If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cord but don’t know where to start, this step-by-step guide will help you cancel cable and switch to a live TV streaming service.
With so many cord-cutting options, the process can be complicated and overwhelming.
How to Cut the Cable TV Cord in 7 Steps
But when you’re just getting started with streaming TV, you don’t need to spend days and weeks researching the best way to cut the cable TV cord.
That’s my job!
Since 2016, I’ve helped thousands of people make the switch from cable to streaming.
This article features a simple 7-step plan that I developed for people who are new to streaming and want the best of cable TV at a cheaper monthly price.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- Review Your Cable TV Bill
- Get Quotes for Internet Service
- Set a Streaming TV Budget
- Buy an Entry-Level Streaming Device
- Consider Testing Out a Live TV Streaming Service
- Cancel Cable TV Service
- Continue to Comparison Shop
1. Review Your Cable TV Bill
The first step to cutting the cord is to review your last bill from your cable TV provider. Check your bill to see if you’re locked in a contract and when that contract ends.
If you’re not tied to a contract, skip ahead to the next step.
But if you do have a contract, you want to determine if you’ll owe an early termination fee for dropping cable.
Your bill should include a website where you can read the terms and conditions.
If you can’t get confirmation in the fine print, call or live chat with your cable TV provider and ask the following questions:
- I’m thinking about canceling cable TV service. Will I owe an early termination fee?
- If so, how much is the early termination fee?
- Can I avoid paying an early termination fee if I keep internet service?
That last question is key. Some pay-TV providers are allowing customers to drop cable without penalty if they switch to an internet-only plan.
However, you may be forced to sign a new contract for the best deal on internet service.
2. Get Quotes for Internet Service
All live TV streaming services require a high-speed internet connection, so cutting the cord makes the most sense for people who are already paying for internet access.
To help you pick an internet plan that will meet the demands of live TV streaming, there are three main factors to consider:
- Download Speed
- Data Caps
If your only choice for internet service is through your cable provider, call them to see how much an internet-only plan will cost.
But if your local phone company also provides internet plans, you’ll want to check their prices too.
When I polled my YouTube community about the cost of internet service, the majority of the nearly 300 people who responded said they pay $50 to $75 a month.
You can lower that price by purchasing your own modem and router instead of renting equipment.
To stream live TV without lag or buffering, you’ll need an internet plan that provides enough speed.
For a typical household, I recommend buying an internet plan with download speeds ranging from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps. It’s possible to stream with a 50 Mbps plan, but service may not be as reliable.
With an internet plan that has download speeds of 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps, a handful of devices can connect to the network at the same time.
With the rise of streaming, some internet service providers have added data caps to their plans that can result in extra fees.
Since streaming TV uses data, this could be an issue for heavy users and large households.
If the internet service providers in your area have data caps, you may be able to pay an extra $25 to $50 a month for unlimited data.
However, internet providers insist that most customers are not affected by data caps.
IMPORTANT: If you already have internet service, don’t make any changes to your existing service at this point. For this step, you’re only getting quotes for an internet-only plan!
3. Set a Streaming TV Budget
Setting a streaming TV budget is the third step to cutting the cable TV cord.
After you’ve determined the cost of an internet-only plan, you can subtract that amount from your current cable TV and internet bundle.
That will help you figure out the potential monthly savings from switching to streaming.
Example: $150 Cable & Internet Bundle – $60 Quoted Price for Internet Service = $90 Left for Streaming
Some live TV streaming services advertise that they’re about half the price of cable, but it varies.
The more expensive streaming plans offer well-rounded channel lineups that include local broadcast TV, the most popular sports networks and major cable news channels.
I’ll share my favorite live TV streaming service for beginners later in this guide.
4. Buy an Entry-Level Streaming Device
Live TV streaming services don’t have monthly equipment fees, but you may need to purchase a streaming media player for your TV set.
For a one-time cost of less than $50, Roku has several options for first-time streamers. I recommend that you buy either the Roku Express 4K+ or the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.
Roku devices plug into your TV and connect to the internet to allow you to stream. Each device comes with a remote so that you can navigate all of your streaming apps.
If you’re intimidated by this part of the process, don’t be.
