Cut the cord: Your guide to canceling cable and streaming TV online

The YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu, Philo, DirecTV Stream and FuboTV logos appear on a screen with a scissors cutting a coaxial cable wire in front.
(Image credit: Future)

If you've waited until now to cut the cord, it is understandable to feel a little overwhelmed. While cable offers one, single hub to access all of your favorite shows, streaming has become increasingly fractured over the years. In fact, there are now over 200 services currently vying for eyeballs in the US (per Forbes), each with their own individual exclusive content, plans, and pricing options. 

However, even though it can seem like a daunting task, if you're looking to finally ditch that cable bill and only pay for the content you truly care about, we've got a handy guide here that will hopefully make it a bit easier for you. 

From the hardware you need to a guide to help you navigate some of the different streaming service options available, here's everything you need to know about cutting the cord in 2024.

What you need to get started 

Woman watching a streaming program on her television while holding remote and popcorn.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In the past, cord-cutting often required additional equipment like a video game console or a plug-and-play device like a Chromecast, Apple TV, or Roku streaming stick to access different apps. 

However, over 80% of household television sets now are internet-enabled "Smart" TVs (per Statista) which include access to streaming services by default. So basically, if you've bought a TV in the last 5 years, you probably already have everything you need to get started with streaming. 

AmazonBasics Ultra Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna

(Image credit: Amazon)

Though most TVs now come with internet access already on board, one thing that many smart TVs (especially budget-friendly ones) lack is an internal digital antenna. If your TV doesn't have one of these pre-installed, you can find plenty of good HD TV antennas that deliver free, over-the-air programming from local channels priced between $20 and $150.

Though it may be easy to balk at some of the higher-priced options, these premium antennas often have longer range, which means more channels to choose from. 

Once your antenna is plugged in, use your TV's "Scan" function to find the channels available near you. Though some locations may only pick up half a dozen broadcast stations, larger metropolitan areas often have more variety, and you may be surprised how much "free" TV you can get with just a simple antenna. 

Live TV streaming services

 Live TV streaming services are cable replacement services that work almost exactly like cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the internet rather than through a wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Plus, it's easy to sign up and cancel (if you've ever tried to cancel cable, this is a huge bonus).

These services include SlingYouTube TVFubo TVHulu with Live TV, and DirecTV Stream.

However, you may not be saving much money. While Sling TV starts at $40 per month for Sling Orange, the costs of adding extra stations can pile up pretty fast. YouTube TV starts at $73 per month, Hulu With Live TV at $76 per month and Fubo TV at $80. 

The big standalone streaming services

In a world where hundreds of streaming services are available, picking the right one(s) for you without breaking the bank or paying more than you did for cable can seem like an impossible task. Though the list of streaming services below is not exhaustive, we're breaking down not only the big platforms but also some smaller services that serve viewers looking for everything from arthouse classic cinema to TV shows from around the world. Check it out below:

A TV with the Netflix logo sits behind a hand holding a remote

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Netflix: The biggest (and arguably) the most necessary streaming service, Netflix kicked off the streaming era in 2007, and hasn't slowed down since. The service boasts a massive library of movies, TV shows, documentaries, stand-up comedy, and a constantly growing list of Netflix original series like "Stranger Things," "Love is Blind," and "Squid Game." As of 2024, the following tiers are available for new subscribers:
    • Standard with ads: For $6.99 per month, this restricted plan has a low price point but has unskippable ads, does not allow users to download content for offline viewing, and some third-party content is unavailable. 
    • Standard: For $15.49 per month, users with this ad-free plan can stream on two devices and can download content to watch offline.
    • Premium: For $22.99 per month, this plan allows subscribers to watch in Ultra HD (4k) on up to four devices simultaneously.
  • Max: The streaming home of HBO's critically acclaimed shows like "House of the Dragon," "Succession," and "The Last Of Us." Max also boasts a library of Warner Bros. and Discovery movies and TV shows, and offers exclusive originals like "Peacemaker." The following tiers are available for new subscribers:
    • With Ads: For $9.99 per month this option includes all Max content, but does have unskippable ads. 
    • Ad-Free: This tier removes ads and also includes downloads for $15.99 per month.
    • Ultimate Ad-Free: Upgrade to this $19.99 tier for streaming in 4K with Dolby Atmos for select content.
  • Disney Plus (with Hulu): Disney Plus and Hulu are in the process of combining into one app, which will be the streaming home of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, FX, and National Geographic content. It also offers some original shows and movies like "The Mandalorian," "Only Murders in the Building" and "The Bear." Currently, the apps are available as the Disney Bundle Duo, which is $9.99 per month with ads, or $19.99 per month ad-free. 
  • Paramount Plus: Owned by ViacomCBS, Paramount Plus offers content from CBS, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET, and Paramount Pictures. It includes original shows like "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," and "Halo" series, plus classic CBS shows like "NCIS," plus movies, and some live sports. Paramount Plus Essentials is this service's ad-supported option and costs $5.99 per month, while the ad-free Paramount Plus Showtime option includes content from Showtime's library of films and series, and costs $11.99 per month. 
  • Peacock: The home of current and library NBC and Universal content, Peacock  has an impressive library of content including "The Office," and "Law and Order" as well as original shows like "The Traitors" plus movies, and live sports. The standard, ad-supported Peacock tier is $5.99 per month, or subscribers can go ad-free (and watch offline) for $11.99 per month. 
  • Amazon Prime Video: Though its library content does leave a lot to be desired, Prime Video's high-profile original content, including series like "The Boys," "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" and "Good Omens" have been successful enough to make it an essential streaming service. Prime Video is included as part of the larger Amazon Prime service, which costs $14.99 per month. It can also be purchased separately for $8.99 per month. 

Streaming services are starting to take a page from cable's book through bundles. Disney Plus, Max and Hulu will offer a new streaming bundle starting in summer 2024. Verizon customers already have the option to bundle Netflix and Max

Niche streaming services

Looking to go beyond just the basics? Have more niche tastes in mind? These streaming services cater to the discerning content consumer, who knows what they like, and want to discover more from a certain genre. From anime to arthouse cinema, here are some highly-specialized services that aren't for everyone, but might just pique your interest.   

best netflix alternatives mubi

(Image credit: Mubi)
  • CrunchyRoll: The undisputed home of anime CrunchyRoll not only simulcasts episodes mere hours after they debut in Japan, but also has hundreds of library anime titles from the past 40 years as well. The service has a free ad-supported tier, but this does not include access to simulcasts or "premium" content. For that, there are three different options:
    • Fan: For $7.99 per month this tier removes ads and gives you access to the entire Crunchyroll library, including simulcasts, and can be streamed on one device at a time. 
    • Mega Fan: For $9.99 per month this tier includes all the benefits of Fan, plus the ability to stream on four devices simultaneously and download shows for offline viewing. 
    • Ultimate Fan: For $14.99 per month, this includes streaming on six devices simultaneously.
  • Criterion Channel: Looking for an elevated movie-watching experience? The Criterion Channel is focused on award-winning, critically acclaimed films and documentaries and boasts over 2,000 movies for subscribers to stream, including collections from some of the most iconic filmmakers of all time, including Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder. Subscriptions for the ad-free service are $10.99 for a monthly plan.
  • AMC Plus: Home to brand new originals like "Interview With the Vampire," and "Tales of the Walking Dead" as well as library shows like "Mad Men" plus original horror content through a partnership with Shudder, AMC Plus has plenty of prestige options for those who are looking for unique, award-winning TV. The ad-supported plan is $4.99 monthly, or subscribers can go ad-free for $8.99
  • Starz: The home of popular shows like "Outlander," "The Serpent Queen" and "Power", as well as blockbuster movies direct from movie theaters, Starz offers a standalone ad-free streaming plan for $9.99 per month. 
  • Mubi: A cinephile's dream, Mubi curates a selection of independent and foreign films, with a strong focus on arthouse and classic cinema. Every day, they add a new film to their collection, and each one is only available for 30 days, keeping the selection fresh and constantly changing. Mubi is available ad-free for $14.99 per month.
  • PBS Passport: With your local PBS station membership, you get access to PBS Passport, which allows you to stream full seasons of current and classic PBS shows, documentaries, and specials. Pricing varies depending on your local PBS station, enter your zip code to learn more. 
  • Broadway HD: If you love all things theatre, BroadwayHD is a must-have service. An ad-free plan is $19.99 per month or $199.99 a year, and includes ad-free access to streaming professionally shot productions of "Kinky Boots," "The Phantom of the Opera" and more. 

