Roku ($29.99 - $99.99): One of the pioneers in the concept of cheaply and simply turning any TV into a streaming portal, Roku offers a wide range of products, from simple sticks to bigger (yet still compact) boxes. Because it’s been around so long, Roku has agreements with pretty much every major and minor streaming video service, and it is even integrated into some smart TV models. The company has also been giving its customers more power to control the sound of what they’re watching, with features like “night mode” (which mutes explosions and amplifies whispers) and “private listening” (which allows viewers to watch a show or movie on their TVs but listen to it through headphones).
If you’re looking for the utmost flexibility and personalization in your cable alternative plan, Sling TV is the streaming service for you. Sling is committed to breaking free from old cable TV by cutting unwatched channels, long-term contracts, and hidden fees. Sling has two baseline packages starting at $25 a month, and you can do even more with their seemingly endless add-ons. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth with this cable alternative. Read the options below to find out how.

Some cable TV providers require you to commit to a long-term contract while others don't. The length and terms of your contract will vary by the provider you choose and your location. Typically, you can expect the contract length to range from 1 to 3 years. For instance, DIRECTV's contracts are two years long, while Xfinity's range from one to two years depending on the plan that you choose. On the other hand, Spectrum will never make you sign a contract.
However, even if you do have to pay for internet, that doesn’t mean you can’t save a ton by ditching your television service subscription. Just be aware that cable and satellite companies will tout their service bundles to try and convince you to commit to multiple services. While the promo or introductory prices may look attractive, they will go up when the initial period ends, so think long and hard about the potential consequences, especially if you have to sign a contract.
Apple TV: Like Roku, Apple TV is a streaming box that plugs into your TV. It has a great integration with iTunes, and supports many additional services including live TV stations through DirecTV Now. Apple TV also works with tons of services including Netflix and SlingTV. Expand on your entertainment with this device’s gaming capabilities, including the ability to work with an external gaming controller. Apple TV comes in two versions that cost $149 and $199 respectively.
Although early (VHF) television receivers could receive 12 channels (2–13), the maximum number of channels that could be broadcast in one city was 7: channels 2, 4, either 5 or 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13, as receivers at the time were unable to receive strong (local) signals on adjacent channels without distortion. (There were frequency gaps between 4 and 5, and between 6 and 7, which allowed both to be used in the same city).
Another cable or satellite alternative could include simple online viewing. Many TV stations – especially the larger ones like ABC and CBS – give website visitors access to their show episodes. You can watch episodes that have recently played when you visit their websites. Even some cable TV channels such as The Food Network have full show episodes available for web site visitors.
Mediacom only offers its cable TV service paired with an internet plan, but that starting bundle comes at a fair rate. You can get high speed internet (60 Mbps or 100 Mbps) with the Local Plus TV plan. It comes with the basic networks like NBC, the CW, and ABC — but not much beyond that. You’ll have to upgrade to the Family TV plan for everything except premium channels.
Other TV providers are now putting similar compensational price hikes in place. This year, Comcast is raising its regional sports fee by an average $1.50 per month, and its broadcast TV fee by $2 per month, Bloomberg reports, while DirecTV and Dish are both raising prices by $3 per month or more for all packages. DirecTV is also pulling back on the discounts it once offered to new subscribers as roughly two million customers reach the end of their two-year contracts, The Wall Street Journal reports, because there’s little point in offering unprofitable promo deals if those customers end up leaving.
With Sling, there’s no more waiting on a show to air—you can watch it live like with cable or satellite, except you’re watching over the internet! The basic package includes 30 live channels like AMC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV, and Disney Channel. You can get a slightly different lineup of networks for $25, or get both for $40. There are also $5–10 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs and your little ones. So if ESPN is the only reason you’re clinging to your cable box, you may be out of excuses now!
Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. This is not a guarantee. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase. Each individual's unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.
