’t as generous so check with the network’s website for more details.

DirecTV Now – $35

Directv Logo

Direct TV Now is a streaming service from AT&T that offers live TV programming over the Internet. It gives you access to over 60 live channels for $35 per month. This includes popular stations, such as CNN, the Hallmark Channel, ESPN, the Disney Channel, HGTV, TBS, Discovery, Bravo, Animal Planet and Bloomberg, among many others. But you can also choose to add HBO, Starz or Showtime for an extra $5 to $8 per month.

Hulu – $7.99

Hulu logo

Hulu allows you to watch full seasons of different TV programs, including Hulu Originals. They also offer hit movies and more, and all with minimal commercial interruption. They will allow you to watch current TV series, with a slight delay after the initial airing.

The base package, with limited commercial interruption, is $7.99 per month, with the first month free. But you can also get the commercial free version at $11.99 per month. The service claims there are no hidden fees, no equipment rentals, or no required installation appointments.

Sling TV – $20+

Sling TV comes with two service levels. With Sling Orange you get 30 channels, including ESPN, Disney Channel, AMC, CNN, and HGTV among them. The service is $20 per month. Or you could choose Sling Blue, and get more than 40 channels, including FOX, NBC, and national and regional sports networks.

With either package, you can add additional channels at $5 per month. You can also add HBO for $15 per month, or Starz for $9.

We have a full review of SlingTV here.

Amazon Prime Video – $8.99

Prime Video enables you to watch an extensive library of both movies and TV shows for just $8.99 per month, after a 30-day free trial. You can also subscribe to more than 100 premium channels, including HBO, Showtime and Starz, as well as dozens of regular TV channels. However, unlike regular cable TV, you only have to pay for the channels that you actually watch.

Amazon Prime Video is a service of Amazon Prime, which is what you’re signing up for. That includes 2-day free shipping and a litany of other benefits. If you need a device to help you stream, the Amazon Fire TV stick is relatively cheap.

With HBO, Showtime, and Starz you’re given a choice, where you can rent a single TV episode, typically for a $1.99, or an entire season at $29.99 (prices vary). You can also rent movies for typically $3.99 for 48 hours, or you can buy the video for $15 or less (with $13.99 being a common purchase price).

Related: Best Free Online Streaming Services

HBO Now – $14.99

HBO Now is available as a streaming service at $14.99 per month, with the first month free. HBO Now gives you access to all the programming of HBO, from original television shows to blockbuster movies for one low monthly fee

You can subscribe to it as a standalone service, or you can add it to any of the other services that are available on this list, at a slightly higher fee.

FuboTV – $34.99

FuboTV is a live online streaming service that specializes in providing sports programming. Though they also offer a selection of regular TV programming, they provide live streaming of games in the MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA, as well as major college sports and international sporting events. For $34.99 per month, the service offers access to 68 channels. FuboTV is also offering a one-week free trial so that you can check out the service.

HDTV Antenna Systems

This describes several different systems that you can install in your home on a one-time basis, that will give you access to various channels that are available in your local market. For example, you can hook up ClearStream Eclipse Indoor, which has a 35-mile range and then have free access to programming available in your area.

The one negative about an antenna is that if you live in a rural area, that has little programming available or a lot of line of sight blockage, it won’t be of much help.

Go Outside

You don’t have to watch TV. 🙂

Give one of these services a try and see if you won’t be cutting your cable very soon.

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Jim Wang

About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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  1. Janette says

    I have xfinity now, paying channels I don’t watch. I would like to go to an alternative. Do you recommend the firestick for live TV, to watch the basic channels and others like HDTV, food network, Bravo and Hallmark ? Is Firestick streaming?

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