12 Alternatives to Cable and Satellite Television

The best alternatives to cable and satellite television

Last year, we became a Cable and Satellite free family. Has it been hard? Well, read on to find out for yourself!

cable-television-alternatives

Cable and Satellite television services can be very expensive. We had DirectTV for about two years and canceled as soon as the fee to cancel was less than what our monthly cost was. It seems like these companies offer you semi-reasonable prices upfront. However, they usually raise their rates later, such as doubling the price the second year.

Pricing was so complicated, and it sometimes seemed like they were simply arbitrarily making up a price for us. Every few months we would have to call customer service and ask for retention’s department to try to get our problems fixed. Half the time they wouldn’t record things right and everything would be wrong again the next month.

We even had to bring the BBB into it once or twice. Basically, I, and a lot of other people, have had terrible experiences with cable and satellite companies that charge way more than they are worth. Additionally, we have decided for a number of reasons to stop going to movie theaters.

However, we still love watching movies and television, and wanted to find a way to get the most bang for our buck. So we cut the cord (though, not literally) and we have dived into some of the major alternatives. (And, just as a tip, you can sell old satellite dishes on eBay and make a pretty penny for them.)

Alternatives to Satellite and Cable Television

Here is a brief overview of what we’ve used, and then you can read on for more details:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu+
  • Amazon Prime
  • fuboTV
  • Playstation Vue
  • VidAngel
  • Pureflix
  • Crackle
  • WatchESPN
  • PlayOn
  • Sling TV
  • CBS All Access

Netflix

Netflix offers the most value for your money in my opinion. You shouldn’t get it expecting to be able to see every movie as soon as it comes out on DVD, or even to see every movie that’s ever been released. However, there is a wide variety of television shows and movies to choose from. It is great for younger kids who like to watch their favorite TV shows over and over. With Netflix, your children’s library is large enough that you could select enough different shows that the same movie won’t drive you crazy after the hundredth time. This is definitely cheaper than buying your own television series and DVDs yourself

Pricing:

  • $7.99 a month for one screen, $9.99 for two screens , and $11.99 for four screens simultaneously streaming movies and television shows.
  • Two devices can stream simultaneously
  • You can have DVDs sent to your home, one at a time, for 7.99 more a month. You can pay more for more discs.
  • They avoid charging per movie, or having more expensive tiers of shows available to those who are willing to pay more.
  • Month-to-month contract

Hulu Plus

Hulu+ is for those who want to watch episodes of their favorite shows as early as the day after. Hulu+ expands what is available for free on Hulu. There are movies and television shows available including children’s programming. Current seasons of shows often only have partial seasons, and their movie selection is much more limited than that of Netflix. Hulu+ has created original shows like Netflix.

The ability to watch recent episodes of television shows whenever and wherever is the main advantage of having Hulu+. Hulu+ does not have CBS shows like NCIS and Big Bang Theory. If you’re looking for a specific show, double check that they have it before investing, and if it doesn’t, check the network’s website. There are commercials and advertising. You can interact with the commercials so they focus more on your interests, so at the very least they are semi-interesting. And, if you are lucky, you can watch one long commercial at the beginning to have interruption-free viewing.  Pricing

  • 7.99 a month (96 dollars a year)
  • Month-to-month contract
  • Free for basic Hulu

If you want to sign up for Hulu we would love it if you used our referral link. You get two weeks free!

Amazon Prime

Amazon has a growing selection of movies and television shows as well. It has less overall than Netflix, but it probably has more movies than Hulu+. It is cheaper per month, however, not all content is free — you may have to pay additional fees for certain shows or movies. They have children’s programming as well.

Pricing and Product:

fuboTV

If you are worried about missing sports – fuboTV is a great option! It has tons of sports channels, and it’s only $10 a month. Right now, most of the sports available are soccer (which is perfect for me – so thrilled to see they have MLS), but they are working to add even more soon. Your first 24 hours are free when you signup here!

Playstation Vue

 Katie’s brother shared this one with us. It seems like a great plan – plans start at $29 (55+ channels), then you can get 70+ channels for $34.99, and then 100 channels for $44.99. You can use it with your regular streaming devices, it includes on-demand, DVR, etc. We are thinking about signing up for this soon!

VidAngel

Update: As of right now, VidAngel is currently in the middle of a legal battle. I do hope their streaming will be back someday, but right now, they are offering some great original series and comedy. 

VidAngel is VERY cool, and it has completely replaced RedBox for us. It has just about every movie you can think of, and a select number of TV shows – available for just $1 to watch. You can filter out content that you don’t want to see, or you can opt to watch without filters.

