3 Inexpensive Ways to Watch Television and Movies Beyond Cable TV

by Gina Blitstein · 50 comments

Once upon a time, if you wanted to watch a show on television, you had to be in front of the TV at the time it aired. Maybe you could catch the rerun if you saw it listed in the TV Guide — otherwise, it was gone for good. If you wanted to watch a recent movie, you went to the theater. Then, if you waited a decade or so, that movie might show up on TV on the Late, Late Show. Those were the only means by which you could watch television and movies when the technology to create them was young.

In the 1970’s an amazing thing called Cable Television came about, delivering the ability to view not only ABC, NBC, CBS and a handful of local stations around the country but independent national networks that sprang up with original programming. It was a big adjustment for people to pay for the privilege of watching TV but the benefits of having all those choices proved worth the cost. Not long after that, HBO (Home Box Office), arrived on the scene bringing movies into our homes less than a year after they appeared in theaters! Since then it’s been a continuous stream through the years of more channels, more programming and more ways to watch entertainment.

Fast forward to today where we not only get TV and movies on our phones but there’s virtually no such thing as ‘appointment TV’ — we can watch what we want, when we want, wherever we want. While the choices are overwhelming, there’s a bright upside — the cost of entertainment is actually more affordable than ever. We’re a long way from bloated cable and satellite packages offering us more channels and choices than we can possibly watch at more than we need to pay.

While still present in most homes, cable and satellite companies aren’t the only game in town anymore for providing electronic entertainment. More and more customers are opting for basic service and filling out their options with the ‘a la carte’ options that abound, such as:

  1. Pay-per-view / On demand: If you don’t want to go to the expense of paying for premium channels 24/7, you can choose a pay-per view or on-demand selection through either your cable or satellite provider, computer, mobile device or gaming console, to watch specifically when you want. Pay-per-view usually costs less than $5 each; special events, such as boxing matches, are sometimes offered at a higher price. Subscription services, like Netflix, offer unlimited on-demand movies and television streaming over the Internet for under $10 per month.
  2. Internet: Miss an episode of your favorite show? Go to the network’s website and chances are you can watch the full episode online. Another way to access entertainment via the Internet is through a Roku box which enables you to watch Internet-based content on your TV. And Hulu.com provides access to TV shows and movies with free and paid plans.
  3. DVD Rental: They look more like vending machines than storefronts now but you can rent DVDs of movies or television shows for as little as $1 each per day from Redbox. Netflix will also deliver DVDs to your house instead of over the Internet if you prefer.

Compared to the price of expensive premium channel cable or satellite packages or going to a movie theater, these at-home or on-the-go solutions allow you to have top-quality entertainment delivered to you anytime, anywhere for very little outlay. Today’s technology has created the means for more entertainment to be more affordable.

How does technology cut your entertainment expenses?

And if you really can’t let go of your TV service, at least look at all the currently available broadband promotions to see if you can save some money every single month.

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

teresa foster July 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm

We have had only antenna/w converter box because we have an old tv. Got them at Walmarts both for less than $30 gov gave the first box free. We got all the networks, PBS (4), ION (4) CW and several oldies channels, our 10 added a “weather channel” and all free. My daughter in New Orleans (I bought her an antenna) and she could get over 40 stations free. So please add antenna, some people are just as happy with network and a few extras.

Joey July 20, 2012 at 7:02 am


You make it sound like one absolutely has to watch TV. You don’t have to watch at all. You sound so frustrated that there’s no silver bullet answer to paying much less for TV while having the same or similar convenience as a cable/sat subscription.

At the risk of sounding preachy: After cancelling my cable and home phone (saved me ~ 140$/mo) for AppleTV/Netflix and a OTA digital receiver (I get two HD local channels- that’s it).

I have to choose what I want to watch (Instead of flopping down and channel surfing for the evening after dinner) and because there are no commercials with Netflix, I end up being “done” sooner and because I am actively picking what to watch, I am very conscious about what else I could be doing.

I am back at the gym, spending time outside with friends and walking my dog more than ever.

It really is a great time to cut the cable.

Luke D. August 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I want to go back to broadcast TV. Just bring it on with the air waves.