Where to stream for free

Want to enjoy some of the best of the best of streaming content for the low cost of absolutely nothing? There are some suprisingly robust free TV options that include both on-demand and live content to suit basically every taste. 

Pluto TV logo seen on a phone in front of a screen of blurry TV show images

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  • Pluto TV: When it comes to free streaming Pluto TV is simply unmatched for content and options. The service has over 100 24/7 streaming "channels" from CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, VH1, and Nickelodeon. Also, it includes genre-specific channels that focus on science fiction, documentaries, anime, horror and more.
  • Tubi:  Tubi boasts an impressive library of over 60,000 titles, including a treasure trove of hidden gems and cult classic films. In addition, the series is building up a small library of original content that includes documentaries, thrillers and more. 
  • The Roku Channel: Despite its name (and native availability on Roku devices) The Roku Channel is a free streaming service available on Roku devices, as well as on the web and through the Roku app. It offers a mix of TV shows and movies, including the original film "Weird," which won a Primetime Emmy in 2022 for Best Television Movie. 
  • Amazon Freevee: Formerly known as IMDb TV, Amazon Freevee is an ad-supported streaming service owned by Amazon that offers a library of movies and TV shows, including originals like "Judge Judy Justice" and "Leverage: Redemption"

International streaming channels 

Looking to broaden your horizons and experience some of the best movies and TV shows from overseas? There are plenty of options for international streaming, from Korean dramas to the best of British drama and even Bollywood, here are some of the most popular internationally-focused streaming services. 

Rakuten Viki

(Image credit: Rakuten Viki)
  • BritBox: Looking to stream the best from the BBC? Look no further than Britbox which has classic library shows like "Sherlock," "Luther," and "Sherwood" and also streams high-profile events like the Olivier Awards. An ad-free plan is $8.99 per month. 
  • Acorn TV: Another streaming service that focuses on British TV,  Acorn TV is another option for Anglophiles and features library titles like "Foyle's War," "Doc Martin" and "Britain by the Book." An ad-free plan is $6.99 per month. 
  • Viki by Rakuten: Offering Asian dramas, movies, and variety shows from Korea, Taiwan, Japan and more, Viki is a great resource for fans of Asian entertainment, with content subtitled in several languages. Though some content is available free on an ad-supported plan, a $5.99 per month Viki Pass will unlock over 1000 library ad-free episodes. If you'd like access to even more content, a Viki Plus Pass will unlock all content from Korean streaming service KOCOWA, and costs $9.99 per month. 
  • ZEE5: If you're interested in Indian movies and TV shows, ZEE5 is a great option. It offers a wide range of content in various Indian languages, including Bollywood and Tollywood films, regional cinema, and original series. A monthly subscription is $10.99 per month. 
Amanda Kondolojy

Amanda Kondolojy is an entertainment journalist based in Florida with over 15 years of experience covering film, TV, theme parks and more. When not in front of a screen you can find her reading something at the beach (usually by Neil Gaiman, Grady Hendrix or Brandon Sanderson) or dancing around the kitchen to her favorite showtunes. 

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