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Learning how to watch TV without cable saves you money, and it can open the door to experiences you didn’t even know existed.
To watch TV without cable, you need to understand a few things first.
- Determine what parts of cable TV you need to replace
- Find the suitable replacements for your content and live experiences
- Purchase the correct equipment for streaming
In this article, we dive deeper into how you can enjoy TV without cable.
We look at what you’re most likely to miss and how you can fill the void with streaming services and local channels.
We also explain what you need to watch TV without cable, such as a TV antenna or a streaming device.
Table of Contents
How To Watch TV Without Cable
Determine What Parts Of Cable TV To Replace
Before you can find a path to travel to watch TV without cable, you need to explore any hesitations you have before you cut the cord.
Doing this will help you determine what parts of cable TV you enjoy, making it easier to find proper replacements.
Focus first on the content that you enjoy from cable.
Do you prefer movies or shows? What genres did you like?
Are there any specific shows or channels that you favor and want to continue to follow?
Next, consider your attitude toward live TV channels.
Was it important for you to view events live, or are you OK with using your DVR to record shows and watch them when you want?
If you’re the type of person to watch live sports, this is probably a significant pain point.
The same is true if you enjoy watching local news channels as well.
Also, consider how much you enjoy the experience of watching TV outside of the content.
Very few people think about the experience and only focus on the content.
Are you the type of person who likes to channel surf? Are cliffhangers something that you look forward to unraveling in the next episode?
Do you want to be able to chat with your friends about what’s currently airing?
Answering these questions and exploring any reservations you have will give you the best chance to find a suitable replacement for cable TV.
Finding Proper Cable TV Replacements
Once you understand what you like about cable TV, you can move forward by finding the proper replacements.
Regardless of your preferences, these replacements fall into:
- Video streaming on-demand (VSOD) services
- Live TV streaming services
- Streaming bundles
- Local stations
Finding the right blend of services will allow you to watch TV without relying on expensive cable services.
If you’ve done the audit of your preferences correctly and researched your options, you will have a greater variety of options for a lower price than cable or satellite TV when you cut the cord.
Let’s look at each of these categories in detail to help find the best solution for your needs.
Streaming services are not as new as many people believe, and initially, you needed a cable subscription service to access them.
Since then, companies have taken advantage of the internet to offer you ways to stream videos on demand independent of a cable subscription.
These VSOD services let you watch movies and TV without cable, but the content varies depending on your service.
There are plenty of options out there, including:
- Amazon Prime Video
- YouTube TV
Some streaming services follow specific genres, such as Shudder for horror enthusiasts or Crunchyroll for anime lovers.
Channels such as History Channel and AMC offer their own streaming services to unlock past and current content independent of a cable subscription.
In most cases, you can watch all the same shows that air on the cable channels and exclusive content just for subscribers.
Premiums channels like HBO and Starz were once only accessible with a cable subscription, but you can now subscribe directly to their specific streaming service for specific content.
Look for streaming services:
- From your favorite channels
- That offers the type of content you like to see
- That fit into your budget
Don’t rush into any streaming subscriptions until you figure out all your cable TV replacement details.
As you’ll see later, you’ll usually find deals with bundles or on specific platforms.
Note that most VSOD services do not offer live TV or the ability to stream local channels.
Live TV Streaming Services
One of the most challenging aspects of cable TV to replace is your ability to watch live TV.
Most people have held onto their cable for this reason, but it’s becoming easier to watch live TV channels without cable.
Some previously mentioned streaming services also offer live TV streaming services, particularly channel-specific ones.
Having the option of live TV ensures you won’t miss out on your favorite programs in real-time.
Currently, there are a small handful of services that offer live TV.
- Sling TV
- Hulu with Live TV
- DirecTV Stream
- YouTube TV
For others, you need to find a live streaming service that covers your area of interest.
Sports lovers should look into an ESPN+ or fuboTV subscription, while others may have better luck with a more inclusive streaming bundle.
Most of the services that offer live TV offer local broadcast channels too.
But some might not have a contract agreement with all the channels.
For example, one might not have a contract with ABC, so they might not offer your local ABC channel.
Because of this, you must ask to see what local broadcast networks you will have access to.
Streaming bundles, also known as skinny bundles, are like a smaller version of a cable subscription.
They help you save money while providing you with a greater variety of channels and content to watch.
A streaming bundle usually offers a live TV streaming service alongside on-demand video streaming.
