Free and Low-Cost Cable TV Options 2022

Free and low-cost cable options and alternatives are out there. Find out which one is right for you.

Cheapest

Spectrum TV® Select

  • $49.99/mo.*
  • 125+ channels
Cheapest

Digital Basic TV + 155 Mbps Internet (Chicago, D.C.)

or

Digital Basic TV + 250 Mbps Internet (Boston, Lehigh Valley, New York, Philadelphia)

    • Plans cost $29.99–$49.99/mo.
    • 55–70+ channels
    • Cable speeds up to 155–250 Mbps
Free

Pluto TV

  • Free
  • 250+ channels
  • On-demand library: Thousands of movies and shows
OTA antenna

Mohu Leaf 50

  • $59.99 (one-time payment)
  • Picks up all local broadcast channels and subchannels within 60 miles
  • Easy self-installation


Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.
* for 12 months

If you’re looking to save money by chopping away at your TV bill, you don’t have to quit TV cold turkey. Our TV experts have rounded up a bunch of affordable, low-cost TV options including a cheap cable TV-and-internet bundle, inexpensive and free live TV streaming services, and over-the-air (OTA) HDTV antennas.

Cable packages and bundles

We know: “cheap cable TV package” is almost a laughable idea—but these packages are out there. In this section, we have a cheap cable TV package from Spectrum and a basic cable TV-and-interent bundle from Astound Broadband powered by RCN. And also a public service announcement about basic cable packages (just say no).

Cheapest

Spectrum TV® Select

  • $49.99/mo. for 12 mos.
  • 125+ channels

With Spectrum TV Select, you get 125+ channels—including nearly all of the most popular cable channels—all in free HD for only $49.99 a month for the first 12 months. This is the cheapest cable TV package out there, costing less than many other providers’ basic cable TV plans, and it has more than double the channel count.

Cheapest

Digital Basic TV + 155 Mbps Internet (Chicago, D.C.)

or

Digital Basic TV + 250 Mbps Internet (Boston, Lehigh Valley, New York, Philadelphia)

    • Plans cost $29.99–$44.99/mo.*
    • 61–70+ channels
    • Cable speeds up to 155–250 Mbps

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.

We recommend two Astound Broadband plans because it has different packages for different service areas. These are the best cheap cable and internet packages we’ve found, and they’re good if all you want are basic channels (your local broadcast channels and subchannels), along with a modestly speedy internet connection.

But did you know that you can get all the same channels with an OTA antenna? Click the link to see why they’re better than a basic cable TV package.

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Basic cable packages

While basic cable packages might seem like an affordable alternative to chunkier cable TV packages, we don’t recommend them. Instead of paying monthly for a basic cable TV package, you can buy an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna for $25–$60 and get the same local broadcast channels and subchannels. Keep reading to learn more.

Cable and satellite TV providers at a glance

To help you compare TV services, here’s a brief overview of what other cable and satellite TV providers’ standalone TV plans.

  • Astound Broadband—Cheapest ($29.99–$96.31/mo., 55–304+ channels)
  • Suddenlink—Free premiums ($94.99–$154.99/mo., 200–340+ channels)*
  • Cox—Excellent DVR ($50.00–$125.00/mo., 75–250+ channels)
  • Spectrum—Best value ($49.99/mo., 125+ channels)
  • Verizon Fios—Most channels ($65.00–$105.00/mo., 125–425+ channels)
  • Optimum—$500 contract buyout ($94.99–$184.99/mo., 220–420+ channels)*
  • Xfinity—X1 DVR ($49.99–$89.49/mo., 125–260+ channels)
  • DIRECTV—NFL SUNDAY TICKET ($74.99–$149.99/mo., 160–330+ channels)
  • DISH—Best overall ($69.99–$104.99/mo., 190–290+ channels)
  • DIRECTV STREAM–Most live streaming channels ($69.99–$149.00/mo.)

