Cutting the cord? These streaming services replace cable on the cheap

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)

Cord-cutting is the new thing and cable TV is kind of over, and that's not just our opinion. A recent report (opens in new tab) revealed that nearly 2 million U.S. consumer broke up with cable in the first quarter of this year (Jan. - April 2022) alone. In the last 4 years, 20 million have said so-long to the big six cable providers who account for 95% of the entire market.

So, you might be asking, where did these millions and millions go? What are they doing now? Many of them, we bet, are signed up for one of the best cable TV alternatives. But the decision to sign up for one of these services isn't easy — each is different in its own way, and one is a little too like cable for our tastes. Even our Global Editor-in-Chief Mark Spoonauer recently canceled his cable and here's what he replaced it with.

That said, even our least favorite option actually serves a purpose for a particular audience. Again, these are live TV services, unlike our editor's new pick for the best cheap streaming service.

And this is why we're going to take a moment to tell you about each of these services, in order of cheapest to most expensive entry-level pricing. And the best news? Each is a monthly service, so — unlike with cable — you won't get locked in long term.

Should you cut the cord with Philo?

Philo TV streaming service

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Fans of a select set of popular entertainment channels have the best way to cut the cord, as Philo is a mere $25 per month. It gets you AMC for shows such as Better Call Saul, Comedy Central for new South Park, the Paramount Network so you can watch Yellowstone, and plenty of reality TV networks including A&E, TLC and VH1. Philo also has kids networks and news channels, with four Nickelodeon channels, BBC World News, AccuWeather and Bloomberg Television.

That may be enough. You might look at all that and ask "why is there no ESPN?" and "where's the broadcast network TV channels?" So, for that, you'll need to check out the below options, as those channels are more expensive, and you'll need to spend more to get them.

Price: $25 per month (opens in new tab)
Channels: More than 60
Cloud DVR: Unlimited with 1-year limit
Simultaneous streams: Up to 3
Supported devices: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast via Android, Apple TV, Android TV, web, iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets.

Should you cut the cord with Sling TV?

Updated Sling TV home menu

(Image credit: Sling TV)

Multiple Tom's Guide staffers pick Sling TV because it gets nearly everything right. Depending on if you get Sling Blue (FOX and NBC) or Sling Orange (ESPN channels), you can get the channels that Philo doesn't have. 

Also, interestingly enough, you get TNT, which is crucial for the NBA live streams — a channel that the sports-focused FuboTV doesn't offer. NBC offers big sports events as well, such as the Indy 500 live stream and this past year's Super Bowl.

On the downside, Sling TV's DVR capacity is paltry and its $5 per month DVR Plus package only upgrades you to 200 hours — not the unlimited capacity that competitors offer. And while we've encountered Sling TV buffering issues, Sling's said it's ironed out them out. (You can read about how Henry Casey, our Senior Editor cut the cord with Sling TV and almost switched to YouTube TV).

Price: $35 per month (Orange or Blue), $50 per month (Sling Orange & Blue) (opens in new tab)
Channels: 31 (Sling Orange), 41 (Sling Blue), 47 (Sling Orange & Blue)
Cloud DVR: 50 hours
Simultaneous streams: 1 (Sling Orange), 3 (Sling Blue)
Supported devices: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox, LG, Vizio and Samsung smart TVs, Oculus, TiVo, web, iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets.

Should you cut the cord with YouTube TV?

Cutting the cord YouTube TV

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Moving up the monthly pricing, we find YouTube TV, which has clung to its $65 per month pricing while below competitors got more expensive. The first of the major live TV streaming services to offer unlimited DVR, that feature has also been copied. It has all the local channels (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC), you'll want, though (save for most regional sports networks), and a really strong selection of cable channels too — for all the standard sports and news channels.

The best part about YouTube TV is that its apps are just more well-polished than most of the competitors, as YouTube recycled its learnings from online video hosting. YouTube TV is a great option for a great-at-most-things service, but competitors try and edge it out on value. YouTube TV doesn't pack in the bonus services that Hulu offers, and it's not as cheap as Sling TV.

Price: $65 per month (opens in new tab)
Channels: More than 85
Cloud DVR: Unlimited (nine-month limit)
Simultaneous streams: 3
Supported devices: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox, LG, Vizio and Samsung smart TVs, Oculus, TiVo, web, iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets.

Should you cut the cord with Hulu with Live TV?

Cord cutting with Hulu with Live TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Hulu with Live TV is very comparable to YouTube TV. It recently added unlimited cloud DVR, it has the broadcast channels you want and all the great cable networks, too. You also get Hulu originals on top of that. Oh, and for anyone upset that Hulu with Live TV costs $5 more than YouTube TV? Well, that fiver gets you both Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, too. 

Why not Hulu with Live TV? Maybe you don't want Disney Plus (Maybe you already share someone else's account). Also, ads seem more present on Hulu with Live TV than on any of its competitors, and we're not sure why. We've also experienced a little less stability on Hulu with Live TV than on YouTube or Sling TV.

Price: $70 per month (opens in new tab)
Channels: More than 75
Cloud DVR: Unlimited (nine-month limit)
Simultaneous streams: 2
Supported devices: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Android TV, Xbox, PlayStation 4 and 5, LG, HiSense, Vizio and Samsung smart TVs, TiVo Stream 4K, Xfinity Flex, web, iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets.

