Gift Cards Travel 8 Reliable Alternatives to Cable TV
Since first appearing in the late 20th century, cable television has become a staple for many American families. Currently, over 60 million households in America stream cable television. However, the growing presence of mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones has led to a considerable increase in popularity of streaming services.
Streaming services have two edges to cable televisions: instant access and lower cost. Today's population of tech-savvy individuals want access to their favorite shows and movies wherever they are, and streaming services can deliver just that. In addition, streaming services are generally cheaper than cable subscriptions. Consider that while the average cable network costs $20 minimum per month, there are often many hidden fees that can add up to create a larger bill. On the other hand, streaming channels are often less expensive per month. Some are even free.
The one big challenge when moving from cable to streaming is picking from the multitude of available options. Here are the top streaming services available on the market today.
Philo is a contract-free service that allows you to watch up to 50 different channels. All you have to pay is $20 a month—and that's it. Some of the channels included in Philo's selection are MTV, Comedy Central, the Food Network, and the Discovery Channel.
Additional pros to Philo include the ability to stream on three devices at once and have up to 10 different viewer profiles per account. You can also record any channel you're watching via Philo to be saved for later. You can keep this saved show for up 30 days. In terms of which devices can use Philo, they include any major web browser (except for Opera), iOS, Android, and TV systems such as roku, fireTV, Android TV, and Apple TV.
The only con to Philo is that it doesn't include sport channels and local channels in its service. This means that if you're a big sports fan or like to watch the local news, unfortunately, these particular channels won't be available via Philo. However, if you're not such a huge fan of sports, or don't really bother with the local news, then feel free to cut the cable cord and go with Philo as an excellent alternative.
Philo offers a free 7-day trial. All you need to do is sign up with your phone number or email on their website and you're all set.
While they initially started out as a streaming service with the option to borrow DVDs, Netflix has grown to become a streaming powerhouse with movies, TV shows, documentaries, and their own original content. While Netflix's cultural influence and market presence is undeniable, whether or not Netflix is the right service for you depends on your watching habits.
We definitely recommend Netflix if you want to access Netflix-exclusive movies, TV shows, and content such as Korean zombie drama Kingdom or horror-thriller movie Bird Box. After all, these can't be found on any old television cable channel. Also, if you're the type who would rather not see ads while watching televised entertainment, then Netflix is the choice for you.
There are a few cons you should know about Netflix. First, their basic plan only allows viewers to stream to one device at a time. Second, the movies and TV shows provided on Netflix have a risk of getting cycled out at the end of the month depending on member viewership. Finally, Netflix isn't a live television streaming service, which means avid sports fans and watchers of local news and other channels will not be able to watch all their favorite shows or games.
Netflix currently offers three plans for their streaming service:
- $9 per month for Basic
- $13 per month for Standard
- $16 per month for Premium
The main difference between the plans is that Standard allows you to watch on two devices at a time and stream in HD. Premium, on the other hand, allows you to stream up to 4 devices at a time and lets you watch in 4K definition.
To get a taste-test of Netflix's service, you can try their 30-day free trial. All you need is a credit card and you're set to cut the cord!
Launched in 2007, Hulu is another digital content-streaming service. While they're not as strong as Netflix when it comes to producing their own content, Hulu offers a diversity of TV shows and movies. You can also find older TV shows such as Ugly Betty or more current ones such as RuPaul's Drag Race on Hulu. Last but not least, if you have Sprint as your phone provider, you get a free Hulu subscription.
For those who are fans of anime, Hulu also has a wider selection of older anime series in comparison to other streaming services. The majority of these series are available in subbed form as well, for those who prefer the original language versus a dubbed show.
One last big pro to Hulu is that it updates its TV shows quickly. Whereas Netflix usually waits for a whole season to be done filming before uploading the show, Hulu will feature the newest episode of a TV show within a day of first broadcast.
Hulu has two large cons. One is that it doesn't offer as much digital content versus other streaming services. Another is the presence of ads. Even for their most basic plan, viewers have to sit through ads.
For their most Basic plan, Hulu costs $6 per month, which is a huge steal if you don't mind the ads. If you prefer not to have ads, you can upgrade to their Premium option, which is $12 per month. However, for those who wish to have news coverage and channels such as the Disney Channel, you can pair your subscription with a Live TV bundle. The cheapest bundle is $55 per month and the most expensive one is $61 per month without ads. Furthermore, you can also purchase a Disney+ or ESPN+ bundle for an additional cost, making it so much easier to cut the cable television cord.
