If you watch only a few favorite shows, it may be cheaper to purchase and download seasons of the shows you like from Amazon, Google, or iTunes. This strategy works especially well if you don’t need to watch particular shows immediately, if you prefer to binge-watch, or you buy, rent, or borrow the DVD or Blu-ray box set when available. For example, a full season of Game of Thrones at the Google Play store was $30 at the time we checked, while season two of Mr. Robot was only $20.
While Netflix ($8-12 per month), Hulu ($8-12 per month) and Amazon Prime ($119 per year) are the most recognizable streaming services, they are not the only ones available. In fact, traditional streaming services — wherein you pay a monthly fee to consume as much content as you like on-demand — are only a small part of the market. Depending on how much you're willing to spend (from nothing up to hundreds of dollars per year), you can get just about anything you used to enjoy on cable. 

First, the best TV moved from networks to cable. Now a similar transition is moving top talent from cable to the streaming world. Netflix ($8.99 per month for HD streaming) has House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—all of which have received almost universal acclaim—and Amazon ($99 per year for video and a variety of other services) isn’t too far behind with comedy Alpha House, crime drama Bosch, and the Golden Globe-winning Transparent.
Some services allow you to stream the newest movies. Vudu, for example, has a wide selection of high-definition movies available to stream the day they are released on Blu-ray. (You can also watch Vudu movies at Walmart.com.) Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, iTunes and Zune also stream new movies that you can watch on your computer or TV. Most of the services also offer a selection of movies (and TV shows) in HD, usually for an additional price. You may not be able to watch HD programming in all formats. Amazon Instant Video, for example, currently streams HD movies to your TV through compatible devices, but not to your computer.
With the least cable-like interface of the Big 5, Hulu's greatest asset is the integration of live TV with its significant catalog of on-demand content for one price. Unfortunately, the interface frustrations apparent with the standard service are amplified once you add live TV. The app generally confuses "simple" with "incomplete." It technically offers a guide, for example, but it's extremely bare-bones. Another issue is that you'll have to pay extra, a hefty $15 per month, to get the ability to skip commercials on Hulu's cloud DVR. 

Some sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, offer packages that stream out-of-market games. So if you’re a Los Angeles Dodgers fan living in New York City, you can catch your team’s games with MLB.tv (depending on blackout rules). NHL GameCenter Live and NBA League Pass Broadband allow subscribers to watch up to 40 out-of-market games per week.
I live on the West Side of Manhattan and watch only local channels using an antenna. Unfortunately the signal is periodically interrupted so that I get sound but not a picture (gray and white horizontal stripes appear on the screen). Is there any way to determine the source of this interference or to counteract it? The timing of it has led me to wonder if the use of cable or streaming in the area is creating the problem.
No cable service truly offers a la carte cable TV. However, through VUDU, iTunes and Amazon (even if you’re not a Prime Instant Video subscriber) you can buy episodes of entire seasons of shows a la carte. This includes shows currently airing. At first, that might seem expensive, but shows are $1.99 an episode and you can get a discount on the season pass. I saved a ton of cash this way when my family cut the cord. My family purchases only 3-4 season passes a year, keeping it under $10 a month.
Most 4k TVs and HD TVs these days have built-in digital tuners, so you probably don’t need a DTV converter box (see below for more info). You just plug-in your antenna using a coaxial cable into the back of your TV and start scanning for channels. Your TV might ask you to automatically scan, or you may need to go into the settings and choose auto or manual scan for channels. Keep in mind, the input on the TV must be set to antenna or TV (most TVs have multiple input sources such as HDMI1, HDMI2, USB, etc). Once the input is selected, your TV should ask you to automatically scan for channels.
Hi Kayla! I think I’ve read EVERY word on this particular blog! It has been HIGHLY informative! I’m too wanting to cut cable. These prices . . . man! Who can afford this stuff? I know I can’t anymore. From what I’ve gathered, with a Smart Tv, looks like I can stream Netflix and Hulu. For other channels I and my son like to watch I’ll need Sling. And for local channels an antenna. My question is for internet or streaming, do I HAVE to have an ISP? Can I purchase a modem and/or router? I know internet only plans are much cheaper but if I can get outta paying for that as well I sure would like to!! MUCH thanks to you!! I am now your FAN ?
Good to know, especially for those senior citizens (like me), who have free access to the internet in senior housing but are not allowed to stream anything on their computers! No Netflix, no tv shows, movies, documentaries etc…We survive on email and text-news. Streaming is an “immediate shut-down” offense. Shame on cable networks. President Obama announced recently that all new public and public supported housing will, by law, offer tenents free internet access. Will be interesting if that “free” includes incarceration without streaming.

