Every cable-replacement service has strengths and weaknesses. This list is presented in order from the strongest overall (PlayStation Vue) to the weakest (DirecTV Now). While your preference among services may depend on what you want to watch, which programs you want to record and how much you're willing to pay, this guide should help you decide what's worth your money.
Today, cord cutting is accelerating due to several factors such as the emergence of DVRs for TV antennas, which provides a very cable-like viewing experience, and the existence of streaming services that provide access to the Cable TV shows that are not available from a television antenna, and for a lot less money than what you would typically spend with a pay-TV service.
For supporters of teams outside your local area, some sport-specific streaming options might also be attractive. Each major sports league offers some sort of online viewing option for around $130 a year, with the caveat that local games are blacked out. (NFL fans can pay $70 to watch any team they like, but they can only tune in to an on-demand rebroadcast once the game is over.)
What you get: The Hulu with Live TV service offers about 50 channels, including major networks in some areas and sports channels such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports. You can watch on two devices at a time and record 50 hours on a cloud DVR. You can pay extra for more users and extra DVR storage, and the option to skip commercials. Hulu now also offers a combined plan, priced at $13 per month, that bundles a Spotify subscription with Hulu’s entry-level on-demand service.
Netflix is a great place for binge-watching entire seasons all at once. But unless it’s a Netflix original series, you’ll just have to wait until a season finishes airing to get started. But hey, no commercials! Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app. But if you want to use Netflix on more than one device at once, you’ll have to upgrade to the Standard ($10) or Premium ($12) plan.

The best overall cable-alternative is Hulu with Live TV. It has a strong channel lineup and its base subscriptions are affordable. Even though it did not come first in any of the feature comparisons, it placed second for cloud DVR, device support, profile support, and local TV support. Combined with a deep catalog of on-demand TV programming, you get an alternative to cable that makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
With HBO Now, however, the need for a pilfered password is removed. It's the only option if you don't have someone from whom to pilfer. Anyone with internet and supported hardware can subscribe and watch original HBO programming like GoT, Divorce, Big Little Lies, Insecure, Westworld, Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley, plus the entire back catalog of shows: The Sopranos and The Wire forever! Try it free for an entire month.
Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime are all add-on options like they are with regular Hulu. Sports and news stations galore. You can "record" 50 hours of programming to the cloud-based DVR or upgrade it to 200 hours for extra; it also costs more to have access to Hulu with Live TV on multiple screens. Hulu with Live TV is on a more limited number of devices but includes all the usual suspects: a browser, iOS, Android, Roku products, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, and Samsung Smart TVs. Try if free for one week.
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Perhaps the biggest selling point for DIRECTV NOW is that you get a DIRECTV experience without the contract or setup fees. There’s no need to install a satellite dish, so you don’t have to pay for that, and though the streaming service isn’t quite as robust as its satellite counterpart, you don’t have to sign a contract. It really makes it easier to stomach some of the higher-priced packages from DIRECTV NOW because, guess what? You can cancel anytime.
Pay-TV companies assume that if you want Internet only, you must be a cord cutter. To make up for you not paying for the TV service and associated equipment, they have begun capping data use at around 300 Gigs per month. If you stream video for three or four hours a day (average TV-watching time in most U.S. households), you will easily exceed this allowance. This means you will be charged overage fees, and to avoid those fees you will be forced into a higher-priced data tier. This is the most important reason to use a TV antenna - stream only what you need and use the antenna for the rest.
PlayStation Vue ($39.99/mo. - $74.99/mo.): Don’t let the name throw you. You don’t need to own a PlayStation to subscribe to Vue, which is accessible through most of the major set-top boxes. You do, however, need to pay a premium. As with Hulu and Sling, Vue’s ability to deliver live local broadcast is dependent on where you live, but Sony does offer a lot of local TV in a lot of different markets, and even where it doesn’t, it allows subscribers to see many of the major networks’ shows on-demand. Vue also provides some simple add-on options, a huge amount of DVR cloud storage, and a lot of portability between devices.
In the market for a cheap TV package? Availability and pricing can vary by location, but the best providers offer a fair price on the types of channels you actually watch. Plus, they often offer deals and discounts that make monthly payments more manageable. To see how the most popular providers measure up, we looked at their availability, price and overall value.

