The 22 Best Cable TV Alternatives for 2021

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 touch.

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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Table of Contents
  1. Network TV Sites Online – Varies
  2. Paramount+ – $5.99 per month
  3. DIRECTV STREAM – $70
  4. Hulu – $5.99
    1. Hulu On-Demand
    2. Hulu + Live TV
  5. Sling TV – $35+
    1. Sling Orange
    2. Sling Blue
  6. Amazon Prime Video – $8.99
  7. Starz – $8.99
  8. Peacock – Free to $9.99
    1. Free Plan
    2. Premium and Premium Plus
  9. FuboTV – $64.99
    1. Starter Package
    2. Elite
  10. HBO Now – $14.99
  11. Netflix – $8.99+
  12. YouTubeTV – $64.99
  13. Philo – $25
  14. NFL GamePass – $49.99
  15. ESPN+ – $5.99
  16. Disney+ – $7.99
  17. AMC+ – $7.99
  18. Hallmark Movies Now – $5.99
  19. Locast – Free
  20. NewsON – Free
  21. Tubi – Free
  22. Roku Channel – Free
  23. HDTV Antenna Systems
  24. Go Outside
  25. Summary

Network TV Sites Online – Varies

Many TV networks have free full episodes on their website for a limited time after broadcast. You can see how far you can get at the network website but may have to find past episodes and series on a premium channel.

Paramount+ – $5.99 per month

You can watch CBS shows and movies on Paramount+ (previously CBS All Access).

This platform also includes these cable networks:

  • BET
  • Comedy Central
  • MTV
  • Nickelodeon
  • Smithsonian Channel

It’s also possible to watch CBS Sports content including NCAA basketball, NFL games and UEFA soccer (Champions and Europa League). 

You can livestream your local CBS channel, CBSN, CBS Sports and ET Live.

There are two different Paramount+ subscription plans:

  • Limited commercials: $5.99 monthly (or $59.99 annually)
  • Commercial free plan: $9.99 monthly (or $99.99 annually)

Each plan can be streamed on up to three devices, has the same content options, and comes with a one-week free trial.

This service is a good option to access the ViacomCBS and Paramount Pictures movie catalog.

Here’s our full review of Paramount+.

Get Started with Paramount+

DIRECTV STREAM – $70

DIRECTV STREAM (formerly AT&T TV ) is a contract-free streaming service from AT&T that offers live TV programming over the Internet. You can get over 60 live channels starting at $69.99 (plus tax) per month and only need an internet connection to access them. 

Other plans are available but can cost more than $100 per month. You may be able to get one free year of HBO Max and can compare your offers after entering your home address.

This is one of the priciest cable TV alternatives but it may be your cheapest option.

DIRECTV STREAM may also be cheaper if you’re currently paying for several streaming plans. Cord-cutting can be more expensive than you think if you replace one service with multiple low-cost providers.

You can also choose to add HBO, Starz or Showtime for an extra $5 to $8 per month.

Get Started with DIRECTV STREAM

Hulu – $5.99

Hulu allows you to watch full seasons of different TV programs from almost any cable network. Its Hulu Originals shows and movies are worth a watch too. 

Hit movies and current TV series are available with minimal commercial interruption. A live TV streaming plan is available too.

Monthly plan options include:

  • Hulu on-demand (with commercials): $5.99 per month (or $59.99/year)
  • On-demand (no ads): $11.99 per month
  • Hulu on-demand and Live TV: $64.99 per month

The two on-demand only plans have a 30-day free trial. You get a seven-day free trial with the Live TV option.

As Disney owns Hulu, you may be able to buy an ESPN+ and Disney+ bundle at a discount. It is also possible to add premium networks like HBO Max and Starz.

All plans let you stream on two screens at once. Live TV subscribers can purchase the Unlimited Screens add-on to watch on an additional three screens. 

Hulu On-Demand

Long-time cordcutters may remember when the Hulu online content library was free. You waited a day after the episode air date and watched the show with limited ads. 

There is no longer a free plan, but the on-demand library is budget-friendly and has one of the biggest content libraries available. It’s possible to watch shows and movies from most local TV networks and cable channels.

The no ads plan ($11.99/month) also lets users download and watch episodes later.

