7+ Online streaming options so you can cut your cable

If you’re like me, you watch a handful of shows on a handful of channels. Usually on DVR.

Getting hundreds of channels means nothing to you. It means nothing to me.

It’s like being at a buffet filled with food you wouldn’t eat.

Sure, it’s all you can eat, sure, but you don’t want to eat it!

I know many of you are like me because one of the most popular money-saving guides is our guide to cutting your cable. It gives you a step-by-step guide to replacing your cable television service with other services. I kept it purposely simple, not recommending a laundry list of services because you’re more likely to take action.

Today, I want to offer up options.

If you’re a convert to cutting your cable and going with just internet service (if you like sports, sometimes that’s all you need!), here is a curated list of options to still get the shows you want.

1. SlingTV

slingtv-logo

Besides illegal streaming, SlingTV is easily one of the best alternatives to cable television service.

For $20 a month, their basic package, Best of Live TV, gives you ESPN, AMC, CNN, HGTV, Cartoon Network, History Channel, Disney Channel, ESPN2, TNT, Food Network, TBS, Freeform, Adult Swim, IFC, A&E, El Rey, Viceland, Lifetime, Travel Channel, Newsy, Bloomberg Television, Local Now, Polaris+, Maker, Flama, and Galavision.

If you’re one of the few people who watches one of those random ESPN channels all the time (most likely for international soccer), for $5 more you get their Sports Extra package that gets you the SEC Network, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, BeIn Sports, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, Outside TV, and Univision Deportes Network.

How much are you paying for cable today and do you really watch channels outside of those? If the answer is no, consider cutting the cable for this way cheaper alternative that you can watch anywhere you are able to stream. SlingTV supports computers, tablets, Chromecast/Roku/etc, and even the Xbox One.

For a limited time, Sling TV will give you a free Roku streaming stick (retails for $39.99) when you sign up for a month of Sling TV. This turns any TV with an HDMI port into a TV that can run Sling and other internet services (Netflix, Amazon, etc.)

The best part, you can give it a whirl for free for 7 days.

Try SlingTV

(curious how they do it? SlingTV is owned by Dish Network, it’s not some random startup that’ll disappear on you)

2. Roku

roku-logo

Roku is a streaming device you can connect to your television via an HDMI port. It’s a one time purchase and one of the cheapest options is a Streaming Stick at under $50. The most expensive is a Roku 4 at $129.99. We recently purchased the Roku 3 (it replaced a defective and underutilized cable box that cost us $13 a month!) and I list this as an option even though it doesn’t technically come with service because it offers a great streaming option and some free channels.

After you purchase a Roku device, you can link up all your paid services for us with your TV (great if it’s older and doesn’t have internet connectivity) plus some free channels including PBS, Crackle, Smithsonian Channel, PBS Kids, CBS News, and more.

You can also purchase HBO Now and Showtime at the regular direct rates. Showtime offers a 2-month trial on Roku.

Roku has no on-going subscription fee, the only cost is the device, which you can usually pick up on sale on Amazon.

3. Netflix

netflix-logo

I like to watch television shows with a few seasons under their belt. I feel like with a few seasons, the actors can settle into their characters’ personalities, there will be a few dozen episodes to enjoy, and a true story can develop.

For that, I usually turn to Netflix, which has a huge library of television shows, movies, and their own original content. At less than ten bucks a month for their basic streaming package, it’s insanely cheap and you can stream to nearly any device out there. I have yet to find a device that won’t stream Netflix.

If you want to get the most out of your Netflix subscription, you won’t want to miss our Netflix hacks.

Try Netflix

4. Amazon Video

amazon-instant-video

Amazon Prime is Amazon.com’s video streaming service that comes packaged with Amazon Prime, the free shipping membership. Amazon Prime costs $99 per year, or $10.99 per month, which is a fantastic deal if you do a lot of shopping on Amazon. You get free two-day shipping (sometimes free Same-day deliveries too), a slew of other benefits, plus access to their video streaming service which has thousands of free TV shows and movies.

Like Netflix, you can stream it to nearly any device currently available. Amazon also has their Fire TV and Fire TV Stick devices.

If you’re a big fan of Amazon, you won’t want to miss our list of the best Amazon hacks.

