If you don't feel like paying exorbitant cable or satellite fees, but still crave the sweet pablum of basic cable programming, you can always try a cable-replacement service. These online streaming subscriptions deliver live (and on-demand) channels over the internet, and while they're not cheap, they're not as hellaciously expensive as traditional cable or satellite fees. If streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video aren't enough for you, read on to find out how you can reintroduce live TV into your home without signing your life away to an onerous cable contract.
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.

If you’re old enough, the thought of using an antenna probably conjures memories of temperamental “rabbit ears” and staticky images. But today’s antennas come in a range of designs, from paper-thin indoor models like the Clearstream Flex, to Erector Set behemoths that you mount on a rooftop mast, and they provide reliable, crystal-clear HD resolution for absolutely free. All you need to do is plug one into the tuner that’s a fixture of most modern TVs.
Before you purchase one, though, go to a site like TVFool or Antennaweb and see which networks are available from your local broadcasters. Just enter your address to get a report of all the broadcast signals in your area, ranked from strongest to weakest. Once you determine which broadcaster is furthest from you’re home, you’ll know what range antenna to buy.
The biggest plan to get is $11.99, dubbed the “Premium” plan, which gives you Ultra HD and the ability to watch on 4 screens. This particular plan could be advantageous for families who want to watch a lot of different things at once, but is the extra $4/month or $48/year worth it? It all depends on your situation, but something to consider. They do offer one month free, so there is the option to test out whatever plan you want as well before finally deciding.
I don’t have an xbox or other gaming system. What would be a cheap alternative? Would Apple TV be sufficient? Or Roku? When it comes to all of these devices, I am completely in the dark. I just want to create a seamless connection between a projector, computer, antenna over a cheap but fast wifi connection (possibly FreedomPop). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Way too much info for me to swallow. Good stuff; but being “technically challenged”, I am in a quandry. I bought three TV BOX 4K and have never made it operate??? I also have two different ROKU boxes and pay exhorbitant Dish TV for their most channels, including premiums. Now I read your articles and others about Skylink antennas. I am a TVaholic and record many shows; but the DVR comes with Dish – I have one main box and three smaller boxes (must have main box on in order for others to work). What kind of DVR should I get when I cancel Dish? Sign me totally confused. Duhhhh
If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And you can usually get a free trial of almost any of these before you commit. If you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable or satellite provider and try to negotiate a better deal. Knowing your options will usually work to your advantage!
If you don't feel like paying exorbitant cable or satellite fees, but still crave the sweet pablum of basic cable programming, you can always try a cable-replacement service. These online streaming subscriptions deliver live (and on-demand) channels over the internet, and while they're not cheap, they're not as hellaciously expensive as traditional cable or satellite fees. If streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video aren't enough for you, read on to find out how you can reintroduce live TV into your home without signing your life away to an onerous cable contract.

Unlike some of the other streaming services available, Fubo.tv is marketed directly at sports fans. It has access to most of the standard sports channels, like NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports 1, but it notably does not include ESPN. In lieu of the worldwide leader, Fubo.tv includes the most robust combination of specialized sports stations. Fans of international soccer and major college football conferences with their own networks, in particular, should be satisfied by the service’s access to the Big Ten Network, Pac 12 Network, and BeIN Sports. Fubo.tv also provides access to certain regional sports networks, depending on where you live. In New York, we found that Fubo.tv subscribers could stream programming from the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets games.
By the time you factor in functionality, premium channels, etc., most of these cord cutting options fall short in their ability to even keep up with what Comcast can provide a household. People paying over $200 for cable are also paying for their voice lines as well as their high speed internet, which, mind you, is required to even sustain these cord cutting offerings.
Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service.

Hulu is a great option if you want to watch Hulu original series or currently airing shows soon after they broadcast (along with many past seasons). The only catch? Unless you want to upgrade to the commercial-free version ($12), you’ll have to sit through some repetitive ads. So if you’d rather not wait to keep watching, maybe cough up the extra four bucks. Still, it's one of the best alternatives to cable tv on the market.


