Cutting the cord in 2020? Here’s the cheapest cable replacement options

By on January 29, 2020

cable-tv

Is this the year you are ditching all the ridiculous fees that your cable company charges? Are you tired of subscribing to channels you don’t watch and paying ridiculous DVR service fees.

If you are looking into alternative streaming options, we’ve compiled a list of all the streaming services that can potentially replace the expensive cable boxes you are renting from companies like Comcast, Time Warner, and more. Here’s the list, from cheapest to most expensive.

NBC Peacock Premium: $5-a-month, Exclusive Shows

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The NBC Peacock streaming service doesn’t launch until April 2020, but it will have a ton of NBC shows to stream as well as some original shows. Unfortunately, the company’s streaming pricing structure is a bit confusing. Here are the 3 options:

  1. Free: You don’t have to pay a dime, but you do have to watch ads. You have access to 7,500 hours of content as well as live streaming news and sports. You are not allowed access to original content though.
  2. $5-a-month: You still have to watch ads, but you have access to 15,000 hours of content as well as all the new, original content. (This level will be provided for free to Cox and Comcast cable customers, for the non cord-cutters.)
  3. $10-a-month: This includes everything in the service and strips out all the annoying ads. If you are receiving the premium level for free, you have to pay $5 a month more.

Some of the TV series included with the subscription are The Office, Parks & Recreation, Saturday Night Live, Cheers, Will & Grace, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, House, Downton Abbey, King of Queens, Frasier, & all of the Law & Order shows. The original content is listed below.

Popular NBC Peacock Announced Content:

  • Saved by the Bell Reboot (featuring Mario Lopez, Elizabeth Berkley & Mark-Paul Gosselaar)
  • Punky Booster Reboot
  • Battlestar Galactica Reboot
  • A.P. Bio Season 3 (moved over from NBC)

There’s also several new series in the works including Girls5Eva (Tina Fey production), Rutherford Falls (Ed Helms comedy), Straight Talk (Rashida Jones comedy), Hitmen (racing show with Dale Earnhardt Jr.), & Intelligence (David Schwimmer comedy).

Worth Subscribing?

Wait & See. Netflix will continue streaming The Office until the end of the year, then it moves exclusively to Peacock. So you have an alternative option this year if you are an Office fanatic. As for the original content, I’d wait for the reviews. It’s a decent mixture of new shows and reboots, heavy on comedy.

Apple TV+: $5-a-month, Exclusive Movies / Shows

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Apple TV+ has been out for a few months, offering a variety of original shows for a $5-per-month cost (or $50 for a year of service). It doesn’t force viewers to watch commercials and subscribers can save shows to watch offline. In addition, subscribers can stream shows to up six devices.

The downside is the content library is extremely thin at this point. Arguably, this type of service is probably worth a monthly subscription once or twice a year to binge the new content instead of every month.

Popular Apple TV+ Original Content:

  • The Morning Show: A news series drama that features Jennifer Aniston, Reese Weatherspoon and Steve Carell.
  • Dickinson: A comedy exploring poet Emily Dickinson’s life.
  • SEE: A thriller that features a sci-fi future in which all humans have lost their sight.
  • Snoopy in Space: A classic animated character brought to life in a new animated TV show.
  • For All Mankind: A drama in an alternate reality in which the space race never ended.
  • Oprah’s Book Club: Each episode features a book handpicked by Oprah.

Some of the other shows in the works include a M. Night Shyamalan thriller called Servant, an Anthony Mackie / Samuel L. Jackson movie called The Banker, and a comedy from Always Sunny’s Rob McElhenney about a video game development studio.

Worth Subscribing?

Arguably, this type of service is probably worth a monthly subscription once or twice a year rather than subscribing every month. The limited volume of shows makes it easy to binge a show or two for a month, then unsubscribe.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: While there have been zero deals on subscription costs, Apple does include a full year of Apple TV+ service when you purchase a new iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV or MacBook. You have three months to redeem the offer after purchasing your new device.

Frndly.TV: $6-a-month, 13 channels

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This service provides access to a very specific set of channels, likely ideal for anyone that watches lots of Hallmark shows and movies. It’s a relatively niche list, but works well in conjunction with services like YouTube TV.

The entire channel list includes the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Hallmark Drama, the Game Show Network, Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network, UPtv, QVC, The Weather Channel, Light TV, PixL and BabyFirst TV.