Try Amazon Video (Prime)

Amazon also offers add-on packages that include Starz. You need an Amazon Prime account to get the add-on but they’re $8.99 a month after a 7 day free trial.

5. Hulu

hulu-logo

Hulu is a great service that has a ton of current television shows but Plus is where you get access to an enormous library of content – older shows in syndication like Seinfeld, new original content like The Mindy Project, plus you get limited commercials at $7.99 a month or No Commercials for $11.99 a month.

Showtime is also available as an add-on for Hulu Plus for $8.99 a month.

Try Hulu Plus

NBCUniveral’s PeacockTV

NBCUniversal’s logo, if you look carefully, is a peacock and that’s the name of their streaming service, Peacock, which launched on July 15th.

It was available to Comcast subscribers since April 2020 and it has three tiers of service:

  • Free – 13,000 hours of content with ads
  • Paid – 20,000 hours of content with ads for $4.99 a month, but free to Comcast and Cox subscribers
  • Ad-Free – Paid version but without ads, for $10 a month

If you’re a fan of shows that appear on NBC as well as Universal movies, this streaming service is for you.

HBO, Showtime & Premium Channels

If you want to pick and choose premium channels, you can always buy a subscription directly from the providers.

For those that have partnerships with other services (like Amazon or Hulu), you’ll pay a few bucks more going direct.

You can still get your shows without having to pay ridiculous cable fees for the channels you never watch!

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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. Physician on FIRE says

    Thanks for the breakdown, Jim!. I’m cancelling my $100 a month Dish service later this month when my 2-year contract is complete.

    Live sports could be an issue, though. I know about the ESPN options, and I’ve heard B1G TEN network can be ordered a la carte, although I’m not sure exactly how. Unfortunately, I don’t live close enough to broadcasters to get decent OTA networks.

    I’ve got some things to figure out before kickoff this fall!

    Cheers!
    -PoF

  2. CentSai says

    We love this article and definitely agree! Not many people use the channels on cable because they have these products and are able to pick what they want to watch and when they want to watch it. Therefore, so many people are wasting money by paying for channels they don’t need or want. Thanks for sharing this post!!

  3. Catherine Alford says

    Even using a couple of these at the same time will still be cheaper than a cable or satellite TV bill. We use Netflix and Hulu for our TV viewing, but we still don’t watch too much TV.

  4. Syed says

    Awesome breakdown Jim. We will be cutting the cord this month and will be relying mainly on Netflix since that is what we watch for the most part currently. We have Amazon video because of Prime but rarely use it but we will be using it for sure once we cut the cord.

    I also plan on getting an HD antenna to catch big sports games like playoff football and basketball. Can’t give up the sports just yet!

    • Jim says

      Yeah the HD antenna thing is a great move if you can get reception – one nice thing nowadays is the over the air signals are digital and not analog!

      • Tracie says

        I have a 25 mile radius antenna and love it, I use it more then I do Netflix. I get up to 25 channels on the antenna for only $40 at Walmart.

  5. The Baroness says

    Hi Jim, I agree – there is so much on my Basic Preferred Cable package that I do NOT want – or watch, but there it is anyway. I have a “Triple” with my cable company; phone (landline), internet, and TV bundle. I can call The US, Canada, Mexico, and Guam for free. If I take one of these services out of the Triple Bundle, the prices of the other two go up, even if I get them in a “Double Bundle.” There isn’t much choice of providers where I live, so I feel I am stuck with the Triple. Any suggestions on how to get a TV service with my must-haves (BBC America, Turner Classic Movies, and MSNBC) yet not pay an arm and a leg for them – and not have an outdoor antenna dish (forbidden by my apt. building management)? Thanks! (Please reply to my email address too as the ISP service here is not so hot and I can access my email from anywhere. Thanks!)

    • Jim says

      Oooh this is a tricky one and without knowing your provider, it’s hard to say. If there are certain shows you love, perhaps you can buy those individually? Get a box that streams, like a Roku or Chromecast, and you’re still better off.

  6. Vic @ Dad Is Cheap says

    Netflix and Hulu are essential for cord cutters. I’m also a huge MLB fan so I need my MLB.tv, which was free for T-Mobile customers this year which was AWESOME.

    I also need my scripted theater with the WWE Network!