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The chart -- which is too big to fit on this page, so I made it a Google spreadsheet -- answers the question of which streaming local channels are available where. You see, just because a service like DirecTV Now offers Fox, that doesn't mean it offers your local Fox station live. If you live in Asheville, Las Vegas or Schenectady, for example, DirecTV Now doesn't carry your local Fox station. Hulu and YouTube TV do, however.
If there's one particular movie or show you want to watch, your best bet is to look it up with JustWatch: a website that trawls more than 20 streaming, à la carte and on-demand services to show you where your content is available. If there's a series you want to watch, for example, looking it up on JustWatch and subscribing to that service for just a few months could save you a lot of money.

Local stations often have their own transmitters, which means that there’s a good chance that your favorite local station is available for free over the air. Over-the-air TV may seem old-school, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the crisp HD streams that are the hallmark of modern OTA TV. The right antenna will get you HD feeds of local networks, including local affiliates of the four major networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), plus PBS and other local stations. An antenna is all you need to watch everything from NFL football to the local news.

Most of these plans have different levels and options, depending on which plan you sign up for. My personal favorites for movies and documentaries include Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. If you want to watch more on-demand network television, then you may be better off going with Hulu. Hulu Plus and Hulu Live allow you to stream live network shows, including sports and other live events. You can compare Hulu and Hulu Plus in this review.
The general rule for digital antennas is the higher, the better. Structures such as floors, cabinets, and walls may impact TV signal reception, so placing your antenna high in a window is ideal, as long as it's free from exterior obstructions (trees, buildings, billboards, and so on). Indoor antennas should not be installed behind a TV or electronic equipment, next to metal objects, or near high-traffic areas, as TV signal reception may be impacted.
Then there are their four traditional boxes: Roku LT, Roku HD, Roku 2/XD, and Roku 3. I’ll focus on the Roku 3. It is for HDTVs only which means you will need to have sufficient Internet speed and the right TV to use it. It comes with some features that I think are really cool, mostly having to do with the remote. However, the reviews sound like the layout and navigation are a breeze.
Up until a couple of years ago I had never paid for cable or satellite tv. I wrote in one post about how I still got all of my favorite shows via streaming alternatives, and how I wasn’t really missing anything by not having cable. I realized after we got cable (at my wife’s behest) that I HAD been missing watching all of my favorite sports teams because for the most part sports is one of the biggest things you can’t really get in all the free streaming options. Now that I’ve had the sports for a couple of years, I’d have a hard time dropping it I think. At the very least, however, we’re making sure to not pay too much for our TV. We just switched from Comcast cable to Dish Network when our promo deal expired and we had to pay $85/month for cable alone. When they wouldn’t droip our rates we switched to Dish Network and got more channels for about $40. I’m sure we’ll have to do the same again in a year or so when our new deal runs out. *sigh. If only all the sports teams streamed their games live for free!

If you want to watch NFL games on the go: Though previously NFL games were limited to Verizon only for phone users, now any carrier can stream in-market NFL games via the NFL Mobile app. It's not clear if these services that offer local broadcast access will continue to do so for the 2018 season, though, so we'll update once we get closer to the fall.
Another issue is the availability of the local streams for networks like the Big 4: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Several reasons prevent the services from just putting local streams out there. As a result, you will find situations like in Phoenix where YouTube TV streams all four, Sling TV streams just FOX and DirecTV Now can’t stream local channels at all. You can read our review of the best services for streaming local TV for more details.
In our case, we already had everything at our house, except for the PlayOn software.  So for this setup we paid $59.99 for a lifetime license for the PlayOn software, plus the $8.99/month for the basic Netflix streaming package (get it, it's worth it!).We were also already paying for Amazon Prime, so we got free streaming TV shows and movies with that membership.

Currently, the best way to watch live TV online is — ironically — to have an existing cable or satellite subscription. Slowly but surely, though, cord cutters are gaining access to real-time channels in addition to pre-recorded content. Live TV could be the next big frontier for streaming video, but until then, watching shows as they happen requires a little dedication and creativity.