Frndly.TV has three plan options:

  • $6-a-month for SD quality & 1 stream at a time
  • $8-a-month for HD quality & 2 streams at a time. Also includes unlimited DVR (30-day time limit).
  • $10-a-month for HD quality & 4 streams at a time. Also includes unlimited DVR (90-day time limit).

Worth Subscribing?

This type of service works well as a complimentary subscription to something that doesn’t offer the same channels, like Hulu Live TV or YouTube TV. The DVR terms are fairly reasonable and the volume of simultaneous streams is high compared to other services.

CBS All-Access: $6-a-month, Exclusive Shows

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Basically a direct competitor to NBC’s Peacock, CBS All-Access is another 1 channel subscription with a decent content library of older shows as well as some original content. Unlike Peacock, there’s not a free option. The base plan costs $6-a-month, but requires you to watch commercials during the shows. The $10-a-month plan removes all the commercials and adds the ability to download video for offline playback.

In addition to the latest programming, CBS All-Access provides access to live news programming as well as live sports, ideal for anyone that wants to watch the NCAA Tournament as it happens. It also provides behind-the-scenes video like the Big Brother feed as well as award shows pre-event content. CBS is also heavily investing in new Star Trek programming, for Trek fans.

Popular CBS All-Access Original Content:

  • Star Trek Discovery: A Star Trek show set roughly a decade before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission, following the crew of the USS Discovery. Two seasons are available with the third season coming during the 1st half of 2020.
  • Picard: At the end of the 24th century, 18 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), this Star Trek picks up the story of Jean-Luc Picard as well as supporting characters from the Next Generation series.
  • The Good Fight: Picking up a year after the finale of The Good Wife, this series follows the legal career of Diane Lockhart & associates. There are three seasons available to stream with a fourth likely coming during March 2020.
  • Why Women Kill: This series featured Lucy Lui and follows the story of various women that live in a specific mansion in Pasadena.
  • The Twilight Zone: This reboot is produced & narrated by Jordan Peele, featuring various celebrity guest stars drawn into Black Mirror-esqe situations. The first season aired in 2019 and has been renewed for a second season in 2020.

Interestingly, CBS is investing heavier on original dramas while NBC is investing more into original comedies. There is a free, 7-day trial of the service if you want to try it out.

Worth Subscribing?

For Star Trek fans, most definitely. After Picard finishes the 10-episode run, it’s likely that CBS will roll out the next season of Discovery. That’s more than 50 total episodes of Star Trek goodness & that doesn’t even include the Trek shorts.

That being said, you can get away with subscribing sporadically based on your needs. This is probably a good service to subscribe to every three to six months based on the original shows you are interested in.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: The best deal on CBS All-Access isn’t a discount on the service, but an extension on the free preview period. Around Black Friday, CBS extends the week of free access to a full month of free access, specifically limited to new subscribers.

Hulu Basic: $6-a-month, Exclusive Movies / Shows

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Offering two price tiers, the base level of Hulu costs $6-a-month, offers two simultaneous streams at one time, but you have to watch commercials during the shows. There is an ad free option, but you have to pay $12-a-month to remove all the commercials.

If you are ditching cable, I consider Hulu to be a staple of your post-cable life. While it’s not as robust as Netflix in regards to content, it does provide access to a massive volume of shows from the major networks as well as many of the premium networks.

While you don’t have live access when shows air, you can usually watch the show the following day. Hulu has a solid library of original content; shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Marvel’s Runaways, Castle Rock, Future Man and more.

There’s also an interesting bundling option available to those interested in Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+. For $13-a-month, you save roughly 25% off subscribing to the three services separately.

Worth Subscribing?

Without a doubt. While the volume of original content isn’t as expansive as Netflix, the licensing agreements with most networks will give you access to the latest programming. That being said, keep any eye on disappearing tv shows over time. As more companies move their content to their own streaming services, Hulu could suffer and it may not be a great deal anymore.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: The best deal on Hulu typically pops around Black Friday, as seen here. You are looking at 12 months of the ad-supported basic version for $24, dropping the normal cost from $6 to $2 per month.

