Everything old is new again, apparently. YouTube TV is raising its prices for all customers to $50 per month (albeit with the addition of Discovery’s channels). That’s basically in line with pricing for Hulu + Live TV, PlayStation Vue, and DirecTV Now, and is pretty close to what you’d pay for an equivalent cable package. The future sucks!
Luckily, it’s not your only option for affordable, live TV with no contract.
If you primarily subscribed to YouTube TV for local channels like CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, and you live in or reasonably close to a city, you should probably just get an antenna. Lifehacker has a great guide to help you pick the right one for you, but indoor “mudflap” style antennas have gotten extremely affordable in recent years, and can often be had for under $20. That’s, of course, a one-time fee. The public airways are just that—public—so there’s no need to pay a subscription fee.
Adding an amplifier to your antenna (which can usually be powered by the USB port on your TV) can add a few miles of range, and antennas that ship with one only cost a few bucks more.
And even if you live far away from the nearest transmitter, attic or roof-mounted antennas can pull in signals from over 50 miles away, in ideal conditions.
A nice thing about antennas is that they can plug straight into your TV. A bad thing about antennas is that they plug straight into your TV, meaning you don’t get to enjoy YouTube TV-style cloud DVR storage, and you have a less-than-appealing antenna stuck to your wall.
Amazon’s Fire TV Recast solves both problems. Instead of plugging the antenna into your TV, you plug it into the Recast box anywhere in your home—even a closet, provided you get good enough reception—and it rebroadcasts your live and recorded content over the internet to any Fire TV, smartphone, tablet, or Echo Show.
For TiVo devotees—I know there are still some of you out there—the original DVR company makes a version of its Bolt DVR just for cord cutters. The Bolt OTA costs $250 upfront, and still requires a monthly fee, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it over the Recast, but the TiVo remote is still undefeated.
If local channels won’t satisfy all of your live TV needs, there is still one bargain basement online cable option that you should consider. Sling was one of the first over-the-top cable alternatives, and it remains the most affordable and flexible.
Plans start at $25 per month (or $15 right now, to celebrate the NBA and NHL playoffs), and allow you to choose from two smaller selections of networks, or combine them into a single package. Optional add-ons let you tack on premium channels, extra sports, cloud DVR, and more. The packages aren’t as as comprehensive as YouTube TV or its direct competitors, but if it has the channels that you care about, it’s a better deal than anything else out there.
Plus, depending on where you live, it may give you access to your local Fox and NBC affiliate, no antenna required.