One of the biggest ways to trim your budget is to examine your recurring payments each month. But if your cable bill is a big one, you don’t need to give up your TV watching habit as there are lots of ways to watch TV without cable!
Look over your cell phone bill, cable bill, etc. and see if you need all the features that you’re being charged for. Of course, the easiest way to trim those recurring payments is to get rid of them altogether!
Cable TV and satellite TV costs have risen astronomically in recent years. Companies will usually rope you in with an introductory offer, but once your term ends, you’ll no doubt see your monthly cost jump in a big way.
If you haven’t already “cut the cord,” there’s no better time to do so! There are so many amazing ways to watch TV without cable and satellite these days, whether you’re interested in live sports, current TV shows, movies, or content for your kids.
The tricky part is figuring out which ones will work best for you.
Most of these alternatives require just an internet connection, so you can watch on your phone, tablet, smart TV, or streaming device.
Even if you end up buying a Fire TV, Roku, or something along those lines, you’ll still be saving over the cost of a monthly cable or satellite bill.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about hidden fees, contracts, and installation appointments like you would with cable TV or satellite TV.
Table of Contents
Best Ways to Watch TV Without Cable or Satellite
Here are the best ways to watch TV without cable or satellite. Check out the cost of each service, what you can expect to be able to watch, and what devices you can use to stream.
If you love the feature of automatically recording your shows as they air, you’ll love Hulu.
The biggest selling point for me in signing up for Hulu was that I could watch current seasons of shows and not have to wait for them to come out on DVD or hit another streaming service.
The kicker? You’ll need to wait a day to watch as most new episodes are available the day after they air. I don’t mind waiting as it’s better than the alternative: trying to rush my kids to bed so I can get to the couch in time for the show to start.
There’s a lot more to Hulu than just current TV seasons, though. Hulu also features exclusive past seasons, movies, plenty of content for kids, and Hulu Originals that you won’t find anywhere else.
HBO Max, SHOWTIME, CINEMAX, and STARZ are also available as add-ons to your plan.
Plans start at $6.99/month, but I strongly suggest you sign up for the no-ads plan if you can pony up the extra $6/month. Trust me – it’s completely worth the extra $1.50/week to not have to sit through commercials.
Hulu now has the option to bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13.99/month (or again, an extra $6/month for no ads).
This is a great option for sports lovers and/or those with kids as you may have wanted to sign up for those streaming services, anyway. It’s a nice way to save a little money and streamline the process.
Recently Hulu added a feature called Hulu + Live TV. This gets you all the content you’d normally get with Hulu, plus access to 65+ top local channels that you can watch live, just like you would have done with cable or satellite.
And the selection of channels is impressive – it includes popular channels like A&E, Discovery, HGTV, TLC, USA, and more.
Hulu + Live TV includes a TV guide to navigate channels as well as the option to record Live TV with 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage.
Plans start at $69.99/month, but this still may be a more economical option than handing your money over to the cable or satellite company.
- Cost: starts at $6.99/month
- What You’ll Get: current TV seasons, past TV seasons, movies, Hulu Originals, add-ons: Live TV, movie channels
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire TV, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 3, Roku, and more
2. Sling TV
With Sling TV, you can stream and record TV channels just like you have with cable and satellite.
Sling TV includes 30+ channels of top news, live sports, and more. Popular channels include ESPN, TBS, CNN, HGTV, Comedy Central, and the like. Oh, and of course, you’ll still have commercials like you normally would.
Choose from Sling Blue or Sling Orange for $35/month (you can sign up for both, too).
The differences between the two plans is that Sling Blue includes news and entertainment channels and can be streamed on three devices, and Sling Orange includes sports and family channels and can be streamed on one device.
If you like to record content to watch later, you’ll need to keep an eye on your usage as both options include 50 hours of free DVR.
You’ll also get local channel access when you pair your Sling subscription with an HD antenna (more on antennas later…you will most likely want one if you’re cutting the cable/satellite cord).
Sign up for a 3-day free trial of Sling TV.
- Cost: as low as $35/month
- What You’ll Get: current TV channels available for live stream and DVR, on-demand content
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, and more
3. Prime Video
If you already have an Amazon Prime membership, you already have Prime Video. It’s one of the many perks of a Prime membership, so you don’t need to sign up separately for Prime Video streaming.
