Best Alternatives to Cable TV

Best overall
  • Check
    Hundreds of channels
  • X
    Prices start at $84.99/mo.
Best streaming service
  • Check
    $8.99/mo.
  • X
    Uses internet data

Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on February 19, 2021

Which satellite TV provider is best?

Non-cable TV providers

If cable TV isn’t available in your area, or the price tag is too high, there are several ways to get the channels you love without paying for cable. DIRECTV and DISH are satellite TV services that deliver sports, movies, news, and more to your TV. Satellite TV can be installed almost anywhere—even in rural areas without phone service or other utilities.

Unlike video streaming, satellite TV doesn’t require internet service, so it’s a good option for people who have slow internet service or internet with a data cap (such as satellite internet). Just be aware that some DVRs use internet data for on-demand programming or cloud storage.

Best satellite TV providers

Directv
DIRECTV
Price
$64.99–$134.99/mo.‡
Channels
160–330+ channels
Contract
2 years
Dish
DISH
Price
$59.99–$94.99/mo.†
Channels
190–290+ channels
Contract
2 years

Data as of 2/16/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*For 24 months. Everyday Price $109.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
†For 12 months plus taxes and Regional Sports Fee w/24-mo. agmt. Autopay & Paperless bill req’d. Prices higher in 2nd year. Regional Sports Fee up to $9.99/mo. is extra & applies.*

Each satellite TV provider offers several plans, ranging in price depending on the number of channels. Premium channel add-ons are also available with all satellite carriers. The best plan for you will depend on what your viewing habits are, so pick a provider and scroll through channel listings. And remember, you don’t have to buy the biggest package to get premium channels—it’s sometimes cheaper to add premium channels to a smaller plan.

All DIRECTV packages

A favorite of sports fans, DIRECTV is home to NFL LEAGUE PASS and NFL SUNDAY TICKET. It’s not all about sports though—you can get a wide variety of movies, drama, news, history, cartoons, and more. For the first year, DIRECTV pricing is comparable to DISH but be aware that prices go up in the second year of service (and yes, you have to sign a 2-year contract to get service).

Our top recommendation is CHOICE All-Included, which gives you a huge variety of entertainment plus one free year of NFL LEAGUE PASS and NFL SUNDAY TICKET.

DIRECTV package
Channels
Price
Get it

ENTERTAINMENT All-Included

160+

$64.99/mo.*

CHOICE All-Included

185+

$69.99/mo.*

ULTIMATE All-Included

250+

$84.99/mo.*

PREMIER All-Included

330+

$134.99/mo.*

*Data as of 2/17/2021, plus taxes and additional fees. Autopay & Paperless bill reqd. Prices higher in 2nd year. 24-month contract required with service.

All DISH TV packages

DISH may not lure as many mainstream sports fans as DIRECTV, but DISH gives you plenty of entertainment choices. This top-rated satellite TV provider has the best-rated DVR, national and regional sports channels, and pretty much everything else you could find on DIRECTV without the price hike. Yup, you read that right. The best thing about DISH is that your price remains the same for the full contract period—instead of having your price nearly doubled in the second year (we’re looking at you, DIRECTV).

Most households find plenty to watch with America’s Top 120+, which includes 190 popular channels plus extra sports. If you don’t watch sports, get America’s Top 20 and save $15 per month.

DISH TV package
Channels
Price
Get it

America's Top 120

190

$59.99/mo.*

America's Top 120+

190+

$74.99/mo.†

America's Top 200

240+

$84.99/mo.‡

America's Top 250

290+

$94.99/mo§

Data as of 2/16/2021, plus taxes and any additional fees (such as Regional Sports Network fees, if desired). Prices locked for 2 years. 24-month contract required with service.
* For 24 months. Everyday Price $94.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
† For 24 months. Everyday Price $99.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
‡ For 24 months. Everyday Price $109.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.
§ For 24 months. Everyday Price $119.99/mo. New customers only. All offers require 2-year commitment with early termination fee and eAutopay. Price includes Hopper Duo for qualifying customers.

Best streaming services

Streaming is rapidly becoming the most popular way to watch TV and movies. If you have unlimited, high-speed internet, streaming services are easy to use. If you have internet service with a data cap, streaming is a little trickier. Check out our guide on Streaming with Satellite Internet for data saving tips. 

One of the reasons streaming is so popular is that it’s so cheap. Most streaming service memberships cost less than $10 per month, they’re contract-free, and they deliver a lot of content. So, cord-cutters can pay for several streaming service memberships and still pay much less than they’d be paying for cable TV. This means you can pare down your services when you are busy and aren’t watching much TV, then add a few extras when you’re spending more time at home. 

Pro tip
Location

Is your internet slowing you down?

If streaming doesn’t work well at your place, it could be due to your internet connection. We recommend download speeds of 25 Mbps for streaming per device. Find out if there are faster internet options in your area by typing in your zip code below.

Streaming services have evolved from the early Netflix days, becoming more specialized and compartmentalized. Streaming services pour millions into developing original content—shows like Bridgerton, The Boys, WandaVision, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Stranger Things, and Umbrella Academy. Netflix is still the most popular streaming service and gets our vote for the most all-around crowd pleasing. But, there are several others worth checking out. 

