There’s nothing better than kicking back after a long day and watching some TV, is there?
But when you see the bill… Yikes!
The cost of cable and satellite TV has gone up and up, and you could be spending an average of $116 per month on it. Plus, do you really use all those premium channels??
Luckily, there are a ton of great alternatives out there, which will cost you a fraction of that. If you just started frugal living, a streaming service like YouTube TV or Netflix may be perfect for you!
Today, we will look at the top 16 best cable TV alternatives for you, if you want to know how to get free cable TV legally.
16 Best Cable TV Alternatives
1. Local Networks: HD Digital Antenna
HD Digital Antenna is one of the most cost-effective alternatives to cable TV out there.
No internet is needed for this option- it’s good free basic cable TV, just without those old-style rabbit ears for your TV. No premium channels are included on this option,but how often do you need them anyway?
You will need to shell out for the cost of the antenna of course, but from then on, you’re good to go. The antenna setup is typically only around $20, and once you buy it, you’re all set to hook up for basic cable.
The types of cable channels that you will be able to pick up varies, but you should easily get ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc.
But, before cutting the cord for cable, make sure that you have a decent signal! Some areas may do better with a different type of antenna or may need an antenna with a longer range if you live further away from a town or city.
Netflix is the go-to in our household in the evenings – we love it and have been users for a very long time!
It’s extremely convenient and hosts a whole range of things to watch – both TV programs and films.
They also upload a lot of original Netflix shows, which are great! This is handy if you’re looking for cheap cable TV alternatives for low-income budgets.
It’s really affordable at $9 a month for the basic package. You can use one screen at a time and there aren’t HD options, but you get all the movies and shows they stream.
It’s a little bit more if you want to use it on more than one streaming device at a time, costs go up to $14 for 2 screens and $18 for 4 screens.
That may be worth it for a big family who wants to watch more than 1 thing at a given time, but you can always start with the basic plan and upgrade if you want more flexibility for screen time.
Netflix is even more affordable if you can convince one of your family members or friends to share their info and add you as one of the additional devices on their account!
The basic plan Hulu offers is a super affordable $6.99 per month – but with one catch: commercials. But that’s pretty similar to cable TV, so not a big change for a lot lower cost!
If you want to watch your shows without commercials, you can upgrade to $12.99 per month to skip the little hassle.
However, you can only watch it on 2 streaming devices at a time – so they haven’t caught up with their competitor Netflix just yet, where you can use up to 4 streaming devices on their top plan.
A bonus of having Hulu rather than cable TV, however, is that if you are a fan of TV shows, they show them on there on the day that they air – which isn’t possible with options such as Netflix.
Hulu streams channels like FX, Disney, Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, and more- plenty of options for every member of your family!
YouTube is completely free! It has been popular for a long time, with plenty of contributors adding original content.
Now, this isn’t the best option if you’re specifically looking for TV shows and movies for free, but there are videos on whatever you’re interested in!
I don’t know about you, but there has been many a time when I’ve been sucked into a YouTube rabbit hole and watched video after video for far too long.
But I don’t regret it! This is why YouTube is one of my favorites and one of the best alternatives to cable.
The best thing about YouTube? If you type something in, there’s going to be a video on it. There’s a video for everything!
This is particularly useful if you enjoy watching videos where you can learn something, or you love watching vloggers.
There are some films and shows that you can watch on YouTube, but you may have to pay a small fee, kind of like a rental streaming service that’s readily available at any time.
5. YouTube TV
YouTube TV isn’t the same thing as YouTube – this is a streaming service where you can find your favorite channels!
It’s a live TV streaming service with over 85 channels and networks, which is great for sports fans or if you want access to local news.
On YouTube TV, you can get access to your local channels, and then other channels such as CNN and ESPN. And you can use YouTube TV on 3 streaming devices at a time, so you won’t be fighting over screen time.
Or should I say the kids won’t be fighting? They can have access to channels like Cartoon Network and Disney, no problem!
It’s $65 a month, so a bit more on the pricier side than the options we have looked at so far.
YouTube TV also has a free 2-week trial, so you can really give it a try before you stop using cable TV. I’m sure you won’t regret switching if this is your pick!
6. Sling TV
This is one of the options that is the most similar to cable TV, so if you really miss it, you may want to go for Sling TV.