Hulu + Live TV

The Hulu + Live TV bundle lets you access over 65 live channels, including local affiliates, and the on-demand library.

Some of the leading channels include ESPN, Disney, Cheddar, FX, NASA, SyFy and TNT.

This service costs more than most cordcutting platforms offering live TV but the on-demand library can be more extensive. You can also record up to 50 hours of Cloud DVR

Additional add-ons include:

  • Premium networks (HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz)
  • Entertainment add-ons (Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Science, etc.) 
  • Espanol add-on (CNN en Espanol, ESPN Deportes, etc.)
  • Enhanced Cloud DVR (200 hours instead of 50 DVR hours)

Here is our full review of Hulu+

Get Started with Hulu

Sling TV – $35+

Sling TV comes with two service levels – Orange and Blue. Either package costs $35 per month but includes different premium channel lineups.

You can also buy a combo package and pay $50 monthly to get both lineups. 

Up to 50 hours of cloud DVR is standard and paying $5 extra yields 200 hours of DVR storage. 

Sling Orange

With Sling Orange you get 30 channels, including ESPN, Disney Channel, AMC, CNN, and HGTV among them. 

This package is one of the cheapest ways to watch ESPN. The Blue package doesn’t offer ESPN or Disney channels.

One downside to this package is that only one device can stream at a time.

Sling Blue

The Sling Blue lineup has 40 channels, including FOX, NBC, and national and regional sports networks.

While you don’t get ESPN, you get more sports channels overall. This package can also include local FOX and NBC channels.

With either package, you can add additional themed channel packages at $6 per month. You can also add HBO for $15 per month, or Starz for $9.

Here’s our full review of SlingTV.

Get Started with SlingTV

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. 

This service is free with a full Prime membership ($12.99/month or $119/year). Choose this option if you want Amazon Prime shopping benefits like 2-day free shipping and music streaming.  

There are exclusive Amazon-produced shows and movies to stream on-demand. Select live sports stream for free as well including professional baseball.

In addition to free shows and movies, popular and new movies typically rent for $3.99 for 48 hours. Or you can buy the video for $15 or less (with $13.99 being a common purchase price).

If you need a device to help you stream, the Amazon Fire TV stick is relatively cheap.

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.

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). 

Related: Best Free Online Streaming Services

Get Started with Amazon Prime Video

Starz – $8.99

Starz is available as a standalone streaming app for $8.99 per month (after a 7-day free trial).

You can stream popular series and movies currently airing on the Starz cable lineup and their on-demand library.

It’s also possible to watch original movies and shows exclusively available on Starz. It’s possible to download original content to watch later without internet access.

It’s possible to stream on up to four devices at a time with HD video.

Get Started with Starz

Peacock – Free to $9.99

Peacock offers an extensive shows and movies catalog for NBC and cable networks. 

  • Bravo
  • CNBC
  • MSNBC
  • E!
  • NBC Sports
  • SyFy
  • USA

However, you most likely won’t be able to watch your local NBC affiliate. Instead, you can stream the national NBC News NOW feed and curated channels for specific shows.

You can stream live sports with the paid monthly plans.

The platform has three plan options:

  • Free: $0/month
  • Premium: $4.99/month ($49.99/year)
  • Premium Plus: $9.99/month ($99.99/year)

You must choose a paid plan to access the entire content library and live sports. 

Free Plan

The Free plan has an impressive on-demand content library. You can stream every episode of The Office and can also watch other movies, series, and news programs. 

Select Telemundo series in Spanish are available too.

Premium and Premium Plus

Both paid plans unlock the entire Peacock content library with next-day streaming access for NBC shows. 

Two of the best reasons to upgrade include live sports streaming and access to exclusive Peacock original series.

You will need to spring for Premium Plus to get ad-free streaming and offline access.

Get started with Peacock.

FuboTV – $64.99

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. 

Streaming packages either cost $64.99 or $79.99 per month and include at least 100 channels . There is also a Latino Quarterly package that costs $33 per month but only has 32 channels.

If the standard packages don’t include the channels you desire, you can add sports, lifestyle and premium movie networks. These packages cost between $4.99 and $24.99 per month. 

Starter Package

For $64.99 per month, the service offers access to 113 channels with live sports events streaming in 4K. FuboTV is also offering a one-week free trial so that you can check out the service.

