It’s no secret that consumers love to hate their cable companies. But the good news for many of us is that, at least when it comes to TV, there are now plenty of online streaming services that can serve as alternatives to traditional pay TV.

Just remember that all these services require a decent broadband Internet connection—often delivered by the same company that has been providing your TV service.

To get a good overview of all the different online options, check our Guide to Streaming Video Services. And to see how you might put together your own package of services, see the four possible scenarios we have listed below, including three cord-cutting options that can bring big savings.

(If you’re reading this article on your smartphone, we recommend that you rotate your phone to landscape mode to better view the table below.)

Classic Triple Player

You want it all and don’t mind paying for it.

Cord Shaver
You want most of what you get from cable TV—but without the cable.

Discriminating Viewer

You want local stations, plus Netflix and HBO originals.

Hard-Core Cord Cutter

You depend solely on online video content—and not much of it.

What You Start WithPay TV, internet, and phone, all bundled together ($185)1Internet and phone ($70)

Internet ($60)2, antenna ($40 purchase)

Internet ($60)
What You AddAmazon Prime ($8.25/month) and Netflix Premium ($12/month) Hulu With Live TV ($40), Netflix Standard ($10), and Amazon Prime ($8.25)Netflix Basic ($8), HBO Now ($15)Pay-per-view services such as iTunes and Amazon Video
What You Can WatchHundreds of channels and Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows, movies, and original programs. A DVR that lets you record shows. Premium Netflix lets four people use the service on different devices at the same time and includes 4K programming. (Basic allows for only one screen at a time.) Broadcast TV channels such as ABC and NBC, if you live in a bigger market, plus about 50 cable channels, and Netflix and Amazon Prime TV shows, movies, and original programs. Hulu With Live TV comes with a cloud-based DVR that lets you record shows.Free over-the-air broadcast channels, mainly for local news and sports; Netflix movies and original series; and all of HBO’s lineup of movies and original shows, from “Silicon Valley” to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”Free TV from channels that offer it (most broadcast channels and a few cable networks offer some free shows online), plus two movie rentals ($6 each) and two TV rentals ($3 each) each month.
Monthly Cost




  1. The average cost of a triple-play bundle comes from responses to the telecom section of the Consumer Reports Fall 2016 Annual Questionnaire.
  2. The average internet cost of $60 per month is based on Leichtman Research Group estimates.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.