Chrissysno August 16, 2012 at 7:02 am

I have basic cable for $61.00/month, Netflix for $7.99/Mo, and Magic Jack for $29.00/year. I live frugally, and have NO debt. I work part time to pay for my taxes, living expenses,and car insurance and have been semi-retired since I was 47 years old. I am now 50, and am really enjoying life in upstate NY. I just want to pass on that if you avoid all of the spending pitfalls,(credit card debt, buying all of the most expensive “Toys”, trying to keep up with the Jones, etc.) You can have it all, later in life, and not be under the heavy burden of DEBT.

Auroden August 16, 2012 at 8:22 am

Over the air TV was not very popular before because the quality was poor. Snow, ghosts and weak signals were forcing people to go and pay for cable or satellite. Now with the digital TV the situation changed. Perfect clear picture and sound with only rabbit ears antenna. It is waste of money to pay for cable TV (60$ for basic Standard Def channels) now when you get High Def 1080i for free Over Te Air. After the digital TV era started, both satellite and cable provider are loosing the customers every day. Finally, the overpricing will destroy them. Period.

Wayne August 26, 2012 at 11:28 pm

I just dumped dish at $84/month, and using Netflix at $8/month. I bought a used PC connected to my LCD TV for watching network episodes, and I watch the Hulu free version. I also added a TV tuner to the PC and a HD antenna so I can record OTA program on the PC. My daughter is hooked on Watch32.com. This is all I really need. Who had time to watch 240 satellite channels anyway?

Gracie August 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Jess, I am a senior citizen and would like you to tell me more about ROKU. What exactly is it and what does it cost? Is it connected to the internet or to the Tv. I am a ding a ling about this but would like to get rid of my cable. I do have a converter box on one of my t v’s and it brings in some stations but I have cable on the other. I would like to be able to get more channels without using cable . I have both analog tv’s. Don’t think there is any need to buy a new tv with these 2 analogs that work perfectly. Thanks Gracie B

Ladynoden October 1, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Even if you go with watching movies online, you’re still paying for the broadband usage. And most likely you will go over the cap limit so it’s a no-win situation.

Stan October 9, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I am surprised we cannot get more people to record TV shows and put them on YouTube. I just watched two movies, in about 8 parts for free. It was fine.

If people were organized, maybe figured a way to do TV shows on YouTube, it would be interesting.

Is there a reason this wouldn’t work?

Sweet October 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

You can get any movie or TV show or music or radio for that matter 100% free. Watch on your computer or connect your computer to your television and watch on the screen that you are accustomed to.
Always completely FREE. no strings attached.
Visit Sweetsandyshouse.weebly.com and see for yourself.

nath November 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm

It’s called 1channel.ch

it has literally every tv show and movie ever made, even older shows. it also has the lastest releases. It lists the links to sites streaming them. All free. None of that payment nonesense!

Bee December 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I was with Comcast for many years with terrible service. My bill kept going up and up. The picture quality continued to get worse. I bought a Antennas Direct unit(50 mile coverage) and a RCA box. Costs less than 1 month of cable. Works better than cable. I get 22-25 stations. I pay for Netflix for more movie options. I do miss a couple of series from SCI-fi and AMC but otherwise very happy. Not going back.

mitch December 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

I’m thinking about buying TIVO only if I can use on the net only. Not sure if it works that way, I have free antenna TV for 18 months now. Not bad and screw the cable / satellite companies, as they are just thieves. Commercials are income to them plus my bill? Nah. Thanks for the ideas folks.

L January 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm

TV Devo IS a scam – they sell you channels you can get for free AND will not refund anything. Save your money, be smart.

Paddleford February 6, 2013 at 8:33 am

I’m thinking of quitting Direct TV, $67 Mo., but it’s difficult to give up watching favorite programs WHEN WE WANT TO (RECORDED), and BYPASS ADVERTISEMENTS. Hulu has 230 or so programs but almost NO current programs we watch. Pluses/minuses here.

