In the past you had to have cable to watch Cartoon Network and other basic cable TV channels, but not anymore. Here is a comprehensive list of options for watching Cartoon Network and Adult Swim without cable.
- 1 Still Paying $100 a Month for Cable?
- 2 DirecTV Now
- 3 Sling TV
- 4 Hulu with Live TV
- 5 Free Cartoon Network / Adult Swim Content
- 6 Next Step: Hook Your TV Up to the Web
Still Paying $100 a Month for Cable?
If the answer is yes, that raises the question… why?
Here are some new cable TV alternatives that give you access to Cartoon Network (and nearly every other channel that comes with a basic cable plan) for a fraction of the cost.
Like Sling TV, all DirecTV Now plans come with Cartoon Network / Adult Swim. The basic plan – “Live a Little” – is not a bad deal.
Live a Little – $35
DirecTV Now’s basic $35 plan is a bit pricier compared to Sling TV’s Blue and Orange plans, but it gives you a more robust mix of channels.
In addition to Cartoon Network / Adult Swim, Live a Little has:
- 15 additional educational / family channels (Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Animal Planet, Disney Channel, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lifetime, Baby First, TeenNick, Disney Junior, Disney XD, National Geographic Channel, Discovery, History, Nick Jr, Investigation Discovery)
- 9 big networks (ABC, AMC, CBS, Fox, FX, CW, NBC, TBS, TNT, USA Network)
- 4 sports channels (ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1, NBCSN)
- 12 news channels (CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg TV, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, CNBC, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, One American News, Viceland, Weathernation, HLN)
- 4 music channels (MTV, MTV2, CMT, VH1)
- 3 Spanish language channels (Galavision, Telemundo, Univision)
- 23 variety channels (Spike, A&E, Audience, AXS TV, BET, Bravo, E!, Food Network, Freeform, FXX, HGTV, REELZ, RFD-TV, TCM, TLC, TruTV, TV Land, Velocity, WE tv, SYFY, Comedy Central)
DirecTV Now benefits and disadvantages
DirecTV Now’s basic $35 plan isn’t the least expensive way to get Cartoon Network / Adult Swim without cable, but it does provide a deep selection of family-oriented programming. Though DirecTV Now currently lacks apps for video game consoles and DVR support, that may change after “DirecTV 2.0” debuts in the first quarter of next year. If you’re a sports fan, you may want to think about upgrading to “Just Right” or “Go Big” (see our full review for more details).
Sling TV is by no means perfect, but it’s one of the cheapest ways to get Cartoon Network and Adult Swim without cable.
Sling TV has two different basic plans: Orange and Blue. Both Orange and Blue come with Cartoon Network / Adult Swim.
Orange – $20
With Sling Orange, you get Cartoon Network & Adult Swim plus:
- A&E, ACC Network Extra, AMC, AXS TV, BBC America, Bloomberg Television, Cheddar, CNN, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, EPIX Drive-in, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, Flama, Food Network, Freeform, Galavision, HGTV, History Channel, IFC, Lifetime, Local Now, Newsy, TBS, TNT, Travel Channel, Tribeca Shortlist, Viceland
Blue – $25
With Sling Blue, you get Cartoon Network & Adult Swim plus:
- A&E, AMC, AXS TV, BBC America, BET, Bloomberg Television, Bravo, Cheddar, CNN, Comedy Central, El Rey, EPIX Drive-in, Flama, Food Network, Fox, Fox Regional Sports Networks, Fox Sports, Fox Sports 2, FX, FXX, Galavision, HGTV, History Channel, IFC, Lifetime, Local Now, Nat Geo Wild, National Geographic, NBC, NBC Regional Sports Networks, NBC Sports Network, Newsy, NFL Network, Nick Jr., SYFY, TBS, TNT, Travel Channel, Tribeca Shortlist, truTV, Unimas, Univision, USA, Viceland
Here’s the catch with Sling Blue: due to licensing issues, you may not get access to NBC, Fox and the other local broadcast networks – especially if you live in a rural area. Sling TV is still negotiating deals with local TV affiliates. Be sure to visit the official Sling TV website and type in your zipcode to find out which channels you’ll get before you signing up with Sling Blue.
Orange + Blue – $40
If you’re willing to buy both Orange and Blue, you can get all the channels listed above at a small discount.
Sling TV benefits and disadvantages
Though Sling TV’s subscription plans are somewhat confusing, Sling TV does provide a cost effective way to get Cartoon Network and other basic cable TV channels without actually subscribing to cable. Additionally, Sling TV has excellent device support and a tempting menu of channels that’s very similar to what you’d expect to get with a traditional cable plan. One significant downside: you have to pay an extra $5 for DVR functionality.
Even though Hulu with Live TV is still in beta, it already offers an impressive array of TV channels including Cartoon Network.
Hulu with Live TV costs $40 per month, which makes it more expensive than DirecTV and Sling TV. However, with a subscription to the TV service you also get unlimited access to Hulu’s on-demand content. (Commercials will appear, though, unless you pay a few dollars extra to opt out.)
Basic subscription – $40
In addition to Cartoon Network / Adult Swim, Hulu with Live TV has:
- ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, A&E, BTN, Boomerang, Bravo, CBS Sports, Chiller, CNBC, CNN, CNN International, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., XD, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN U, ESPN Goal Line, The Food Network, Fox Business, Fox News, FS1, FS2, Freeform, FX, FXM, FXX, fyi, NBC Golf, HGTV, The History Channel, HLN, Lifetime, Lifetime Movies, MSNBC, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, NBCSN, The Olympic Channel, Oxygen, Pop, SEC Network, SyFy, TBS, TCM, Telemundo, TNT, The Travel Channel, TruTV, Universal Kids, USA and Viceland.
