Best Cable TV Alternatives — Watch Your Favorite Shows & Channels Online Without CableBy Steph Myers / October 23, 2016 / Tags: Cut Cable, How-To
Here are today’s best cable TV alternatives, so you can cancel cable and stream TV online — without missing any of your favorite shows or live sports. (And if you’re outside the US, here’s how to watch US TV online.)
Tired of spending a small fortune on cable or satellite TV? Sick of those rigid package options, and paying for channels you don’t want just to get the ones you do?
Thankfully, there are some great cable TV alternatives available today. You can watch TV online (or stream TV, as it’s also called) from a number of sources — including live, on demand, and for free. You’ll be able to cancel cable, or cut way back on your subscription, without missing your favorite channels, shows, and sports.
If you live or travel outside the US, the options here give you some great sources to watch US TV from anywhere in the world.
Here’s our rundown of the top alternatives to cable/satellite TV.
Best Cable TV Alternative To Watch Free TV, Live & On Demand: Kodi
Kodi is the best alternative to cable TV if you want to stream free TV, sports, and movies.
What is Kodi? Briefly, Kodi is a media player. It’s free to download and use and works across devices, in any corner of the world.
You can use Kodi to stream all kinds of TV shows, movies, and sports, both live and on demand. You can use Kodi to watch Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video — as well as a huge slew of shows on popular channels like HBO, Showtime, AMC, and many more. And you can watch all of this great TV for free on Kodi.
There is a catch. Using Kodi to watch free TV comes with some risk. There are arguments about whether or not Kodi is legal. It is highly recommended you take steps to use Kodi safely so you avoid Kodi’s security issues (so you don’t get hacked while you use it). But, as long as you use Kodi with a VPN, you’ll stay safe and private and have nothing to worry about.
For more about what you can watch with Kodi and how to get started, check out our quick-start guide for beginners: How To Use Kodi.
If you already use Kodi, but you need help finding where to watch a certain show or channel, check out our list of the best Kodi Add-ons to stream TV, movies, and sports.
Again, streaming copyrighted content for free is maybe not completely on the straight-and-narrow. Hey, we’re not here to judge. We’re just here to tell you how you can watch great TV for free in the best way possible. (And, you know, we all use Kodi ourselves.) But, if you’re squeamish about stepping on the toes of copyright holders (the channels you’ll be watching free with Kodi), bypass this option.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Stream Live TV: Sling TV & PlayStation Vue (Monthly Subscriptions)
There are two main internet TV providers available today: Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.
Both these services will let you stream live TV from 20+ channels, including FX, AMC, ESPN, TNT, and other popular networks. Plans start at $25-$30/month, with no contracts.
The downside here is that on-demand access is limited, and the various packages can get confusing (particularly on Sling TV). Other limitations, such as the number of different devices a household can use simultaneously, are also frustrating and hard to understand. And you will need a good high-speed internet connection to stream TV with either option, so factor that into your budget.
Nonetheless, both Sling TV and PlayStation Vue are great cable TV alternatives. You can watch a lot of great live TV with more flexibility than traditional pay-TV options. Check out the chart below to see which channels you can watch on Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, or with another standalone streaming service (e.g. HBO GO).
Not in the US? See how to get Sling TV from another country
Other internet TV services will be available soon. Hulu has a new live streaming service set to come out early next year. It will let you watch TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TruTV, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies, and probably ESPN live.
Apple, YouTube, and AT&T are also trying to get into the live-stream game, so check back here for updates as new services come available.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Watch Free TV From Other Countries
There’s plenty of great TV to be streamed from outside US borders. The UK in particular puts out lots of high-quality, original content. And the best part — there are dozens of free UK TV channels you can watch online.
UK channels like the BBC, ITV, Channel 5, CBS Drama, and more are all available to stream for free, both live and on demand. Many UK TV networks import shows from the US, so you can watch your home-grown favorites as well as popular programs from across the pond.