If you want to try Hulu out, they have a free 7-day trial and all you need to input is your payment details.
4. Amazon Prime
Typically, Amazon Prime makes the average consumer think of free, two-day shipping. However, Amazon Prime also includes a streaming service. Compared to Hulu and Netflix, Amazon Prime has a lot more digital content to offer, including music. Furthermore, if you're a TV show or movie buff, Amazon Prime may not have the popular shows you love.
In reality, Amazon Prime's main pro as a streaming service is the fact that it's coupled with other perks such as free shipping, discounts, and access to other Amazon services. These are good factors to consider as Amazon Prime does have a higher price compared to other streaming services—$13 per month or $119 annually. However, if you're a student, you can get a discount and only have to pay $59 annually.
We wouldn't suggest getting Amazon Prime if you're not trying to take advantage of the any other perks of owning a Prime membership. But if you're a student or have the budget for it, Amazon Prime is definitely a great streaming service to consider.
If you want to try out Amazon Prime, all you need to do for a free 30-day trial is to provide your payment information.
For our Disney buffs, Disney+ is the dream streaming service. Primarily streaming Disney-exclusive content, including Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, Disney + also has a wide array of content from other companies such as 20th Century Fox and National Geographic.
A big pro to Disney+ is its cost. It's only $7 a month, doesn't have an additional premium service, and is contract-free, so you don't have to worry about committing to a long-term plan. You can also get Disney+ for free if your phone provider is Verizon. Furthermore, if you want more digital content, such as more television shows, movies, or sports coverage, you can bundle Disney+ with other services such as Hulu and ESPN+.
Naturally, the only con to Disney+ would be its limited content, especially for those who aren't too big on Disney. However, if Disney is your life, then this is the streaming service for you. If you're interested, you can try out Disney+ free for seven days as along as you provide payment information.
ESPN+ is the premier streaming service for sports fans. They feature everything from Major League Baseball to UFC fights. One thing to keep in mind for ESPN+ however, is that it doesn't directly stream the live games available on ESPN channels. This is an important thing to note. Having an ESPN+ membership does not mean that you will have access to the original ESPN channel or ESPN2. However, you will still be able to watch a variety of live games and competitions.
Luckily, ESPN+ is relatively cheap at $5 per month, and doesn't have a premium service where you have to pay more money to access more content. You can also bundle this streaming service with other services, such as Hulu and Disney+ for a cheaper price. We wouldn't say it's an exact alternative for ESPN, but if you want the option of being able to carry sports news with you beyond the television set, ESPN+ is a good service to consider.
Unfortunately, ESPN+ compared to other streaming services does not offer a free trial. Before you decide whether or not to sign up with this service, it's best to look at the games and matches they cover before making a final decision.
Crackle is an excellent alternative to cable TV, as it is a lesser-known streaming website owned by Sony. The best part? It's free. There's no basic or premium service plan to choose from. It costs no money to use the site, and users don't even need to sign up to access a library of free movies and TV shows.
There are two downsides to using Crackle. The first is its quality of featured content. Compared to Hulu, Netflix, or Disney+, Crackle mainly hosts lesser known, B-list movies. However, Crackle does occasionally offer well-known classics, so even popular films such as Die Hard and The Dictator will appear every once in a while. Like many free things on the Internet, Crackle also plays ads.
We don't suggest using Crackle on its own, or as a full replacement for digital content / live streaming. However, it can be a good place to find and watch certain movies and shows for free.
8. Your Local Library
Last but not least, one of the most underrated alternatives to cable television is simply renting DVDs from your local library. Depending on your local library, the service and breadth of available content will vary. But for most public libraries, you can rent items such as DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks. All you need to do is sign up for a library card, which should cost no more than a one-time fee. (Fee prices may vary depending on your library.)
It's also not uncommon for libraries to digitize their content nowadays. Many public libraries have partnerships with streaming service-providers such as Kanopy, which features movies, TV shows, and educational documentaries. Also, if you're a university student, Kanopy may be free for you. All you need to do is to provide your library card and the public library you frequent. If you're a university student, all you need to provide is your university's name, and you're all set!
Digital Content is Just a Click Away
Technology has made content more accessible than ever before, and the variety of streaming options available proves it. Most people will often pair a live streaming service with a digital content service, which allows them to access a wide collection of content while also being able to watch things live. But before you cut the cord for good, we recommend doing your research, understanding your viewing habits, and making sure to ask your friends and family for their own recommendations.