SVG Icons

Free and Low-Cost Cable TV Options 2020

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

Free and low-cost TV during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

With shelter-in-place laws in effect across the country, Americans everywhere are turning more and more to TV for news and entertainment. Check out our guide to TV, streaming, and internet service during the pandemic to see what free and low-cost TV options cable companies and streaming services are currently offering to help out.

Looking for free or cheap cable TV service? We’ve found some low-cost cable packages and ways to get free cable TV for low-income households (or those just looking for a cheap cable option).

Bundles and basic cable packages

Many budget cable TV plans start around $50 per month, but some companies have basic channel lineups that are even more affordable. These small plans are usually available only when you bundle with internet. Bundling cable TV and internet is always a great way to save on both these services, and we highly recommend it.

Check out the packages below for a quick look at some affordable TV and internet bundles:

Digital Basic TV + 155 Mbps Internet

  • Starting at $29.99/mo. for the first 12 mos. 
  • 70+ channels
  • Cable speeds up to 155 Mbps

Value TV + Internet 100

  • Month-to-month contract
  • $54.99/mo. for the first 12 mos.
  • 200+ channels
  • Cable speeds up to 100 Mbps

These packages aren’t obtainable in all areas, so use your ZIP code below to see which cable companies and plans are available to you. Cable providers will often have cheap TV packages not advertised online, so your best bet is to call in and ask about deals.

Please enter a valid zip code.

Finally, for your convenience, here’s a brief overview of what other cable and satellite TV providers have to offer.

Cable and satellite TV providers at a glance

  • RCN—Cheapest ($29.99–$119.99/mo.)
  • Suddenlink—No contracts ($54.99–$139.99/mo.)
  • AT&T TV—Includes streaming device ($49.99–$174.97/mo.)
  • Cox—Excellent DVR ($25.00–$69.99/mo.)
  • Spectrum—Includes premium channels ($44.99–$89.99/mo.)
  • Verizon Fios—Most channels ($50.00–$90.00/mo.)
  • Optimum—No contracts ($74.99–$129.99/mo.)
  • Xfinity—X1 DVR ($20.00–$89.99/mo.)
  • Frontier—Bundles with fast FiOS internet ($64.99–$137.99/mo.)
  • DIRECTV—NFL SUNDAY TICKET ($39.99–$114.99/mo.)
  • DISH—Hopper 3 DVR ($59.99–$94.99/mo.)

Data as of 06/26/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

One caution against cheap cable packages: Some local packages have only 15 channels or so. While these packages might seem budget friendly, they often come with equipment fees that add up quickly, so be careful!

If you need only local channels, a smart alternative is over-the-air (OTA) TV (a.k.a. a digital antenna). If you need only a few local channels, over-the-air (OTA) TV is a cheaper and smarter alternative—and you’ll probably pick up 30 to 50 free channels, including local affiliates like NBC and The CW.

Over-the-air (OTA) TV

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.

After you purchase an OTA antenna—you can pick up our favorite, the Mohu Blade, for about $28—you can watch TV for free without monthly fees.*

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; $28.65 (as of 6/26/20 12:10 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.

Best for cities

Mohu Leaf Metro

  • 25-mile range
  • Indoor mounting
  • Support for 1080p HD

Best for suburbs

Mohu Leaf 50

  • 50-mile range
  • Indoor mounting
  • Support for 1080p HD

Best for rural areas

1byone Foldable

  • 120-mile range
  • Indoor mounting
  • Support for 1080p and 4K Ultra HD

Before you buy an antenna, use this tool from the FCC to see where local stations are broadcasting from. This will help you know what kind of range you need to look for with 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.

Streaming live TV

Most people are familiar with streaming TV these days. Services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime allow you to stream movies and TV shows online with a flat monthly subscription cost. Streaming live TV is similar in nature but allows you to stream directly from cable networks so you can watch shows at the same time they’re live on cable.