    If you want to get creative, there are many ways to get everything else you want for free. There’s a lot of sites that stream popular shows and movies. Not that I advocate that, but ya know – it’s there 😉

  7. Louise says

    Great idea! This is a must do!!…. I live in the Dallas area, what do we use for just internet tho if we were to cut cable. I’m not aware of just internet providers.

  8. TJ says

    You really should add Playstation Vue…also update SLing as they have different package options with several additional channels.

    • Jim says

      If your TV has wi-fi capability, you won’t need a device. If it doesn’t, then you’ll need to buy one device for each one. There are different USB sticks that are fairly cheap (check if your TV has USB ports) otherwise you’ll want to get something like a Roku box that has HDMI or coaxial cable.

  9. JO ANN PRINCE says

    I WOULD LOVE TO CUT THE CORD. HUBBY LOVES SPORTS, COLLEGE SOFTBALL, BASEBALL AND BASKETBALL, AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. I NEED ADVICE ON THIS.

    • Jim says

      Sling TV is your best option since it’ll carry a lot of the ESPN channels, which will get those non-local broadcasts of sports.

    • Jim says

      A lot of PBS is online, so most any streaming service that has a PBS app will carry it. Our Roku has it for free.

  10. Sarah says

    Thanks for article! I’m moving soon and am considering ditching cable. Do you know of any services that include Bravo? That channel might be a dealbreaker for me.

  11. Elizabeth says

    Olympics coverage in the US has been so terrible this year that we got the TunnelBear app (a VPN) on my computer & we’re Chrome-casting CBC coverage from Canada.
    Also, if you like British TV, consider subscribing to Acorn TV & ‘Casting that also.
    Both are under $10/mo & as low as $5/mo for TunnelBear if you pay a year at a time.
    Ahhhhh, relief.

  12. scb says

    All of this assumes that we are watching ESPN live. I like to record some games or some shows to view later. Any options if I cut the cord?

    Cable offer DVr which is quite helpful.

    Also what about major news channels like CNn or FOX news or CNBC.

  13. Liz says

    There is also playstation vue! It’s streamed cable and has all the sports channels as well as the cable channels you love. You can also record shows. They have different packages. You can get it if you have a roku, Amazon firestick or a playstation 3 or 4.

  14. Patty D says

    We live in the country and have satellite TV and Internet. We tried a streaming service but ended up using all of our internet package half way through the month. We had to increase our data plan which ended up costing us more than DirectTV

  15. Evelyne says

    Hi, great article. We have been thinking about cutting our cable off for a while. We are still investigating it as we also have have multipack with 3 services. We would like to know if anybody has been successful using BYU TV and fox news with any of the service mentioned above. Cable is so expensive with all the repeat shows that are going on loop over and over again. We are really looking forward to being able to have access to a la carte services.

  16. Milly says

    My sister in law moved where she couldn’t get fast internet for streaming, so she just bought all the seasons and movies she wanted on ebay. It ended up MUCH cheaper than cable and gets cheaper as she goes. Since she buys used, she could probably even resell the ones she doesn’t want to keep for the same price she bought at.

    • Jim Wang says

      You make a great point – with streaming options, existing DVDs are significantly de-valued. You can probably pick them up extremely cheaply.

  17. Halton Lunsford says

    We have gone to circle; Direct and Comcast X1. We added an Apple TV box too! When the cable goes out, we switch on HDMI 2 and watch Netflix and others. So we are looking to go streaming with Apple. What services offers tv through the Apple TV box?

    • Jim Wang says

      How many TVs would you want to watch at once? The services will let you play it on an unlimited number of TVs, the costs go up if you want to watch multiple tvs at once. So if you just switch TVs, it’s still just 1 stream.

  18. Datdamwuf says

    Thanks for the round up, my biggest hold up is being able to record streaming content. I usually check listings and record everything to DVR for later viewing. Most of what I see is geared toward recording antenna based broadcast TV. Is there a solution that will let me record Netflix, Hulu, etc? Any help?

  19. RITA WELLER says

    I learned a lot. THANKS VERY MUCH!! One question I live in an apt. so which Indoor Antenna would you recommend, I’m on the 1st floor. I have the internet by Comcast but would like to set my TV for Free Reception. I’m not sure if I can get Free movies on it (Internet)?? Had Amazon but it didn’t work out. Any suggestions???

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