Are you ready to skip out on your cable bill and start saving a ton of money in your entertainment budget?
Well, my fellow TV-loving friend, there are many MANY cable replacing options nowadays to get your TV fix, and a lot of them are amazingly cheap!
This page describes some different platforms you can use to watch HD shows and content found on streaming apps, compares the costs to set up, the costs per month, and lists the pros and cons of each platform.
(If you are looking to learn more about streaming content, read about that here: 6 Streaming Channels that are Better and Cheaper than Cable TV)
You are bound to find a TV platform that fits your needs- and I guarantee, you will not miss your cable or satellite (especially the bill!)
This post contains affiliate links, read the full disclosure here.
TVs, Players, Consoles
If you have a newer Smart TV, Blu Ray or DVD Player, or Gaming Console than you may already have streaming TV options in your home. Most of these devices offer popular streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Check out the app store on your device, or even the quick buttons on your remote,to see what applications you have available.
- Set up cost: Free for owners of Smart TVs and other consoles
- Monthly cost: $8 (typical entry cost for one streaming app membership)
- Pros: Free to set up if you already own a smart device
- Cons: Interface might not be user friendly and many times these devices don’t offer many streaming channels
Another option is to turn your TV into a giant computer simply by hooking up your PC to the TV with an HDMI cable. To stream shows, go to the website of your favorite streaming service, like Hulu, and watch it from the browser. Once you have a show going, you can pop it up into fullscreen mode and it looks just like you are watching regular TV. The only downside to this is you need to use a mouse and a keyboard to control the shows you watch. This problem is easily solved if you purchase a remote controller mouse, like this mini keyboard controller. Otherwise, you may have to get off your butt to switch it to another show (sigh).
- Set up cost: Free to computer owners, $7 for HDMI cable
- Monthly cost: $8 (typical entry cost for one streaming app membership)
- Pros: Completely open to all streaming video across the internet
- Cons: You need to purchase a mouse remote controller, or get up to switch shows
Smartphones and Tablets
Most streaming apps are cross-platform, meaning once you have an account, you can watch them wherever you go on your phone or tablet. If you don’t want to watch on a big screen, this is a great option, and most people already have at least one. You can also cast or mirror your mobile screen to your TV on certain Smart TVs or by using an option like Google’s Chromecast.
- Set up cost: Free to smartphone and tablet owners
- Monthly cost: $8 (typical cost for one streaming app membership)
- Pros: On the go option in addition to at-home viewing
- Cons: Small screen
Amazon Fire Tablet for Kids
Amazon has a subscription called FreeTime Unlimited available on their devices. It is geared toward kids ages 3-12 and, for a low monthly price, gives them complete access to over 10,000 kid-friendly shows, movies, games, and books. There are no in-app purchases or access to social media or the internet, and it has smart filters that parents can adjust.
It has great parental controls you can use to set up time limits for overall use per child, or turn on Learn First which blocks the usage of games and shows until the child reaches an educational goal for the day, and Bedtime mode that shuts down the device at a time the parent sets.
FreeTime Unlimited is available on Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers, and Fire TV. My favorite option that we got for my daughter’s birthday is the Fire Kids Edition. With your purchase, you get a 16gb Fire Tablet with a Kid-proof case, plus 1 year free of Amazon FreeTime, and a 2-year worry-free replacement guarantee. They also have a no interest payment plan if you don’t want to pay a big chunk up front.
My favorite thing about the cost of Free Time is that Amazon Prime members get a lower price on the monthly subscription, just $2.99 a month!
My daughter loves that it has her favorite apps she used to play on my phone, like the hello kitty nail salon, but with all the paid purchases already unlocked! Now she can paint and design nails with all the colors and patterns I refused to buy for her previously!
You can also use a lot of the options without WiFi, so it’s great for road trips and occupying kids in waiting rooms. We also use Free Time to read new kids books together as a family. Plus, the parent’s mode is a complete kindle profile, so I can use it to play games, stream shows, and read my books on there too after typing in the passcode to my profile. I’m kind of in love with it.
