How to Go Completely Cable-Free in 2019Streaming, Video & Music
The number of cable-free households has tripled since 2013, with as many as 33 million folks quitting cable in 2018 alone. People are sick of paying exorbitant amounts to watch TV, so they’re cutting the cord and turning to live TV streaming services instead.
If you’re ready to join their ranks, you’ve come to the right place. This post will help you figure out which combination of streaming devices and services you need to get access to everything—from live TV to basic cable and premium channels like HBO—for the lowest price.
As of now, there’s no clear-cut answer to cutting the cord in 2019. It depends on what channels you want, when you want them, and how much you’re willing to pay. But, with a little bit of analysis, you’ll be cable-free in no time.
Consider this your how-to guide for getting the most streaming channels for the least amount of money. We break down how to approach going cable-free, and the cost of the different streaming services and streaming devices you’ll need.
Take these three steps to a cable-free 2019.
Step 1: Figure out what you want.
According to Deloitte, over half of cable subscribers are unsatisfied with their service, with 70% believing they don’t get enough value for what they’re paying.
When you switch to a streaming service, you’re going to pay significantly less than what you’re currently paying for cable. However, you’re still going to be just as unhappy if the streaming service you choose is missing some key channels. So, before you cut the cord, you need to do a little bit of prep work.
First, check your monthly cable bill and take note of how much you’re paying. Know that many cable companies—in direct response to the cable-cutting trend—are more willing to negotiate than ever. So, you may want to call them up and see if you can get the same or a similar bundle, for significantly less money.
If, on the other hand, you’ve already decided you’re sick of cable and can’t wait to cut the cord, just keep note of your monthly bill as a comparison point. You’ll use this number to compare the costs of different streaming services and devices.
Before you go shopping, create a wishlist of what you want. This should include:
- Your favorite, must-have channels. Each streaming service will list the channels that are included with various plans that they offer. Double-check all of these to make sure the ones you want are included.
- Any additional subscription channels you want. Typically, premium channels like HBO or Showtime are available for an monthly add-on fee.
- Whether or not you want to watch live TV (for sports, events or news coverage). You can either choose a streaming service that includes Live TV, or invest in an antenna to access your local channels. All of the services we review below include Live TV.
- Whether or not you want DVR. Many streaming services allow you to record your favorite shows to watch later via DVR, with additional features like multiple user profiles, included cloud storage, and more. Consider what’s important to you and make note of it.
- Any compatibility preferences. The streaming service you choose will only work with a particular list of devices. You want to be sure you already own a compatible device, or are willing to buy one. If you have strong brand loyalty (or have already invested in an all-Apple or all-Amazon ecosystem of devices in your home), keep this in mind as you select your streaming device.
One last pro tip before you go shopping:
Look up your favorite TV shows online. Many networks show recent episodes of their shows online for free, with commercials. Alternately, many shows are available for purchase on iTunes. If you only need HBO because you watch Game of Thrones, it may be cheaper to buy the latest season for $25 to $40 instead of paying a $5 to $15 monthly fee to your streaming service.
Step 2: Choose your streaming service.
Since we’re focusing on getting you the most bang for your buck, we’ve rated the standard options in this article, which include all the major channels you’d expect. These include DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Playstation Vue, and Hulu Plus + Live TV.
- DirecTV Now feels a lot like cable. You’ll swipe to change the channel like regular TV, and up to 20 hours of free cloud DVR storage is included with each plan for 30 days. In addition to streaming through your TV, you can watch on your Apple or Android phone, or stream on the web in Chrome or Safari. As a perk, the Plus plan ($50, with 40 channels) includes HBO for free. Upgrade to Max for another $20, and you’ll get 50 channels with Cinemax, too. Two simultaneous streams are included. Save with these DirecTV promo codes.
- Sling TV is the big name among cord-cutting fans. Sling wins for its affordability, but that affordability does come with some drawbacks. It’s missing several local stations, not all channels allow you to save their shows to the DVR, and you can only stream to one device at a time. However, if you pair Sling with an antenna, you can get the big cable channels everyone wants with most of your local stations. Sling also works with the widest range of devices. At the time of writing, HBO and Cinemax have been dropped from Sling, but you can get other premium channels like Cinemax for $10/mo. Save with these Sling promo codes.
- Playstation Vue has a lot to offer households with multiple people who have different TV preferences, since it allows up to 5 simultaneous streams and 10 personalized DVR profiles. However, it has the priciest add-ons for HBO and Showtime, at up to $15 each. Although, if you buy the most expensive “Ultra” plan, you get all 100 channels, along with HBO and Showtime (for roughly $10 each). Save with these PlayStation promo codes.