When you hook up the Roku and turn on your TV set, step-by-step instructions will appear on the screen.
Other inexpensive streaming media players include the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and Chromecast with Google TV. They’re good alternatives to Roku’s entry-level devices.
KEY POINT: If you own a fairly new smart TV, you don’t need to buy a separate streaming device. Popular live TV streaming services should be pre-installed or available for download.
However, I like having a Roku anyway for its simple menus and access to free content that you won’t get elsewhere.
5. Consider Testing Out a Live TV Streaming Service
The next step is to try out a live TV streaming service while you’re still paying for cable TV. This is only a test!
I often refer to live TV streaming services as Cable 2.0. They primarily offer bundles of cable networks, but many of the more expensive options include your local broadcast TV channels.
There are a handful of options, but I recommend that you start with YouTube TV.
YouTube TV Fast Facts
- $72.99 per month
- 100+ cable channels
- Local ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS
- Unlimited cloud DVR
- Up to 3 streams at once
- Simple navigation
YouTube TV is one of the more expensive options, but it has a well-rounded channel lineup, unlimited cloud DVR storage and simple navigation.
Live TV streaming services like YouTube TV make the most sense for people who watch a lot of live sports, cable news and their local stations.
In recent years, many entertainment cable networks have reduced their schedules to reality shows and reruns.
You can access the YouTube TV app from select smart TVs and compatible devices.
YouTube TV typically offers a free trial. By the end of that time, you should know if live TV streaming is a suitable cable alternative.
How to Test YouTube TV
During your free trial, compare YouTube TV’s channel lineup to your cable TV provider.
Go through your cable TV live guide and write down all of your must-have channels and then repeat the process using YouTube TV’s live guide.
You also want to use your trial period to evaluate YouTube TV’s user experience and performance. Here are some questions to answer:
- How long does it take to change channels?
- Is there any lag or buffering?
- Have there been any error messages?
You can get YouTube TV’s free trial offer directly from its website. After you sign up, set a reminder for when your free trial ends in case you don’t want to keep the service.
You must enter payment information to start the trial, but you won’t be billed if you cancel before the trial expires.
Learn more in my ultimate guide to YouTube TV for beginners.
YouTube TV Alternatives
If there are no major issues by the end of your trial, consider sticking with YouTube TV for at least a month or two while you adjust to streaming.
But if YouTube TV doesn’t check all of the boxes, look into these alternatives:
Most of these live TV streaming services offer free trials, typically for a week. If you want to extend your testing period, you can try multiple services to see which one you prefer.
I compare the best live TV streaming options in this article.
If you find that you’re not spending as much time watching live TV, you may not need to replace cable with any of the options I’ve mentioned.
Instead, you could stream using more affordable on-demand streaming services like Netflix.
6. Cancel Cable TV Service
After you’ve tested out YouTube TV and perhaps other live TV streaming services, you can contact your cable TV provider to cancel.
I recommend that you cancel by phone and call early in the day for a shorter wait time.
During the phone call, you may be able to negotiate with customer service for a lower price on an internet-only plan with your cable company.
If you have a competing offer from a phone company, this is the time to mention it.
Once you’ve dropped cable TV from your plan, make sure that you return any rental equipment to your provider to avoid paying additional fees.
Congratulations! You’ve officially cut the cable TV cord and switched to streaming.
7. Continue to Comparison Shop
If you like everything about cable TV except the price, the combination of YouTube TV and an affordable streaming device is a great way to start streaming live TV.
However, you can save money by periodically comparing streaming plans and deals.
Streaming services beat cable TV on price, but they’re also more consumer-friendly. Since live TV streaming services have no contracts, you can cancel at any time.
That gives you the flexibility to switch streaming providers or pause your subscription whenever you want.
Here’s an example:
If you only need live TV streaming for football season, you could cancel YouTube TV during the off-season and try a cheaper option like Sling TV or Philo. To save even more money, consider dropping live TV altogether. Many people use an antenna for local stations and supplement with free and cheap streaming apps.
Based on my viewing habits, I rotate through the major live TV streaming services several times a year.
But I suggest that first-time streamers master YouTube TV with an affordable streaming media player like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick to start.
It’s a one-size-fits-all plan, but it works for most people because it’s so simple.