Jealith February 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I have a Roku and love it. I use a Netflix subscription ($8.00) and occasionally buy an on demand movie from Amazon.com. ($.99-$4.99) Movies are available to rent or buy when the DVD comes out and it’s a lot cheaper then going to the theater. I also sometimes buy a season of tv shows. There are also sports channels if you are into that. There is no way I would ever go back to satellite or cable TV, ever. I had Hulu Plus, it sucks, service was spotty and it kept freezing up. None of the other channels I have on my Roku had a problem. Crackle is free but doesn’t have much of a selection. All in all, Roku is one of the best gifts I have ever received. One time payment of around $50.00 and you can have free or very low cost tv and movies. Why pay more. Oh, did I mention NO COMMERCIALS??

Mary March 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

Anyone still paying for cable in this economy either likes throwing away money, or isn’t aware of how many shows, movies and channels you can watch online, FREE!!! All you need to do is GOOGLE: Places to watch tv online for free and the programs and movies you can get is unbelievable!!! GRABOID is exceptional for offering current movies and the resolution is outstanding…no fuzzy or blurred images. Although there is a cost for monthly subscribers, it’s minimal when compared to cable subscription, and you can try it without charge, for a few weeks!

While I agree with Guest2011 that it sucks that you can’t always go back and view missed episodes of your favorite shows, you just need to get a little innovative and tape these shows, or do what my daughter and I do: buy the entire season when they come out on dvd. (I’ve yet to buy the first season of Damages but I’m not stressin it….it will make a wonderful Christmas or birthday gift to myself)!!

Roku comes highly recommended…I agree with Jealith about the suckiness of Hulu Plus (Hulu started off great but quickly descended into nothingness)…I can’t even remember the last time I tuned in to Hulu….Channel 1 is wonderful, you’ve got sports channels, on demand is always an option for great sports that you might not be able to find for free (this year’s Superbowl was free on FB!!!!!!)

Tons of free tv-watching web sites, lots of options and coupled with an antenna for local programming, cable is so last decade!!!!

Investigate your options, cut the cable cord and save your money……take your family to dinner more often, feed your savings account or buy something nice for yourself! The cable companies will never treat you as if you matter, until consumers start showing them that overpriced, impersonal cable provders, don’t!!

Annie Clark March 7, 2013 at 6:50 am

It saddens me greatly that with all these comments, nobody has yet mentioned your local library!
You taxes have ALREADY PAID for the services that you can get from the library- why would you not want to get what you’ve paid for! Yes, it may not be the ONLY way you wish to get video stuff, but you can check the catalog, on-line, for what you want from both your local branch and from a wider system, even State-wide!, and then reserve the item. Yes, you’ll have to stop by & pick it up, but you can use that trip to entertain your kids for free by going to the kid’s dept. & seeing what they have going on. Libraries can help you get free/discounted passes to local museums & zoos & save you cash in many, many ways… PLUS, when you have a library card, you can look to them for help if your home computer is having troubles. When storms come through & power goes out, your local library has wi-fi & re-charging help. Ya really oughta “check it out” if you’re truly serious about saving money on TV and so much, much more!

jrm March 7, 2013 at 9:16 am

How about Apple TV? Will that provide cable content?

Lee March 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

I disconnected broadcast tv two years ago. I use Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, redbox, usually watch one or two shows a night. I recommend looking into UK shows, “Intelligence” is a great Canadian series, “Mcleod’s Daughters” is an addictive Aussie soaper, plus the Scandinavian offerings, films and tv. No need for expensive cable…we have the Internet & radio for news.

Sabapete May 17, 2013 at 12:33 am

Given that articles on the internet are read worldwide, and given that most of the world’s population resides outside of the continental US, perhaps writers can remember that all of the services offered by Netflix, Amazon and the TV networks themselves, are NOT available to them. So perhaps someone can write an article about similar solutions available worldwide?

Ant May 28, 2013 at 2:56 am

Forget cable and satellite (don’t even have time and money to watch all those). Antenna(s/e), Internet, and physical discs FTW!

Mike February 17, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Another way of watching local network is via a HD Antenna

Joe March 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Does anybody know of a way to get news channels like HLN (Headline News), CNN, MSNBC, FOX and or The History channel without a huge cable/satellite bill? Thanks

Candy May 5, 2014 at 7:00 am

All these free websites want you to create an account and give them your credit card info ie Couch tuner.
One of those sites are in Bosnia. like I’m giving my credit card info to them! I like the antenna idea, as here in citrus county,fl. You can’t get ANY channels without a cable connection.

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