Cut the Cord: Here’s How to Watch All Your Favorite Shows Without Cable
With the average cost of cable running $1,284 per 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. Major Network Websites
You can view videos or full episodes from 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 cable channels like TLC, TBS and HGTV. Just head to your favorite network’s website to check out what’s available.
2. 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 up to 52 premium channels, including CNN, Comedy Central and TBS.
That said, it’s live access; there’s no option to record a show you want to watch later unless you add on the Cloud DVR for $5 extra per month.
Cost: $25/month for the Sling Orange and Sling Blue plans, or $40/month for a combination of the two.
3. CBS All Access
You can find 10,000 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 when available.
Cost: Free one-week trial, then $5.99/month for limited commercials or $9.99/month for commercial-free access.
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 “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Difficult People.”
The basic subscription is ad-supported, but you can upgrade to Hulu’s ad-free plan to watch almost everything commercial-free.
Hulu also offers a Hulu + Live TV plan that gives you access to more than 50 channels and up to 50 hours of live TV recordings in addition to the streaming features of the basic subscription.
Other add-ons are also available for additional fees, including HBO, Showtime, Starz and more.
Cost: Free 30-day trial, then $7.99/month for limited commercials, $11.99/month for commercial-free or $39.99/month for Hulu + Live TV.
5. Hallmark Movies Now
This streaming service offers hand-picked, heartwarming and family-friendly movies and TV series.
Hallmark Movies Now is commercial-free and available on a wide range of devices from your iPhone to your Roku to your Xbox 360. It also offers originally produced short films and programs, as well as an exclusive collection of Hallmark Hall of Fame features.
Cost: $5.99 a month or the annual plan for $59.99 ($4.99/month).
Commercial-free and available on a number of platforms, Netflix has one of the largest libraries of shows and movies available for livestreaming.
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 “Stranger Things.”
Cost: Now $9/month for the basic plan, $13/month for HD and $16/month for the 4K plan.
7. 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 7-day free trial. Or you can opt for the HBO add-on with your Hulu subscription or your Amazon Prime subscription.
Cost: Free 7-day trial; $14.99/month after that.
8. Amazon Prime Instant Video
Amazon Prime’s instant video feature gives you streaming access to a number of popular TV series and movies, including the binge-worthy Prime original “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
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 TV 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: Annual subscription for $119 ($9.92/month) or $12.99/month.
9. 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.org.
Cost: $35 and up for the equipment.
10. 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 die-hard TV fanatic, but if you’re looking for a cheap way to pass a rainy day, you certainly can’t beat the price.
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.