Basically, the first time you signup on VidAngel’s website, you pay $20. This goes toward buying the first movie you watch. Then, after you watch the movie, you can opt to sell the movie back and get $19 in credit back. From that point on, you only have to pay $1 per movie (unless you decide to keep one, then you’ll pay $20!) We use this ALL the time. I highly recommend the service.

PureFlix

This is something similar to Netflix, but it only has clean movies on it. You pay a monthly subscription ($7.99) and you get unlimited access to family-friendly movies and TV shows. You can get a free trial by signing up here.

Crackle.com

Crackle is free, but it is like watching classic television, as in, there are a lot of commercials randomly during the television shows and movies. They have some original programming. Somehow, Crackle has Seinfeld, one of the funniest shows ever. Netflix doesn’t have Seinfeld available for streaming. Their selection is generally considerably older than the other streaming sites, but I did find a movie there recently that I had meant to watch a long time ago and never got around to watching.
Pricing:
  • Watching commercials throughout

WatchESPN

Without cable or satellite, you might lose a lot of sports programming. It seems like all of the major leagues have some kind of payment option for access to all of their games online. However, if you use an affiliated Internet provider, then you can watch a lot of games online either live or as a replay. Fortunately, the NCAA tournament is free online. I might be tempted to fork over a lot of money otherwise to view (Katie here…yeah right!) 
Pricing:
  • MLB Extra Innings is $200, in four payments if you want. Which compared to what you might end up paying for cable and satellite might not be that bad if you are a baseball love.
  • MLSLive, my favorite, is $60 a season and $15 dollars a month, which might be handy for the playoffs. They are having a free preview of the service today, 5/11/2013, and tomorrow.
  • Have an Internet provider that is affiliated with ESPN3 — Comcast is one that I’m aware of.

PlayOn

We got PlayOn with our Roku for 30 days for free. It acts as a browser for searching different broadcasting companies and as a media server for through which other devices can stream shows. Some game consoles and other devices have limited streaming apps you can download. PlayOn makes it so everything is in one place and you just need the main program on your computer and not your other devices. They advertise a PlayLater feature that works as DVR for online videos that might expire.

  • $25 a year
  • $60 a lifetime

SlingTV

SlingTV is basically internet television. You can buy television packages of different numbers of channels. You stream the channels live. They have some On Demand type content as well.

Pricing:

  • The basic package of 25+ varied channels, including ESPN, is only $20 a month.
  • 40+ channels costs $25 a month.
  • All of their channels costs $40 a month.

CBS All Access 

If you watch a lot of shows on CBS, this is a great deal. They have a one month trial period. After that, you have two options:

  • Limited Commercials for $5.99 a month
  • Commercial Free for $9.99

You can access over 8,500 of your favorite shows On Demand, exclusive access to original shows, and much more.

Hardware

Roku

When it comes to pure video streaming hardware, there probably isn’t much better than the Roku3. We just have the RokuHD which is still fun. I read a lot of the reviews about the Roku3 and either they paid a lot of people to give them favorable reviews or people really do love it.
They seem to rate it above AppleTV and way above Samsung Blu-ray players.The Roku we have is relatively small, and it was easy to set up.
We can watch Hulu+, Netflix, other paid services and free channels. I don’t think they have a WatchESPN channel on the Roku last time I checked, which is disappointing. I doubt it is their fault.
You can watch you league subscriptions I believe. One channel, Plex, allows you to watch home videos and pictures on your television. I believe there are four main devices.
The Roku Streaming Stick is the size of a USB drive that works with certain TVs and devices to provide the Roku experience. It comes the most current remote.
Then there are their four traditional boxes: Roku LT, Roku HD, Roku 2/XD, and Roku 3. I’ll focus on the Roku 3. It is for HDTVs only which means you will need to have sufficient Internet speed and the right TV to use it. It comes with some features that I think are really cool, mostly having to do with the remote. However, the reviews sound like the layout and navigation are a breeze.
The remote connects with the small Roku box through Wifi, I believe, so that you can listen to the sound through a headphone jack in the remote, play games with the remote as your controller (it has motion control kind of like a Wii remote), and traditional pause-and-play functions that you can use without pointing at the box.



Pricing:

Google Chromecast

Google’s new video and music streaming device. It is the size of a USB flash drive, and it costs only $35. It runs the apps most people use: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and Google’s Google Play movies and music. It is powered by the Chrome OS, and it supports HDMI streaming. Your phone, tablet, or computer can work as a remote. It is powered by most HDMI ports that it can be plugged into. There is an optional USB cable to power the device. You might already have this in your house, but if you’removing out on your own or have a vacation house and you want to be able to watch some tv without a huge investment this device would be great. #1 in electronics sales on Amazon. (I added this to update the post, so it makes 13 alternatives, fyi)

Amazon Fire

Amazon came out with their own streaming stick as well as the Amazon Fire TV. We have the stick and it works well, though it doesn’t have quite as many features.