- Hulu Plus + Live TV While Hulu isn’t a premium channel in its own right just yet, award-winning shows like The Handmaid’s Tale are on their way to getting it there. Hulu + Live TV is a good choice for those who love Hulu series, but want to work in regular cable TV. However, some find the user interface frustrating, and it’s missing some popular cable channels and the ability to skip commercials with the default DVR (although that’s available for a $15 upgrade). Premium channels are pricier, too, ranging from $8.99 for Starz to $14.99 for HBO. Save with these Hulu Plus promo codes.
In addition to the four above, there’s also YouTube TV, which costs $40 per month and includes 60 channels. However, it’s not available nationwide, and there is no way to upgrade to get additional channels. You’re stuck with the default list. For that reason, we haven’t included it in our comparison table below.
For ease of comparison, here’s a roundup of what’s offered with each of these four services:
Minimum Channels Included
Premium Channel Add-On Fee
$50, $70, $86, $93, $110, $124, $135
40, 50, 65, 85, 90, 105, 125
$0 to $11
Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Samsung Smart TV
$25, $25, $40
34, 47, 54
$5 to $10
Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox One, AirTV, LG, Oculus, iOS, Android, Windows
$44.99, $49.99, $59.99, $79.99
51, 77, 98, 100
$8.99 to $15
Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Sony TV, PlayStation 3 and 4, iOS, Android
Hulu + Live TV
$8.99 to $14.99
Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Samsung, LG, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
As you can see, Sling is the cheapest option by far. It’s also compatible with the widest range of devices, giving you the most flexibility when you go to buy your streaming media player. However, you’ll have to decide if you’re happy with their default channel list. If not, you’ll need to go with another option.
Or, you can fill in Sling’s channel gaps with an antenna. It may feel retro to buy an antenna in the streaming age, but getting your own antenna is one of the best ways to watch live TV for free. You’ll get most, if not all, of your local stations, with additional channels on top of that. Plus, an antenna is super cheap, at only $30 to $120, depending on the range.
You can also supplement any of these streaming services with single-network streaming services. Here are some of the more popular options, with their costs:
- HBO Now costs $14.99 per month. If you only need regular channels, you may be able to get most of them using your antenna, and then supplement that with a HBO Now subscription and Hulu or Netflix.
- CBS All Access costs $9.99 per month, or $5.99 with commercials.
- Showtime streaming costs $10.99 per month.
- Starz streaming costs $8.99 per month.
Step 3: Get your streaming device.
Since you’ll no longer be using your cable box, you need some other device to actually stream this content to your TV. That’s where a smart TV or streaming device comes in.
Using your smart TV is the cheapest option—but only if you already own one. Otherwise, these are a hefty investment. If you own a smart TV, double-check that it’s compatible with the streaming service of your choice.
If you don’t, buying a streaming media player is the better (and incredibly affordable) option. All of the big four live TV streaming services work with these. In order of least to most expensive, here are your best options:
- Roku Express costs $30. This HD streaming media player delivers the basics for the lowest price. You can upgrade to a better Roku player for more bells and whistles like voice-activation and 4K. Save with these Roku promo codes.
- Google Chromecast costs $35. If you have a Google Home, it’s voice-activated. You can also stream from your phone or laptop to your TV using a Chromecast, which is a nice option for any TV you stream from the web. Save with these Google promo codes.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick costs $39.99. Thanks to built-in Alexa, you can control your streaming service using your voice and sync your TV with other Alexa-enabled smart home devices. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll get access to all the premium content on Amazon Prime Video and Prime Music. Save with these Amazon promo codes.
- Apple TV 4K costs $175 to $199. It’s voice-powered by Siri, syncs with your iPhone photos and videos, and includes the Apple Store built-in. Save with these Apple promo codes.
The beauty of cord-cutting is that once you figure out the cheapest option, it’s super simple to set up. There’s no coordinating with the cable company and hooking up complicated hardware. Usually, it’s as easy as registering and paying online, then getting your streaming media player and sticking it into your TV.
Our recommendation: Sling TV with an Antenna
For most people, we recommend Sling TV, with a Roku Express and antenna. You’ll get the popular channels for just $25 to $40 a month, plus the cost of your $30 Roku and an antenna. If you need HBO, you can always add it with a HBO NOW subscription.
Plus, Sling often runs promotions where you can get a free or discounted Roku, AirTV player, or antenna included with your purchase. Before making the switch, grab a promo code from Knoji to save on your new streaming service and device — and make sure you opt in to the free trial!