It's time you cancel cable and switch to one of the best cable TV alternatives. Most folks can cut the cord while holding onto important channels such as ESPN, TNT and USA, and you'll wonder why you stayed with cable for so long.
By switching to one of these live TV services, you'll get faster performance, a more-attractive interface — and best of all — a monthly payment structure. Yes, no more annual contracts! And that means you can switch between these cable TV alternatives whenever you feel like it. While I just switched from YouTube TV to Hulu + Live TV, I might just switch back if I grow tired of Hulu's interface and the way it manages recordings.
While many of these live TV services are going up in price, they're still generally cheaper than cable. There is good news from YouTube TV and Hulu, as both add new channels to their packages.
We are so enthusiastic about the best cable TV replacement services because they offer most of the broadcast, entertainment, news and sports channels you want to watch, though the more-affordable option on this list does offer notably fewer channels. You can even watch NFL live streams or Premiere League live streams provided you have the right service.
The best cable TV alternatives you can buy today
Sling TV is the best cable TV alternative for a simple reason: its lower price and customizable nature feel truly in line with the idea of cutting the cord. So much so that TG's streaming team (Henry T. Casey and Kelly Woo) chose it to replace cable. Admittedly, Henry's switched his service to our next pick, because of the below regional sports price increases.
Sling TV, also on our best streaming services list, is the cheapest service with either ESPN or FOX and NBC ($40 per month, following a recent price hike) — and its first month is half-off right now. The service offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller extras, which usually cost $5 per month.
Orange has ESPN (which it lost for two days) and Blue has Fox and NBC, and you can see more differences in our Sling Orange vs Blue guide. A weird new twist, though, has been added for Sling Blue and Sling Orange & blue. Those in Fresno, Houston and Raleigh will get ABC on Sling TV for free, while those in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose region will be spending $5 more. That means Sling Orange & Blue will cost up to $60.
From sports to comedy to kids' programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. We just wish its cloud DVR would go unlimited like YouTube and Hulu. For more details, including lineups and pricing and more, check out our What Is Sling TV? and Sling TV promo codes pages. Even Sling's Orange+Blue package is still more affordable than most of its competitors' base packages.
Read our full Sling TV review
Simple, easy to use and rocking a very strong selection of channels, YouTube TV remains a top cable TV alternative. YouTube TV's biggest stand-out feature was unlimited storage DVR, but Hulu's caught up to that. And just like Hulu, it has all of the major broadcast networks, so you can get your local news and sports, as well as network sitcoms and dramas. YouTube TV's got one of the lowest delays vs cable when it comes to live events.
One of our favorite aspects of YouTube TV is that it's got the shortest lag behind cable TV. Sling and other services may be a little further (less than a minute, but it still counts for sports and live events) behind the live feeds. YouTube TV also has key plays which is a great feature for watching key highlights in minutes, in sports matches once they are recorded on the DVR. And as of September 2022, YouTube TV now has 5.1-channel audio on Apple TV and Fire TV, after it was only on select Smart TVs, Roku and Google/Android TV devices.
An April 2023 YouTube TV price hike raises its bill to $73 per month, which puts it closer to all of the other major services not named Sling). But YouTube TV finally added new channels to make up for that, including the Magnolia Network. The lack of forced bundling may be a pro or con based on your vantage point, but anyone who doesn't need Disney Plus and ESPN Plus probably appreciates it. YouTube TV will offer NFL Sunday Ticket as a paid add-on in 2023, and YouTube TV is also adding quad-box multiview, which it's slowly iterating on.
Read our full YouTube TV review
Hulu began as an on-demand streaming service, then expanded into offering live TV as well — for those who pay a large extra fee. For $70 per month, you get Hulu's traditional catalog of shows and movies, plus access to more than 85 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. It also includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus (though both have ads). And Hulu's entry-level package is getting better, as PBS, PBS Kids and the Magnolia Network are coming. PBS is only on YouTube, and most services make you pay more for Magnolia.
Unfortunately our recent hands-on testing of Hulu with Live TV showed that it can have a buffering problem, which is a no-no these days. That said, we're going to dive back into it with a new round of testing to inform our decisions. And Hulu's added an unlimited cloud DVR to match YouTube's. For more detail, check out our Hulu + Live vs. YouTube TV face-off.