Note that some channels will be geo-blocked. That means access is restricted for anyone outside the home country. So you’ll need to take an extra step to unblock content on these sites so you an get access.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Stream A Few Choice Networks: HBO NOW, Showtime Anytime, Starz, & CBS All Access (Monthly Subscriptions)
You don’t need a cable, satellite, or internet TV subscription to watch some popular TV networks. HBO, Showtime, Starz, and CBS all have standalone subscriptions: HBO NOW, Showtime Anytime, Starz Play, and CBS All Access. You can watch everything the network airs without needing any other TV subscription.
Not in the US? See how to stream HBO, Showtime, or CBS from another country
HBO NOW, Showtime Anytime, and Starz Play cost $15/month. CBS All Access is $6/month. You can watch both live and on-demand with all three of these — though live TV on CBS All Access is limited to only certain markets. There are no contracts.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Stream Shows & Movies On Demand: Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon Video (Monthly Subscriptions)
With Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, you can watch countless hours of TV episodes, movies, and other entertainment content on demand.
Each of these streaming services costs about $8/month, with no contracts. That’s a handy perk because it means you can subscribe to Netflix one month, then cancel and get Hulu the next month, and so on to increase your TV coverage without increasing your spending.
Not in the US? See how to unblock US Netflix from anywhere, how to get Amazon Prime Video in any country, or how to get Hulu from outside the US
If you want access to new TV episodes the next day after they air, Hulu is your best bet. New episodes of shows don’t show up on Netflix until the entire season is over.
With Amazon Video, you can also subscribe to add-ons if you want to get access to more channels and content. There are Amazon Video add-ons for: Showtime, HBO, Acorn TV, Comedy Central Standup, Cheddar, Con TV, Comic Con, Curiosity Stream, History Vault, and more. See the chart below for the full list of channels you can get with Amazon Video.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Watch Live Sports
Live sports has broken free of the cable box. There are now lots of options to live stream sports in all the major leagues — NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL — as well as around the world.
We detail all the options to watch live sports without cable here: Ultimate Guide To Steam Live Sports, 2017. All the information there is up-to-date so check it out to see how to watch all your favorite teams and events, no cable needed.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Watch Free TV Archives: Crackle, YouTube, ‘TV Everywhere’ Apps, TV Network Websites
If you don’t mind watching older TV episodes or shows, you can stream a ton of free content on Crackle (home of ‘Seinfeld’), YouTube, and with TV Everywhere apps.
TV Everywhere apps are what many TV networks use to give viewers access to content on demand. Some popular ones include Discovery, History, Food Network, Comedy Central, Smithsonian, NBC, ABC, and FOX — but there are lots more to choose from. You can download TV Everywhere apps for your phone, tablet, or streaming device such as Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
Another great source is the website of whatever channel you’re interested in. Lots of them post free full episodes of shows.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Buy Content A-La-Carte: GooglePlay, Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, & More
If you prefer to pay for only what you watch, and nothing more, you can buy single episodes of shows, as well as movies, a-la-carte. There are a lot of different sources for this: GooglePlay, Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store, and more. The prices are pretty much the same from one to another. Expect to pay $2-3 per episode, depending on the show.
A great source to find where to buy a particular TV episode or movie is JustWatch.com. You can see all the available sources for an episode, series or movie, as well as compare prices for each.
Other Cable TV Alternatives
There are some other streaming services out worth checking out. To be honest, these aren’t great. But, depending on what you’re looking for (or what you’re willing to live without) one or two might be decent options for you. Visit: SelecTV, KloudTV, and OWNZones.
You can also watch free TV without cable over-the-air, on broadcast TV. The major US broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and CW — are all available for free over-the-air. Most people can pick up these channels and a handful of others with a decent indoor antenna. If you’re in an urban area, you might be able to get 20+ channels for free.
These options should allow you to either cancel or downgrade your cable TV subscription and save some money without giving up your favorite TV. If you have any questions, or if we missed anything, hit us up on Facebook.
Sling TV vs. PlayStation Vue vs. Standalone Streaming: Compare Channels & Costs
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