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.
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.
Since current seasons of CBS aren’t available on Hulu, CBS All Access is one option to get CBS Shows the day after the initial broadcast as CBS isn’t a part of Hulu. The basic service costs $5.99 per month and does air commercials. However, they offer a commercial-free plan for $9.99 per month. The service also offers live local CBS in over 150 markets. For more details, check out my review of CBS All Access.
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.
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.

After the 1-week free trial, the service costs $44.99 per month. You can opt to just subscribe to the Hulu library instead of the Live TV service for just $7.99. Hulu also offers loads of original content and a decent back catalog of many past seasons of cable and network TV shows. You can test the live service or the on-demand service by using this 1-week free trial to Hulu Live TV. For more details check out my full review of Hulu.
This is pretty cool, especially if you are an AT&T member. If you’re an AT&T Mobility customer, DIRECTV will pick up the tab for data to help you achieve all your binge-worthy goals. Data Free TV means you won’t use your AT&T mobile data for watching DIRECTV NOW or FreeVIEW in the App. This means that you can watch Direct TV From ANYWHERE for free if you are an AT&T member. (Think long car trips mommas!)
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 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.
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!
Usually, the apps themselves are free. However, some networks offer paid subscription options to access certain shows or old episodes. But that doesn’t mean the cost isn’t potentially reasonable, depending on how many shows you may watch. For example, CBS All Access is available for as little as $5.99 per month (plus tax), which isn’t bad in comparison to the cost of cable.
You can likely also get a lower rate (a promotional rate) by starting a new cable contract. Although no one likes being tied to a contract, it does reduce your bill. And you may not need to be a new customer to get a new contract: Try calling your cable company and asking about a reduced rate in exchange for a single-year contract. This arrangement carries the risk of paying a penalty if you need to get out of the contract early, but if you’re planning to be in the same place and to keep the same cable/Internet service for the next year, it can save you a good bit of money.
Spectrum is now requiring a box for all TVs to receive their signal. I have a TV in the basement that I use while exercising and watch only news programs. Is their a way I can use one of your suggestions that will allow me to watch the news. Or are MSNBC, CNN, FOX etc by definition only cable channels. We have Amazon Prime and Netflix and would love to cut the cable if there were a way to also get these news channels. Thanks.
The first step to cutting the cord and getting free cable tv legally is to start using a HDTV antenna as you can potentially get every channel you currently watch for free over the air or with an on-demand streaming device from Roku. If that still isn’t enough, you can supplement with a contract-free online streaming plan that offers on-demand or live TV for a fraction of the cost you’re currently paying.
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