Always take a moment on a new TV to switch off any special features that are meant to reduce motion-blurring. (These go by different names depending on the manufacturer, but the setting typically has the word “motion” in it, as in Sony’s “Motionflow” or LG’s “TruMotion.”) These settings tend to make movies and even most modern television shows look more flat and artificial, in what’s often called “the soap opera effect.”
Top shows include: Empire, The Real World, Seinfeld, Inside Amy Schumer, The Shield, The Twilight Zone, Daria, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Cheers, The Mindy Project, Survivor, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Battlestar Gallactica, Top Chef, Masters of Sex, The Daily Show, Weeds, The Good Wife, Ally McBeal, The Affair, How to Get Away with Murder, and more.
One last point on what to watch: If you really want to pay only for what you want to watch and nothing else, don’t forget that iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Fandango Now, Cinema Now, Google Play and others will gladly sell or rent you movies and episodes of TV series, to watch on your computer or TV. If you’re thinking of your various subscriptions as an analogue to cable, then think of this option as akin to the old-fashioned “pay per view.” The fees can add up if you watch a lot, but these vendors have some free videos, too. 
With the online service, students get most new titles simultaneously with their premiere on the networks; the ability to create a “Watchlist” that keeps track of bookmarked content for later viewing; bonus content including interviews, recaps, and behind-the-scenes extras; and customizable views showing titles in slideshow, grid or list format. In addition, HBO GO® can be personalized through a “Series Pass®” capability which automatically alerts viewers to new episodes of favorite HBO programs when they arrive on the service.
Apple TV: Like Roku, Apple TV is a streaming box that plugs into your TV. It has a great integration with iTunes, and supports many additional services including live TV stations through DirecTV Now. Apple TV also works with tons of services including Netflix and SlingTV. Expand on your entertainment with this device’s gaming capabilities, including the ability to work with an external gaming controller. Apple TV comes in two versions that cost $149 and $199 respectively.
Showtime Online has a unique service of being able to be added on to other services that you may already subscribe to. For $9 a month, it can be added to Amazon Prime and Hulu and for $11, Playstation Vue. Showtime offers you award-winning series like Dexter, Weeds and House of Lies as well as a large selection of movies including action, comedies and dramas added each month. The stand-alone service is $11 and it offers both live viewing and streaming.
Streaming live TV is an effective cable TV alternative, but it does have some drawbacks. While it doesn’t have contracts or equipment costs, it requires a strong internet connection. You’ll want to get an internet download speed of 50 Mbps or more to avoid buffering. But before you sign up, just make sure all this doesn’t end up costing more than a cable and internet bundle would.
Given that the average cost of TV service in the United States is around $100 per month, cutting the cord starts to look like a pretty attractive option. Even if you’re just replacing a cable bundle with a live TV streaming service such as YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, you could still potentially chop your TV bill in half. Unlike traditional cable or satellite TV, these services achieve lower prices by cutting out certain channels and not making customers rent expensive set-top boxes. They also subsist on slimmer or nonexistent profit margins while trying to build a larger audience for targeted ads. Because these services have lots of competition—both from other live TV providers and from on-demand services such as Netflix—the pressure’s on to keep prices low.
CableTV.com has partnered with some of the biggest brands in cable TV and internet to provide you with the best service options in your area. Enter your zip to see which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and TV providers are available in your area, then compare cable companies, telecommunication companies, and satellite providers side by side. After you find a provider that meets your needs, visit the provider link to view specific packages and promotions for each provider in your area.
Aside from sports-free options Philo and AT&T Watch TV (see below), Sling is the cheapest multi-channel live TV streaming service out there. That's because it carries few local stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC). It has two base packages, Orange and Blue. Orange doesn't offer any locals, while Blue has Fox and NBC but only in a handful of cities. That's why Sling makes a good complement to OTA antenna TV. Sling's interface isn't much to look at, but it offers all of the options you need without cluttering the screen. The only real letdown is its arcane live pause and DVR exceptions (you can't record Disney-owned channels like ABC, for example). Its options are myriad, so check out Sling TV: Everything you need to know for all the details.
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