Last week, I told you about our decision to cut cable TV. I did a lot of research to determine what our options are. It turns out that there are lots of possibilities.
There are a couple of qualifications I want to make before digging deeper:
- We are keeping high speed internet service.
- We are keeping the TV.
From this point, we have a few choices to make. We could completely avoid any additional investments, we could purchase equipment and/or services for a one-time fee, or we could sign up for monthly subscriptions. I’ll start with no new investments and work up from there.
No additional investments
We could watch YouTube videos or standard Hulu programming on the computer. We could plug the computer into the TV by HDMI and watch from there. That is an option, but it could be a bit cumbersome.
Some networks allow you to stream entire episodes of shows onto your computer.
We decided these options weren’t going to cut it, but if you really don’t have any budget to work with, this is probably better than nothing.
One time investments
This is where options really start to unfold. Most of us forgot about over the air stations long ago, but they are still there. When Congress required OTA stations to broadcast in digital rather than analog, many stations added additional subchannels. In order to receive channels, you’ll need a digital tuner and an antenna. Any TV built after March 2008 is required to have a digital tuner built in. Larger TV’s built in 2005 or later probably have them as well.
Depending on where you are in relation to transmission towers, you may be able to pick up quite a few channels just from the TV. We needed an antenna. I searched and read reviews of several different types and brands of antennas. A great resource to help you determine what type of antenna you need and what channel options you’ll have is Antennaweb.org. You simply enter your zip code and it gives you a list of channels you should be able to receive and a map of where the towers are along with the distance between you and them.
We’re only 6 miles away from our local towers so we only needed a small indoor antenna.
We settled on the Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna. We picked it up on Amazon for under $40. This thing is amazing! Like the name says, it is paper thin. It’s white on one side and black on the other to be able to hide it in your decor. It is also paintable to make it blend in even better. It is about the size of a sheet of paper as well.
Putting aesthetics aside, it actually works too! We are able to pick up 43 channels in full HD. We didn’t have HD service with cable, so this is a step up. The best part is there are no ongoing costs for this. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with how many good programs we’ve been able to watch that we didn’t even know existed before.
We also decided to jump into the content streaming market. There are several devices on the market that stream video content directly onto your television including Apple TV, the Boxee Box, and Roku. We chose to go with Roku. We picked up a Roku 3 Streaming Media Player directly from Roku for $100. There are other models that may work for you for as little as $50. There are no ongoing costs for this either. Dozens or maybe hundreds of channels are available (some have a monthly subscription cost). Some are very good, others not so much.
My favorite free Roku channels:
- VideoBuzz — This channel allows you to easily stream YouTube videos directly onto your TV. [UPDATE: VideoBuzz is no longer available, so if you have any suggestions on a new way to watch YouTube videos on TV, please leave a comment below]
- TED Talks — This channel shows videos of hundreds of presentations from TED conferences. I find many of them to be fascinating.
- TWiT — This Week In Tech Channel has tons of shows available all about technology and computing. You can also live stream some of their shows.
- MLB.tv — This one could be a stretch as far as free goes. You can buy a yearly membership to get a bunch of advanced options. I need my baseball fix once in a while and MLB.tv gives you access to a free game every day. They choose the game, but it is still baseball and it is still free. Local blackouts apply, so if the free game features my home team I can’t watch it until it’s over.
Along with the free channels, there are many channels with paid subscriptions. The most popular channels are Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.
I think Netflix has the best selection of content and at $7.99 per month, it could be a great deal for you. It is the only paid service we have subscribed to. I have found lots of shows that are worth watching. It will take me years to go through it all if they don’t add another bit of content to the library, which isn’t the case.
Hulu Plus is also $7.99 per month and does have a lot of content available. I’m not particularly interested in most of it. They also have some weird restrictions that prevent you from watching certain shows on the TV. You can stream them on your computer, though. Seems strange to me.
Amazon Instant Video comes with a paid Amazon Prime membership. This gives you access to lots of free content and gives you the opportunity to pay for individual episodes or full seasons of several shows. We thought about doing this, but I just can’t see enough value to pay the $80 per year to the Prime membership. Maybe someday, but not now.
We bought an antenna, and Roku 3, and a new cable modem (so we don’t have to rent one from the cable company. These 3 items cost a total of $200.
Our high speed internet access costs $50 per month. We purchased a Netflix subscription for $7.99 per month. Our total monthly cash outlay is less than $60.
Our monthly TV and Internet bill dropped from $165 to $58. The new equipment will have paid for itself in only a couple of months. Not too bad!
Are you thinking of cutting the cord? What’s stopping you?