Disney+: $7-a-month, Exclusive Movies / Shows

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Launching a few months ago, Disney+ is a service that bundles a huge volume of popular content; basically everything Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and more. There’s only one subscription tier, $7-per-month. You can also opt in for a yearly fee at $70 (which drops the monthly cost to $5.83).

If ditching cable, Disney+ offers a large library of classic & modern movies as well as a small, but growing volume of original shows and movies. One of the most popular has been The Mandalorian, which spawned a million Baby Yoda memes that clogged up the Internet Tubes over late 2019.

Popular Disney+ Original Content:

  • Star Wars: The Mandalorian: This 8-episode series (which has a 2nd season coming during late 2020) is a Star Wars, western-style story set 5 years after the fall of the Empire and 25 years before the rise of the First Order.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 7: The final season of the Clone Wars heads to Disney+ during Feb 2020. It’s the seventh season of the show, the first six which can be streamed on Disney+.
  • The World According to Jeff Goldblum: This Nat Geo show features the eclectic Jeff Goldblum discussing different topics in a documentary style each week.
  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: This is a mockumentary / muscial series based on the popular movies.

There’s a ton of Marvel content in the works with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series coming out first during late 2020 along with WandaVision. There’s also series based on characters such as Loki, Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, & She-Hulk on the way; most of which will arrive during 2021.

Worth Subscribing?

For parents, absolutely. The sheer volume of content for kids of all ages on Disney+ is astounding; as we pointed out in our review. On top of that, it has plenty of shows and movies that adults will enjoy as well. Of course, if you are solely interested in Star Wars or Marvel, I’d recommend subscribing sporadically a few times a year. You will be able to binge the latest shows, then save some money until the next show is released.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: There have been multiple deals on Disney+. The best savings was this 3-year subscription deal that lowered the monthly cost from $7 to less than $4. That deal repeated twice during 2019, August and October. In addition, Verizon is offering a standing deal that provides a year of Disney+ access when you sign up for unlimited data or 5G Home Internet.

Netflix: $9-a-month, Exclusive Movies / Shows

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Not surprisingly, Netflix is a staple in a post-cable life. While the volume of licensed content has waned over the years, the volume of original content has exploded. That includes everything from movies to television shows to documentaries to comedy shows. Netflix is continuing to invest heavily in original content during 2020 as well.

Do be aware there are multiple pricing tiers. The base subscription is $9-per-month and provides 1 stream in standard definition. The standard plan is $13-per-month and provides 2 simultaneous streams in 1080p high definition. The premium plan costs $16-per-month and provides 4 simultaneous streams in 4K resolution.

Popular Netflix Original Content:

  • Marvel Shows: Before Disney+ existed, Netflix invested heavily in shows like Daredevil, The Punisher, Luke Cage, & Jessica Jones. All of these Marvel shows will stay put, but Netflix will not be investing in new Marvel content anymore.
  • Stranger Things: This hit sci-fi show has three seasons available for streaming and a fourth on the way; a suspenseful drama exploring supernatural events occurring in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.
  • Orange is the New Black: Set in a minimum-security federal prison, this dark comedy follows the trials and tribulations of the women serving time in the prison.

Some of the more popular shows released during 2019 include The Witcher, The Umbrella Academy, You: Season 2, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,Dead to Me.

Worth Subscribing?

Absolutely. The sheer volume of stuff to watch is ridiculous. In addition, Netflix has become one of the most reliable services in regards to consistently rolling out original shows / movies each month. You can’t go wrong with a yearly subscription to the service, especially if you have cut the cord.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: Some of the best deals on Netflix are simply bonus add-on gift cards that come with Netflix subscriptions. During Dec 2019, Amazon offered a $15 GC with the purchase of a $100 Netflix GC. Keep an eye out for these deals throughout the year to save money at specific retailers.

Amazon Video: $9-a-month, Exclusive Movies / Shows

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Similar to Netflix, I consider Amazon Video a staple in a post-cable life. It’s arguably one of the best bargains as well, specifically if you shop on Amazon throughout the year. While Amazon technically offers a standalone subscription at $9-per-month, you are much better off going with Amazon Prime at $119 a year, effectively $1 more a month. That gives you access to Prime Video along with a vast array of Prime Perks like free two-day shipping.