This one’s easy: Get FilmStruck for sure, and then consider Mubi, Fandor and SundanceNow if you never want to run out of challenging foreign films, indie films and documentaries. And while cinephiles who decry Netflix’s paucity of older movies may be shocked to hear this, that service’s teeming library of recent art films from around the world (in July 2018 they included “Aquarius,” “Nocturama” and “Staying Vertical”) is maybe its best-kept secret.
After Charter Communications recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, it rebranded as Spectrum and has worked to simplify its services. Unfortunately, that means you’ll only have one option if you just want cable TV. That one TV-only plan is called TV Select. It comes with at least 125 channels and about 46% of the most popular channels. Notable absences include E! and the Travel Channel, but otherwise you’ll be getting a fair number of major networks.
However, customers who do not have a cable TV service at their home will also be able to subscribe to a cable internet service, as most cable TV providers offer standalone internet service to customers. However, if you are planning to bundle either two or three of your services, get in touch with your preferred cable TV provider, as they will also be able to help you with that. Below are a few factors that you need to consider before subscribing to a certain cable internet service provider.
Credit: ShutterstockTom's Guide compared all three services head-to-head-to-head, and discovered that Netflix is generally the best of the three. However, the services do not offer exactly the same thing. Netflix is a good all-purpose service, while Hulu focuses on recently aired TV, and Amazon Prime is part of a larger service that also offers free shipping on Amazon orders, e-book loans and other perks. (Viewers who just want Amazon Video without any other perks can now subscribe to it for $9 per month.)
We bought the adapter boxes for our old analog TV’s and watch broadcast digital. Our favorite channel is Retro TV. They broadcast old TV series (we’re old, too). Some good stuff. We have been disappointed in the quality of broadcast digital, however. The picture is constantly breaking up. We get “No Signal” way too often. Maybe it’s the cheap adapter or cheap antenna. Anyway, “not as advertised” by the government. The quality and reliability of broadcast analog was much better.
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.
I followed this plan to the T this week. Cancelled Spectrum Phone, Internet and TV pkg running me $ 240/mo. Spectrum would not give me the $ 45/mo intro internet deal: $ 70….. so I cancelled everything, ordered Verizon FIOS next day and got 50/50 for $ 40/mo. VZ installer finished install of the FIber install at basement demarc, and ran an ethernet up to my preferred router location… he even gave me a 4-way splitter I used to connect my curve 30 HDTV antenna i installed in 2nd floor spare bedroom window, used the coax in that room as the antenna feed to the basement, hooked up the (4) essential TV’s and scanned for channels…worked, got 25 DTV channels, with good signal strength for the biggies, ABC NBC CBS FOX.
I find the best option to be their “Live a Little” package. It is priced at $35 per month and contains Fox News, CNN, Nickelodeon, MSNBC, Hallmark Channel, ESPN, Disney, HGTV, USA, ID, TNT, Food, TBS, History, Discovery, Disney Jr, TV Land, Nick Jr, AMC, FX, FXX, Bravo, Lifetime, A&E, Animal Planet, BBC America, Bloomberg, BET, Cartoon Network, CMT, CNBC, Comedy Central, Disney XD, E!, ESPN2, Fox Business, FS1, Galavision, HLN, MTV, MTV2, Paramount Network, Syfy, TCM, TLC, Univision, VH1, and more
Going forward, I expect us to stick with the services we have, while occasionally adding another service for a month or two in order to binge-watch their unique offerings. I don’t expect us ever to return to a traditional cable package, at least not in the foreseeable future without some major changes to the structure of how cable television service works.
Do you have a bundle? If you are currently bundling your internet with your cable — and possibly your cellular plan, you may have a bigger complication. The major communications companies like AT&T have spent the past several years building and marketing systems designed to keep their customers “in the family” by packaging a variety of necessary services and then sending one bill. Before you embark on this cord-cutting adventure, be sure to do some comparison-shopping in your area to find the right I.S.P. for you that accounts for your entire internet, phone and cable bundle.