Should you cut the cord with fuboTV?

cord cutting with fuboTV test

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

fuboTV markets itself as the sports fan's cable TV alternative. And if you ask us, they left off a word: fuboTV is more of a service for international sports fans. While it has some U.S. regional sports networks, DirecTV Stream has more and is the leader in that field. But with fuboTV, you get countless soccer leagues — including the Premier League and UEFA Champions League, LaLiga and MLS, and more. 

That's thanks to multiple beIN Sports networks and TUDN, on top of the normal stuff like ESPN and Fox Sports networks. Oh, and fuboTV has the one feature we wish everyone else did: the ability to watch multiple channels at once. And it works very easily: you just select the channel whose audio you want to hear.

Why not fuboTV? Well, the aforementioned lack of regional and also the lack of TNT (huge for the NBA playoffs, such as the Mavericks vs Warriors live stream) is a huge buzzkill.

Price: $70 per month (opens in new tab)
Channels: 125
Cloud DVR: 1,000 hours
Simultaneous streams: 10
Supported devices: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox, LG, HiSense, Vizio and Samsung smart TVs, web, iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets.

Should you cut the cord with DirecTV Stream?

DirecTV Stream DVR recordings

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

There are two types of people who get DirecTV Stream. The first (and correct group for it) are the fans of U.S. sports teams that play on regional networks that are only on DirecTV Stream. Check out my guide on where cord-cutters can live stream NFL, NBA, MLB and more to see where your team plays. The other people who are getting DirecTV Stream are likely DirecTV customers tired of spending so much on cable, and get lots of ads for DTVS.

The big problem with DirecTV Stream? Not only are its apps and DVR not as good as YouTube TV or Hulu, but it hides those regional sports channels behind the $89.99 Choice package. And at that rate? We're guessing you'll want to stick with cable.

Price: $70 per month (opens in new tab)
Channels: More than 65
Cloud DVR: Unlimited (90-day limit)
Simultaneous streams: Unlimited at home, 3 on the go
Supported devices: Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV,  Samsung smart TVs, web, iPhone/iPad, Android phones and tablets.

Outlook: Cord-cutters have options

The good news about the post-cable life is the fact that contracts are a thing of the past (though DirecTV Stream has offered annual discounts). No matter which of the above services you take a spin on, you have the power to hop off it after a month.

You can see if you like Sling and if its channels are enough, and then hop over to YouTube TV if you're willing to pay more. Or, you can just go to Hulu or fuboTV if you're looking to live that Disney Bundle or International Sports life, respectively. Either way, you should find your cable provider's number, because I'm sure your package is more than $70 per month. 

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Dick2111
    admin said:
    We've got your six best services to replace cable TV with. So why wait? Cut the cord today.

    Cutting the cord? These streaming services replace cable on the cheap : Read more
    At those prices, I don't see how any of them would be considered a good deal to replace cable TV. I still have Spectrum cable TV here in the Tampa Bay area, and the package that I opted for is called 'TV Choice'. Costs $40 a month, but there's a $10 promotion discount that's been in effect for awhile, so I pay $30. It's quite limited admittedly; a bunch of network channels like NBC, CBS, FOX, etc plus I get to pick 10 others (picked mostly sports channels, but also a couple of Hallmark ones, etc). If I want, I can 'cut the cable' and still keep those same channels via 'Spectrum Streaming' (that's still a $30 cost however, so I wouldn't save any money doing it). My whole cable TV/internet bill (with 200 Mbps that costs me $75 a month) is under $150 a month. I do however have Netflix, Paramount Plus and Prime TV, which together cost me another $20 a month. At least for the time being Henry, I don't see any advantage to signing up for YouTube TV or even the least expensive Sling. In my opinion, folks considering 'cutting the cord' need to each do a deep dive into what the TOTAL costs would be to feed their particular TV & internet habits in their area. Nothing's cut-and-dried any longer.
    Reply
  • NotWhoYouThink
    Sling buffers so badly that we dropped it. Most of the time it couldn’t even connect to the channel we wanted. Switched to YouTube TV which works great and has what we want, but it irks me that after paying them all that dough each month, I still have to watch ads on YouTube itself.
    Reply
  • j1shalack
    Good article.
    Could you do an article on all the free streaming services...?
    Reply
  • airgray
    These run downs never cover the question: Who lets you pause and rewind live TV? Just saying that a DVR service is more than watching previously queued content.
    Reply
  • kep55
    admin said:
    We've got your six best services to replace cable TV with. So why wait? Cut the cord today.

    Cutting the cord? These streaming services replace cable on the cheap : Read more
    We have a Samsung "smart" tv which came with TV Plus. For free. We can aslo get IMDB, Tubi, Comet, Plex, Roku, Cheddar, and others.
    What I don't like about any of the streamer you list is they all include beaucoup garbage channels that many people have no interest in. Since every streamer if computerised, it would be great if one could have a true ala carte selection. If Philo can off its package at $0.40 a channel and sling for $0.95 (Blue + Orange), then ala carte should fall in between. Unless the bean counters and marketers get in the way.
    Reply