Best live TV streaming alternatives to cable

  • Hulu Live—Best overall ($54.99–$60.99/mo.)
  • Sling TV—Best for sports ($30.00–$45.00/mo.)
  • AT&T Watch TV—Cheapest ($15.00/mo.)
  • YouTube TV—Excellent DVR ($49.99/mo.)
  • Philo—Good for lifestyle and entertainment channels ($20.00/mo.)
  • fuboTV—Best soccer channels ($59.99–$79.99/mo.)
  • AT&T TV NOW—Good for premium channels ($55.00–$135.00/mo.)

Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV are two of the strongest live TV streaming services out there.

Hulu Live offers 60+ channels, a generous on-demand library, cloud DVR, and two streams for $54.99 a month (upgrade to the no-ads plan for an additional $6). You can also get unlimited streams and 200 hours of cloud DVR for $14.99 more monthly.

Sling TV has smaller channel lineups but plenty of cheap add-ons. And, in our expert opinion, it’s the best streaming service for sports.

If you’re looking to cut your cable bill, AT&T WatchTV (35+ channels; $15 per month) and Philo (55+ channels; $20 per month) are cheaper than basic cable and have better channels.

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

Hulu-Center-Color-640x400

Best overall

Hulu+Live TV

$54.99/mo.

60+ channels

 

Hulu+Live TV (No Ads)

$60.99/mo.

60+ channels

Sling-Center-Color-640x400

Best for sports

Sling Orange

$20/mo.*

30+ channels

 

Sling Blue

$20/mo.*

45+ channels

 

Sling Orange + Blue

$35/mo.*

50+ channels

Both of these live TV streaming providers offer a seven-day free trial. So if you’re not sure which is better for you, try both Hulu Live and Sling TV for free first.

Streaming live TV is an effective cable TV alternative, but it does have some drawbacks. While it doesn’t have contracts or equipment costs, it requires a strong internet connection.

Try to get an internet download speed of 50 Mbps or more to avoid latency (lag). But before you sign up, ensure that your internet plan and chosen streaming service won’t cost more than a TV-and-internet bundle from a cable provider.

Final take: bundle your cable with internet

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, consider bundling or going with a smaller channel lineup. If you need only basic local channels, try OTA TV. And if you seek more flexibility than cable television can offer, give livestreaming TV a shot.

Or, you know, go ahead and stack all of those freebie services like Pluto, Xumo, Tubi, or Flex.

Swipe Left to See All →

Free and low-cost cable TV options FAQ

Can I get basic cable for free?

No, basic cable isn’t free. You can get a basic cable package for anywhere from $20 to $40 per month.

What is the cheapest cable company? 

Suddenlink’s Value TV + Internet 100 gives you 200+ channels and internet speeds up to 100 Mbps for $54.99 a month for the first 12 months. RCN’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?

Pluto and Xumo both offer 100+ live and on-demand channels for free. Sling TV gives you 30–50 channels starting at $25 a month—and a ton of inexpensive add-ons.

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 100+ channels from both Pluto and Xumo for absolutely nothin’. Be advised, though, that these channels carry some of the same programming but not the same channels.

You also won’t get your local channels—but an inexpensive over-the-air (OTA) antenna like the Mohu Blade is reasonably priced (around $36), and it’ll pick up every free channel for 50 miles.

Xfinity customers should check out Xfinity Flex, the provider’s combination of a streaming device and service. Flex combines Xfinity’s on-demand library (10,000+ titles) with NBC’s Peacock service, Pluto, Xumo, Tubi, and your paid services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and HBO®. And it’s free to Xfinity internet-only customers.

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

If you can get it in your area, RCN has a cheap internet-and-cable TV bundle. You can get its Digital Basic TV package (61+ 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 the following:

  • 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.
  • If you can handle commercials, drop cable altogether and use only free, ad-supported services like Pluto, Xumo, Tubi, and more.
  • Xfinity internet-only customers: check out Xfinity Flex, the provider’s content-rich combination streaming device and service.

CERTAIN CONTENT THAT APPEARS ON THIS SITE COMES FROM AMAZON. THIS CONTENT IS PROVIDED ‘AS IS’ AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR REMOVAL AT ANY TIME.

Don't miss an update

Stay updated on the latest products and services anytime anywhere.

This site is a U.S. Consumer site. You can learn more about our site and privacy policy here.