If you don’t have or don’t like any of the options above, there are a few ways to turn your TV into a “Smart TV.” There are a number of ways to do this. In the next section, I’ll cover the subscription services available. Certain devices only work on certain equipment so I’ll cover a few of these combinations in the Streaming Devices section of the post.
Same as when they came in with cable in the 70’s, they told us we would now pay for tv, but there would be no or limited commercials. That lasted a very short time until we were paying and getting more than ever commercials. The standard is over 20 minutes of each hour, used to be 12. I don’t know what the answer is but how many billions do some need to amass on the backs of average and well manipulated people?
Funny so many people complaining about Charter. We’ve been with them for years and had little to no trouble. No services is perfect, but they have not given us any trouble. Last time I went to the local office, waited maybe 5 minutes and was taken care of quickly, efficiently and friendly. Course there are many different locations, maybe some are better than or worst than others. Just our experience. Plus, we live some what out in the country, don’t have any other options. But over all we are happy.
If you had to pick a character, who would you rather be? The corrupt senator played so skillfully by G.D. Spradlin? Or are you the Godfather? Spradlin’s character sure reminds me of my old cable company. I think we’d all like to believe we’re Al Pacino’s character. Confident. Taking no bullshit whatsoever. Do you really act that way when you’re on the phone with your customer service rep from Comcast? Nah, I don’t think so. I’m sticking with some tough love here. You really don’t.
Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime are all add-on options like they are with regular Hulu. Sports and news stations galore. You can "record" 50 hours of programming to the cloud-based DVR or upgrade it to 200 hours for extra; it also costs more to have access to Hulu with Live TV on multiple screens. Hulu with Live TV is on a more limited number of devices but includes all the usual suspects: a browser, iOS, Android, Roku products, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, and Samsung Smart TVs. Try if free for one week.
2010 was the first year that pay television saw quarterly subscriber declines. In the second quarter of 2012, Sanford Bernstein determined that losses took place in five quarters.[5] Leichtman found that the decrease in pay subscriptions was not happening in large numbers. One reason was that some sports events, as well as other types of television (such as series airing on cable-originated networks), could not be seen online. Sanford Bernstein said the number of pay television subscribers increased by 677,000 during the first quarter of 2010, and a poll conducted by The New York Times and CBS News showed that 88% of people surveyed had such a service, and only 15% had considered going exclusively to web services. People under the age of 45, the survey said, were four times more likely to use the Internet only. To combat the trend, pay television providers were allowing people to stream television programs on desktop, laptop and tablet computers. Craig Moffett of Sanford C. Bernstein still stated that high prices and other methods would eventually drive customers away, calling cord cutting "perhaps the most overhyped and overanticipated phenomenon in tech history."[6]
TCL, America's fastest-growing TV brand, is so excited for National Cut the Cord Day on Saturday, July 7 that we’re celebrating all week with a HUGE giveaway! The number of cord-cutters continues to grow exponentially in America as cost savings and viewing flexibility become more and more important. On average the American household spends $103 a month on cable, so in support of National Cut the Cord Day, we’re giving away 103 cord cutting bundles - including a 55” TCL Roku TV and a Blade HDTV antenna from our partner Mohu - throughout Independence week to help people like you break free from cable. You read that right, 103 TVs!
Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Your TV antenna has you covered for local news - morning, afternoon and evening editions from your local broadcast stations, live. You will also get the live daily national news shows from the major broadcast networks including Today, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News and CBS Evening News. Your TV antenna also provides any special live news broadcasts such as the State of the Union and breaking news.


