With internet streaming services, you now have an array of options for watching TV without cable, in addition to some old-fashioned ways to watch.
Some of these methods are free and some aren’t, but for the most part you’ll pay less than the average cable bill, which was about $100 a month in 2016. Whether you get as full a slate of content is another story.
We’ve rounded up several of the best ways to watch TV without cable, along with some of the strengths and weaknesses of each option.
1. Buy a digital antenna for broadcast TV
Local broadcast channels are still available for free over the air. All you need is a digital TV antenna and a TV with a digital tuner (which is standard on pretty much any TV purchased within the last decade). If you’ve got a TV older than that, you can still receive broadcast channels, but you’ll need a digital-to-analog converter box along with your digital antenna.
This gives you access to high-definition broadcast TV. While not the largest set of options, you can’t beat the price.
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2. Watch free content on broadcast websites
Every major television broadcaster (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and the CW) has some kind of free content available on their website — some more than others. You might have to poke around a bit to find out if full episodes of your favorite show are available. Sometimes the full episodes are hidden behind a paywall, with only a smattering of episode clips available for free.
But for instance, as of this writing, NBC has the entire original series of “Will & Grace” streaming for free on its website to coincide with the popular series’ reboot. If you’re not too picky about what you watch, you should find something to satisfy your interests.
3. Subscribe to an on-demand streaming service
Stand-alone streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video are other alternatives to traditional cable. There are also more niche offerings like HBOGo and YouTube Red.
These services will generally run you $10 a month, give or take, and each might appeal to slightly different types of viewers. For instance, Netflix has stronger original content, while Hulu allows you to stay up to date with new episodes as they air. Depending on your taste and preference, you’ll want to investigate the content each service has to offer. Also, consider the internet speed you need in order to get the best quality picture.
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4. Subscribe to a live TV streaming service
If access to live TV is non-negotiable, there are services like Sling TV, Playstation VUE and DirecTV Now. These companies focus on streaming live TV channels, though they usually come with some on-demand content as well.
Figure out how many channels you absolutely need to have. For instance, Sling TV’s slimmest package runs $20 a month for around 30 channels, while Playstation VUE’s top-end package costs about $75 per month for around 90 channels plus HBO and Showtime.
You can pick a service that gives you the right mix of price and channel selection with much more precision than a traditional cable package. These services are especially great for sports fans looking to cut the cord.
5. Buy a streaming device
This category overlaps with the previous two. Streaming devices like Roku, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick hook up to your TV so you can connect to your on-demand or live TV streaming service. If you have a smart TV (one that can support streaming apps directly) then you won’t need any extra equipment.
A streaming device can be a handy way to organize all your different content delivery services in one place. For instance, you can use your Netflix, Hulu or Amazon video account through Roku, while also accessing Roku’s own library of on-demand content.
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