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Best cable TV alternatives for 2020

You have more options than ever available to you. Explore these cable alternatives for live TV.

Don’t need live TV? Check out our list of the best on-demand alternatives to cable.

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Live and on-demand alternatives to cable TV

Considering cutting the cord? You’re not alone. Nearly five million people cut the cord in 2019, opting for cheaper cable alternatives to watch their favorite shows and movies.

As cord cutting has grown in popularity, a number of streaming services have stepped in to fill the void. 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 services.

AT&T TV – Best channel selection

One of the newest cable TV alternatives, AT&T TV launched nationwide in February 2020. It’s something of a hybrid between the traditional cable TV providers and new live TV streaming services

AT&T TV streams live TV channels to your TV through the streaming device that it provides. The price of the device is included in your monthly subscription at no extra cost, but you can also stream the service on other streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and Apple TV.

AT&T TV’s device allows you to watch movies and TV shows in 4K HDR, includes a Google Assistant-powered remote and lets you record up to 500 hours of TV on its cloud DVR. You can also access other streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO NOW through AT&T TV’s device.

But while most streaming services allow you to cancel your plan at any time, you’ll have to commit to a two-year contract to use AT&T TV, and the price goes up significantly in year two.

That said, it offers by far the best channel lineup of any streaming service. If you’re looking for a cable alternative that provides the same extensive selection of channels as cable or satellite, AT&T TV is your best option.

YouTube TV – Best user experience

Perhaps the biggest pioneer of video streaming, YouTube has joined the ranks of live TV streaming services. With more than 95 live TV channels, YouTube TV is high on the list of alternatives to cable TV. Along with a great channel selection, users enjoy a simple and straightforward interface and navigation that lets you quickly find the channels, shows and recordings you want.

YouTube TV includes your local channels plus popular networks including:

  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • Cartoon Network
  • Discovery Channel
  • Disney
  • ESPN
  • Food Network
  • Fox News
  • FOX Sports 1
  • FX
  • HGTV
  • MLB Network
  • PBS
  • 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, History and Lifetime. 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.

Hulu + Live TV – Great on-demand library

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 allowed on two devices at once, Hulu + Live TV lets everyone watch what they want.

What’s more, by signing up for Hulu + Live TV, you’ll get access to Hulu’s popular on-demand streaming service, a $5.99/mo. value on its own.

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
  • 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 TV. Also, no premium channels are included with Hulu + Live TV, but you can add HBO®, Cinemax®, SHOWTIME® and STARZ® for an added monthly cost.

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 is HBO Max®, which is included in its $80/mo. Max package. For all other plans, you can add it for an extra $14.99/mo. The AT&T TV NOW Max package also includes Cinemax®.

AT&T TV 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
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • USA
  • Vice

AT&T TV NOW compatible devices:

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

AT&T TV NOW offers more channels than most cable alternatives, but at a potentially higher 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 Max do not include HBO.

Locast – Best for streaming local channels

The most popular channels on TV are your local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates — and they’re all available for free.

Locast, a not-for-profit streaming service gets you all these channels, and streams them to your TV like any other streaming service. However, Locast is currently only available in select markets.

Locast is currently only available in:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rapid City
  • San Francisco
  • Sioux City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Tampa Bay
  • Washington, D.C.

Locast compatible devices

Locast can be viewed on web browsers, iOS and Android apps, Google Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, TiVo, Apple TV, Android TV, DIRECTV and DISH.

Digital antenna – Best for local channels

If you’re not in a Locast service area but still want your fix of free local channels, a digital antenna is the way to go. Depending on where you live, a digital antenna could connect you to dozens of live channels including your local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates. Like any alternative to cable TV, a digital antenna comes with its advantages and disadvantages.

Digital antenna pros

  • No monthly costs
  • HD and 4K resolution possible
  • One antenna can serve multiple TVs

Digital antenna cons

  • Limited channel selection
  • Initial setup may be difficult
  • Signal interference in bad weather

Digital antennas are available in either indoor or outdoor models. Indoor antennas are typically cheaper and easier to install, but will have a more limited channel selection. Outdoor antennas will get better reception and likely more channels, but may be a bit pricier and harder to install.

Best 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 streaming 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 joined the streaming party in November 2019. While Apple continues to roll out new content every month, the early titles have featured some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
  • Disney Plus – Disney Plus launched in November 2019 and features many favorite Disney movies and shows. Adding to the Disney library you know and love, Disney Plus also has more than 20 original series and 11 original movies.
  • 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.

Best free streaming services

In addition to the dozens of subscription streaming services hitting the market, there are a growing number of free streaming services available. You’ll have to sit through a few commercials, but many of them have even better libraries than some services you’d pay for. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Hoopla – You’ll need a library card to use Hoopla, but it has the best collection of movies and TV shows of any free streaming service. It has more than 8,000 titles to choose from, with an especially strong selection of critically acclaimed dramas, classics and documentaries.
  • Kanopy – Another library-sponsored free streaming service, Kanopy has an impressive collection of movies and educational videos. You’ll find a number of recent Oscar nominees, plus the best lineup of foreign and indie films around.
  • Tubi TV – If you’re in the mood for some lighter fare, Tubi has an endless supply of classic comedy and action flicks. And with more than 15,000 titles in its library, you’ll never run out of movies to watch. 
  • Pluto TV – One of the only free streaming services that airs live TV channels, Pluto TV is a great way to watch sports and news shows without paying a premium. Its on-demand library is impressive, too, with more than 1,500 movies to choose from.

Cord cutting FAQs

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.

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.

Many cable alternatives include your local networks at no extra cost, including AT&T TV, Hulu + Live TV, AT&T TV NOW 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. You can also use the Locast app if it’s available in your area.

There are several free streaming 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 thousands of movies and shows. You can also stream YouTube videos for free, if you can make it past the ads.

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Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Sr. Staff Writer

Joe oversees all things wireless and streaming for Allconnect, from music services to live TV sites. His streaming service reviews are among the most popular articles on the entire site. Joe graduated from O… Read more