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This feature is part is Reviewed.com's Guide to Cord Cutting, where we explain everything you need to know to start living life without a cable bill.
Remember when staying in to watch TV was a cheap date and/or family night? Well, it’s gotten really expensive. I’m not talking about actual TV sets, because that’s a whole separate article. However, cable and satellite TV services have gone up over the years. Between channel lineups, DVRs, taxes, and fees, it’s gotten to a point where TV programming has become a luxury for a lot of people.
According to the Leichtman Research Group, the average subscriber spends $103.10 on pay TV each month. No wonder so many people are looking to cut the cord—or at least cut out that large monthly payment.
Some can't fathom life without The Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, This Is Us, or even WWE, but there are ways to save and still enjoy TV. Whether you opt to cut the cord completely or sign up for a streaming service, a small investment can save the average person well over $1,000 a year. Here's how the math breaks out:
How much money can you save by ditching cable?
As we said above, the average subscriber spends $103.10 per month on pay TV services, according to the Leichtman Research Group. This amount does not include the costs of internet access, though approximately 83% of those with pay TV also have internet so we can assume those costs are fixed and separate.
That leaves a little over $1,200 in potential savings in a given year by ditching cable. Of course, you probably still want to watch TV. Here are three likely scenarios:
For people who just watch Netflix and occasionally network TV... We'd recommend getting a Roku Streaming Stick+ ($59.99 on Amazon), a decent OTA antenna ($39.99 on Amazon), and a subscription to Netflix.
That comes out to about $100 upfront and $10 per month for Netflix, or $220 for the year.
Add Amazon Prime for another $120 and your total cost is about $350, saving you over $800.
For people who watch Netflix, OTA TV, and some live cable channels... Take the above package and add Sling TV's "Blue" service to get live channels like FX, Comedy Central, HGTV, Food Network, Bravo, and even some Fox and NBC in select markets for $25/mo with a cloud-based DVR. Now your total is up to about $650, saving you just under $600.
For people who want the full cable experience... If you really love cable TV but you hate your cable company, you could get the entire package above, but amp it up with add-ons like Sling's Lifestyle, Sports, and News extra packages for another $20 per month. You could even add HBO for a further $15/mo and watch shows like Game of Thrones.
That would get you over 70 live channels, HBO, Amazon Prime, Netflix, a Roku, and an OTA antenna for a total of $70 per month and about $350 up front. That costs about the same as cable over the first year, but you'd save the $350 in subsequent years and be able to cancel or modify services whenever you want, so you can only pay for HBO when your favorite shows are on.
What are some other streaming options?
If you want to cut the cord without feeling like you're making a huge sacrifice, there's a lot more out there than Netflix and Amazon Prime, especially where live TV and sports content is concerned. Check out some of these other options.
Sports fans can get fuboTV for $34.99 for the first month on a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and so on. You can also get a 7-day free trial of fuboTV, which gives you access to lots of sports programming.
Sling TV ($25/month)
You can get Sling TV for a more affordable price ($25 a month) compared to fubo, though you'll have to pay an extra $5 a month to get any DVR. Sling TV also offers a 7-day trial. Just note that you won't get access to any CBS channels in the standard Orange or Blue Sling TV bundles.
Hulu + Live TV ($40/month)
Hulu is one of the pricier options in the list (while Hulu by itself is cheap, getting the bundle that includes Live TV will run you around $40/month), but it's a good choice for a more holistic cable replacement. As usual, you can also take advantage of a 7-day free trial.
YouTube TV ($40/month)
Yet another simple but slightly less affordable option, YouTube TV will give you access to plenty of channels for a base rate of $40/month.
Like fubo, Sling, and Hulu, it's available on common streaming hardware like Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Amazon Fire devices.
DirecTV Now (starts at $35/month)
If you recognize DirecTV as a traditional cable provider, that's because it is. The "Now" service is a new addition to the traditional DirectTV model that allows anyone to access the service for a monthly fee. You can get DirectTV Now starting at $35/month.
Though there are numerous bundles available, the cheapest will give you access TNT, TBS, and truTV.
CBS All Access (starting at $6/month)
Another good, cheap option is CBS All Access. While you'll only be able to access CBS with this service, it's definitely one of the cheapest plans that's still available via Roku, Xbox One, Apple TV, and so on.
If you're looking for a super simple solution (a la CBS All Access), ESPN+ will give you access to a lot of ESPN programming for a super cheap price.
Obviously it's not a "cable replacement" and isn't going to give you access to as many CBS/Turner channels, but it's alluringly affordable.
Antennas & Media Streaming Devices
If you're looking for a great antenna, check out the ClearStream Eclipse, which is usually around $30 on Amazon. It was our top pick when we checked out The Best HDTV Antennas of 2019; we also found the affordable Channel Master FLATenna CM-4001HDBW to be a good budget option—it's only $13.
Likewise, we've ranked The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2019. While the 2018 Roku Ultra is our current favorite, it's a little pricy for most folks at $90, so we also highly recommend the Roku Streaming Stick+. It's not quite as zippy and powerful as the Roku Ultra, but at $60 it's a lot more affordable.