Popular Amazon Video Original Content:

  • The Expanse Season 4: Picking up where the SYFY network left off, this sprawling science fiction drama
  • The Boys: This series flips the script on the superhero trend, pitting a group of normal humans against superheros that have run wild under the protection of a corporation.
  • Fleabag: This award winning comedy-drama series follows the adventures of a young woman in London with frequent fourth-wall breaking moments.
  • The Man in the High Castle: The final season of this alternate history show aired this year, set in a parallel universe where the Axis powers won World War II.
  • Jack Ryan: Something of a reboot of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series of books, Amazon has two seasons of the popular drama available with a third season on the way for an unnamed date.

Worth Subscribing?

Of course. Beyond all the perks you get with Prime, Amazon has really stepped up their original content production budget in the past two years. They have branched out into films as well as original documentaries.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: If you are a student, you can get an initial 6 months of Amazon Prime for free along with a discounted price at $6.50-a-month while you are still a student.

HBO Max: $15-a-month, Exclusive Shows

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Launching during May 2020, HBO Max is going to combine content from HBO, Warner Brothers, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT and more at an expensive $15-a-month subscription. It offers all the content you will find on HBO Now with original content that’s going to be exclusive to the service.

It’s also going to be the only place to stream a few big franchise shows, Doctor Who, Friends and The Big Bang Theory. In addition, programming that was streaming on the DC Universe service will be headed to HBO Max, shows like Doom Patrol, the Deathstroke spinoff and Stargirl.

Popular HBO Max Announced Content:

  • The Green Lantern: After the middling failure of the Green Lantern movie, DC is taking another shot with a series on the small screen.
  • Superintelligence: A comedy starring Melissa McCarthy that details how a woman becomes an artificial intelligence’s human test subject.
  • Raised by Wolves: Created by Ridley Scott, this series follows two androids that are raising children on a strange planet.
  • XOXO Gossip Girl: This Gossip Girl sequel follows a new set of Upper East Siders and the private school life that goes with it.

Worth Subscribing?

Maybe. This service is definitely on the expensive side and it’s currently unproven. I’d recommend waiting for a few months to see what the original programming release schedule looks like.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: There haven’t been any advertised deals on HBO MAX yet, but HBO did announce that all AT&T unlimited data subscribers will receive HBO MAX for free (a $180-per-year value).

Philo: $20-a-month, 59 channels

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Philo is an interesting service, specifically due to the low cost for the channel package. At just $20-a-month, you get access to channels such as AMC, Comedy Central, HGTV, Hallmark, ID, MTV, TLC and more.

Of course, there’s a trade off. You will need an antenna for your local channels and your DVR recordings will only last 30 days before deletion. You can stream live or on demand TV on up to three devices at the same time.

Worth Subscribing?

Possibly. It really depends on what channels you are looking for. This specific subset of channels doesn’t include popular stations like USA or TBS, but it could make for a solid complimentary service if you want to expand beyond a Netflix or Hulu subscription.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: There is a 7-day free trial, if you want to test the service. In addition, Philo offered a deal during 2019 that included a free 4K Fire TV stick with the purchase of six months of service.

Sling TV Blue & Orange: $45-a-month, 53 channels

The nice thing about Sling TV is flexibility, in regards to channel options. You can choose to subscribe to either the Blue or Orange channel packages at $30-a-month or both for $45. There’s also a number of $5-a-month add-on packages:

Available Add-On packages:

  • Comedy Extra: MTV, truTV, Paramount Network, MTV2, CMT, Logo, Revolt, GSN, TV Land
  • Kids Extra: Disney Junior, Disney XD, Nick Jr, Nick Toons, Teen Nick
  • Lifestyle Extra: VH1, BET, DIY, all 3 Hallmark channels, WE, LMN, FYI.
  • News Extra: BBC, HLN, EuroNews, SCI
  • Sports Extra: NBA TV, SEC Network, SEC Network+, Pac-12, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, NHL Network, beIN SPORTS, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded
  • Hollywood Extra: Reelz, Sundance, TCM
  • Heartland Extra: Outdoor, Sportsman, PixL, Ride TV, Cowboy Channel

There’s also an A La Carte option that lets you choose from 30+ channels at at little as $3 each, depending on the station.

Regarding DVR service, you can record up to 10 hours of video for free or you can upgrade to 50 hours of video for an additional $5 a month.

Worth Subscribing?