I would love to save, although our cable bill for TV is not extraordinary. But I’m 75 and I don’t understand the details. We don’t want to watch TV on a computer. It sounds as if the cheaper options all require the internet. But the internet doesn’t connect to the TV set. I don’t think our TV can receive a wireless signal unless we add some kind of cable box to it (it has a separate cable going to it than the cable box for the computers). Also, my husband watches FOX news most of the day and also all the channels with food shows, Alaskan living, ancient aliens, Pitbulls and Paroles – so we don’t want to cut off his entertainment. We live in SE Iowa and our cable bill is $157 a month including: high speed internet, landline with free long distance, TV package, TIVO. The basic cost is $120 – the rest is fees and taxes, etc. The stuff tacked onto the bill is ridiculous! Also, we practically never watch a movie – never as far as newer movies go. And we aren’t interested in the shows produced by HBO or Netflix, etc. I’m thinking our current plan is our best option. Am I missing something?

Currently, the best way to watch live TV online is — ironically — to have an existing cable or satellite subscription. Slowly but surely, though, cord cutters are gaining access to real-time channels in addition to pre-recorded content. Live TV could be the next big frontier for streaming video, but until then, watching shows as they happen requires a little dedication and creativity.
Finally, the larger a household gets—in other words, the more TVs you have—the more value you get out of the price of a traditional cable or satellite subscription, because the same package works for a single person or a family of five. Many streaming services support only a single stream at once, making them appealing for a small household but impractical for a household with multiple viewers. (With cable or satellite, you may need to pay for additional set-top boxes, but that’s an incremental cost compared with the overall package.)
Depending on the range of viewing habits, some people will have to utilize more of the below options than others. If you decide to cancel your cable subscription, you’re more likely going to have to subscribe to several different services to access all of the shows that you want. For some, this might not actually save money, which is usually the purpose of cutting the cord. Before making any decisive actions, first see if you can utilize our tips for saving money on your existing subscription.
It kind of depends on what you’re using to watch Playon? Are you using a game console like xbox 360? If so, you’ll need to get a wireless router that is connected to your PC in some way to transmit to the xbox 360 – which will also need to have a usb wireless adapter (unless it is one of the new Xbox units that has wireless built in). Otherwise, if you buy one of the new TVs that have a media player built in that can play streaming media, you’ll just need to make sure it has wireless built in as well. I guess it really depends on what setup you’ll be using – and what you’ll be using to play the streaming media.
WOW you get all that for $157 per month. I should be so lucky. We are paying $328 per month and are livid. Although we do rent 2 DVRs and have HBO, MAX. SHOW and STARZ . This cable company is horrible and its only competition is satellite and the internet options Kayla has explained. On top of that we live 50 miles south of DC and an antenna up to 20 feet high gets us poor reception on 3 channels with a quality hdtv antenna. I mam checking into these alternatives but the hard part is getting our favorite channels.
Because the content you get with any of these cable-replacement services, especially local channels, can vary by region, you should go to each company’s website, plug in your ZIP code, and see which channels are available in your area. These video streaming services have been adding more local broadcast channels, such as ABC and CBS, but they’re not always available in smaller markets.

The only reasons not to get an inexpensive antenna are because you don’t want to fuss between different inputs, or you can’t find a suitable window or another spot in your home. Other than that, it’s the best way to ensure you get all your local channels, which many streaming services lack in some form. Read our comparison of the best antennas available right now.
By cutting the cord, you're also losing your access to premium channels, which often have some of the most daring content on TV. Networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz are the prime destination for edgy dramas like Game of Thrones, Homeland and Outlander, respectively. You can also get raunchy comedy specials, niche documentaries and newly released movies.
Something to keep in mind is that not all of these alternative will have the latest and greatest shows. So, if you want to avoid spoilers and keep up with your friends who have still have cable, you’ll want to get something like Hulu that offers new shows right after they air on cable vs Netflix, where you have to wait until the entire season is over and that’s if they acquire the rights to the show. 

The first change is time. TV can suck you in and not let you go. It’s easy to justify killing 15 or 20 minutes when you have a few minutes of down time. But sometimes that 15 or 20 minutes can turn into an hour or two. We are now more intentional with what we watch and when we watch it. Channel surfing is a thing of the past. I find TV much more enjoyable when I plan my viewing time – that way I don’t feel guilty or feel like I could be doing something more productive.