You can stream your local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC channels. Popular sports and lifestyle cable channels include:

  • BEIN Sports
  • Disney (including Disney Jr. and Disney XD)
  • ESPN
  • FS1
  • Hallmark Channel
  • NBC Sports 
  • NFL Network
  • SyFy
  • TUDN (previously Univision Deportes Network)

This lineup is sufficient for most sports fans whether you local US or international games.

Other Starter package perks include 250 hours of cloud DVR and up to three screens at once.

Elite

The Elite package costs $79.99 monthly and comes with 158 channels. For comparison, the Starter plan comes with 113.

Most of the additional channels are for sports and lifestyle-focused. You also get the Fubo Extra package ($7.99 monthly) that includes 45 entertainment channels. 

Other perks include 1,000 hours of DVR storage and screen sharing for up to 10 devices. 

Consider this package if you want access to these sports networks:

  • Stadium
  • MLB Network
  • NBA TV
  • NHL Network
  • ACC Network
  • Pac 12 Networks

Get Started with Fubo

HBO Now – $14.99

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

There is also classic programming in the WarnerMedia catalog (HBO’s parent company). Some examples include Friends, Looney Tunes and Wonder Woman.

You can subscribe to it as a standalone service. Other platforms also let you subscribe within their platform at a similar monthly fee.

Get started with HBO Now.

Netflix – $8.99+

Netflix needs minimal introduction as it’s one of the oldest and largest streaming platforms. It’s possible to stream many movies and tv series, including new releases and classics.

As the largest streaming site, Netflix may offer some of the most popular productions not available on other platforms.

Netflix also has original shows and movies you won’t find anywhere else. Some notable originals include:

  • Stranger Things
  • Narcos
  • Fuller House
  • Bridgerton
  • House of Cards

It’s possible to download shows and movies to watch offline too.

There are three monthly plan options:

  • Basic ($8.99/month): 1 screen at a time and standard video quality
  • Standard ($13.99/month): 2 screens at once and HD playback is available
  • Premium ($17.99/month): 4 screens at once and Ultra HD is available

Check out these Netflix hacks to maximize your subscription.

Get started with Netflix.

YouTubeTV – $64.99

YouTube TV streams local and cable channels and costs $64.99 per month with a 14-day free trial. The single monthly plan streams over 85 channels.

Other perks include unlimited DVR storage. The platform save recording for up to nine months. Up to three devices can stream at a time.

It’s possible to access your local channels from the four major networks. 

You will also get some of these cable platforms:

  • CNBC
  • CNN
  • Comedy Central 
  • Disney
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • FX
  • MLB Network
  • NBA TV
  • NBC Sports
  • Nickelodeon
  • NFL Network
  • Paramount Network
  • SyFy
  • TBS
  • TruTV
  • YouTube Originals

You can also add-on premium movie and sports and channel networks. Some of the best options include Hallmark Movies Now, HBO Max and Starz.

Sports fans can purchase the YouTube TV Sports Plus add-on ($10.99) for these channels:

  • NFL RedZone
  • Fox Soccer Plus
  • MAVTV
  • Stadium
  • Fox College Sports
  • TVG
  • GOLTV

Get started with YouTubeTV.

Philo – $25

Consider Philo if you want a cheap streaming app and don’t need sports channels or the locals. You pay $25 per month for 60+ entertainment cable channels with a seven-day free trial.

While you don’t get locals, sports, or the Disney networks, you can get several channels that other platforms may only include in add-ons.

Some of the channels you can get include:

  • AMC
  • BBC America
  • Comedy Central
  • Game Show Network
  • Hallmark Channel
  • MotorTrend
  • Nickelodeon
  • Paramount Network
  • TV Land
  • UP

Premium network add-ons are Epix for $6 monthly and Starz at $9 monthly.

There is unlimited DVR with a 30-day storage limit. Up to three devices can stream at once.

Get started with Philo.

NFL GamePass – $49.99

The easiest way to watch any NFL regular season game is with NFL GamePass. The service costs $49.99 per year after a 7-day free trial.

What’s the catch as this platform is so cheap?

You can’t access the game video until after it ends. But you can stream the live radio broadcast. It’s possible to watch a compressed version of the game, commercial-free.

