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Best Alternatives to Cable or Satellite TV: Cutting the Cord of Television

Updated on November 19, 2012

Ready to Cut the Cord?

If you are thinking about getting rid of cable to either save money or save yourself time from watching reruns, there is no better time than now. Whether you are looking for alternatives to broadcast, cable, or satellite there are many options for you. Alternatives to cable and broadcast, as well as satellite TV can not only save you money, but they can save you time. There are so many reasons to not use cable any more. Too many commercials, too few or too many cable channels, can't select which episodes you want to watch, movies cost extra, the list goes on and on. With so many alternatives to cable to choose from, it can get confusing on what you should pick. This list of alternatives to both cable and satellite television should help you decide.


One of the starters of the revolution away from cable was probably Netflix. Netflix has a streaming option of just $7.99 a month. Netflix is known for their movies, but they are slowly moving into the realm of television shows. They currently have many popular television shows in their current seasons. They also have many movies.

Some complains of Netflix, however, are that they don't have the widest selection of television programs. This means you may not be able to find all of the programs that you watch or want to watch. They have many of the most popular television shows, but not all of them.

One final complain of Netflix is that they don't always have the most recent movies. They may have some of the most popular current movies, but streamers may have to wait a while after a current movie comes out to see it on streaming.

In the end Netflix is a good service and is one of the best and most popular streaming services out there.


While Hulu can be free, the paid version of Hulu - called Hulu Plus - has the best selection and most recent television shows. Hulu Plus costs $7.99 a month and also has movies and television. However, It could be seen as the opposite of Netflix. Hulu has a huge variety of TV shows, but is lacking in movies.

One complaint of Hulu is that even if you pay for Hulu Plus, you still have to view commercials for some TV shows. For some shows it is only if you watch their most recent season. For others, it is for any and all episodes.

Another complaint is that while Hulu does have a very wide selection of television shows, and a moderate range of movies, they don't have every television show and they lack a few popular shows.

However, if you are looking for one of the best television streaming sites, Hulu is definitely the best for nearly any TV show you are looking for.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime has many benefits for nearly everybody. At $79 a year (about $6.59 a month) it is the cheapest of these three. However, if you are a student it is only $39 a year while you are in college. This membership is charged yearly, however, and is a much larger commitment than the first two options. Amazon Prime has a smaller selection of movies and television than Hulu and Netflix, but it seems that if either Hulu or Netflix doesn't have a show or movie, Amazon will. Another thing to note about Amazon Prime is that all movies and shows they have are not free. While a good portion of them are free to stream, some of them will cost. However, the ones that cost tend to be very new movies or shows that neither Netflix or Hulu has yet. So while this may seem like a downside to some, it can really be a benefit if you'd rather stream a new movie than go pick it up.

Another, additional, benefit of Amazon Prime is that you get access to the Kindle's lending library which let's you "borrow" a book for your kindle for free. This lending library is limited, but it does have a pretty great selection.

Another benefit of Amazon Prime is that you get free two-day shipping on thousands of items shipped by Amazon.

So, for Amazon, it really can be the place that works best for some people, or it may not. If you don't use Amazon for shopping or reading, then Amazon Prime may not be your best bet for streaming TV. But if you do use Amazon for shopping or reaing, it may be the best bang for your buck with all of its additional benefits.


While iTunes does have streaming options and some free content, most of it is pay-per-episode or movie (rent or purchase, similarly to Amazon). This may be a cheaper alternative to cable if you don't watch very much of anything. But, it can add up very fast if you do happen to watch a lot of TV or movies. iTunes does have a great selection of many different movies and TV shows. Also, if you own several Apple products (iPod Touch, Apple TV, iPad, etc) it can be beneficial to have all of your shows organized across several devices. However, if you plan on watching lots of television or movies, one of the other streaming services may be the way to go.

Free Online Streaming Services

If you are not too picky about what you watch, then free streaming services may be the way to go to entertain yourself without paying cable companies. These following services are all free and fantastic for viewing video entertainment:

  • YouTube (any sort of video web-content you can imagine is here)
  • Vimeo (Has a little bit higher quality stuff than YouTube and is a little less eclectic)
  • Funny Or Die (Very funny videos from high profile celebrities down to people who filmed stuff on their phone)
  • MetaCafe (A huge range of videos, similar to YouTube)
  • TED (Ideas Worth Spreading, think Science Channel)

These are just a few of the most popular video streaming websites. Some television shows and networks will allow you to stream their content for free off of their websites. If there is a specific show you watch, look and see if you can't find it on the company who airs its website. These specific websites listed, along with many others, allows you to watch all sorts of varying entertainment for free. These websites may not have big budget syndicated entertainment, but some of the content can be of a very high quality and just as entertaining. If you are looking for a completely free alternative to cable, then using one of the above mentioned services may be for you.

Don't Be Afraid to Shop Around

Shop around. If you find a show you know you love on one of these services, don't feel you need to stick with it if you find another show on another service you like. Don't be afraid to mix and match. Every service will not have every movie or show. Similarly, some services shows and movies will overlap. Find what works best for you, and even if you mix and match, it will still probably be cheaper than cable, and you get the benefit of watching what you want when you want it!

How to Get it All on Your TV

When it comes to watching all of this content on your TV it gets a little more complicated. While this is all very simple to watch on a laptop or a tablet, you will need additional devices, or an internet-ready TV to watch these things on your TV. Most laptops and tablets nowadays allow you to plug an HDMI cable directly to your TV. This is the cheapest and simplest option. However, if you want a dedicated TV streaming device, you still have several options. Most current game systems such as the Playstation 3, XBox 360, or Wii (and the Wii U) allow you to stream content onto your TV. There are also devices made specifically for streaming such as Roku and Apple TV devices. Below are some of the devices that you can use to stream content from the internet directly to your TV.


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