What are the best alternatives to cable TV for your home?

Shop the best streaming services to replace your cable TV

Best streaming providers of 2019

  • Hulu + Live TV – Best channel selection
  • PlayStation Vue – Best for sports fans
  • YouTube TV – Best user experience
  • DIRECTV NOW – Best for HBO®
  • Sling TV – Best skinny bundle

Considering cutting the cord? You’re not alone. More than one million people cut the cord in Q4 2018, opting for cheaper alternatives to watch their favorite shows and movies.

As cord cutting has grown in popularity, many over-the-top (OTT) services have emerged. Each offers a slightly different viewing experience, from the channels and programming you get to how you watch and how much you pay. Here’s our breakdown of the best streaming providers.

Hulu + Live TV – Best channel selection

Hulu + Live TV’s channel mix makes it a popular choice for families. With local channels, sports networks and popular kids networks like Disney and Cartoon Network, Hulu + Live TV offers a little something for everyone. Plus, with streaming on an unlimited number of devices at home, Hulu + Live TV lets everyone watch what they want.

Monthly costNo. of channelsSimultaneous streamsDVR storage
$44.99/mo.*60+Unlimited at home, up to three on the goUp to 200 hours

Hulu + Live TV comes with your local channels plus:

  • A&E
  • Animal Planet
  • CNN
  • Discovery Channel
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • ESPN 2
  • Fox News
  • Fox Sports 1
  • FX
  • Golf Channel
  • HGTV
  • History Channel
  • Lifetime
  • MSNBC
  • National Geographic
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • Travel Channel
  • USA

Hulu + Live TV compatible devices:

  • Mac and PC at Hulu.com
  • Apple TV 4th Generation
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Apple iPhone and iPad devices
  • Google Chromecast
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Android smartphones and tablets
  • Xbox One and Xbox 360
  • Select Samsung and LG smart TVs

Some notable channels missing from Hulu + Live TV include major sports channels like NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA Network. Also, no premium channels are included with Hulu + Live TV, but you can add HBO®, Cinemax®, Showtime® and STARZ® for an added monthly cost.

PlayStation Vue – Best for sports fans

Make the most of your PlayStation® 3 or PlayStation® 4 console with PlayStation Vue, an OTT streaming service from Sony. Don’t have a PlayStation? No problem, you can watch on a number of other devices.

PlayStation Vue gives you four package options with each next tier offering more sports, movies and premium networks, making it a practical alternative to cable TV. PlayStation Vue is also one of the few streaming services that include HBO® and Showtime® in a standard package.

Monthly costNo. of channelsSimultaneous streamsDVR storage
$49.99-$84.99/mo.*45-80+Up to five at onceUnlimited cloud storage, titles stored up to 28 days

PlayStation Vue channels vary by package, but may include locals plus:

  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • BBC World News
  • beIN Sports
  • Bravo
  • Cartoon Network
  • CNBC
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney Channel
  • Epix Hits
  • ESPN
  • Fox News
  • Fox Sports 1
  • HBO®
  • FX
  • HGTV
  • NFL Network
  • Olympic Channel
  • Showtime®
  • Sundance TV
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • Travel Channel
  • USA

Playstation Vue compatible devices:

  • PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles
  • Android TV
  • Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Edge browsers
  • Roku devices OS 7.7+
  • Apple TV 4th Generation
  • Select iPad and iPhones
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Select Sony smart TVs
  • Select Android smartphones and tablets

Lack of sports channels and live sporting events is a common frustration for cord-cutting sports fans, but PlayStation Vue makes up for it. PlayStation Vue offers your regional sports networks plus NFL Network, NBA Network and MLB Network.

In exchange for a great sports selection, however, you’ll have to give up some popular channels including A&E, History, Nickelodeon and MTV. You’ll also notice that PlayStation Vue can be a bit pricier than other OTT services. With monthly costs up to $84.99 or higher with add-on packs, you may find PlayStation Vue is not the most cost-effective alternative to cable.

YouTube TV – Best user experience

Perhaps the biggest pioneer of video streaming, YouTube has joined the ranks of OTT subscription services. With live TV on 70+ networks, YouTube TV is high on the list of alternatives to cable TV. Along with a great channel selection, users enjoy the simple and straightforward interface and navigation that lets you quickly find the channels, shows and recordings you want.

Monthly costNo. of channelsSimultaneous streamsDVR storage
$49.99/mo.*70+Up to three at onceUnlimited cloud storage

YouTube TV includes your local channels plus popular networks including:

  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • Cartoon Network
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney
  • E!
  • ESPN
  • Food Network
  • Fox News
  • Fox Sports 1
  • FX
  • HGTV
  • MLB Network
  • MSNBC
  • TBS
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • Travel Channel
  • TruTV
  • USA

YouTube TV compatible devices:

  • Apple TV 4th Generation
  • Roku devices
  • Select Android smartphones and tablets
  • Android TV
  • Google Chromecast
  • Select iPhone and iPad devices
  • Select Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sharp and Vizio smart TVs
  • Xbox One

While YouTube TV offers lots of popular networks you’d get with cable, some channels you’d have to go without include A&E, Comedy Central, History, Lifetime and Nickelodeon. Additionally, HBO® is not available, even as an add-on.

Another somewhat surprising omission with YouTube TV is 4K programming. While there is lots of 4K content on YouTube, YouTube TV currently does not offer any 4K channels or programming.

AT&T TV NOW – Best for HBO

AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW) is another one of the alternatives to cable TV that is ideal for cord cutters and anyone who may not want or be eligible for cable or satellite TV. AT&T TV NOW gives you perhaps the most package options with seven to choose from, including a Spanish base package.