No cable service truly offers a la carte cable TV. However, through VUDU, iTunes and Amazon (even if you’re not a Prime Instant Video subscriber) you can buy episodes of entire seasons of shows a la carte. This includes shows currently airing. At first, that might seem expensive, but shows are $1.99 an episode and you can get a discount on the season pass. I saved a ton of cash this way when my family cut the cord. My family purchases only 3-4 season passes a year, keeping it under $10 a month.
Even so, no service we've reviewed is incomplete enough to discourage you from using it outright. If a service sounds like it might be a good fit for you, your best bet is to investigate which channels that service offers and see if it falls within your price range. Most of these services give you anywhere from a week to a month to evaluate them before charging you, and none of them require a contract. At worst, you'll be stuck with a service you don't like for a month.
On the other hand, these services have clear drawbacks compared with cable. The first is that your ability to record programs or stream them later can vary from channel to channel. For example, Sling TV lets you watch content from up to seven days in the past on many channels, but ESPN and some other channels don’t allow you to rewind at all. And certain channels on Sling TV, including ESPN, allow you to stream to only one device at a time, whereas you can stream other channels to multiple devices at once. In a home with multiple users, people will likely get frustrated when their program stops because another person started to watch it in another room. Channel listings can also vary depending on your location, so you might gain or lose a local station or two if you’re using the service on the road. In addition, you don’t always get access to app streaming with any of these packages; you’ll be able to watch anything through the service’s interface, but not a network’s own app.
Sling TV is the streaming service that also offers live TV over the internet. It’s essentially cable TV without the contract or the massive bill. Currently, if you sign up for Sling TV you get a Free Roku. They also offer a free 7-day trial membership to try out their service. The service works on every major OTT streaming device and recently began offering a cloud DVR. Sling TV also streams NBC live online along with Fox and ABC in select markets.
So, I really appreciate all this information and the clear explanations you’ve given, as in where to get the channels I do watch and the cost. I really miss 3 local stations, but my favorite one which I’ve watched all my life and depended on for weather was already dropped from the cable lineup a few months ago. Luckily, I just learned of the new version of “rabbit ears” and have ordered one (2019 version) that claims to have a 120 mile range, which would bring me my lost station if it works. It’s gotten a solid 5 star review from many customers on Amazon, so I’m hopeful.
The next time you come across the question, "can you still get local channels without cable?" you will know the answer is one big yes! From indoor TV antennas to outdoor TV antennas to mobile apps, there are quite a few options when it comes to accessing your favorite local channels. Wave goodbye to that cable bill and start watching local channels your way.
You’re the reason that I sit in and personally interview even the techies at my company, not just the C level executives. I don’t want any condescending know it all assclowns like you slipping by my HR department. Deacon is right: THAT is what they are called. He doesn’t need to do his homework, but please, stay in the server room or your parents basement away from the adults.
HI Peter, i am not knowledgable about this, i am trying to learn. Could you help guide me? The xbox ‘hooks’ to the t.v. and i run Playon on my laptop… am i right to assume they communicate to each other ‘through the air waves’, to show the programing? i won’t have to run any ‘cables’ from my laptop to my t.v.? thank you for helping me out and to understand. steph.

PlayStation Vue is a streaming service similar to Sling TV, offering channels like AMC, TBS, Syfy and much more. However, this service starts at $44.99 per month. Check out this comparison of Sling TV Channels vs. PS Vue for the difference in each services channel lineup. You don’t need a PlayStation gaming console to use the service either. While the service is available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, you can also use the service with Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Android, iPad, and iPhone. Check out my review of PlayStation Vue for more details.
I’ve been thinking about cutting the cord when my current contract expires. I see that there are definitely savings to be had. The one thing holding me back is access to live sports (mostly college football in the fall). I could see purchasing a digital antenna to pick up the games on the broadcast channels but what suggestions are there in regards to ESPN or Big 10 Network?
The wild world of standalone apps: Your local news station may offer its own app for streaming devices, but not all of these apps have live feeds, and the quality of each app can vary by area, network, and station owner. I recommend searching your device's app store for the name of your nearest city or the call signs of your local stations to see what's available.

As far as what you need to connect your projector to the computer, I’m not sure, it’s hard to know exactly without knowing your exact setup. If your computer has a tuner built in you could plug in an antenna like this one to get your over the air signal, and then use some sort of wireless video streaming device to get the video source to your projector.

If these services offer the channels you want and the limitations won’t be an issue, they are more affordable than cable or satellite; you’re not locked into a long contract, either, and you can watch TV at home or on the road. Right now, we can’t say if any of these services is clearly better than the others, as channel offerings, prices, and apps are continuously changing. If you think a cable package might be for you, it’s a good idea to look at all the options and try a few out with any early subscriber discount in consecutive months. Once you’ve found the best fit for your viewing habits, you can sign up at the full price—and still be saving money compared to a traditional cable package.
That said, if you want a cable-like experience both at home and on the go without the dead weight that a cable subscription brings, then a streaming service is worth a look. There's no contract to sign, and if you don't like the service you're on, you can easily switch. So whether you're looking for a basic package such as Sling TV or want to pay more for a deluxe experience from the likes of PlayStation Vue, there should be a streaming TV service to suit you.   
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