At one point in time, not so long ago, cable television was on the absolute cutting edge of entertainment. Hundreds of channels carrying every form of entertainment for every audience under the sun…what more could a person want? Well, a person could want a more reasonably-priced cable bill, that’s for sure. Price alone has begun to drive some people to cut the cord and find a viable cable alternative.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Prior to the internet’s recent evolution to allow viable streaming media, your only realistic cable alternative involved installing a large satellite dish. Today, however, there are a wide variety of affordably-priced, content-rich cable alternatives available to you through your existing internet service. One option is even found in most every town in the country!
Whether you’re trying to cut down on household expenses or are simply tired of the same old content floating around on cable networks today, you have every reason to check out some of these cable alternatives. Taken along or in conjunction with one another, these cable alternatives hold the potential to provide you with a diverse mix of new and familiar television content for only a fraction of your current cable bill.
When it comes to cutting your household free of cable’s ever-expanding billing schemes, finding a free alternative feels like striking gold on your first prospecting trip. While it doesn’t provide the exact same structure, YouTube is a worthwhile cable alternative given its broad content creation community that includes both independent artists and established media outlets.
In the first content camp, you’ll find a massive ecosystem of original content creators on YouTube, with a niche community for any interest under the sun. Because of YouTube’s responsive structure, many of these creator’s actively engage their community and shape it to meet their audience’s desires.
Along the same lines, YouTube original content (not to be confused with YouTube’s short-live “YouTube Originals” content collection) is among the best-produced anywhere online. This is certainly the case when it comes to educational content, such as Complexly’s “Crash Course,” “SciShow”, and “The Art Assignment” channels.
Even in terms of legacy content, standard YouTube has a great deal to offer. Sports fans will be pleased to know that many sports networks now place highlight reels and game recaps directly on their YouTube channels, allowing you to catch up at your convenience. John Oliver and his show “Last Week Tonight” (as well as other similar comedians) even post whole portions of their routines on YouTube for free (even though their content would usually require premium access, as is the case with “Last Week Tonight” on HBO).
Overall, there’s a lot to watch on YouTube and the platform is only growing more diverse in content each day. You should defiantly make it an important plater in your cable alternative regimen.
YouTube is more than its free video hosting platform, though. In fact, YouTube has recently acknowledged the wide demand to cut cable and find a more affordable, more versatile option within their audience. This recognition has taken the form of YouTube TV, a service that looks and feels like cable without the high prices and troubling contracts.
Right now, YouTube TV charges users $49.99 for a great array of channels from across the spectrum, including everything from ESPN and NBC to HGTV and Cartoon Network (along with many more). What’s more, this service comes without a committed contract, allowing you to cancel at any time you see fit. This service doesn’t even require a cable box, further saving you money by forgoing costly hardware.
Along with other video streaming platforms, YouTube TV has been optimized to work with wi-fi-based digital media players like the Chromecast. As such, you’ll be able to efficiently and reliably play all of your YouTube TV channels right onto your TV with only a smartphone or computer equipped with the appropriate app.
For these reasons and more, YouTube TV is certainly one of the best cable alternatives for folks who want to maintain access to their existing channels while cutting their bill down substantially.
Though they were initially lessor known when compared to big industry players like Netflix, Hulu has carved out a content niche for itself in recent years. As a result, Hulu is certainly among the most popular cable alternatives available to consumers today. With their diverse mix of shows for family members of all ages, Hulu certainly makes it easier to cut the cable cord without regret.
Case and point: Hulu’s excellent collection of currently-airing network television shows. For example, if you miss a new episode of “Brooklyn 99”, “The Good Place”, or “Grey’s Anatomy”, you’ll be able to catch it as soon as the next day on Hulu. As a result, Hulu is far and away one of the best platforms to keep up with contemporary network television shows when you ordinarily lack the time or the money to accomplish this goal.
Hulu has also done a lot to bolster its offerings in recent years, including inking deals with major movie and TV producing groups to secure exclusive rights to their current and future libraries. This can be seen in their recent acquisitions of exclusive streaming rights for DreamWorks Animation and Funimation’s expansive content catalogues. Their recent majority acquisition by Disney also holds the potential for future fruitful partnerships.
Ordinarily, Hulu charges only $5.99 for their standard, ad-supported subscription – a bargain in its own right. But some would-be cable cutters may already have access to Hulu without knowing it. For example, if you already subscribe to Spotify Premium, you also have access to Hulu’s ad-supported subscription package for free. This can certainly make it easier to embrace this cable alternative.