Like Hulu with Live TV, some offer you a generic bundle, while providers like Sling TV allow you to pick different packages and add-ons to get as much or as little as you need.
Some streaming bundles, like Pluto TV, are free to access.
You may need to watch a few ads before getting to the content, but this is no different from the ads shown on cable networks.
The catch here is many times, you will need to sign up for multiple bundles to get all the channels you want.
And if you are a TV fan, the costs of this can quickly add up and, in some cases, cost you more than traditional cable TV or satellite TV service.
You can always watch local channels without cable.
These are free on the air as long as you have a television and antenna to tune in.
Local TV channels tend to fall in the shadow of cable TV, but they bring you local programming and relevant content.
Regional sports networks let you watch sports for free, and TV antennas bring you local news.
Most major broadcast networks, like PBS, are free to access.
Access varies depending on your location, and you get the channel surfing benefits without the cost of a cable box.
Because you don’t need an internet connection, this is the only option with no recurring cost beyond electricity.
Securing The Proper Equipment
If you want to watch TV without cable, you need to purchase the right equipment.
Buying the right equipment means investing in a TV antenna if you plan on watching local channels.
If you are looking into a streaming service, an internet connection is required and a streaming device.
However, some TVs are smart TVs, meaning they have streaming apps built-in.
Having apps built-in saves you money from not paying for a streaming device.
The equipment you need varies depending on:
- The streaming services you want
- Your desire to watch local channels
- Your budget
- Your future plans
The equipment rarely costs more than a month of cable TV, but before investing, you should take your time.
Let’s look into what you will need to cut the cord.
A simple TV antenna should suffice if you only want to watch local TV channels.
The antenna helps you receive broadcast signals for your local ABC or local CBS station and any other local networks.
An antenna is the best option for someone who doesn’t care much about watching TV or if you want to cut costs as much as possible.
A TV antenna can be cheaper than a streaming device, and it still gives you access to major networks, your local news channel, watching sports, movies, and TV shows.
While it’s not the fanciest option, it’s the easiest to implement and the cheapest overall.
And before you think it is too limited for you, know that in 2009 when broadcast television went digital, many local stations had more bandwidth.
This change allowed them to air additional local network channels.
In fact, you can get some of the channels you get with your cable package for free.
Most of these channels air classic TV shows from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, as well as movies and local events.
I recommend that people first buy a TV antenna on Amazon and hook it up.
You don’t need to mount it on your roof. Place it next to your TV as it connects with a simple cable.
Then see what channels you get.
Since you bought it from Amazon, you can try it out for 30 days and return it if it isn’t for you.
Internet connection is essential for any streaming service that relies on a network connection.
While you aren’t downloading videos, you need the internet for streaming videos.
If you plan to cut the cord, there’s a chance you’re cutting your internet connection as well.
Pay attention to the potential costs from this fallout.
Sometimes, independent internet service and streaming may not be cheaper than cable TV.
When dropping your cable company, see if they offer internet independently.
They may offer you a deal to try to keep you as a customer.
Many cable companies are increasing the rates on their internet-only service.
When a friend called to cancel cable and keep internet only, he was only saving $15 a month.
Finally, make sure your internet connection is suitable for streaming video.
Depending on the number of people streaming video, you might have to pay for a higher speed plan, which costs more money.
A higher-priced plan might be required because some speeds are insufficient for a good viewing experience, and some internet service providers have data caps that may be too low each month for streaming.
Streaming Service Platforms
Streaming service platforms are like the different stores you shop at to gather your streaming services.
This is similar to getting apps from iPhone or Android app stores or shopping at Walmart or Target.
They offer similar products, but they have different layouts and benefits.
Streaming platforms should have the specific services you intend to use, and you’ll need to purchase the right equipment to access the platform.
Roku was the original streaming box.
There are several options for Roku streaming devices, including Roku TV and streaming sticks, and they have one of the largest app libraries.
Apple TV and Android TV are the respective platforms available for those products.
Apple TV devices are simple and familiar for iOS users, while Android TV offers customization and compatibility.
Amazon Prime Video also serves as a semi-platform outside of its streaming services, and there are plenty of Fire devices, including the Amazon Fire TV stick or box, that allows you to stream.
The interface is not as developed as other platforms, but it works fine for Amazon users.
These are the most popular platforms, and they have the broadest range of streaming devices available.