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Over-the-air (OTA) TV

Over-the-air (OTA) TV, or broadcast TV, is a type of HDTV broadcast from local stations in your area. The signals are sent over the air, and you need an HDTV antenna to pick them up.

Going OTA is one of the cheapest cable alternatives. You can pick up an OTA antenna for $25–$60 on Amazon and watch TV for free without monthly fees. Our current recommended antenna, the Mohu Leaf Plus, is currently $59.99*.

Recommended over-the-air (OTA) TV antennas

Best for cities

Mohu Leaf 30

Mohu Leaf 30 (photo from Amazon)
  • $39.99*
  • 40-mile range
  • Indoor mounting
  • Support for 1080p HD

Best for suburbs

Mohu Leaf Plus

Mohu Leaf 50
  • $59.99†
  • 60-mile range
  • Indoor mounting
  • Support for 1080p HD

Best for rural areas

Granny Home Digital TV antenna

Granny Home Digital TV Antenna (photo from Amazon)
  • $23.99‡
  • 120-mile range
  • Indoor mounting
  • Support for 1080p and 4K Ultra HD

Use this tool from the FCC to see where local stations are broadcasting from so that you know what kind of range you need from your antenna. If you don’t purchase a strong enough antenna, you might not be able to watch certain channels.

Also, these are only broadcast channels, so be warned that you won’t be able to watch your cable favorites with OTA TV.

If you’re new to OTA TV, be sure to read our OTA TV post to discover the pros and cons of this low-cost TV option.

* Amazon.com Price; $39.99 (as of 12/10/21 11:40 PM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
†Amazon.com Price; $59.99 (as of 12/10/21 11:40 PM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
‡Amazon.com Price; $23.99 (as of 12/10/21 11:40 PM MST). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. CableTV.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Streaming live TV

In general, if you have a reliable internet connection, we recommend going with a live TV streaming service.

Live TV streaming services combine live channels and on-demand streaming in (typically) a single, affordable plan without the contracts that come with most cable TV providers.

YouTube TV and Sling TV are two of the strongest live TV streaming services out there and they’re both cheaper than most cable TV packages.

Best value

Price: $64.99/mo.
Channels: 100+
Streams: 3
Cloud DVR storage: Unlimited

YouTube TV is our pick for the best overall live TV streaming service. It has 100+ channels, a generous on-demand library, unlimited cloud DVR, and three streams for $64.99 a month. YouTube TV also boasts a healthy menu of premium channel add-on packs.

Best for kids

Price: $35–$50/mo.
Channels: 30–50+
Streams: 1–4
DVR: 10 hrs.

Sling TV has smaller channel lineups but plenty of cheap add-ons. And, in our expert opinion, it’s the best streaming service for kids, with many children’s channels. It also has a solid selection of premium channel add-ons, including some great sports channel packs.

Cheapest

Price: $25/mo.
Channels: 60+
Streams: 3
DVR: Unlimited

If you’re looking for something even cheaper, Philo gives you 60+ channels, unlimited DVR, and three streams for only $25 per month).

Pro tip: Streaming live TV is an effective cable TV alternative, but it requires a strong internet connection. Try to get an internet download speed of 50 Mbps or more to avoid latency (lag). For help finding an internet provider in your area, read our guide to the Five Best Internet Providers.

If you’re having a hard time choosing between services, at least Philo offers a seven-day free trial.

Best live TV streaming alternatives to cable

  • Hulu Live—Best value ($69.99–$75.99/mo., 70+ channels)
  • Sling TV—Best for kids ($35.00–$5.00/mo., 30–50+ channels)
  • YouTube TV—Best overall ($64.99/mo., 100+ channels)
  • Philo—Good for lifestyle and entertainment channels ($25.00/mo.)
  • fuboTV—Best for sports ($69.99–$79.99/mo.)