Antenna

Believe it or not, free channels are broadcast on radiowaves that anyone can watch with an Antenna. Yes, this is probably how your parents watched TV (or maybe even you did at one point!) My brother-in-law, Daniel, told us we should get one, and we were glad he suggested it.

We bought a basic RCA Antenna, which gives us a few of the top channels. However, we also bought a more robust amplified antenna that works a little better. If the antenna will be your primary source for TV, get a good  one. We can watch Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, and a few others. The quality is surprisingly good. The quality is better than when we stream their shows through Hulu+.

We recently bought a more robust amplified antenna that works a little better. If the antenna will be your primary source for TV, get a good  one. We can watch Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC, and a few others. The quality is surprisingly good. The quality is better than when we stream their shows through Hulu+.

Tvfool.com will give you a report according to address, antenna size and a number of other variables it can access how many chanels you should get, at what quality, and from what direction. My report said that we should only get one channel very well. Sometimes when the weather is bad it seems that way.

However, I think we can get up to 25-30 channels sometimes. One funny thing that happens is that it seems that it is either HD or nothing sometimes. One second it will say that there is no signal and the next we will have a super crisp image. I don’t really know how it all works. There are indoor antennas, attic antennas, roof antennas, and then those extra heavy duty ones that shouldn’t be put on a roof.


Pricing:

TV Tuner

I saw in Windows Media Center that if you have a TV tuner you could connect an antenna to it and use Windows Media Center as a DVR for your Antenna. I got a decent one for Christmas, but for some reason the TV tuner and Windows Media Center was not picking up the signal as well as it showed up on my television so I was never able to use it as a DVR. The idea sounds very intriguing to me, and hopefully we can get a better antenna one of these days.

Conclusion:

The idea behind all these different options is to help you save money. What is right for you depends on how much money you want to spend, what you like to watch, and how much of it you like to watch. I believe that cable and satellite companies charge way too much for their product.
With DirectTV I could not find something to watch with the tons of channels half the time, and I would turn to Netflix anyways. I am at my desktop a lot which is in our living room so I personally mostly use Netflix, Hulu+, and the CBS website on my computer.
For shows that Katie gets excited about watching live, we use the antenna. There is a lot of overlap in content between the websites, so I wouldn’t sign up for all of them.

Take advantage of free trials. Many of these companies have one. You will likely lose a lot of sports programming without WatchESPN and an antenna.

Your internet has to be fast enough. I watched almost an entire season of Jericho five minutes at time, because my laptop had to buffer a lot on my parent’s internet.

 