By 2012, however, Time Warner’s investors were demanding to know why the company wasn’t selling its reruns to Netflix, according to one former Time Warner executive. “We sat out for a few years, and all of Wall Street said, ‘What the hell are you guys doing? You’re leaving value on the table for your shareholders!’ ” the former executive said. “So we relented. That was the beginning of the end.”

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Now we need to determine which current season Cable TV shows you can't live without. Current season means that you want to watch the episodes of the show as they air. Cable TV shows are anything not available on the broadcast networks that you looked at in the section above. They are shows on AMC, USA, HBO, Showtime, History, etc. For example, The Walking Dead, which airs on AMC, is a Cable network show. Mr. Robot, which airs on USA, is a Cable network show. Vikings, which airs on History, is a Cable network show.
Know what you want - and stick to it. Are you looking for the basic cable channels, like your local television networks? Or do you specifically want a certain channel, such as a regional sports network so you can keep up with your home team? Regardless of your goal in subscribing to cable television, you will need to stick to the plan in order to keep your bill where you want it. The customer service representative's job is to try to sell you the highest tier they possibly can, so you'll likely need to be firm when ordering.

I’ve been following this cord-cutting trend for a while and have read many articles. This is the best, clearest how-to I’ve read. Our DIRECTTV contract is up in April, and we will probably cut the cord. We’re tired of playing the promotion game with Cox, Dish, Direct TV. But the real issue is the internet promotion game with Cox and Centurylink here in Phoenix. The thing is, my 6 and 7 year old already find the shows they want on Hulu and Netflix (one paid and one trial account). So I figure we can get broadcast via OTR, record to Tivo OTR (my wife and I had Tivo years ago and loved it) and stream the popular services through it. I’ve also invested in AppleTV devices for a few years (this is an Apple ecosystem household) and that service is getting better and better (competes with Roku and Sling, to a lesser degree) at having channels available via Apps. Great article!


For example, if your TV isn’t working, you can designate whether it’s grainy, frozen, tiled, blue, or black. After a few more questions about your service, you’ll get a specific solution and clear way forward (even if that means scheduling professional help). It’s a small convenience, but we love the option to handle simple fixes ourselves, instead of having to parse through outdated forums or spend our lunch break on hold with a technician.
As if to emphasize the idea that streaming is just re-creating the existing television landscape in a different venue, CBS recently announced the launch of CBSN Local, a local news addition to its CBSN streaming service. CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn called the service, expected to launch at the end of 2018 in New York, “the exciting next chapter in how our stations will serve audiences seeking local news on all of the most popular content consumption platforms.” Now, even through streaming services, viewers will be able to view localized meme-ready material from wherever they may be at the touch of a screen. (To be fair, this has been expected for some time.)

Although HBO and Showtime are perhaps better-known these days for original programming, they still show recent theatrical releases, and they make them available through their subscription services. Starz is also excellent for anyone seeking current blockbusters. Consider tacking on a subscription to one, two or all three of these to an Amazon Prime Video account. Video-on-demand rentals are also an option, facilitated by multiple retailers. And if you’re interested in owning digital copies of your movies, the service Movies Anywhere is a helpful way to manage and view your library.

Many plans include fees in addition to the monthly price of your TV package that are either one-time or recurring. Some, like installation and equipment fees, are pretty standard, while others like broadcast or HD fees might be more uncommon. Always check with a sales representative or review the fine print so you know exactly what you’re paying for.