Hulu is our first choice for streaming TV shows (episodes are updated within a week of their air dates). Amazon Prime is great for movie rentals and original content, and Disney+ snags viewers with Marvel, Star Wars, and all the Disney originals we’ve grown up watching. 

Streaming deals and discounts

Realizing that one service can no longer deliver all the content we crave, some streaming services are starting to bundle together—like the ESPN, Disney+, and Hulu bundle for $12.99 per month. Several services offer a subscription plan with commercials for a lower price, including CBS All Access and Hulu. You can also get discounts by paying by the year instead of by the month with many services (ESPN+, Disney+, and Amazon Prime).

Top 10 video streaming services

Streaming service
Price
Learn more

Netflix

$8.99/mo.

Amazon Prime

$12.99/mo.

Hulu

$11.99/mo.

Disney+

$6.99/mo.

ESPN+

$5.99/mo.

CBS All Access

$9.99/mo.

HBO Max

$14.99/mo.

Crunchyroll

$7.99/mo.

AppleTV+

$4.99/mo.

Peacock Premium

$4.99/mo.

*Data as of 2/16/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Best live streaming TV

If you are looking for a complete replacement for cable TV, check into livestreaming TV. As long as you have unlimited high-speed internet, livestreaming TV can deliver many of the same channels as cable at a lower price. The most popular livestreaming TV providers are YouTubeTV, fuboTV, Sling TV, AT&T TV NOW, and Hulu + Live TV. 

Need better internet?
Location

Check out Best High-Speed Internet for Rural Areas in 2021. Then, start streaming!

 

There are many live TV streaming services, but we like Hulu + Live TV best, which gives you all the advantages of continuous TV served up 24/7 with a good library of on-demand content as well. 

Other live streaming services to check out include fuboTV (which caters to sports fans), YouTube TV (with over 100 channels of live content), and Sling TV (which is the lowest priced option at $35 per month). Although pricier than individual streaming services, a live streaming TV service can better replicate the cable TV experience.

Top 10 video streaming services

Live TV streaming service
Price
Learn more

Sling TV

$35/mo.

Hulu + Live TV

$64.99/mo.

YouTube TV

$64.98/mo.

fuboTV

$64.99/mo. & up

AT&T TV NOW

$69.99/mo. & up

*Data as of 2/16/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

TV antennas for free local TV

If you are interested in cutting the cord and the subscription services, the cheapest way to get TV stations is with a TV antenna. Although TV antennas don’t offer cable channels and deliver a limited number of channels, you can get local stations for free. The only cost is buying the antenna—no monthly subscription is required. 

You could get 10–20 channels for free every month with a TV antenna, depending on where you live, what stations are broadcasting in your area, and how far your antenna range is. The further you live from a big city with broadcasting stations, the more you’ll need to spend on a TV antenna. 

Best TV antennas

Best for...Best mid-rangeBest for city dwellersBest long range antenna
AntennaAntennas Direct ClearStream FLEX Amplified TV AntennaMohu Leaf Metro TV AntennaAntennas Direct Clearstream 4V TV Antenna
What it looks like
Features• Sticks to walls or windows (inside only)
• 50+ mile range
• $59.99
• Sticks to walls or windows (inside only)
• 25 mile range
• $17.99
• Attic or roof installation
• 70+ mile range
• $109.99
Get it

Amazon.com prices as of 2/16/21 6:15 MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SatelliteInternet.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

FAQ about alternatives to cable TV

What is the best alternative to cable TV for people who live in the countryside?

If you live in a rural area, the best alternative to cable TV is probably going to be satellite TV. If you have a fast internet connection at your home with unlimited data, your best choice might be streaming services. However, many rural areas have limited internet options and low data caps, making streaming impractical. Streaming services use a lot of internet data.

Is DISH cheaper than DIRECTV?

If you look at the full 2-year contract, DISH is cheaper than DIRECTV because DIRECTV increases prices in the second half of your contract. DIRECTV prices nearly double after the first 12 months, while DISH prices are locked in place for 2 years.

Can I get NFL SUNDAY TICKET with DISH satellite TV service?

No, DISH does not offer NFL SUNDAY TICKET. However, DISH has many other sports channels, including NFL RedZone, ESPN, Regional Sports Network, and more. In fact, DISH has more college football coverage than DIRECTV. 

What is the cheapest alternative to cable TV?

Here are the cheapest alternatives to cable TV.

  • Streaming with video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, ESPN+, or others.
  • Renting DVDs and Blu-rays or signing up for DVD rental plan by mail.
  • Downloading content while you’re on free internet in town (McDonalds, coffee shops, libraries, universities, etc.).
  • Getting a TV antenna so you can get local TV stations for free. 

 Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SatelliteInternet.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

CERTAIN CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON THIS SITE COMES FROM AMAZON. THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED ‘AS IS’ AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR REMOVAL AT ANY TIME.

Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at SatelliteInternet.com. Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor, Space.com, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.