Prime Video has a robust catalog of popular movies and TV shows, with lots of content for kids.
Amazon also foots the bill for their Amazon Originals movies and TV shows, many of which are very highly rated and considered “must watch.” (Several of their shows make my shortlist of favorites!)
You can’t watch most current TV, but there is an option to add-on channels like NBA League Pass, HBO, STARZ, and SHOWTIME for an extra fee per month.
A Prime membership will run you $12.99/month, or you can pay $119 for an annual membership and save (it works out to $9.92/month).
You can just pay for Prime Video, but it will cost you $8.99/month, which is very close to the monthly cost of an annual membership.
I have been a Prime member practically since the beginning of Amazon, and I enjoy the benefits of membership. Benefits include free delivery, ad-free music streaming, unlimited photo storage, unlimited reading (e-books), and more.
Before you sign up for a Prime membership, though, check to see if you can get a discount.
One thing to watch with Prime Video content is that Amazon mixes paid content in with Prime-included content as you browse the catalog.
Look for the Prime banner on the picture to see if it is included with Prime or not and consider adding parental controls (even if you don’t have kids!) to keep from accidentally purchasing something.
Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Prime Video (actually a free trial of Amazon Prime).
- Cost: starts at $8.99/month
- What You’ll Get: popular movies and TV shows, Amazon Originals, add-ons: sports, movie channels
- Supported Devices: Fire TV, Roku, or any device that connects to the Internet
Netflix is a popular option for movies, TV shows, and more. They’ve created a ton of original content, in addition to archiving a plethora of movies and TV shows from the past.
A few perks with Netflix: you can download shows to watch offline, so you can have them available for when you’re not connected to the Internet (perfect for travel, especially with kids!).
Another big perk is no commercials, and no extra charge for skipping commercials (I’m looking at you, Hulu). They’re always adding new content, whether it’s original material, recent movies, or previous seasons of popular TV shows.
However, keep in mind that you’ll have to wait to see a season of television until the entire season is complete.
The Basic plan is $9.99/month and allows you to stream on one screen and download on one device. Unfortunately, this plan does not allow you to view in HD (and don’t we all watch just about everything in HD these days?).
So, you’ll probably end up paying $13.99/month for the Standard plan (two screens, two devices for download, HD) or $19.99/month for the Premium plan (four screens, four devices for download, HD and Ultra HD).
I like that Netflix is simple – there aren’t any add-ons, and the pricing is competitive for everything you’ll receive. They also have a huge catalog of material for kids; in fact, Netflix is usually my kids’ first option for TV or movie time, if given the choice.
Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Netflix.
- Cost: starts at $9.99/month
- What You’ll Get: movies and TV shows, original content
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation, Roku, Xbox, and more
5. Paramount Plus
One thing you’ll find when browsing Hulu, for example, is that there are few, if any, CBS shows available to watch. That’s because CBS has their own streaming service under Paramount+.
Paramount+ is kind of a hybrid streaming service as they offer streaming of movies and TV shows as well as 4 channels of live TV. So, if you love CBS and their shows, this is the place to go.
The big draw is the access to current and previous seasons of television, but they also have 150+ full-length movies available to stream commercial-free. They’re also creating several Paramount+ Original Series for adults and kids.
Sign up for as low as $4.99/month for a plan with limited commercials or pay $9.99/month to get the same service without commercials.
If you know you’ll love it, you’ll save over 15% off the monthly price by signing up for a full year ($49.99/year for limited commercials, $99.99/year for commercial-free). Oh, and you’ll save 25% if you’re a student.
Sign up for a 1-month free trial of Paramount+ with coupon code PLAY.
- Cost: starts at $4.99/month
- What You’ll Get: current and previous seasons of TV shows, some movies, original content
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, PlayStation 4, Roku, Xbox One, and more
6. YouTube TV
YouTube TV is probably the most comparable option to cable and satellite if you want to stick with something that’s comfortable. You’ll find that it’s very similar to the setup of cable and satellite service but without all the extra fees.
YouTube TV includes 85+ top channels of entertainment, news, live sports, and more. Most of the country can access local channels as well as AMC, Food Network, HGTV, Nickelodeon, TNT, and other popular channels.
The biggest perk is that there are no storage limits, and you can record programs simultaneously for later viewing. Some channels also offer on-demand programming.
