Best Cable TV Alternatives 2018 — Watch TV Without Cable (Even Free!)By Steph Myers / January 8, 2018 / Tags: Cut Cable, How-To, Stream TV
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.
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 television alternatives available today. You can watch TV, sports, and movies online (or stream TV, as it’s also called) from a number of sources — including live, on demand, and at very little (or no!) cost.
You’ll be able to cancel cable, or cut way back on your subscription, without missing your favorite channels, shows, and live sports events. (If you’re mostly interested in streaming sports, see: The Ultimate Always-Up-To-Date Guide To Stream Live Sports Without Cable.) Plus, 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 best cable TV alternatives.
Best Cable TV Alternative To Watch TV Without A Subscription: Kodi
Kodi is the best cable TV alternative if you want to stream TV, sports, and movies without needing any expensive subscriptions.
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 nothing on Kodi.
There is a catch. Using Kodi to watch TV on the sly 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. See the best add-ons to watch live TV on Kodi.
Again, streaming copyrighted content without the proper access 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 on the cheap 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 for nothing with Kodi), bypass this option.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Stream Live TV: FuboTV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Hulu Live TV, DirecTV Now (Monthly Subscriptions)
There are a growing number of internet TV providers available today. These will let you watch live TV without a cable/satellite subscription and no contracts.
⊕ SEE: Sling TV vs. PlayStation Vue vs. fuboTV vs. YouTube TV vs. Hulu Live TV vs. DirecTV Now: Compare Channels & Costs
FuboTV used to be just a soccer streaming service. But now it’s expanded into other sports, as well as general entertainment. In all, fuboTV now includes over 46 live sports and entertainment channels.
In the sports arena, you can use fuboTV to watch NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NCAA basketball, NCAA football, soccer, racing, and more on channels including FOX, NBC Sports, NBA TV, NFL Network, and many others. One of the biggest draws of fuboTV is that you get tons of regional sports channels. That means you can watch your home team games without cable on fuboTV — something the other streaming services don’t provide without the workaround described below.
Plus, you can also stream other TV shows and popular channels. You can watch NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX through their various regional stations with fuboTV. Plus, watch FX, FXX, USA, Bravo, History, Nat Geo, and a bunch more.
You can try fuboTV free for 7 days.
An obvious, yet often overlooked cable television alternative comes in the form of YouTube TV. YouTube TV is a great new TV streaming service. Here’s what you get:
– Watch popular cable and broadcast channels live and on-demand
– Live stream sports on ESPN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and more
– Unlimited DVR space
– Six users can watch at the same time
– No contracts or commitments — cancel anytime.
YouTube TV is a solid cable TV alternative for cord-cutters, or anyone who likes to be able to stream TV anywhere, any time. They offer a 1-month free trial, so take advantage and try it out.
The downside is that YouTube TV only available in a handful of cities: Chicago, LA, New York City, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. That leaves a lot of people in the lurch — which is a shame, because YouTube TV does a lot of things right.
If YouTube TV isn’t available where you are, don’t fret. There’s a simple workaround. See how to get YouTube TV in any location — either within the US or in another country.
Sling TV & PlayStation Vue
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, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and fuboTV 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, fuboTV, or with another standalone streaming service (e.g. HBO GO).
Not in the US? See how to get Sling TV from another country
Hulu Live TV
Hulu, the popular video-on-demand platform, now has a live TV service. For $40/month, you can watch TNT, TBS, CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, TruTV, Boomerang, Turner Classic Movies, ESPN, and a bunch more channels live.
DirecTV’s new streaming service, aimed at capturing some of the cord-cutter and cord-never market, offers a long list of channels. DirecTV Now starts at $35/month.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Stream Shows & Movies On Demand: Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon Prime Video (Monthly Subscriptions)
With Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime 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, 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.
Amazon Prime Video is similar to Netflix (but has a lot more TV and movie titles, they claim). If you’re an “Amazon person” this is the best TV deal out there. For a monthly subscription, you get unlimited access to stream everything in the Prime Video library — including the growing selection of popular Amazon Originals like Sneaky Pete, Transparent, and The Man in the High Castle.
Prime Video not only has thousands of TV shows and movies available to stream on-demand. 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 Prime Video.
With Prime Video, that same monthly subscription also gets you a whole lot more benefits, like free video game loot, free Kindle books, free shipping on Amazon orders — and much more. You can get a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime Video to try it out.
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. All the information is up-to-date so check it out to see how to watch all your favorite teams and events, no cable needed. If a sports streaming service or a live stream is blocked in your area, see how to unblock live sports everywhere.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Watch Free, Legal 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.
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. There are no contracts.
Best Cable TV Alternatives To Watch Free, Legal 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 Instant 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.
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 broadcast TV with an antenna — no cable needed. 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 20-30 of others, in crystal-clear HD with a decent indoor antenna. Deciding what kind of antenna you need, however, can be difficult. This antenna guide will help you find which type you need for your home and location in just two easy questions. If you want an even faster answer, this antenna will make most people very happy. It has a great range (50 miles) and will pick up all the best over-the-air channels, plus lots of other features.
The best cable TV alternatives above should let you 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. fuboTV vs. Standalone Streaming: Compare Channels & Costs
* Select markets
** Sling TV’s Orange+Blue Plan ($40) has all the Orange channels plus all the Blue channels