Fed up with the price hikes of live TV streaming services? Try this instead

By Microsoft 10 Min Read
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If your definition of cutting the cord is narrow enough, last week’s YouTube TV price hike could make the whole effort seem futile.

After all, YouTube TV now charges $73 a month for a big bundle of local channels, cable news, live sports, and entertainment. The next cheapest option is Hulu + Live TV, at $70 a month, at least for now. Other services are even more expensive, like Fubo at $86 a month and DirecTV Stream at $75 a month and up. Cable and satellite TV it could be even more expensivebut the price advantage for streaming TV bundles has narrowed.

So, now’s a good time to remember the alternative: Instead of paying for a big TV package, even a streaming one, you can ditch them and choose your streaming services a la carte. You may have to forgo some specific cable channels and cut back on live sports coverage, but you’ll also save a lot more money, which is why an increasing percentage of cable cutters have been walking this road.

Sound attractive? Here are some options to consider:

Watch network TV on demand

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The major networks don’t advertise as much, but many of their recent shows are available for free on demand, even on streaming devices like Roku and Fire TV. You can also sign up for their paid streaming services to get a larger on-demand library and, for a higher price, no ads:

ABCs: Use the free ABC applicationor get Hulu starting at $7 per month.
CBS: Use the free CBS appor get Fundamental+ starting at $6 a month (but easily obtainable for free).
NBC: Use the free NBC appor get Peacock starting at $5 a month.
Fox: Use the free Fox Now appor get Hulu starting at $7 per month.
PSB: Free shows are available through the appwith a live stream in many markets.

While you currently can’t get ABC or Fox live streams without a great TV package, Peacock’s $10 a month tier also includes a live local NBC feed, while Paramount’s $12 a month tier includes local CBS.

Get your news elsewhere

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Jared Newman / Foundry

Right now, the major cable news channels — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC — still require a large pay TV package, but Unbundled Life still offers plenty of streaming news sources:

Local news: Many local stations offer their newscasts for free if you know where to look. Watch NewsOn, eight, Mixed, Local now, Haystack news, or your local station’s website. You will also find local news via PipesTHE Channel of the yearand by Amazon Fire TV News app.
National and international news: Pluto TV, Pipes, The Roku channel, Bad, Sling TV FreestreamAND red box all offer 24-hour streaming news channels, including from major networks like CBS and NBC. This could scratch the background TV itch you’d otherwise get from cable news.

Find shows on streaming services

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Jared Newman / Foundry

If you like a particular cable show, chances are it’s also available to stream without a big package. FX, for example, makes all of its original shows available on Hulu, while Bravo’s shows are now available on Peacock.

To see where your favorite shows are available to stream, try looking on Reelgood or using the search function on your streaming device. And remember, there are so many ways to save on these individual streaming services, especially if you don’t subscribe to all of them at once.

Impatient? Try to buy

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Jared Newman / Foundry

For the rare instances where a new show only airs on one cable channel, you can usually purchase episodes a la carte from stores like Amazon videos, VoodooOR AppleTV. Though you shouldn’t have to do this for every cable TV show, and a growing number of shows are skipping the cable altogether– still worth considering for the ones you care about the most.

Yellowstone is a great example. While seasons one through four stream on Peacock, the current the season airs on Paramount’s cable channel (and no, you can’t stream it on Paramount+). Instead of waiting for season five to arrive on Peacock, you can buy the season a la carte and watch each episode the day after it airs on cable.

Investigate an antenna

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Martyn Williams/Foundry

Let’s be realistic: Not everyone lives close enough to their broadcast stations to pick up local channels with an antenna, and even if you do, an antenna only covers a subset of the channels you get with a large TV package.

However, an antenna can be useful for accessing local news, network programming, major sporting events, and classic TV, especially when paired with a DVR over the air. If you’re ditching pay TV packages, they’re at least worth looking into. Usage AntennaWeb’s address tool to check for nearby broadcast towers, then reach out to our recommendations best tv antennas.

What about sports?

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Watching major sporting events without a pay TV package is still tricky. If you’re looking to stream ESPN, FS1, ABC, Fox, SEC Network, TNT, TBS, or any other non-local channel that broadcasts live sports, you’ll probably need a big and expensive package to get it.

Even the regional sporting situation is not the best. While Bally Sports AND NES extension they offer standalone streaming services, costing $20 and $30 a month, respectively. And Bally’s service only carries local baseball in five markets. Meanwhile, the cheapest streaming TV package that carries Bally’s channels is Fuboat $86 a month.

What can you do? An antenna can help, especially for NFL games, and you’ll find some live sports broadcasts on services like Peacock and Paramount+. League specific services such as MLB TV AND NBA League Passes it also broadcasts off-market games, so they’re great options if you live away from your favorite team. The same goes with ESPN+which performs services in off-market hockey and other miscellaneous sports.

Just be aware that much of this coverage deviates from what’s available on cable. Be prepared to watch a lot of YouTube highlights and replays, or cut down on sports in general.

And the DVR?

If you ditch your streaming TV package, you’ll probably have to live without a cloud DVR. Services like Netflix and Disney+ only broadcast video on demand, and those with live “channels,” like Peacock and Pluto TV, don’t let you record their shows.

There are some workarounds, for example Play on AND DVR channels, but their configuration requires some technical know-how and additional expenses. Check the previous links for details.

Consider leaner packages or season passes

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Jared Newman / Foundry

If, after looking at all of these approaches, you’ve resigned yourself to sticking with some sort of pay TV package, whether it’s streaming, cable, or satellite, at least consider the cheaper options:

For people who are not interested in sports, Kind TV AND Philo it carries many non-sports channels for $7 a month and $25 a month, respectively. Both also offer DVRs (although Frndly TV charges an extra $2 a month to get it).
Sling TV it’s cheaper than most other packages at $40 a month, and it also carries sports news and cable networks. However, most markets lack local channels and the cost of its various add-on packages can add up quickly. If all else fails, you can always sign up for bigger packages on a temporary basis. Maybe you just need a month of YouTube TV to get through March Madness or a few months of Hulu + Live TV for college football. Cutting the cord allows you to add and drop these services at any time without hassle.

Balancing all of these options might seem overwhelming compared to just paying for a big package, but the biggest savings from cutting the cord have always gone to those willing to be flexible and give up some things. As the cost of live TV has increased, even with regards to streaming, the argument for unbundling has become stronger than ever.

Sign up for Jared’s Tagliacavi weekly bulletin for more information on navigating the post-cable world.

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