I agree with you that “net tv is simply not ready”. We’re still in relatively new stages of how these all shake out. NOTHING out there now can match the simplicity we’re accustomed to with dedicated cable boxes and one interface for all our TV watching. We all have our gripes about the various interfaces offered by Comcast, FIOS, Charter, who have you, but in the end for the “average user” even with their downsides they are “better” than the myriad of interfaces you have to deal with combining the likes of Amazon Video with Netflix with (Hulu/YouTube/DirecTV/etc), alongside the convenience of a single remote with consistent buttons. I do think a LOT of people WANT to switch to streaming-only TV, they try it out before they “cut the cord” and don’t like the inconsistency, or they try it after “cutting the cord” and end up going back. Like for me, I already cut the cord and went with PS Vue, but like I said it’s missing half the live TV I want to watch, so now on my FireTV boxes or my PS4’s I have to use some other app (with totally different controls, user interface, etc.) to get those other channels, then I hop over to Amazon Video or Netflix to watch a movie and that’s all different too. Then if my kid wants to watch something, he’s got to hop between 3 or 4 or 5 different “apps” to find something of interest.
Two of the biggest providers of skinny channel bundles are satellite TV companies Dish Network (Sling TV) and AT&T's DirecTV (DirecTV Now). It seems crazy to consider Sling TV and DirecTV clients to have "cut the cord" since pay-TV companies are continuing to make money off them. Analysts at eMarketer, however, take the opposite view, as do other experts.
I agree with you that “net tv is simply not ready”. We’re still in relatively new stages of how these all shake out. NOTHING out there now can match the simplicity we’re accustomed to with dedicated cable boxes and one interface for all our TV watching. We all have our gripes about the various interfaces offered by Comcast, FIOS, Charter, who have you, but in the end for the “average user” even with their downsides they are “better” than the myriad of interfaces you have to deal with combining the likes of Amazon Video with Netflix with (Hulu/YouTube/DirecTV/etc), alongside the convenience of a single remote with consistent buttons. I do think a LOT of people WANT to switch to streaming-only TV, they try it out before they “cut the cord” and don’t like the inconsistency, or they try it after “cutting the cord” and end up going back. Like for me, I already cut the cord and went with PS Vue, but like I said it’s missing half the live TV I want to watch, so now on my FireTV boxes or my PS4’s I have to use some other app (with totally different controls, user interface, etc.) to get those other channels, then I hop over to Amazon Video or Netflix to watch a movie and that’s all different too. Then if my kid wants to watch something, he’s got to hop between 3 or 4 or 5 different “apps” to find something of interest.
You could use a number of approaches when faced with the challenge of "How to find cable TV providers near me?" You could spend hours surfing the internet, going through the process of entering your information into each provider's website to see if they service your area. It would be much more effective, however, if you could narrow the search down to the best cable providers in your area before diving into the shopping phase.
6 months ago I decided to try and replace my Dish Network service. I built a HTPC with plenty of power, storage, and have a pretty high speed internet service. I put up an outside antenna and get all the stations from about 60 miles away in the computer using a Hauppauge 4 tuner card. Then I started looking at program content providers including IPTV providers and several others such as Hulu and DirecTV Now. I was able to get Kodi and NextPVR loaded on the computer and had some success with OTA and the 2nd IPTV provider I tried. Then I had a problem with them. I decided I would go with DirecTV Now and actually got it working but not with Kodi. I think PlayOn will allow me to connect DTVN to Kodi but not sure how that will work.
That means all you need is an antenna to start grabbing these network TV signals to display on your television. Now I know what you’re thinking. If you were born before 1985, you probably have vivid memories of static all over the screen as mom or dad adjust the antenna. Digital doesn’t work that way. If your antenna can pick up the channel, then you get the picture as clear as it can be. Otherwise, you don’t get the picture.
The growing competition between satellite and fiber TV services in the country has made cable TV an inexpensive choice. This competition not only dropped the price of cable TV services but also significantly increased the number of features available to customers at exactly the same price. Because of this, new features such as HD programming are now available on most cable TV packages. So, be sure to compare the pricing plans and other features offered by a cable TV provider before you make a decision.
Executives couldn't agree on how long to make old episodes available for subscribers. Some gave viewers only a day to catch up on a show they missed because the broadcasters had sold the reruns to another service. Others made past series available to subscribers for a month. Consumers became confused about where to go and how long they had to binge-watch a show. Some TV networks were slow to make their channels available online.
Plus, devices like AirTV or a computer set up with a tuner card and software like Plex can bring antenna channels to any of your other devices with very little setup required. Amazon is mixing things up with its Fire TV Recast, a "headless" box that can deliver live or DVR'd local TV to other screens in your house. The device launched November 14th, and the promise of Alexa-controlled viewing that stretches from your Fire TV stick, to an Echo Show, to iOS and Android phones running a Fire TV app, is a tantalizing one.
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