Cut the Cord: Here’s How to Watch All Your Favorite Shows Without Cable

Updated November 17, 2016
by Kelly Gurnett
Contributor
cut the cord

With the average cost of cable running $1,188 a year, it’s no surprise that more and more people are making the decision to cut the cord and get their TV fix elsewhere.

But can you really still watch all the shows you love without paying the price of a hefty cable package?

Yes, you can. Here’s how to watch TV without cable.

1. Hulu

You can watch a variety of popular shows streaming on Hulu the day after they air, plus entire series, including past seasons of current shows like “Modern Family” and classic shows like “The Twilight Zone.”

Hulu is also making its mark in the original content game, with exclusive series like “Behind the Mask” and “Difficult People.”

The basic subscription is ad-supported, but you can upgrade to Hulu’s No Commercials plan to watch everything ad-free.

Cost: $7.99/month for limited commercials; $11.99/month for no commercials

2. Major Network Websites

You can view videos or full episodes of many of your favorite TV shows for free on network websites.

Broadcast channels like ABC, CBS and NBC offer a wide range of on-demand episodes, as do premium channels like TLC, TBS and HGTV. Just head to your favorite network’s website to check out what’s available.

Cost: Free

3. CBS All Access

Check out more than 6,500 episodes of CBS shows with CBS All Access live streaming. Available for your PC or mobile device, it also gives you access to live TV and special features like the Big Brother live feed.

Cost: Free one-week trial; $5.99 a month after that

4. Feeln

Presented by Hallmark Cards, this streaming service offers hand-picked, heartwarming and family-friendly movies and TV series.

Feeln is commercial-free and available on a wide range of devices from your iPhone to your Roku to your Xbox 360. It also offers 100 originally produced short films and programs, as well as an exclusive collection of Hallmark Hall of Fame features.

Cost: $1.99 a month

5. Netflix

Commercial-free and available on a number of platforms, Netflix has one of the largest libraries of shows and movies available for live-streaming.

It releases whole seasons of shows at once — great for binge-watching, but not so great if you want to be up-to-date on your favorite shows so you can discuss them with your friends. You’ll have to wait for the latest season to end before you’re able to watch it on Netflix.

Netflix has also been a pioneer in original content, offering its subscribers exclusive access to hit shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.”

Cost: $8.99 a month (or free with this nifty trick)

6. Yidio

Yidio is a free app that helps cord-cutters search for places to watch TV and movies.

It takes a few seconds to download the free app (link to iOS download, link to Android download), and then you can use the search feature to find a provider for over 1 million TV shows and movies.

For example, if I want to watch “The West Wing,” Yidio tells me I can watch it on Netflix.

If I want to watch “Modern Family,” it points me to a page hidden on ABC, where I can watch all of the latest episodes for free. Pretty cool.

Cost: Free

7. Sling TV

One major complaint about alternative TV services is there typically isn’t much offered for sports fans.

Sling TV by Dish Network is one solution. It offers live access to 20 premium channels, including ESPN, Adult Swim and AMC, as well as add-on channel packages based on your interests.

That said, it’s live access; there’s no option to record a show you want to watch later.

Sling does offer a replay period during which you can view shows that aired within the past three days on certain channels. Certain channels also allow you to rewind a show you’re already watching, but ESPN is not one of them.

Cost: $20-$25/month for the basic “Best of Live TV” package; add-ons available from $5 a month (for Sports Extra, Kids Extra, etc.) to $15 a month (for HBO)

8. HBO Now

If you’re addicted to HBO shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Girls,” you’ll find they’re not available on other streaming services.

If you want to watch them without renting countless seasons of DVDs, you’ll want to get HBO Now. It’s available for most devices — tablets, laptops, phones and desktops, but not video game consoles — and offers a month-long free trial.

You can watch a whole ‘lotta GoT for free if you’re a binger!

Cost: Free 30-day trial; $14.99 a month after that.

9. Amazon Prime Instant Video

Amazon Prime’s Instant Video feature gives you streaming access to a number of popular TV series and movies.

The list is by no means exhaustive, and you’ll find it doesn’t have the most recent seasons of currently running programs. You do have the option to buy a season pass for about $10-$20 or pay around $1.99-$3.99 per episode to view additional shows.

If you already buy a ton of stuff from Amazon and can benefit from the free two-day shipping that comes along with Amazon Prime, it’s certainly an option worth considering.

Cost: $99 a year (which breaks down to $8.25 a month)

10. HDTV Antenna

Go old-school and hook your TV up to an HDTV antenna to get basic broadcast channels with a high-quality picture. Add a TiVo or other DVR device, and you’ll be able to record shows to view them later.

Find out which channels are available in your area and the best antenna for your needs at AntennaWeb.

Cost: $15 and up for the equipment

11. The Library

Go really old-school by checking out the offerings at your local public library.

I searched my nearby branch and was surprised to find DVDs of everything from “I Love Lucy” and “The Brady Bunch” to “Malcolm in the Middle.”

It’s not enough to satisfy the diehard TV fanatic, but if you’re looking for a cheap way to pass a rainy day, you certainly can’t beat the price.

Cost: Free

Your Turn: Do you use any of these TV alternatives? What do you like (or dislike) about them?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.

by Kelly Gurnett
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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