Streaming Sticks And Smart TVs
You can download most streaming services to your mobile devices, but to get the full experience without cable, you need to find a way to put them on a bigger screen.
The simplest solution is to cast the video from your mobile device to your television.
But the downside is you cannot use your phone to text or make calls. Also, there could be buffering issues.
A better option is the purchase of a small dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port.
Popular streaming devices include the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku Express, Apple TV, and Chromecast give you plug-and-play capabilities.
These are great budget options, and they work with other devices like projectors and laptops.
It’s also easier and more cost-effective to upgrade a streaming stick, furthering the benefits of watching TV without cable.
For a more straightforward swap, look into smart TV options.
Most streaming platforms have smart TV options available alongside reputable manufacturers, such as Roku TV options from RCA or TCL.
The Amazon Fire TV is a great budget option with full features.
The key is finding the right product to allow access to your cable TV alternatives.
For example, if you own iPhones and MacBooks, going with Apple TV might make the most sense since you keep all your devices in the same operating system.
But the bottom line is that you can’t go wrong with any streaming devices.
It all comes down to making sure you stick within your budget and that the home screen is something that you find easy to navigate.
While there will be a slight learning curve, you’ll learn how easy it is to watch TV without cable, save money, and even enhance your viewing experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
With more and more options for canceling cable, it is getting more confusing.
Here are some of the common questions I get asked.
What is the cheapest way to watch TV without cable?
The cheapest way is to watch Pluto.tv or Tubi.
These are 100% free streaming options that offer a lot of content.
However, neither offers local channels, live TV, or live sports.
If these are important to you, the next best option is to buy a TV antenna.
An antenna will give you live TV, local channels, and live sports.
Combine the two options, and you have many channels to watch.
How can I watch local TV without cable?
The free option is to download the app of local networks like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX.
There you can watch shows that air on these channels.
Note that most include ads, and the most recent episodes are released 24 hours later.
Another option is to get a TV antenna.
This will allow you to get more local channels, and you can watch shows live.
Can a smart TV work without cable?
Yes, smart TVs work without cable.
You need to download the apps you want to watch on the TV, and then you can watch shows.
What is the best streaming service?
There is no best service.
It all comes down to watch you want to watch.
If you are looking for a large variety of things to watch at a reasonable price, Sling TV is a great option.
If you want live TV, YouTube TV is a great choice.
Unfortunately, no one service offers everything as cable does.
You will have to mix and match services to get what you want.
Will I save money by canceling cable?
The chances are good you will save money, but it isn’t guaranteed.
There are many variables to consider.
This includes if you need one streaming service or more, how much the cost of internet service is if you need to buy a streaming device, and more.
Because of this, I recommend people first try to get the best deal possible on cable TV service.
Lowering the cost of your current service includes negotiating with your provider on things like cable packages, the cost of renting a cable box, agreeing to a contract, and more.
You should be able to reduce your monthly cost by $10-$20 just by talking with your provider and making some changes to your current setup.
- Read now: Learn how to get promotions for existing Xfinity customers
- Read now: Here is how to save money on Verizon FiOS
From there, you could use Trim.
This money-saving assistant will negotiate your cable bill for you.
On average, it saves users $350 a year on cable TV alone.
Add in the other subscriptions they will negotiate for you, and you could save serious money.
Do I need to buy a DVR if I cancel cable?
If you select a streaming service, you do not need a DVR.
You can watch most content on demand.
For live TV cable channels, most services offer an included cloud DVR for you to record shows.
If you decide to watch local broadcast channels with a TV antenna, you need to buy or build a DVR.
What are the best streaming devices?
There are many streaming devices, and none is a must-have for everyone.
Like streaming services, there isn’t a perfect option for everyone.
If you have a lot of Apple devices, then Apple TV could be best for you.
If you want a low-priced option, Roku could be best.
Or, if you want to skip the need for streaming devices, consider an Amazon Fire TV or another smart tv.
There is how to watch TV without cable.
The sad reality is most people can’t get everything they want from a single streaming service.
As a result, you will have to make an effort to understand what you need before you cut the cord.
For this reason, I suggest you sign up for a streaming service or two while still having cable.
With the free trials, you can see if they make sense for you, and if so, you can then call your cable company to cancel.
Just make sure you do the math to know you will be saving money.
There is no point in doing all the work to cut the cord, only to pay the same or, in some cases, more money every month.