Best apps for cord cutters

What are the best app alternatives to cable?

Update, May 2017: Added a section and expanded the introduction to include information about emerging live TV streaming services.

Though it'll likely take years for cable to die completely, more and more folks are cutting the cord and opting for streaming services instead, and many networks are taking notice and offering their own apps.

While on-demand apps like Netflix and Hulu continue to grow in popularity, over the last couple of years, a different kind of service has started to pop up: live TV streaming. With services like DirecTV Now and the recently-launched Hulu with Live TV, customers can get a cable-like experience that blends live and on-demand television, without hassles like contracts and hardware installation that you would find with cable.

Here are our favorite apps for cutting the cord and freefalling into TV bliss.

Everything on-demand

Services like Netflix and Hulu continue to be popular destinations for cord-cutters, but they're not the only options. Recently, premium cable channels like HBO and Starz have begun offering their entire lineup of original programs and movies, along with licensed content, in stand-alone apps, available without a cable subscription.

Netflix

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Might as well start off with the most obvious one. Netflix set the tone for streaming content and forever changed the way people watch the shows they love.

Netflix updates its library monthly and you'll see different content depending on your location, but you get awesome movies, awesome TV shows, and some truly stellar original programming (see: Daredevil). If you want more TV than you can handle for under $10 a month, then look no further.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

HBO NOW

HBO NOWHBO NOWHBO NOW

HBO NOW differs from the HBO GO app in that you don't need to have any cable subscription or TV packages. You just subscribe to NOW and you get everything that HBO currently has to offer.

That's more Westworld, Game of Thrones, and… you know… I'm sure they have other shows.

A subscription is $14.99 per month and only available in the U.S. for now. The app is available for iPhone and iPad and comes pre-installed on 4th generation Apple TVs (U.S. only).

Starz

StarzStarzStarz

Like HBO and Netflix, Starz has some fantastic original series, and for $8.99 a month, you can download all of them, as well as big-time movies, so that you can take it all with you wherever you go.

Watch shows like Outlander, Black Sails, Ash vs. Evil Dead, and more, and download them and save them to watch on your schedule.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV; only in the U.S.

Plex

PlexPlex

If you're someone who likes to legally download movies and TV shows and you have a huge home server filled with content, Plex is your mobile gateway.

You'll need the free Plex media server software on your computer first, and with the app, you'll be able to stream your media to all of your devices.

There's an app available for iPhone and iPad, as well as Apple TV. You can also opt for a premium subscription ($4.99 a month), which allows you to sync files to your devices for offline viewing, as well as other features, like parental controls, trailers, and other extras.

Hulu

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Hulu is an app similar to Netflix in that you can stream a plethora of TV series and movies, but unlike Netflix, Hulu gives you the latest episodes of many of the most popular TV shows around. So you can keep up-to-date and spoiler-free without having to subscribe to a cable package.

Hulu also offers past seasons of great shows like Seinfeld, South Park, CSI, and more. You can control what the kids see and watch many of your favorite series in HD.

Hulu is only available in the U.S. There's an app for iPhone and iPad, as well as one for Apple TV. Subscriptions are $7.99 a month for limited commercials and $13.99 for no commercials.

TV app for Apple TV

TV App

Think of the TV app for Apple TV as a sort of modern museum for all of your streaming apps. It curates everything in one place for you so that, rather than having to hop apps over to HBO NOW when you want to watch Veep after watching Saturday Night Live on Hulu, you can just view everything in the one app.

Siri's also integrated so you can call up shows and movies with your voice instead of having to use that tediously infuriating touch pad to type (seriously, who the hell thought that was a good idea?!).

The TV app will also make suggestions for you, making new favorites that much easier to discover.

The best part? It's baked right into tvOS, so just make sure you have the latest software update and it's there for you.

FilmStruck

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Sick and tired of all the crap? Popular TV not really your style? Then check out FilmStruck, which is a film-lover's dream, housing content from Turner Classic Movies to please fans of classic movies and arthouse films.

Watch oldies like Metropolis, A Hard Day's Night, and more, while enjoying newer artsy films like Amelie, Clerks (yeah, Clerks; go figure), Moulin Rouge and more.

The library is constantly refreshed and more than 80 movies are added each month. The best part? IT'S ALL FREE.

Reuters TV

Reuters TVReuters TVReuters TV

Amid all the movies and TV shows, you probably want to keep up with current events and who better than the world's foremost news organization to help you out?

The Reuters TV app is available for Apple TV, as well as iPhone and iPad, and for $1.99 a month, you can get all the video news you need to keep up with the world.

The absolute best feature is your ability to choose the duration of your news program. Tell the app how much time you have, from 5 to 30 minutes, and it'll put together a newscast for you.

The joy of cable without the hassles

These services have cropped up in the last couple of years, and offer cable-like bundles of channels, but without hassles like installation, specialized hardware, and contracts. Prices often start lower than the average cable plan, making them a great option if you want to ditch cable without loosing live TV.

Hulu with Live TV

Hulu with Live TV

The newest kid on the live TV streaming block, Hulu with Live TV combines Hulu's vast library of on-demand TV and movie content, including freshly-aired episodes, with live streaming. Much like other services on this list, Hulu with Live TV lets you watch more than 50 popular cable channels, starting at $39.99 per month. Broadcast channels and local sports are also available in select areas.

In addition to live and on-demand content from those channels, that $39.99 per month also lets you record up to 50 hours of live TV using Hulu's Cloud DVR. You also get unlimited access to Hulu's streaming library with limited commercials. For $43.99 per month, the streaming library looses those commercials, while you can add both 200 hours of Cloud DVR (with commercial skipping) and watching on unlimited screens for an additional $14.99 per month each

Available on Apple TV through the standard Hulu app, while on iPhone and iPad you'll need to download the new Hulu with Live TV app, at least for now.

DirecTV Now

DirecTV Now

Launching late last year from AT&T, DirecTV Now, like Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV, offers both live and on-demand content from cable channels. Like Hulu, it also includes access to regional sports, and there are some optional premium channels that you can add to your plan on top of the standard subscription price.

DirecTV Now's offerings offer a slight resemblance to more traditional cable TV providers. The service offers four different packages, starting at $35 per month for more than 60 channels. It's other offerings include more than 80 channels for $50 per month, more than 100 for $60, and over 120 channels for $70 per month. These prices include the live TV from broadcasters like NBC, ABC, FOX, and Telemundo that is available in select cities.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

Sling TV

Sling TV

Like the other services on this list, Sling TV features both live and on-demand programming from a number of cable channels, though with fewer broadcast options than the others, even in the small selection of locations in which they are available. However, Sling has two advantages over other live TV streaming services: flexibility and starting price.

Admittedly, the price advantage can evaporate if you take advantage of much of Sling TV's flexibility, but it's important to note that the starting price of $19.99 a month is the lowest of any live TV streaming service. As for flexibility, Sling starts with a skinny bundle, which it allows you to add to with a number of packages, costing an additional $5-$15 a month on top of your initial subscription. Each package is aimed at a different type of TV, with the News Extra package offering MSNBC, HLN, CNBC, and more, for instance.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

Your favorite?

What have you used to cut the cord? Do you miss cable? Let us know in the comments below!