The Short Answer:
There are a few things to consider if you hope to eliminate cable TV. Let’s start by asking 3 questions:
-Do you watch a lot of sports?
-Do you channel surf when you’re bored and finally watch something, anything?
–There are expenses involved in cutting cable TV, although in the long run, you should
save money. Does the idea of spending a few hundred dollars to make the change
freak you out?
A “yes” to all (or really, any) of these questions, means that cutting out cable TV might not be for you–if that’s the case I certainly understand if you stop reading this post now.
The Long Answer:
So, still with me? Great. So maybe cutting out cable TV is for you. First you’ll need to consider your viewing habits. In our household we don’t really watch sports outside of college football. Most of the shows that we follow are network shows (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox). The “cable” shows that we watch can generally be found on one the streaming channels.
So, even though our cable company provided us with hundreds of channels, many of them in HD, I could count the cable channels that we watched on one hand.
For Christmas last year, my wife gave me a roku3 ($99) for the man-cave. What a great little gadget. If you’re not familiar, it’s a small box that connects to your TV and your wi-fi (or wired) internet access. You can watch Netflix ($8/month), Amazon Instant video,Hulu ($8/month), and lots of other free “channels”. We had an Amazon Prime account ($99/year) already for the free shipping. It includes many free streaming video titles (and you can rent others). Setting up the Roku is really, really easy.
Before I actually canceled the cable TV, I found plenty of programming for our kids (ages 3 & 6). Between Amazon Prime and Netflix, they can usually find something that they like to watch (and that we approve).
By the way, for my purposes, “cutting the cable” actually means “eliminating cable TV”. The Roku requires high-speed internet, so we still get it from our local cable company at $39.99/month. When I made the change they did mention that it will go up to $79.99 after a year. (For the phone, we switched from the cable company’s Digital Voice to theOoma internet phone service. Once you buy the Ooma box, you only pay for taxes and government fees, about $5/month.)
Free HD Video “Over-the-air”:
People old enough to remember the days before cable and satellite TV know that every house had a giant metal TV antenna on the roof or a set of “rabbit-ears” sticking out of the back of the TV. You could only get 3 or 4 channels (the networks and PBS), but it was free. Absolutely free. Well, guess what–it still is.
There was a big, confusing analog/digital conversion a few years ago, so you now need an HD television, but the FREE over-the-air signal works—with the right antenna, in the right place to get the signals. You can get your local channels for free.
Here’s where the hurdles start. After reading several reviews on line, I chose the mohu Sky 60 antenna. Compared to the old rooftop antennas, its compact and sleek. I took the antenna and a small TV into the attic and moved the antenna around until I got the best signal. Once I found the sweet spot I properly mounted the antenna inside the attic—not on the outside of the house.
Unfortunately, there was no wire to take the signal from the attic, so I had one installed. Our house is rather tall so I was not comfortable doing it myself.Livewire installs home theaters, networking, lighting controls, etc. They did a great job of running the wire from the attic antenna for $200. It’s a high-quality shielded cable and it’s very well hidden.
The other end of the wire enters the small junction box at the back of the house where the broadband signal comes in from the street. The Livewire guys also made the changes at the junction box. The broadband wire is now attached ONLY to the the Zoom 5352 internet modem/router (for wi-fi). The attic antenna is now connected to all of the TVs in the house with a splitter.
By the way, during the process I replaced the cable company’s modem-router with one the Zoom 5352 that I purchased, so no more $7 monthly rental fee.
Livewire was also helpful in auto-programming each of the TVs, but its pretty simple. Change the TV input to “TV”, “TUNER” or “ANTENNA” and go through the auto-programming sequence for each TV using the menu. It takes a few minutes, but when it’s done you’ll see how many of the local channels you can pick up. Everyone’s experience will be different, but if you’re in a metro area and your antenna placement is good, you should receive all (or most) of the local stations.
We have 3 TVs in our house–the family room, the kitchen and the man cave. Each of them easily picks up all of the local channels with the exception of the CW channel (which we don’t generally watch).
Catching All Our Shows
For network (CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox) programming we use the HD antenna’s over-the-air signal. Fortunately for us, I already had an older model Tivo HD that works with the antenna’s signal.
With the Tivo, we can record any network show and play it back anytime. I haven’t researched what’s currently available in over-the-air DVRs, since for now anyway, the Tivo fits our needs. [I didn’t include the Tivo in the cost list at the end of this article since we already had it and it is not necessary for the system to work.]
“Cable” Shows & Movies:
For shows that we can no longer watch on cable TV, the Roku is the go-to. Recent episodes of many shows are available on Hulu, Netflicks or Amazon Prime and are included in your subscription.
A great resource is www.CanIStreamIt.com. It can tell you if your favorite show or movie is available—and if its not, it can let you know when it will be. It also showswhere–Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Hulu is primarily for recent TV shows. Netflix includes movies and TV shows. I was able to binge-watch ALL of Breaking Bad on Netflix this past summer at no additional cost. By the way, what a great, freakin’ show!
On Amazon Instant Video, for most big, popular shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead that are still in production, you can purchase a “season pass” for about $40 to access shows just after they air. You can also buy shows or movies that you know will get multiple views (like Frozen). That might sound like a lot, but considering our monthly savings—and the fact that we’ll only buy a few titles each year, it’s affordable for us.
Sports & some “Cable Provider Required” Shows:
Here’s the catch to not having cable TV. Some of the cable networks (Disney Junior, ESPN for example, have “channels” on the Roku—but you must have a cable TV subscription (or at least a user name and a special code) for access. That makes it a little more complicated. I suppose it is possible to get your friend’s, parents’ or sibling’s cable company’s username so you can watch those channels, but I would never suggest such a dubious action.
Roku also offers several sports channels. Some require a subscription and give you access to certain events. Others are free and provide only “behind-the-scenes” info about your favorite players, teams, etc. In general, I would notrecommend relying on the Roku to catch the next big game! A friendly neighbor or a fun sports bar is a better answer for occasional sports viewing.
One Time Costs:
$120 Zoom 5352 broadband modem To eliminate $7/month modem rental
$100 Roku 3 Streaming Player Provides access to Netflix, Hulu, etc.
$150 Mohu Sky 60 Antenna Provides over-the-air signal for local TV
$200 Livewire installation Run of wire from antenna to junction box
$130 Ooma Internet Phone System Replaces cable company landline
$700 Total One-Time Costs
$96/year Hulu subscription
$96/year Netflix subscription
$99/year Amazon Prime subscription
$480/year Broadband Internet Service
$160/year 4 “season passes” for premium shows (like The Walking Dead)
$931.00 Total Cost for Services/year
By comparison, with our cable company’s “triple play,” we were paying $180 per month, for a yearly cost of $2,160.
Wrapping It All Up:
Well, if you’ve been thinking about cutting out cable TV, but really weren’t sure how to go about it or the costs involved, hopefully this post has shed some light on the situation. My intention here was not to convince anyone to cut the cable or not to cut the cable. Rather, to answer some questions that others may have before making the decision. So far at least, my family seems to be happy with the programming to which we have access—and I love the idea that we have cut our monthly bill significantly.
Ultimately, for anyone, it depends on a family’s viewing habits, the geographic location of your home (for the antenna signal), and access to broadband internet access. Is eliminating cable TV for you and your family? That’s up to you.