FuboTV is one of the few streaming services to make a big deal about how much local coverage they offer. Of course, if you could provide local coverage to almost the entire United States, you’d be bragging too. Currently, FuboTV can provide local FOX coverage for 94% of the U.S., CBS to 82% of the U.S., and NBC to 76% of the U.S. On top of your local channels FuboTV features some of the most comprehensive sports coverage of any streaming service. In total, you get 85+ channels with the basic package, including cable favorites like FX, Travel, and Food Network. (Here’s a complete guide to FuboTV channels.)
Hi Peter, I think I need your help…I am so glad I came across your article and as I believe it will save me a lot of money too. I just got express internet service at my new home and would like to be able to see at least basic TV stations (Fox, cbs so on) and I heard of this ‘free over the air’. I am not very good with regards to technical matters and I would like it to be as simple as possible for me to execute :). I have an old TV (won’t get a newer one any time soon) and would like to use the ‘free on air’ option everyone is talking about over the past few comments. So do i just walk into a electric store and get a digital to analog box with an antenna, connect it to my tv and i can just like that receive the channels? Or is there more? Thank you in advance!
I have just started disability retirement. After figuring out the bills, I come up short. I called Spectrum to drop the HD channels and was informed that starting next month, all tvs must have a digital box. That forced me to drop one of the tvs. I have been paying Time Warner for 100mps for years but did a speed test to discover the speed is below 50 so I figure I will negotiate with them for the lower speed. My main question is: Blu Ray players have come way down in price and I know they have wi-fi capability. What options should I look out for? Will I have to buy a player for each tv? Are there conversion cords that will work with 20+ year televisions to connect blue ray?
Google was comparatively late to the game, but it's carved out itself a nice little niche with YouTube TV. Its interface is no-nonsense, even drab, and yet it offers most of the features a cable service can give you -- namely, a robust channel lineup including local channels in just about every area it serves. It also has a very strong DVR, including unlimited storage, with one catch: If an episode you've recorded appears in YouTube TV's VOD library, it gets replaced by the on-demand version -- so you lose the ability to fast-forward through commercials. And unlike Sling and others, it's dead simple: one package, one price, done.

If you don't already have one, you'll need an over-the-air HDTV antenna with a coax connector that is able to work as a receiver in your area. Depending on how far away you are from your local channel broadcast center, you might only need an indoor antenna, which you can get for about $15 - $30, or you might need an attic or outdoor mounted antenna, which could cost as much as $150. You can figure out which type of antenna you'll need by using TV Fool's signal locator.
This year alone, some 6 million people are expected to ditch satellite and cable, causing a major pain point for the providers of digital entertainment. Welcome many of the same companies (DirecTV and Dish Network), along with YouTube, Hulu and Sony, in a different sort of offer. A smaller collection of channels, along with broadcast TV locals, no equipment required, and an average price of around $40 monthly. (Along with your internet subscription.)
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.
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.
I found the article interesting. After I lost my job, I spent time looking for cable alternatives. I ended up buying a e-book entitled “Remote Control: Stop Losing Money And Easily Take Control Over What You Watch on lulu.com. I saw someone talking about it on the Breaking Bad facebook page (I am a Fan). It cost me $6.37 and basically taught me how to put a program on my laptop that allows me to access movies, TV shows, anytime I like. I now only pay for my Internet charge. No more cable for us. My kids love it when we have movie night and I love that I don’t spend $160/month any more. Oh, and it also had a money back guarantee, so I figured what the heck. Anyway, hope that helps someone too.
I have Comcast for internet but included the basic TV package since our OTA antenna does not pick up all local stations well in our area. PBS does not come in at all. Playon is a great addition to our Roku which we use with Hulu Plus to catch up on the TV shows we don’t have time to watch when they are on (I’m a Castle addict). I try to keep up with new private channels and plugins periodically. I also have a Touchpad and downloaded a wonderful app for $2 called Video Flood HD to stream other shows I can’t get elsewhere, including HGTV. Not sure if something like it is available for other platforms, but it would be great if a similar app was available to integrate into Roku or Playon.
Way too much info for me to swallow. Good stuff; but being “technically challenged”, I am in a quandry. I bought three TV BOX 4K and have never made it operate??? I also have two different ROKU boxes and pay exhorbitant Dish TV for their most channels, including premiums. Now I read your articles and others about Skylink antennas. I am a TVaholic and record many shows; but the DVR comes with Dish – I have one main box and three smaller boxes (must have main box on in order for others to work). What kind of DVR should I get when I cancel Dish? Sign me totally confused. Duhhhh
I teach financial planning to Soldiers transitioning out of the Military. I always bring this up when discussing how to cut expenses. While there are always people who cannot fathom living without their cable, I am always surprised to see how many in class have already started to do this. In the past 10 years, I have only paid for cable for a year, although I have had it provided free for a few others. I love being cable-free and with HD antennas, Netflix, and Hulu, I am never without something to watch when I want. And I don’t find myself watching the “best of the worst” since I have no qualms with shutting off the tv and doing something else.
YouTube is another option for online viewing that can take the place of your cable or satellite package. The popular web channel shares many movies and TV show episodes for legal viewing. YouTube won’t offer an abundant selection of quality movies and TV show episodes. Still, there are some available, and it’s free with your Internet access package.
What you get: With recently updated pricing, Sling’s Orange package is now $25 and includes about 30 cable channels but no broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $25 per month, supports three users and a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences, Sling Orange includes ESPN.) A combined plan costs $40. Themed add-on packs cost $5 per month, and you can add HBO, $15; Showtime, $10; and Starz, $9.
If you haven't cut the cord yet, you can watch live TV online very easily. DVR boxes from companies like Slingbox, TiVo, Dish, Verizon and lots of other providers can usually stream content from your primary TV to a computer or mobile device. The ways of doing so vary, depending on whether your box is from your service provider or a third party. But if you have a cable or satellite subscription, you have lots of options.
×