Hulu with Live TV benefits and disadvantages
If you don’t have a TV antenna and you want to get all your TV via the web, Hulu is worth a look. Unlike Sling and DirecTV, Hulu has excellent local TV coverage. Only YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue have deals with all 4 broadcast networks. (YouTube TV doesn’t have Cartoon Network, though.) Another nice thing about Hulu with Live TV is its enormous back catalog of on-demand content. Its roster of channels is long and heavy on sports and short on family channels – but who needs family channels anyway, when you can watch any of Hulu’s on-demand f whenever you want?
Free Cartoon Network / Adult Swim Content
If all you want to do is watch a few cartoons, you may not even need to sign up with a cable replacement provider. Here’s where to find free Cartoon Network and Adult Swim content online.
No dice here, unfortunately. You need a traditional cable TV subscription to access live streams on the Cartoon Network website.
Currently, there are 179 totally free “unlocked” episodes of Cartoon Network shows available.
Cartoon Network also has apps for Apple, Android, Roku and Amazon devices.
In addition to Apple, Google Play and Amazon, Cartoon Network is also available on Roku. Source: Cartoon Network
The Adult Swim website is the place to go for free Adult Swim content. You’ll find a decent supply of on-demand content on the Adult Swim site – and ton of free live channels.
In addition to a free live feed of the official Adult Swim channel, the Adult Swim website has “marathon” channels dedicated to specific shows like Rick and Morty, Squidbillies, The Venture Bros., Tim and Eric, Off the Air and others. The “Live Action Marathon” and “Animation Marathon” channels are definitely worth checking out, as well. If you’re in the mood for anime, flip over to Toonami.
“Wiliams Stream” features various Adult Swim streaming shows (As Seen on Adult Swim, Development Meeting, etc.)
In addition to the free Adult Swim streams mentioned above, there’s an “Archive” section that contains even more Adult Swim streams.
Currently, the Archive section contains:
- Adult Swim Celebrity Poker Royale, Assembly Line Yeah!, Bloodfeast, The Cry of Maan: A Trool Day Holiday Spectacular, Development Meeting, Fish Center, Game Humpers, How to Draw, I’m Dr Rich or Am I?, Last Stream On the Left, Pregame Prognostifications From the Pigskin Wyzzard, The Sports Hole, Stupid Morning Bullshit, Tim Heidecker Trial, Toonami Pre-flight, Williams Street Swap Shop and Ricking Morty.
Like the Cartoon Network site, the Adult Swim site also has free on-demand episodes. Videos always expire after a certain period of time, though.
Adult Swim apps
The Adult Swim apps (Android, iOS) have all the features of the Adult Swim website. You can stream live channels, watch on-demand episodes, cast to your TV with a Chromecast and more.
There’s even a Toonami (iOS, Android) app you can get.
Next Step: Hook Your TV Up to the Web
Once you’ve cut the cord, you’re going to need a way to play internet video on your TV set. Set-top boxes provide an easy solution.
Setting up a set-top box is a cinch. All you have to do is use an HDMI cable to connect your set-top box to your TV. Once you turn your set-top box on, just plug in your WiFi password and you’re good to go.
Android, Apple, Amazon and Roku all make excellent set-top boxes. Here’s a quick overview.
Android-powered set-top boxes are quick, easy to use, cheap and compatible with just about everything. Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu with TV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Toonami all have Android apps.
In my opinion, the all-around best set-top box at the moment is Nvidia Shield TV. Nvidia Shield TV lets you get thousands of apps through Google Play, plus it’s the fastest set-top box on the market.
Nvidia Shield TV has better specs and a more flexible app ecosystem compared to Apple TV, but it only costs about $160. If you don’t want to spend that much money, you may want to go with a budget Android box – and there are plenty of excellent ones out there to choose from.
Even though the latest Apple TV – Apple TV 4K – is pricey ($180), if you get most of your entertainment through Apple’s app ecosystem, it may make sense to get one. Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu with TV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Toonami all have Apple TV apps.
Amazon Fire TV is actually a set-top box / dongle hybrid. It’s cheaper ($70) and more compact compared to Apple TV and Nvidia Shield, but it’s also not as fast.
The latest edition of Amazon Fire TV can handle 4K and HDR video, but Amazon Fire TV”s most unique feature is native support for voice commands through Amazon Alexa.
The Fire TV app universe isn’t as vast as Android, but it is still quite big. Cartoon Network has an Amazon app, but Adult Swim does not – and neither does Toonami. Sling TV, DirecTV Now and Hulu with TV all have Amazon apps, though.
The reasonably priced Roku Ultra ($70) is Roku’s best set-top box. It supports HDR and 4K, plus it has a handy feature all the other set-top boxes mentioned above lack – a headphone jack in the remote. If you’re tired of hearing the same old Disney cartoon over and over again, just place a pair of headphones on your kid’s head, plug them in and enjoy a quieter home.
Like Amazon, Roku’s app store is not as large compared to Android. There is a Roku app for Cartoon Network, but Adult Swim hasn’t it made it into the Roku store yet. Sling TV, DirecTV Now and Hulu with TV work with Roku.