42 thoughts on “How to Cut the Cord in 7 Steps: The Simple Guide to Cancel Cable TV in 2023”
Hi! I recently cut the cable cord and now have only Xfinity Internet. It comes with Flex, but I also have a Roku, should I be using these both? I am fairly new to streaming only.
If Flex offers all the apps you need, you don’t need a Roku!
This is exactly what I needed and it was explained so clearly. Thank you so much.
After time wasting searches for clear concise workable info on cutting the cord, finding your site was like an oasis in the dessert. Looking forward to kicking cable to the curb and saving a few $$$.
I have seen comments online that YouTube TV makes it “impossible” to cancel service once you start it. Frequent comments are that after being unsuccessful canceling it online they try calling YouTube TV support and never get anyone to answer the phone. Do you have experience with the cancellation process or suggestions?
It is easy to cancel from your online dashboard. I have stopped and started the service many times.
Michael, I own a smart tv, do I still need to buy a Roku devise? I am thinking about cutting the cable, but all of this scares me so.
Don’t be scared. I think I mentioned in the article that with a smart TV you may not *need* a Roku, but it’s good to have. Roku has more apps available that your smart TV manufacturer because Roku is so popular. You can get a Roku Express 4K+ and follow my video on my YouTube channel to set it up in 5 minutes.
If I go with Youtube TV via a Roku, is there a way to program my favorite channels on Youtube TV ?
When you log in from a computer/phone, you can reorder the channel lineup. I show you how in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIwXolpsDJA
You do not even discuss the use of a PC connected to a TV…Used PCs are small, and inexpensive and when combined with wireless a keyboard and mouse make the best streaming platform.
Yes, I do not recommend this method. Maybe 15 years ago — but it’s not convenient for most people today. If it works for you, great.
If I have 3 TV’s, do I need a Roku (or Flex) device for each TV?
Ideally, yes. They’re portable, but you will tire quickly of moving them from room to room. If you’re new to Roku, buy one and try it out first.
I have 2 homes and would like to pay for only one streaming service. I know I have to have internet at both locations. I would like to use the streaming service at either location. Thank you so much for your help
DIRECTV STREAM is pretty flexible for people in your situation, though most services are technically intended for one household only.
How about ads on Roku? Enough to detract from the viewing experience? Any way to eliminate all ads?
Roku has an ad on the right side of its interface, which I generally ignore. But ads on the specific apps– that’s up to the app. Netflix has no ads. Some other services do.
We DVR so many things. How does that work, if we go to digital antenna and a streaming service? Can we still record things to watch at another time?
Depends on the streaming service. Live TV services all have some sort of cloud DVR. On-demand services there is no need for DVR since it’s all available at any time. For recording network TV, you could look into purchasing a separate DVR such as Tablo.
Hi, I cut the cable cord quite awhile ago and found someone (which was not easy) to put an antenna on the roof for my HDtvs and was more pleased with the programming and picture than what I got with the ever-increasing bill on cable. But I just lost my favorite channel, ME-tv, which moved from WTTG channels in D.C. to a much lower-powered transmitter and no amount of rescanning is locating the channel tho I get other D.C. channels just fine. Someone on the ME-tv FB page suggested I use a Roku–but isn’t that just the same problem? You would hook it up to your antenna and scan and it’s not going to find the station either, or is it? and, yes, I know there’s a special app that is supposed to allow you to stream ME-tv on Roku…but would that work if the station is now ‘unavailable’ in my area (which is approx. 60 mi. from D.C.) ? I’ve been trying to find someone who can answer this.
MeTV is available with FrndlyTV — an affordable service. https://try.frndlytv.com/channels/metv
Thank you. I know that, and it is only a few dollars a month, less than Netflix, but I’m determined to never pay for tv again. I spent enough on cable over the years.
thank you for posting this article, it is very informative about the steps I need to take to cut the chord with Xfinity cable tv who’s prices have just went up again which I can no longer sustain. Now I’m about the try the steps you suggested. I’m leaning towards the free trial of Youtube TV.
I have 2 televisions and One of them is not a smartTV just a regular flat screen Toshiba. How can i get the streaming to work on that TV?