Hulu gets major brownie points for throwing in its library of originals and on demand programming. Plus, the FX on Hulu partnership has added a ton of classic and modern shows, like The Shield and Atlanta. Not all of these other services boast exclusives on par with the award-winning Handmaid's Tale, Normal People and Little Fires Everywhere. Having just switched to Hulu + Live TV, I will note that its recording menus are convoluted and I've found it's too easy to miss recording something because I didn't click in enough menus.
Read our full Hulu with Live TV review
All of these live TV streaming services offer some sports content, but Fubo is one of the best cable TV alternatives because it has practically every single sport you could ask for. NFL fans can see every game on Fubo, with its strong list of local broadcast channels (including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC), as well as the recently-added ESPN (as well as ESPN2 and 3), and the NFL Network. On top of that, you get international sports with 8 beIN Sports channels, the Big Ten Network, the Golf Channel and the TUDN (formerly known as UniVision Deportes Network) channels. It's a sports lover's buffet. Fubo is getting regional sports networks, freeing them from being DirecTV Stream exclusives. The big caveat there is that Fubo is charging between $11 to $13 for RSN's, and won't let you opt out if you don't want them.
The only big downside to Fubo is its $75 starting price for its entry-level Pro plan, which is $35 more than Sling Orange. But when you get more than 150 channels — many more than on any other option here — you're going to be paying more. American sports fans may not like Fubo because of its lack of TBS for MLB live streams and TNT for NBA Playoffs live streams.
Read our full Fubo review
DirecTV Stream (previously AT&T TV, AT&T TV Now before that and originally DirecTV Now) is a service that keeps changing its name, but it never actually fixes its big problems. Not only is it pricier than most at $75 per month for its base Entertainment package, but that deal only includes "more than 75 channels." And its DVR deletes recordings after 90 days (YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV go nine months!). Compared to the above options, it's a big heaping bowl of "meh." And its other plans try and lure you into an annual contract — the last thing you want to get. To match services like Fubo, DirecTV Stream is adding live scores to help you follow other games.
That said, we feel for the folks who want to follow their favorite local sports teams, as DirecTV Stream has become the only place that many cord-cutters can find their games on select regional sports networks. The only problem? Those channels are locked in the $90 per month tier. Check out our guide on where to live stream NFL, NBA, MLB and more for more details.
We hope to see better quality when we pick it back up soon for a re-test, but we're not optimistic. This all stacks up to a service that is not close to being one of the best choices. For more about how these services differ, check out our Hulu Live vs. YouTube TV comparison, which also includes DirecTV Stream.
Read our full DirecTV Stream review
How to choose the best cable TV alternative for you
You can filter through the best cable TV alternatives in a couple of ways. The easiest, of course, is by price. If you want to spend less than $40 per month, you've got an easy buying decision. Sling TV — either its Orange or Blue packages — is the only option, and it costs a relatively low $40 per month. It may not offer as many channels, but everything else starts at least at $50, which can be frustrating when you also want streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus that cost $8 to $20 per month.
But if you need all of your available local broadcast channels — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — your choices move away from Sling TV to all of its competitors. YouTube TV was formerly the most affordable to give you all four locals, but now it costs about as much as Hulu + Live TV. But Hulu gives you get those buzzworthy originals like Normal People, Shrill, Ramy and Little Fires Everywhere.
How we test cable TV alternatives
To determine the best streaming services for you to cut the cord with, we evaluate them by using the services across a wide range of devices, from streaming boxes and smart TVs to mobile apps. This is a great way to see which services stream smoothly and which should be ignored. We're testing services with true live TV, not just the linear "live" TV on apps such as Pluto TV.
As we use these streaming services, we also rate what their interfaces look like. The best streaming services offer clean menus and make it easy to discover new things to watch. Next, we compare the channel lineups, which can vary widely as you go from one service to the other. Some streaming services also offer multiple packages, so we take that into account before arriving at our rating.
Last but not least, we consider price and value. The best streaming services can either augment cable or help you cut the cord completely. So we weigh the features that you’re getting for the money versus the competition.
Another viable alternative that my parents and I have found is to simply get an Android Box and use the Exodus add-on on Kodi. The box, with setup and such, cost us $120, but after that, it's all free (just gotta pay the Internet bill after that). :)