- Set up cost: Free for Fire Tablet, Kindle e-readers, or Fire TV owners, or cost of the purchase of a Kids Fire Tablet and Bundle
- Monthly cost: $2.99-$9.99, or Free for 1 year with Kids Edition purchase
- Pros: Completely Kid-friendly and fun with lots of parental controls to make it safe
- Cons: Tablet costs up front, especially if you don’t want the no-interest payment plan
HDTV Antenna and TiVo
This is the cheapest per month option of all: FREE. If you have a TV that was manufactured after the year 2007, you will be able to get free HD channels over the air. A one time purchase of an antenna usually costs about $60, and then picks up TV channels for you absolutely free for life.
The specific networks you can get will depend on where you live, go here to check which channels you may get in your zipcode.
The best thing about having an HDTV Antenna is that they still work during storms when Cable and Satellite would typically blackout. When Cable viewers would be staring at black screens, you will still be able to watch free programming and get local updates.
If you love the idea of live TV, but still want to avoid commercials and watch your favorite shows on your schedule, you can with TiVo. The TiVo Roamio connects directly with your HDTV Antenna and does not come with a monthly fee. It can record up to 4 shows at a time, has skip mode for commercials, and a program guide that also integrates streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, VUDU and more.
- Set up cost: $60-$600
- Monthly Cost: Free-$8 (depending if you purchase a streaming app subscription to use with TiVo)
- Pros: Completely free HD channels, and lots of controls and options with a TiVo setup
- Cons: Installing your Antenna, and lots of commercials vs high up-front cost of TiVo
The Roku is a tiny little gadget that packs a big punch- it offers all of the most popular streaming channels and games. It also comes with cross-channel search for apps, games, and titles, so you can not only find and download apps like Amazon Prime, but you can know exactly where your favorite shows can be found.
For instance, if you are wanting to catch up on seasons of The Last Man on Earth, you could search for it on the Roku and it will tell you that Seasons 1 and 2 can be found on Netflix, while the next and current season is available on Hulu Plus.
The Roku also has a free mobile app that works with all it’s platforms so you can search by typing or search by voice, and plug in your headphones to your phone to listen privately.
The Roku has 6 options to fit your budget- most of which are cheaper than the average monthly cable bill. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Roku Express: $29.99, 1080p Resolution, Line of sight remote
- Roku Express +: $39.99, Same Features as Roku Express, but also supports TVs with A/V inputs
- Roku Streaming Stick: $49.99, 1080p Resolution, point anywhere remote
- Roku Premiere: $69.99, HD 4K resolution, line-of-sight remote
- Roku Premiere +: $99.99, HD, 4K, and HDR resolution, point-anywhere-remote, remote with headphone jack, plus connections for ethernet and MicroSD
- Roku Ultra: $129.99, HD 4K, and HDR resolution, point-anywhere-remote, remote with headphone jack, remote finder, plus connections for digital optical audio, ethernet, and MicroSD
- Set up cost: $29.99-$129.99
- Monthly Cost: $8 (typical cost for one streaming app membership)
- Pros: Offers most, if not all, available streaming channels and games.
- Cons: The line-of-sight remotes are kind of a pain, I highly recommend upgrading to the point-anywhere options.
Amazon offers streaming Media players in the form of a Fire TV Stick and a Fire TV. They both stream Amazon prime content and offer other streaming channels like hulu, sling, and Netflix. It’s comparable to what the Roku offers, but differs in the interface and limits some of the lesser known streaming channels.
- Set up cost: $39.99-$89.99
- Monthly Cost: $10 (cost of pay-per-month amazon prime membership)
- Pros: Voice Search and Voice control through Alexa
- Cons: Favors Amazon videos over other streaming channels in the home screen
For my family, we have two Kids Fire Tablets, one TV set up with a computer, and one TV set up with a Roku. For our streaming, we have a hulu commercial free subscription (commercial free is definitely worth the $4 upgrade for us!) and we are amazon prime members. In total, our monthly cost for TV and Gaming entertainment is under $25 (and that’s including the cost of all the amazon prime benefits like free shipping, music, and the 20% discount on diapers!).
With all the platform options available, you will be able to find something- or a small selection of things- that fit your TV viewing preferences, all at a fraction of the cost of Cable and Satellite.
For details on the different streaming channels, how much they cost, and which platforms they are available on, check out my list of 6 Streaming Channels that are Better and Cheaper than Cable and Satellite TV.