You can get the Roku or another streaming stick for the TV that isn’t a smart TV. Step 4 in the article. I have setup guides on my YouTube channel for those Roku devices!
If I have YouTube TV; is there any reason to keep YouTube Premium?
Yes, they’re separate. YouTube Premium only removes ads on regular YouTube.
I have a B&B and 5 TV’s..2 smart TV’s and 3 that I need a convertor box because the TV is not smart or digital. Will I need to buy smart TV’s to replace the 3 or Roku’s for each?
How old are those TV sets? If they have HDMI ports in the back, you can likely use a Roku.
I’m a senior and confused on how all this works. I only watch ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Bravo, Lifetime, BET and Food Network. I pay $60/mo just for cable. How do you know which apps have these networks? I can’t find a list to compare the different companies. I don’t care about live streaming (means watching it the night it premiers, right?) because I usually catch up on all the shows over the weekend (using a DVR) – so I think ‘on-demand’ is what I would use? Any assistance would be appreciated.
I have an older article that may help you: https://michaelsaves.com/streaming/compare-live-tv-streaming-channels. Your favorite channels are owned by multiple companies, which is common — but that’s also what keeps people trapped with high bills. Antenna for locals is best. Bravo content is available on Peacock Premium. BET is with Paramount Plus. You can find Food Network and some Lifetime content on Discovery Plus. That’s your on-demand option. The live TV services will have everything in one app, but it’ll cost around $70/month!
I am on a fixed income, and struggling like most of us..I cut the cable but still have my internet with Xfinity, and also the Infinity flex..and still paying around $65..I wanted to get HULU live, but that is going to cost me $69.00 extra..they are killing me with the equipment costs and “broadcast” fees..so my best option is to purchase my own modem? I’m up in age and get confused with all of this…..so should i get a modem that is like the “tower” I have?
Hi Sandra. If you are connected to the internet, you already have a modem/gateway. Hulu Live replaces your cable TV package, not your internet plan. If the price of Hulu Live is out of reach, I would look at more affordable streaming plans. There are many.
Thanks for your help $ saving ways for seniors. You appear quite patient with us folks.
I have a question about smart TV’s. Are older smart TV’s outdated at some point, causing buffering problems or slow channel changing, or can those problems be internet quality regardless of the TV? And, do smart TV’s update themselves? Or, is there a need for Smart TV’s to update at all? After how many years do I need to buy a new Smart TV?
Hi Bill. My attitude is that if your smart TV’s picture and sound are working, don’t get rid of it. Instead, hook up a Roku, Fire TV Stick or similar device for streaming. I have a Samsung TV and find it slower than using my Roku — and my Samsung is new! As for internet connection, go to Speedtest.net on your computer. If it’s good, you can likely rule that out. You could always buy an inexpensive streaming stick (some of them are less than $25 when on sale) and see if it improves the issues you’re having with buffering and slow navigation. I like the Roku Express 4K+ for an entry-level device. I have a video on my YouTube channel about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6MhMk6ebq0
I think YouTube TV will be best for me to start, along with some add ons. My Internet is going to be through FIOS–not a big hit because I qualify for the $30 off through ACP.
My MAIN concern with streaming is the DVR capability, as I rarely watch anything in real time. I tape most of the network shows, then watch late at night. I can’t get a straight answer on YouTube’s DVR. It says unlimited, but it sounds like I can only watch it on the phone or computer. I need to be able to watch my DVR items on the TV. Do you know if that is possible through YouTube TV?
You can watch your YouTube TV recordings on any device. This is my beginner’s guide: https://michaelsaves.com/streaming/youtube-tv-for-beginners/
we have Roku’s
and still paying for internet.
? is it possible to run the tv’s off of Hot spot from our phone?
? Do we still need to pay monthly for intenet to stream ( mostly Youtube TV and Netflix) ?
Yes, you typically need the internet to stream. Hotspot provides an internet connection, but it can be restrictive because some services don’t work well with hotspots and there’s usually a data /speed limit.
do I need to buy a roku device for each TV similar to the cable boxes or dose the one device spread to all TV s in the home
Thanks for the reply
I would get a device (Roku or another brand) for every TV. If you have a smart TV, you can use the TV’s interface. I have a recent streaming devices video you may want to check out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-PsYCHpFEw