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31 Comments

  • Oh my goodness, you are my HERO!!! My husband and I have been talking about canceling cable for about 6 months now but we haven't officially done it yet. The fear of not being able to see the shows we watch each week is just too great BUT we already have Netflix and an Apple TV which we can also use Hulu+ with so I think with Netflix and the addition of Hulu, maybe we can do this!! I loathe and despise cable and their crazy prices. Paying about $16/month would be incredible. Thanks for this fantastic post!
  • Is there a way to stream FOX News channel through one of these? Not just clip highlights and replays, but the actual channel as it plays
    • Not that I know of - you might be able to pick it up with an antenna, but I don't think any streaming devices have fox news right yet sadly.
  • Nice article. Since becoming a cord cutter myself, I have done a lot of research on some of the best cable tv alternatives out there. While your list covers most of the popular sites, one I think you missed that your readers could benefit from and enjoy is Rabbit TV Plus. Essentially they work as the ultimate online entertainment guide, gathering all the freely available content on the web and organizing it for their site users. I found it to be very affordable and gives me what most of these other services give me all in one. Plus there's sports on there for the hubby! :) I would look forward to a review on them if you ever had the chance. Take care and keep up the work!
  • Nice list, I'd never heard of Project Free Tv but it seems like you'd include torrent files via a automatic download smart feed like showRSS with a VPN like proXPN to keep your Service Provider from sending you emails from angry content "owners"
    • Hi Alfred! I believe you can cancel within three days of cancelling the contract. Unfortunately, beyond that, I believe you have to pay $20 per month left on the contract to cancel it. You can call and ask them to downgrade you to the lowest priced package possible. I'm sorry though! I think they are not the greatest company to work with.
    • if you are on ssi as your only income i dont think they can collect may be a jugment and or a leain on the house to be paid think going to court would not be good advertising
  • Most of these alternatives require high-speed Internet with a high or unlimited data cap, and this is unavailable to those of us in rural America. One other alternative may be an older C-Band satellite dish, although the channel selection will be far less than Dish/Direct. The plus side is that the "everything" package is under $60/month or under $50/month if prepaid annually. You can also pick channels ala carte if you'd like- something that would be great with Dish/Direct and all of the garbage "extra" channels such as music you never listen to.
    • Thanks for your input! I obviously don't live in rural America, so I just provided options I was aware of and knew about. Hopefully there will be some better options for those of you in rural areas. Most internet I know of has unlimited data cap, thankfully. Though our speeds have never been very high. We've been lucky to get 1 mbps in one of the places we lived. But we were fortunately still able to use these options.
  • More of a question - what do you do about internet? What provider do you use? We have cable bundle - tv & internet. I'd like to drop the tv and do something else! Thanks! Lou Ann
    • Hi Lou Ann! We currently use Century Link, though we were with Comcast when we lived in Utah. In my experience, both are decent companies (that have bad customer service!) In my experience it seems like Century Link is cheaper over all, though sometimes you can get a good deal with Comcast. I would call Comcast and ask for the retentions department to see what kind of deal they can give you. There may be other providers in your area, but those have been the two we've had experience with. Let me know if you have other questions!
  • You forgot one, but it's understandable since it doesn't get a lot of fanfare. FTA or Free To Air Satellite transmissions. You can receive unencrypted satellite transmission free of charge if you have the necessary equipment. FTA compliant receiver, satellite dish, antenna motor and LBNF converter. You can literally watch thousands of channels. There's even online channel listings and what channel is playing which program.
    • I would imagine you should be able to, as long as there is an HDMI output on it (which is what you'd use for a firestick or roku :)
  • All those are fine for those who live in or near a town -- but we live rural, out pretty much by ourselves. No antenna can bring in anything other than a fuzzy, jumpy image from channels between 60 and 100 miles away. Our computer service is provided via satellite, with a sharply limited download allowance. (And no, we've been here for 26 years now. We don't plan on moving; we had enough of that in the Army! We are considering an old, "big" satellite dish but I don't know anything about those.
    • I totally understand that a lot of these won't work if you are relying on limited Internet, which is unfortunate! My father-in-law had a big satellite dish antenna that they used for awhile that worked well in a more rural area!
  • The Roku player is awesome! Love being able to watch what I want to watch and not waste precious time watching just whatever is on. There are several drawbacks that hopefully get updated soon so we can make a full switch. 1. Cable News... Yes you can watch clips but what's the point. 2. Sports ... Don't plan on having a lot of options 3. Guide... With so much to offer how do you find easily what is available. There are apps you can use but they do not work very well. 4. Roku is very temperamental with searching for material such as in You Tube. Typing in one letter at a time and then......with grandchildren watching with innocent eyes something risqué is on the screen. 5. No filtering for things that young eyes or even ours do not need to see. Yes you can control what channels you allow but beyond that you need to monitor carefully your children. As I stated earlier this is a great tool and maybe soon they will improve it to include the things mentioned above.
    • I am sure they are always looking to improve their product, so hopefully they will be able to fix some of those things soon! =)
  • Love the article! I was looking for a way to cut cost on TV and heard about a new company called "Sling TV". For about $20 a month I get between 24 and 30 channels. If you are a new customer and pay three months in advance they send you a free Roku. I now have 2 Roku's. Some channels I get, couple of carton, AMC, TLC, TRUTV, CNN, Bloomberg News, History, Natl Geographic, Natl Geog Wild, Viceland, IFC, HGTV, Food, A&E, TBS, TNT, FX, BET, Newsy, Local Now (news), Latin Channel, Travel, and about 4 sports related(when they are on-seasonal). Additionally, they offer a Sports pkg that includes ESPN for $5 additional a month and you can cancel after the season is over for the sports package. No contracts. I would miss my local channels without the $29.95(not seen on internet pricing) with DTV. I live out and my digital antenna doesn't pick up. Would love to know if anyone has tried one of the Antennas that offer 150 mile range. Once I get one of those my DTV is off! I'm under no contract. You can Google Sling TV and find the number and the packages they offer.
    • Sling TV is a great option! We did get it at one point, actually, but just decided that we didn't even use that as much. However, I think it's an excellent, no-contract option. I hope you can find an antenna with that range!
  • Thank you for this post!! We are having the same issues with Directtv and are looking to get out also. I have been asking friends about these other options but this explains it so much better and all in one spot. You have saved me a lot of time. Now I feel better about cancelling satellite all together.
  • Here's another one you didn't mention ( I did'nt read ALL the comments to see if anyone else did...) : your local library! We live in a fairly small town, and their DVD collection is pretty great. Lots of educational selections and how-to videos, also. Two week checkout, free. Beat that!
  • We have been trying to figure out how to get all our HBO Showtime and Starz shows without paying g almost 200 a month thanks so much for ideas what do you need to get hula? I only have a Wii.Thanks again
    • I'm glad this was helpful! All you need for Hulu is a wifi connectiona nd a device to play it on (laptop, phone, Roku, etc.).

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