The basic package is $35 per month (and you can try the free 3-day trial), and you get a choice of either Sling Orange or Sling Blue, both of which offer different channels. There’s also the option of having both for $50 per month.
Sling TV is another great live TV streaming service, as it works similarly to cable. You can watch 32 networks on Orange and 43 channels on Blue Sling TV.
Sling TV is worth looking into if you are after a more customizable package based on the channels that you watch.
7. Amazon Prime Video
Hands up if you have an Amazon Prime account? If so, then you already have access to their video streaming service!
The cost of Prime Video is $8.99 per month, but you could pay $12.99 a month for Prime membership (or $119 a year) and get Prime Video plus Prime Shipping and other perks.
You can get access to TV shows and movies, but the great thing about Prime Video is that if the thing that you want to watch isn’t available, you have the option of renting it.
You can also buy a streaming device called the FireStick to hook up to your TV and use Prime Video and any other streaming apps you have!
You won’t have access to sports channels, so that’s something to think about when you are choosing your best cable TV alternative.
8. HBO Max
You can actually use HBO through other streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime.
However, if you want to get it on its own then you have the HBO Max option – it’s the same cost if you have it as a standalone or add-on.
It’s $9.99 per month, comes with a free 7-day trial, and you can cancel it whenever you want.
9. Local Library
When was the last time you visited your library? Things have really changed, and you can get so much more than books now!
Believe it or not, you can get a lot of movies and TV shows on DVD at your local library.
If you have a library card, borrowing them will be free – but make sure that you return it in time or you’ll get a fee!
Plus, the libraries work together so if your closest library doesn’t have what you want, they can reach out to another location and have things mailed to them- or you can pop over to that location and see what else they’ve got!
Some libraries have online streaming services, like Kanopy or Hoopla, so it’s worth checking out your local library’s website to see what they’ve got going on.
It’s always great to support your local library and can be a nice outing with the family. It’s a great idea for movie night to grab some snacks and a few free movies from the library!
10. ESPN +
ESPN + is ESPN’s new streaming service, and it’s all within the ESPN app, so there’s no need to download anything extra.
With ESPN + you can get access to live games and events, films, and more. If you’re a sports fan, this is one for you!
It costs $6.99 per month, or $69.99 if you pay annually.
Formerly AT&T TV Now, you can use DIRECTV to stream TV, sports, news, movies, and more through this service.
If you are looking for something that is pretty much the same as normal cable, this is it.
It’s a bit steep at $69.99 – $139.99 per month, so around the same cost as normal cable.
There are 65 – 140+ channels, depending on which package you choose.
12. Apple TV
Apple isn’t one to shy away from a bit of competition, and they’re giving it their best shot with Apple TV, a low-fee streaming service.
It’s priced at $5 per month, and you can get it for free if you purchase an Apple device. They even have a streaming device if you don’t want to just use the app, so you have other options within the Apple TV world.
Apple TV is a bit different from the other streaming services that we’ve looked at so far, as it doesn’t have a huge amount of typical shows or movies available – it seems to be mainly concentrating on unique shows from their own brand, but they seem to be catching up and adding more over time.
Philo is probably the streaming service that is the best value for money in terms of being similar to cable TV in the choices offered.
You are able to get access to 60 channels, which include AMC, BBC America, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and more.
You can use Philo on all of your streaming devices, and it will cost you $25 per month – with a free 7-day trial.
I don’t think I’ve seen so many stories about a TV-related thing before Disney + came out – it was all over social media!
I don’t blame anyone though, as I love a bit of Disney myself. This is perfect if you are a Disney fan – but it’s not just Disney that this streaming service offers.
There’s the usual Disney stuff, but don’t forget about all of the Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and more! Disney owns pretty much everything by now.
If you are into your sports, you could go for the Disney+ triple package which will offer ESPN and Hulu.
The service is priced pretty cheaply at $7.99 per month.
15. Online Cable Network Channels
There are some online cable network channels that share their recent episodes online. It’s not the same as live TV streaming services, but it’s not too hard to wait until tomorrow for the latest episode.
The best thing to do is to download the apps, and try and link up to your smart TV and play on there.
The network apps are generally free, but you may have to pay a fee to watch certain shows.
Paramount is a good one to start with, as they have a service called Paramount+ which is only $4.99 per month. Such a great deal!
16. Free Movie Streaming Services
Why not make your digital entertainment completely free?