For years now, Netflix has ruled the roost when it comes to streaming video content. As such, it is only logical that this well-supplied platform would make a worthwhile cable alternative. At only $8.99 for their basic package, it’s no wonder that Netflix has gained millions of concurrent users and set the current trend of cable cutting in favor of streaming television.
From their humble origins as the internet’s first-ever DVD rental service, Netflix has followed a path of originality and innovation. This creative vein has carried on through the present day, as seen in their unrivaled commitment to creating original content. Some of the most sensational and popular series of the past several years have been Netflix exclusives, including “Stranger Things,” “Black Mirror,” “Orange is the New Black”, and “Sense8.”
Even outside their original content, Netflix holds a wide variety of media partnerships that allow them to host many popular TV series and movies. NBC Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Nickelodeon all count themselves as faithful partners on the Netflix streaming platform, making it among the best options for retaining access to major movies and children’s entertainment.
Also, of note, Netflix offers a great structural system for maintaining differentiated accounts. With separate accounts under a single subscription, parents and their children can enjoy tailor-made recommendations based upon their own watching habits. This can also make it easy for even a modest-sized family to enjoy as much streaming content as they want for one flat rate.
When it comes down to finding a cable alternative, you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a streaming video with more content diversity between TV and movies then Netflix. Even as its subscription price has crept up in recent years, the value attained from even a few hours’ worth of watching makes it a clear alternative compared to costly cable.
Sling TV has also gained some attention lately as a viable cable alternative. Much of this hub-ub has been focused on Sling TV’s pioneering spirit in providing the first live TV digital streaming platform. This alone sets it apart from many of its cable alternative competitors because it can provide a similar degree of access to on-air television without the need to wait a day or a week for it to appear online.
Sling TV is actually operated by Dish Network but is a far-flung improvement from that hardware-centric cable option of the past. Even so, you don’t need a Dish subscription to use Sling TV. In fact, you can access Sling TV on a variety of contemporary digital platforms, including iOS, Android, Apple TV and Roku.
At its base, Sling TV costs $25 per month for its most basic packages of around 30 channels. These include the Blue and Orange packages, which include channels such as Fox and NBC or ESPN and Disney, respectively. As such, those looking for a variety of sporting, entertainment, and children’s channels will find a package that fits their needs on Sling TV.
If Sling TV has any one major downside, it is that it lacks a major portion of local TV channels. Only select markets have access to their local Fox and NBC channels as a result, making it difficult for folks who want to enjoy local news and entertainment to get what they want. This could also impact sports watchers who local sports teams are televised largely on local news stations.
Even for this small drawback, Sling TV is defiantly a great option for folks looking to cut cable and its hardware but retain the general structure and access of a standard cable package. Sling TV’s lack of contracts also makes the decision to switch to their services a simple, non-permanent proposition.
Your Local Library
Here’s a cable alternative you may have never considered: check your local library for their often impressive collection of popular television shows and movies. Libraries today are far more than book depositories; in fact, most provide access to great collections of digital and physical content that can easily and efficiently supplement any cable alternative regimen.
Depending on where you live, there’s almost certainly a library branch or two in your area that provides a great selection of DVDs for many of the most popular television programs. If you can’t find a particular show that you are interested in, you can also take advantage of your region’s inter-library loan system to gain your desired DVDs in just a few days’ time. From there, you’ll have a week or more to watch them before requiring a renewal.
Of course, to facilitate this system, you’ll need access to a DVD player at home. This has become more difficult in recent years as computers and entertainment systems alike have begun to drop DVD players in favor of providing more streaming capabilities. But even so, DVD players are fairly affordable and make a wise investment if you are trying to break free of the confines of pricy cable.
Also, if you choose to follow this route, don’t forget that everything from the library is effectively free. Because you pay for your local library as part of your taxes, you should absolutely take advantage of this community asset to make it easier to cut the cord on contracted cable.
Choosing the Best Cable Alternative
All in all, there are a great number of alternatives to cable available to consumers today. While many of these options are based in the streaming video industry, others provide an option to leverage existing resources in your orbit to make it easier to break free of expensive cable without losing entertainment access entirely.
When it comes down to choosing the best cable alternative, you should carefully consider both your budget and your desires when it comes to specific TV programming. You should select a cable alternative that provides you as many of those channels or programming options as possible while remaining within your pre-set budget.
Of course, you need not “choose” any one cable alternative as your only method of gaining TV and movie entertainment. In fact, you should absolutely consider combining several of these options to make a fully-fledged alternative to cable that still comes in with a cheaper bill than cable proper. What’s more, selecting several of these cable options holds the best opportunity to stay up to date on both current network-based entertainment and the very best in digital originals.
So, take the plunge! Cut cable and switch to one of these alternatives to save yourself some money and open the door to a new realm of digital entertainment access.