GamePass also shows the NFL films including Hard Knocks and Mic’d Up.

Get started with NFL Game Pass.

ESPN+ – $5.99

You can stream less popular teams and on-demand ESPN content on ESPN+ for $5.99 per month (or $59.99 annually).

It’s also possible to bundle ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu on-demand for $13.99 monthly (with ads) or $19.99 monthly (no ads). 

Some of the content options include:

  • 30 for 30 library
  • Select ESPN films
  • Game replays
  • UFC pay-per-view events (optional purchase)

However, this service doesn’t let you stream the ESPN or ESPN 2 networks. You will need to use a service like Sling Orange to access this content.

If you’re okay with watching the less popular games for domestic and international sports that don’t have the viewership for national broadcasting, consider this service.

It may also be handy to watch during your favorite sports season like college football or European soccer.

Get started with ESPN+.

Disney+ – $7.99

Disney+ offers on-demand Disney content but not live TV programming. A monthly subscription costs $7.99 or $79.99 annually.

There is also the Disney Plus bundle that includes ESPN+ and Hulu on-demand. The ads-supported option costs $13.99 monthly and the ad-free plan costs $19.99 monthly.

This service lets you stream shows and movies from these places:

  • Disney
  • Pixar
  • Marvel
  • Star Wars
  • National Geographic

Some movies are available early with the Premier Access feature. You pay $29.99 for early access and can watch the movie unlimited times before other Disney+ members get access.

Up to four devices can stream at one time. The app also supports VirtualWatch parties that let up to six friends watch simultaneously with pause and rewind capability.

Get started with Disney+

AMC+ – $7.99

You may appreciate a “skinny bundle” like AMC+ with a $7.99 monthly cost. You can stream on-demand ad-free content and some live TV from several channels:

  • AMC
  • BBC America
  • IFC
  • IHF Films Unlimited
  • Shudder
  • Sundance TV
  • Sundance Now

You may need to have an Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Roku, or Sling TV account to register for AMC+. 

Get started with AMC+.

Hallmark Movies Now – $5.99

Not every cable alternative offers the Hallmark Channel and its various subchannels. Hallmark Movies Now is a standalone service that can fill the gap as you only pay $5.99 monthly or $59.99 annually. There is a seven-day free trial.

You won’t get live TV access but can watch on-demand shows and movies. This service can cure your addiction for the numerous Hallmark Christmas movies or the latest When Calls the Heart episode.

Content is available from these channels:

  • The Hallmark Channel
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • Hallmark Drama

It’s possible to stream up to two movies at once. 

Get started with Hallmark Movies Now.

Locast – Free

The cable streaming apps may not simulcast local TV channels. If you don’t get good antenna reception, you have a local TV blackout.

Locast can be a potential solution to stream local channels over the internet and it’s free–they gladly accept donations. However, you must live in a qualifying local TV market.

Some of the largest markets include:

  • Atlanta
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco   

Other apps may only stream the local news shows. Try this app first to see what channels you can tune into.

Get started with Locast.

NewsON – Free

NewsON lets you watch local news broadcasts from across the United States. You can also watch broadcasts from other cities if you don’t live in the local market. 

It can be easier to find the broadcasts using NewsON as you don’t have to visit the news website or download multiple news channels apps. 

Tubi – Free

Tubi is a free place to watch over 20,000 movies and shows but must watch ads.

The platform hosts these movie catalogs:

  • Paramount
  • Lionsgate
  • MGM
  • Warner Brothers

You can’t watch live TV but NFL fans can watch FOX America’s Game of the Week during football season. This matchup is usually the most-watched televised professional football game each week and you no longer need access to a local FOX channel.

Get started with Tubi.

Roku Channel – Free

You may use a Roku device to access free and paid streaming services from your smart TV. There is also the Roku Channel that has live TV news in the US and Canada.

This channel also has on-demand shows, movies and children’s programming. Premium subscriptions to other cable streaming apps and premium movie channels is optional. 

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. 🙂

Summary

Give one of these services a try and see if you won’t be cutting your cable very soon. You can watch the programs and save money – it’s a win-win.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of four 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 farms in Illinois, Louisiana, and California through AcreTrader.

Recently, he's invested in a few pieces of art on Masterworks too.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. Janette says

    Jim
    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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