There are plenty of free streaming services for an endless amount of movies with your family.
Or… Start a Different Hobby
The best alternative to cable TV? Pretty much anything that isn’t watching TV!
If you don’t want to pay for TV services, you can find other entertainment and fun things for yourself and your family. There are plenty of free things to do or cheap date night ideas rather than vegging out in front of the tube!
Yes, putting on the TV and plopping on the couch is a great way to kick back and relax, but there are some other things that you could try instead. They’re better for you and can be fun experiences with the family.
Good old reading! I’m a big fan of reading, as I believe that your writing, spelling, grammar, and imagination are all improved from reading.
You could use the time that you usually spend watching TV, reading a good book instead and learning something new.
Plus, you could get paid to read new books or books before they’re published!
TV…or exercise? It’s no surprise that a lot of people choose to watch TV instead, but giving some exercise a go instead is always a good idea.
You may hate the idea before you do it, but I guarantee that you will feel much better afterward.
I’m a perpetual couch potato, but like me, if you’re worried TV has taken over your free time, it may be time to exercise and try something healthier for a change of pace!
Get Outside, Be Active
We live in a beautiful country, it’s time to get outside and enjoy it!
There’s nothing better than a stroll in the sunshine, or even on a rainy day. It’s good for you!
Play Board Games
Game night is a tradition that I want to carry on from when I did this as a kid with my family.
I’m not saying we didn’t watch TV, but they’re certainly weren’t all of the options available that there are now!
Playing board games with my family is one of my favorite memories – it’s fun and brings everyone together.
Start a Side Hustle
One of the best ways to spend your free time is to start up a side hustle.
It may not sound like one of the most fun things to do, especially if you have been at work all day already, but it can be a game-changer.
It’s a good idea to pick something that you will enjoy and see if you can make some money from it.
Then you can use that money to go towards your goals!
Our favorite side hustles:
Take Online Surveys – The perfect side hustle while you watch tv, wait in the doctor’s office, or even sit on the toilet. Yes, you can make money while you use the bathroom.
Start a Money Making Blog – It takes a lot of effort up front but once you start seeing the success the sky is the limit. Our blog brings in over $10,000 per month!
Start a Facebook Side Hustle – Want to make money using Facebook. There are plenty of small business owners in need of marketing help. The perfect flexible side hustle anyone can start.
Become a Freelance Writer – Freelance writing can be an incredible side hustle. Earn anywhere from $0.10-$0.20 per word depending on your experience.
Become a Proofreader – Love to read? Why not get paid to read others work and find spelling/grammatical errors. You can easily earn a few hundred dollars a month in your spare time.
How Much Money Can You Save Cutting The Cord?
It depends on how much you were originally paying for your cable, and which streaming service you decide to go with.
If you were paying around $100 for your cable (a conservative guess), and you chose something like Netflix, which is $9 per month, you’d be saving $1092 per year. Wow!
I do tend to see a lot of people doing a mixture of different streaming services, and you just want to be careful there, that you don’t end up paying more.
Do You Need Internet to Use These Cable Alternatives?
Yes, you will need the internet to use cable alternatives like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Apple TV (don’t mistake the TV part for cable), but it’s possible to get free internet or at least get cheaper options from your provider.
Most streaming services are through apps or websites, meaning you’ll need devices to use and the internet to connect to.
If you, however, use your library card to borrow physical movies from the library, you obviously won’t need the internet for that.
If you already pay for data- especially unlimited data- you could use your phone to watch these cable alternatives or use your phone as a mobile hotspot for other devices.
Final Thoughts on Awesome These Cable Alternatives
If you love watching TV but want to cut costs, that doesn’t necessarily mean going cold turkey and giving up watching what you like to watch. There are plenty of live TV streaming services and good old apps to watch what you want, when you want.
It’s always a good idea to look into cheaper options for the thing that you want, to see if it can save you money using YouTube TV, Netflix, or Apple TV.
It depends on what kind of shows and channels you like, but there are plenty of great services if you want to know how to watch TV without cable or satellite.
There are some amazing cable TV alternatives out there for you to choose from. You can pick the best streaming service or any other option that fits your budget or gives you your favorite shows!
Or be like us, and have a few streaming services- even having 2 streaming channels is less expensive than cable TV, so we feel no guilt in a little splurge!