There is only one option for a plan with YouTube TV, and it’s $64.99/month. That may seem steep when compared to some of the other options listed here, but again, remember that it’s probably the most like what you received through cable or satellite.
Sign up for a 2-week free trial of YouTube TV.
- Cost: $64.99/month
- What You’ll Get: live streaming of TV channels, plus the ability to record as much as you want
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, PlayStation, Roku, Xbox One, and more
7. Network Apps
Another free way to access network television is by using the individual channel’s apps. These are all free, but live streaming is often limited.
You can usually watch the past few episodes of current TV shows. However, they usually make only the last few episodes available, and with commercials (of course!).
You can find the network apps for some of the major TV networks below:
Some shows may require a participating TV provider account, which kind of defeats the purpose of ditching cable and satellite. Still, it’s worth checking out if you’re pinching pennies.
- Cost: Free
- What You’ll Get: archived streaming of recent episodes
- Supported Devices: depends on the app, but usually Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, and others
FuboTV is another live streaming service with the ability to record via Cloud DVR for later. It includes over 100 channels with local sports, news, and popular channels like HGTV, History Channel, Nickelodeon, TLC, and lots more.
The Starter plan is $64.99/month and includes 250 hours of Cloud DVR space. For an extra $5/month, you can upgrade to the Pro Plan and get 1000 hours of Cloud DVR space as well as the ability to stream on ten screens at once (normally it’s only three).
They also have an Elite plan for $79.99/month as well as add-ons.
Sign up for a 7-day free trial of FuboTV.
- Cost: starts at $33/month (Latino) or $64.99/month
- What You’ll Get: live streaming of 100+ channels, Cloud DVR space for recording
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, and more
9. Disney Plus
After months of holding off, I finally gave in and signed up for Disney+ (thank you, Hamilton). And my kids are loving it! Disney+ isn’t a live streaming service, but rather a massive archive of movies and TV shows, all commercial-free.
Since Disney owns half the planet, you’ll find an arsenal of new release and favorite classics here, with titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic.
They’ve also created exclusive Originals you won’t find anywhere else, like The Mandalorian.
You can download any TV show or movie for future viewing, which is perfect for road trips. There’s also the option to bundle and save with Hulu (see above) and ESPN+. Otherwise, Disney+ itself is affordable – sign up for $7.99/month or $79.99/year ($6.67/month).
If you’re a Verizon customer, you qualify for a free year of Disney+ if you have an Unlimited plan and also sign up for Fios or 5G Home Internet.
- Cost: starts at $7.99/month
- What You’ll Get: just about every Disney movie or TV show you can think of, plus Originals
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, PS4, Roku, Xbox One, and more
10. HBO Max
HBO Max includes everything on HBO – series and documentaries, their award-winning specials, and lots of movies. It’s not just for adults, either…remember, HBO bought Sesame Street! There’s plenty of kid-friendly entertainment, as well.
HBO Max will run you $9.99/month with ads or $14.99/month without ads. With your subscriptionthat, you’ll get unlimited access to all the above, as well as offline downloads.
It’s a stand-alone streaming platform, so it doesn’t need to be linked to a TV or mobile provider (HBO GO, on the other hand, does need to be linked to a provider).
Sign up for a 7-day free trial of HBO Max.
- Cost: as low as $9.99/month
- What You’ll Get: everything on HBO, classic movies, Max Originals
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and more
If you’re looking for just your favorite cable channels without local access or sports (maybe you use an antenna for those?), Philo is a good bet as it’s extremely affordable.
Their catalog of 50+ channels includes AMC, Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, Lifetime, Nickelodeon, and lots more.
For $25/month, you’ll get all of that as well as the ability to record live TV or save future shows to watch up to 30 days later. Add-on Epix and/or STARZ for an extra charge each month.
This wouldn’t work for me as there are no sports channels included, but for those of you who don’t care about sports and just want your HGTV (hey, I feel you!), this is an option worth looking into.
Sign up for a 7-day free trial of Philo.
- Cost: $25/month
- What You’ll Get: access to 50+ channels, Cloud DVR space
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, and more
NBC very recently jumped on the streaming service bandwagon with Peacock, a free service. Peacock gives you access to hundreds of movies and thousands of episodes of TV shows, all free.
