The best cable TV alternatives are the cure for the common cable box — and the king of the category just got a lot better to use thanks to its improved interface. live TV services function like a cable package, only without the expensive bills, surprise fees and difficult-to-cancel contracts. The only problem is that they’re still at risk of weird spats between platforms and services, as Roku just kicked YouTube TV off the platform.
The best cable TV alternatives offer most of the broadcast, entertainment, news and sports channels you want to watch and allow you to add on premiums like HBO and Showtime. These aren’t streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video, which are great for library content.
Instead, this list of cable TV alternatives is for you if you want to watch local news to stay abreast of everything, catch sports games (like NFL live streams) or record episodes of your favorite guilty pleasure reality series. And even while many are going up in price, they’re still cheaper than cable.
The best cable TV alternatives each have their pros and cons. We all have specific channels that we want to watch and record. That last part is important, since many of us want to save shows to view later. Our ranking highlights any gaps in each of the live TV services, as well as special features that help them stick out. Learn more tips for saving money with our cut the cord guide.
But some of these services are clearly better than others: They offer the most choice and savings so you can curate your experience further. While we prefer three of these picks, the bottom entry on our list is as much of a warning as it is anything else, as quality and price don’t match up.
Even better, all of these services only work on monthly contracts, so you’re not locked into a long term deal that sours your opinion of the post-cable world. Oh, and each also offers a free trial so you can spend a week or two figuring out if it’s right.
Even ISPs themselves are jumping in the fray. The recently-launched live TV service Spectrum Streaming service is one such example, targeted at those on a tight budget.
What are the best cable TV alternatives?
The best cable TV alternatives offer a lot of channels (and especially the networks you want), ease of use, availability on major streaming devices and, of course, value for the cost.
Our top cable TV alternative, Sling TV, starts off at $35 per month for either the Sling Blue or Sling Orange packages. They come with slightly different channel lineups, so read our Sling Orange vs. Blue comparison to get the details. The combined Sling Orange+Blue package is $50 per month), but it gets you all the networks that Sling carries. That includes ESPN, AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central as well as local Fox and NBC channels in certain regions.
On Sling’s heels is Hulu With Live TV, which is $65 per month but offers more channels, plus access to regular Hulu and its vast library of movies and shows. Watch local networks and top cable channels, record to the Cloud DVR and get Hulu’s original content like The Handmaid’s Tale.
YouTube TV is a strong contender for the best cable TV alternative. Much like Sling and Hulu With Live TV, it has a wide range of channels, including local networks. Where it really stands out is the unlimited DVR, which allows you to record all the movies and shows you want without worrying about deletion.
Fubo TV is also a great live TV option at $65 for over 120 channels, including all the top broadcast and cable networks. Fubo really shines in is its sports coverage. It has all the NFL live streams you could ask for, with all the broadcast networks, ESPN and NFL Network.
AT&TV Now may include HBO and give you 500 hours of DVR storage, but the high prices make it a less ideal choice when looking for a cable TV alternative.
The best cable TV alternatives you can buy today
Sling TV is getting a huge interface change (coming first to Fire TV) that really brings it up to snuff with the competitors — and helps keep it the best cable replacement alternative right now. Sling TV starts off cheap ($35 per month), and while the cost can balloon quickly, depending on your add-ons, this probably won’t happen. That’s because Sling TV offers two basic packages of channels (Orange and Blue), then lets viewers pick and choose smaller add-ons, which usually cost $5 per month. Plus, while other services keep raising their prices, Sling just added a 1-year price lock guarantee.
From sports to comedy to kids’ programming to foreign language channels, Sling TV has a little something for everyone. The service’s DVR features are not bad, either. For more details, including lineups and pricing and more, check out our What Is Sling TV? page. Even Sling’s Orange+Blue package is still more affordable than most of its competitors’ base packages. When it comes to the new NFL season, though, Sling TV isn’t delivering everything you need, lacking CBS and the NFL Network. Sports fan favorite Fubo may cost twice as much, but it isn’t lacking in football action.
Read our full Sling TV review
Hulu started life as an on-demand streaming service, but has more recently expanded into offering live TV as well. For the new, recently-increased price of $65 per month, you get Hulu’s traditional catalog of streaming shows and movies, plus access to more than 60 live channels, from A&E to ESPN to TNT. Hulu with Live TV is particularly good at recommending new content, and its interface is one of the most colorful and navigable in the cable-replacement sphere. You’ll have to deal with a ton of advertisements, though, and if you want fewer of them, you’ll have to pay $10 more. And if you want more DVR space or simultaneous streams, you’ll have to pay up to $30 extra per month.
Hulu also gets major brownie points with us for throwing in its library of originals and on demand programming. Plus, the FX on Hulu partnership just added a lot of classic and modern shows. None of these other services boast exclusives on par with the High Fidelity reboot and the critically-beloved The Handmaid’s Tale.
Read our full Hulu with Live TV review
Simple, easy to use and rocking a very strong selection of channels, YouTube TV remains a top cable TV alternative. Its biggest stand-out feature is its unlimited storage DVR, as its competitors put a cap on your recordings. It’s also got all of the major broadcast networks, so you can get your local news and sports, as well as network sitcoms and dramas. And you can add on premium channels like HBO.
YouTube TV’s supported device stack just got a lot shorter, after a spat between Roku and Google removed the service from Roku devices. Roku’s $65 per month price used to be high (now it’s the standard for most services not named Sling). In exchange, YouTube TV got Viacom channels (which it needed). Its exclusive Originals, though, are lackluster (mostly C-list celeb reality fare).
Read our full YouTube TV review
All of these live TV streaming services offer some sports content, but FuboTV 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.
The only big downside to Fubo is its $65 starting price for its standard Starter Plan, which is almost twice as much as Sling Orange. But when you get more than 100 channels — many more than on any other option here — you’re going to be paying more. The one channel we wish FuboTV had is TNT, for NBA games (and All Elite Wrestling). Fubo could also rise up our rankings by adding gaming console support.
Read our full FuboTV review
AT&T TV (previously AT&T TV Now and before that, known as DirecTV Now) has jumped up and down in price, finally landing at $70 per month for its base Entertainment package. But when that price only includes “more than 65 channels? and 20 hours of Cloud DVR? 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.
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 AT&T TV.
Read our full AT&T TV 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 $30 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 $6 to $13 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. Hulu With Live is the most affordable to give you all four locals and costs $10 less than YouTube TV. Plus, 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, 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.
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.
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