Yes, if you already have an antenna for local stations and don’t mind the small amount of DVR space for recording shows. Sling TV does offer flexible options, both with the core packages and the add-on options. Just be wary of all the add-on fees if you like tons of channels.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: We see quite a few Sling TV related deals.One of the most popular is offering free hardware, like the Apple TV or Fire TV, with a subscription for a couple months. We also see lots of AMEX / Chase credit card bonus offers that offer discounts when you use the cards to pay for the services.

YouTube TV: $50-a-month, 70+ channels

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One of the nice things about YouTube TV is the simplicity. While there are minor options for add-on channels, there’s basically just a single price for the service, $50-a-month. You also get access to YouTube Original videos, which would typically require a $12-a-month YouTube Premium subscription.

Some of the best features of YouTube TV include:

  • Unlimited space for recordings, no limit for simultaneous recordings, 9-month length for all recordings before deletion.
  • Account sharing with your family up to 6 accounts, 3 simultaneous streams active at a time.
  • One of the most expansive local channel packages, for those that want to avoid an antenna.

Worth Subscribing?

Definitely. This is one of the least expensive options for a robust package with the most popular channels. It has a broad range of options for mainstream entertainment, content for kids, sports packages, news and more.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: We haven’t seen any subscription price reduction deals, but Google has extended the free trial offer a couple times during 2019. The latest was a 3-week trial offered during December 2019.

Hulu+ Live TV: $55-a-month, 60+ channels

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If you already subscribe to regular Hulu, you can upgrade from $6-a-month to a $55-a-month plan with access to more than 60 channels (including local channels). You can also upgrade to a $61-a-month plan to remove all the commercials from Hulu’s programming (outside of Live TV).

Both plans let you stream up to two screens at a time and store up to 50 hours of video on the Cloud DVR service. There are also a couple of channel package add-on options, one for Spanish channels and one for entertainment channels like DIY, FYI, Lifetime Movies and more.

Hulu+ Live TV has two additional add-on options:

  1. Unlimited Screens for $10-a-month: Lets you stream from an unlimited number of devices in your home and up to 3 mobile devices while outside of your home.
  2. Enhanced Cloud DVR for $10-a-month: Upgrades your plan to 200 hours of recording time and adds a feature that lets you fast forward through ad breaks.

Worth Subscribing?

This is a solid option for lowering your cable bill and getting a brand range of channels. The core package includes a broad range of local channels, kids channels, movies channels, news stations, sports channels and entertainment channels.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: Look for promotional credit card offers that offer discounts for subscribing to Hulu. We’ve seen these pop up with AMEX, Chase and Discover. FYI, the price Hulu+Live TV was raised by $10 in Dec 2019. It’s unlikely to see another price jump this year.

FuboTV: $55-a-month, 102 channels

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If you are a sports fan, FuboTV is going to be your best option with PlayStation Vue out of the picture. It also offers access to a few local stations, which may be ideal compared to hooking up an antenna to every TV in your home.

Some of the more popular stations include AMC, CNN, HGTV, USA, TNT, & TBS. You can find a full listing of all channels here. In addition, the Sports Plus with NFL Redzone add-on is great for sports fans which provides great NFL access as well as tons  of NCAA games.

FuboTV has three main plan options:

  • $55-a-month for 102 channels, 2 streams at once and 30 hours of DVR space (unlimited watch time, 4K & HD streams)
  • $60-a-month for 102 channels, 3 streams at once and 500 hours of DVR space (unlimited watch time, 4K & HD streams)
  • $80-a-month for 168 channels, 3 streams at once, 500 hours of DVR space (unlimited watch time, 4K & HD streams) & Showtime

Worth Subscribing?

If you are looking for a hefty cable replacement with a ton of channels, FuboTV is a really solid bet. The downside is that you could be paying nearly just as much as a traditional cable package. Be wary of the number of add-ons you sign up for.

BEN’S BARGAINS TIP: There were a few ways to save money on FuboTV in the last two years. During 2018, Roku ran a promotion that offered a 1 month free trial of of service. During 2019, AMEX ran a couple promotions that offered cashback, between $15 to $20 back each month for a few months.

About Mike Flacy

By day, I'm the Editor-in-Chief for The CheckOut in addition to being the content manager for Steve's Digicams and High-Def Digest. During my free time, I love to write about pop culture, home theater, digital photography, social media, mobile technology and cool gadgets!

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