When I moved into a new home last year, I decided I’d had it with paying big bucks every month for hundreds of cable channels I never watched. And just like that, I joined the many millions of Americans who have parted ways with the traditional TV-watching methods and gone all-in on video streaming services. Households that spend over $100 a month on cable or satellite can save hundreds a year, even when stacking multiple services to satisfy a sizable variety of viewing wants. Consider this fact: Subscribing to basic-level Netflix, Hulu and Sling TV only costs around $40 a month, total.
Just keep in mind that switching to a streaming life is likely to require some adjusting. For instance, you may have to watch shows the day after their first airdate, which might mean going out of your way to avoid spoilers on social media. (We all have one of those Facebook friends who can’t help but blab about This Is Us plot twists.) Even if you opt for a service that streams live TV, you may find it doesn’t include every one of your go-to channels. And if you don’t own a smart TV, you’ll need to buy a streaming device (it’s under $50) to hook up to your current set such as a Roku, Fire TV Stick or Chromecast.
In my mind, minor inconveniences are more than offset by major savings. Plus, streaming services make it easy to watch TV on your phone, computer or tablet and offer exclusive content (think buzzy and binge-worthy series) you can’t get on the usual-suspect stations. There’s no long-term contract or early cancellation penalty. Still on the fence? Streaming platforms usually offer a free trial period. Why not give one of these a shot?
The category pioneer offers an admirable variety of on-demand content, including award-winning original programming as well as movies. Plus, Netflix lets you download content to watch off-line, which is huge when you’re stuck someplace without Wi-Fi. Yet another benefit: no commercials. netflix.com, from $8/month
Terrific for keeping up with popular prime-time shows from legacy networks including ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. In many cases, episodes are available the day after their original broadcast premiere date. Hulu with Live TV ($40/month) provides access to over 50 channels, including CNN, ESPN, HGTV, TBS and more. hulu.com, from $8/month
Amazon Prime Video
If you’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber, this streaming service is bundled into the annual fee you’ve already paid—making it the perfect opportunity to try life cable-free. Don’t do Prime? You can pay monthly for access to original series or shows from channels including USA and FX, and pay a little more for channels such as HBO and Cinemax. amazon.com/primevideo, from $9/month
Sling TV This service offers live TV programming à la carte. Put another way, you won’t have to pay for—or scroll through—channels you don’t want. With Sling TV you can curate a personal channel lineup based on what you and your family like, whether that’s comedy, news, movies, whatever. There’s no long-term contract required, and if you want to cancel at some point you can do so online. sling.com, from $25/month
YouTube TV If you haven’t gotten the memo, it’s more than just music videos and makeup tutorials. YouTube TV allows viewers to catch live shows from networks like ABC, CBS, FX, Disney and CNN, plus on-demand content and exclusive YouTube Red Originals. tv.youtube.com, from $40/month
PlayStation Vue Fans say this streaming platform is the way to go for live sports fanatics who don’t want to miss a game, and you don’t need a PlayStation console for access. Higher-level packages include channels like NFL Network, MLB Network and NBA TV. Upgrades for premium channels are also available. psvue.com, from $45/month