Peacock is worth checking out if you’re an NBC fan (I love so much on NBC), but you may also consider upgrading to Peacock Premium for $4.99/month.
Besides the basics, Peacock Premium includes live sports, Peacock Original Series, next-day access to current NBC hits, and more content. (Here’s a tip: many or most Xfinity users get Peacock Premium free.)
Peacock Premium Plus is $9.99/month and includes everything from Peacock Premium but without ads.
Sign up for a 7-day free trial of Peacock Premium.
- Cost: Free, or Peacock Premium is $4.99/month
- What You’ll Get: on-demand streaming of movies and TV shows, Original Series
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
13. Apple TV Plus
For a very exclusive catalog, you can sign up for Apple TV+. It only includes Apple Originals, but some of those shows are very highly rated and award-winning.
All shows are commercial-free and can be downloaded to watch offline. There’s a surprising amount of content currently available!
A monthly subscription is $4.99/month, and they’re coming out with new content each month. You can also get 3 months free of Apple TV+ when you purchase an Apple device and redeem the offer within 90 days of purchase.
Sign up for a 7-day free trial of Apple TV+.
- Cost: $4.99/month
- What You’ll Get: Apple Originals
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, and more
14. ESPN Plus
I mentioned ESPN+ as an option to bundle with Hulu and Disney+, but you can also subscribe to it by itself. A subscription to ESPN+ will run you $6.99/month.
With your subscription, you’ll get access to thousands of live sports and archived events as well as exclusive original series. You can access the full 30 for 30 library as well as get access to UFC coverage.
Please note: an ESPN+ subscription does not give you access to stream ESPN’s traditional TV networks. To do that, you’ll need to use one of the providers above that includes ESPN, like with the live streaming services (YouTube TV, FuboTV, etc.).
- Cost: $6.99/month
- What You’ll Get: live sports and archived events, original series
- Supported Devices: Chromecast, Fire TV, PlayStation 4, Roku, Xbox One
Kanopy is a movie streaming system that gives you access to thousands of films for free, thanks to your library membership.
They partner with public libraries and universities to bring you ad-free films and series that can be enjoyed on your internet-enabled device. Think about it: just like you can borrow books and e-books, you can also borrow movies and digital movies for a limited time.
Their catalog includes documentaries, classics, and kid-friendly films – all commercial-free.
- Cost: Free
- What You’ll Get: movies, documentaries, and kid-friendly content
- Supported Devices: Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Roku, and more
16. Discovery Plus
Love “real-life” entertainment? Sign up for Discovery+ to access current and archived episodes from your favorite TV brands, including HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and more.
The regular plan costs $4.99/month, but it’s supported by ads. If you want to skip the ads altogether, you’ll want the ad-free plan for $6.99/month.
If you’re a Verizon customer, you qualify for 6 months of Discovery+ free if you have an Unlimited plan. If you have one line on Play More or Get More Unlimited, you can receive 12 months of Discovery+ for free.
College or university students save 40% on the Ad-Lite plan and will pay just $2.99/month as long as their student enrollment status remains verified.
Sign up for a 7-day free trial of Discovery+.
- Cost: $4.99/month
- What You’ll Get: documentaries and reality (“real-life”) television shows
- Supported Devices:
And of course, I can’t leave the most frugal option off this list (besides turning off your TV altogether): the good old antenna.
Hear me out: Antennas have come a long way. You can always install an outdoor TV antenna, but indoor TV antennas have improved and are very low profile these days.
The Mohu Leaf 30 TV Antenna is the one I use. It’s extremely thin and attaches inconspicuously to the wall behind my television. It’s also very inexpensive at around $35-$40.
If you live in a more rural area or just want to pick up more channels, you’ll need to install an outdoor antenna.
AntennaWeb is a fantastic resource for discovering which channels your home should be able to receive, depending on the type of antenna you purchase and install.
Antennas allow you to access your local network channels and others. You won’t be finding any premium content with an antenna, but you can still watch the local news, live sporting events, and your favorite network shows as they air.
Whether you’re looking to stream live TV, catch up on your favorite television shows, watch movies, or occupy the kids, there are so many ways to watch TV without cable or satellite that you’ll never go back to that high monthly bill again.
Try one or more of these options out and see what fits best into your lifestyle and budget.