The highlight of AT&T TV NOW’s two main streaming packages, Plus and Max, is HBO®. AT&T NOW is among the only cable alternatives that include HBO with the lowest-tiered package. The AT&T NOW Max package also includes Cinemax®.

Monthly costNo. of channelsSimultaneous streamsDVR storage
$50-$135/mo.*45-125+Up to two at once20 hours, titles stored up to 30 days

AT&T NOW includes local channels plus a robust assortment of available channels, including:

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • BET
  • Cartoon Network
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney
  • ESPN
  • Food Network
  • History Channel
  • MLB Network
  • MTV
  • NBA Network
  • Nickelodeon
  • Paramount
  • STARZ ENCORE
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • USA
  • Viceland

AT&T NOW compatible devices:

  • Select Roku devices
  • Google Chromecast
  • Chrome browser
  • Apple TV 4th and 5th Generation
  • Apple iOS 10+ devices
  • Safari browser
  • Amazon Fire 2nd Generation and higher
  • Android 5.0+ devices
  • Select Samsung smart TVs

AT&T NOW offers more channels than most OTT alternatives to cable, but at a potentially high price. While their lowest package price is in line with other top streaming services, their higher-tiered packages can run well over $100/mo., significantly higher than some cable TV packages. Plus, packages other than the Plus or Max do not include HBO.

Sling TV – Best skinny bundle

You may have noticed that many of these “alternatives to cable TV” cost about the same as a cable TV service, but that’s not the case with Sling TV. In addition to your local channels, Sling TV packages offer a trimmed selection of channels for a lower monthly cost. You can then customize your skinny bundle with premium channels, news networks, sports, kids entertainment and more for an additional monthly cost.

Monthly costNo. of channelsSimultaneous streamsDVR storage
$15-$25/mo.*30-50+One with Sling Orange, up to three with Sling Blue50 hours (added fee of $5/mo.)

Depending on the package, your Sling TV subscription could include:

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • BET
  • Cartoon Network
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney
  • ESPN
  • Food Network
  • Fox Sports 1
  • HGTV
  • History Channel
  • National Geographic
  • NFL Network
  • SyFy
  • TBS
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • TruTV
  • USA

Sling TV compatible devices:

  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick
  • Apple TV 4th Generation and higher
  • Select LG, Samsung and Vizio smart TVs
  • Android smartphones and tablets
  • Google Chromecast
  • Windows 10 devices
  • Apple iPhone and iPad devices
  • Roku devices
  • Xbox One

Sling TV’s packages are priced to make cutting the cord more economical, but you may notice one big thing missing from Sling TV: local channels. Depending on where you live, you may have to give up on local ABC, CBS and/or NBC affiliates. Additionally, with few options other than ESPN and Fox Sports 1, Sling TV may not be the best choice for sports fans.

Top streaming services for on-demand content

If you can live without live TV, or picking up over-the-air content on your local channels is enough, but still want great entertainment, on-demand streaming services may be for you.

These services won’t bring you live TV, but they can still serve as good alternatives to cable TV. You may also find that these streaming services are a good complement to cable, bringing original series and movies you otherwise wouldn’t get from your TV provider.

What new streaming services are there?

As OTT services have become popular alternatives to cable TV service, more streaming services have entered the market. Some of the biggest new streaming services include:

  • Apple TV+ – Apple is joining the streaming trend sometime in fall 2019. While the launch date and plan pricing is yet to be seen, Apple did tease original content from some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
  • Disney+ – Disney+ is set to launch November 2019 and will feature many favorite Disney movies and shows. Adding to the Disney library you know and love, Disney+ will also feature more than 25 original series and 10 original films.
  • ESPN+ – ESPN’s new streaming service gives you access to many sporting events, including some you won’t find on ESPN or ESPN 2. Most notably, UFC Fight Night events will air exclusively on ESPN+. And if you want to order a UFC PPV Main Event, you’ll have to do it through ESPN+ as well.
  • Facebook Watch – Facebook is bringing free content to its more than 2.3 billion users with Facebook Watch. The new streaming service features original series, select live sporting events and, of course, lots of user-generated content.

Streaming services from networks and cable providers

If you want to cut the cord, but not completely sever it, Cox and Spectrum offer streaming bundles. These services aren’t available in all areas, but to be eligible you must also sign up for their internet service. Depending on the service and your location, you could get up to 75 or more channels including your locals, and stream on up to two devices.

Individual networks are also getting into the streaming game. CBS All Access lets you watch live CBS programming and gives you access to their library of hot shows. It’s a great option for cord cutters, or AT&T customers in markets that no longer carry CBS.

NBC launched a sports app, NBC Sports Gold, that is a collection of streaming services featuring sports you may not find on cable TV. Popular packages offer Cycling coverage, rugby and exclusive Premier League matches.

Get answers to your questions about cutting the cord

Which streaming service is best for live TV?

It depends on what you’re looking for, but perhaps the best all-around alternative to cable is Hulu + Live TV. It gives you access to local channels, popular sports networks and more. Plus you can stream on an unlimited number of devices at home and store up to 200 hours of recorded content.

How do I get rid of cable TV?

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re not under a contract with your current cable provider. If you are free to “cut the cord,” check out our guide to cord cutting for tips on how to get rid of cable TV.

Can you get local channels without cable?

Many OTT alternatives to cable include your local networks at no extra cost, including Hulu + Live TV, DIRECTV NOW, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV. Or, if you want to pick up your local channels over the air, follow our guide for choosing the best digital TV antenna.

Is there a website to watch TV shows for free?

There are a few free services and apps available on Roku TV, Fire TV and other streaming devices. These services, such as Hoopla and Tubi TV, give you free access to their library of movies and shows. You can also stream YouTube videos for free, if you can make it past the ads.

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