Free live TV streaming services

There aren’t any free cable TV options (aside from stealing it from a neighbor, which we’re absolutely not recommending)—but there are plenty of ways to stream live TV for free. They all involve watching ads, but these free TV servies have to pay for the content somehow.

  • Pluto: Instantly watch 250+ live channels with looped classic programming from Animal Planet, Comedy Central, Investigation Discovery, MTV, Shout! Factory, SHOWTIME® and more. Most content is available on-demand, too.
  • Peacock: NBCUniversal’s popular livestreaming TV service has a free tier with limited content (about half of the paid tier’s library), which is pretty generous.
  • Tubi: Register for a free account download the app, and 50,000 movies and shows are at your fingertips.
  • Crackle: A smallish library of 700+ titles includes older movies and TV series, but also some quality original programming.
  • Sling Free: You don’t have to subscribe to a Sling TV package in order to watch 80+ live channels (similar to the looped channels of Pluto) and a deep on-demand library. Just download the Sling TV app and click on “Explore Sling Free.”
  • IMDb TV (Prime Video): You’ll be suprised by the depth and quality of this Amazon-owned free service, which you access through the Prime Video app.

These are just a few of the free TV services out there. For more, check out our guide to the Best Free and Cheap Streaming Services.

Final take

Cheap or free TV service is real. You don’t have to give up TV entirely to make budget cuts.

If you like traditional cable or satellite TV, Astound Broadband has the most affordable internet-and-TV bundle, but it’s essentially a basic cable plan, which we don’t recommend. If you need only basic local channels, an OTA TV antenna gives you what you want without a basic cable plan’s monthly payment.

And if you seek more flexibility than cable television can offer, give live TV streaming services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Philo a shot. Or, you know, go ahead and stack all of those freebie services like Peacock, Pluto, Tubi, Crackle, Sling Free, or IMDb TV.

Methodology

Our TV experts we regularly research, test, and watch for affordable TV options, then sharing our thoughts on the services’  value, features, and functionality with our readers. For more information on our process, see our How We Rank page.

Free and low-cost cable TV options FAQ

What is the cheapest cable company?

Astound Broadband’s Digital Basic TV + 155 Mbps Internet offers 70+ channels and speeds up to 50 Mbps starting at $29.99 a month for the first 12 months. (Prices and availability might not be available where you live.)

What is a cheap alternative to cable TV?

The live TV streaming service Philo has 60+ channels, unlimited DVR, and three streams for $25 a month. But if you don’t need your local channels, Pluto offers 250+ live channels and tons of on-demand titles for free.

How can I watch cable TV for free?

We don’t know of a legal way to watch cable or satellite TV for free. But you can get 250+ channels from Pluto for absolutely nothin’.

Note, though, that Pluto is ad-supported so you’ll have to watch commercials—and Pluto’s channels are mostly loops of older movies and shows—but it’s all quality stuff from networks like Animal Planet, MTV, Shout! Factory, and SHOWTIME. You also won’t get your local channels—but an inexpensive over-the-air (OTA) antenna like the Mohu Leaf Plus is reasonably priced (around $60), and it’ll pick up every free channel for 60 miles.

What is the cheapest internet-and-cable TV bundle?

If you can get it in your area, Astound Broadband has a cheap internet-and-cable TV bundle. You can get its Digital Basic TV package (55+ channels) with high-speed internet (speeds vary with location) in a double-play deal that starts at $29.99 a month (for the first 12 months).

How can I reduce my cable bill?

To reduce your cable bill, try these suggestions:

  • Drop down to a cheaper package.
  • Call your provider’s customer retention department and see if you can negotiate a discount—especially if you’ve been a good customer. You can also inquire about cheap cable TV for low-income households.
  • If you can handle commercials, drop cable altogether and use only free, ad-supported services like Pluto, Tubi, and more.
  • Xfinity internet-only customers: check out Xfinity Flex, the provider’s content-rich combination streaming device and service.

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