We canceled our cable TV service! New Year, no cable. We have always had cable TV…always. We are actually pretty big TV watchers, so this is something we never thought we would do. But, times are changing.
After several rate hikes and our bill climbing just north of $200 per month, we began looking into alternatives. In addition to cable TV, we already had a Netflix subscription and are members of Amazon Prime.
But, we continued to pay for cable. Then, we DVRed everything to watch later on our own DVR (we did not rent one from the cable company). The thing with cable is, what you are really paying for is “live” TV, as in the first airing of a show. Nowadays, there are so many ways to watch shows after their first airing. Since we were recording everything to watch later anyway, it didn’t make sense to keep paying for the privilege to watch it “live”.
Before making the final decision to call the cable company, my hubby did a little audit of the shows we watch. Using our recordings in the DVR, he made a list of all the shows and channels we watch regularly. Then, he did the homework to find out where we could get the same shows without cable.
As a side note, we do not watch televised sports. I have talked with a few friends that would love to cut back on their cable or satellite services, but can’t if they want to watch sports, especially the ones that aren’t broadcast on the mainstream stations. Sorry, we can’t offer any tips there.
What You Need to Capture Your Favorite TV Shows
There are four basic things you need to make this work:
1. Over-The-Air (OTA) Antenna – Allows you to receive Local TV shows with an antenna (like the good old days with rabbit ears). With higher quality antennas now, you can even capture High Definition television over the air. TVFool.com is a website that helps you aim the antenna for the best performance.
2. Digital video recorder (DVR) – This allows you to record over the air television to watch later. You need to make sure the DVR you select is compatible with OTA. If you search Amazon, you will find several DVRs that are OTA compatible. A premium option would be the Tivo Romio, but Tivo devices require a subscription.
3. Subscription Services – Our recommendation is to give all of these subscription services a try, since most offer a trial period.
- Hulu is a service that provides fresh, current season episodes from major TV networks, except CBS. The shows are available one day after their first airing. Hulu Plus is a great value at only $7.99 per month.
- Netflix strong points are the movies and complete prior television seasons. Netflix has better video quality with 1080P Super HD Streaming vs. Hulu’s 720P. Netflix is also only $7.99 per month.
- Amazon Prime members have access to a ton of movies for free. The Amazon Prime membership is $79 per year, but includes many other benefits, like free shipping on Amazon. We actually joined for the Amazon shopping benefits, and view the movie and TV content as bonus.
4. Streaming Player – A streaming player connects to your TV and allows you to serve up many subscription services, like the ones above.
Here is Exactly What We Use
More specifically, to fully realize cutting our cable bill, while still getting to watch all the shows we love, this is what we use:
1. OTA Antenna: Terk HDTVa ($40, but we already owned one) – Ours hangs out in our office, but you can hook it up directly to the back of the TV, too. We use the OTA and DVR in our setup mostly to record CBS shows, which are not available through one of the subscription services.
2. DVR: SiliconDust HD Homerun Dual ($130), which easily connects to the antenna and can be placed anywhere in the house, as long as there is network cable available. The HD Homerun comes with its own software to program and view channel guide information, but we chose to buy the ElGato EyeTV 3 ($80), which runs more smoothly on a Mac. (Yep, we are Mac people all around!)
3. Subscriptions: Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. We watch most of our television shows on Hulu Plus, except CBS shows. Netflix is great for prior TV seasons…we love to binge watch shows or have a full season to watch day after day when we work out in our home gym. We also watch movies and kids shows with Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Lastly, although it is not a subscription service, we buy and rent movies from iTunes, as well. It is great for new releases. Also, we buy some shows on iTunes. USA Network is available on Netflix, but only prior seasons. We love Covert Affairs and were mid-season when we cut the cable, so we paid a few dollars per episode on iTunes.
4. Streaming Player: Apple TV (already owned) – Because we are a Mac household this was a logical choice for us and we actually owned several Apple TVs. With Apple TV we are able to get access to all the content we already purchased from iTunes. We can also stream our home movies from our computer to our TV.
And, since we own a whole suite of Mac products, like AirBook laptops, iPads, and iPhones, we can display what is on those devices on the TV. (Our kids are hooked on watching the little Angry Birds videos on the big screen). The same feature allows us to play YouTube videos on the TV…I love when I am reading blogs and can pop a video I come across onto the big screen. The Apple TV is $99 and works with Hulu Plus, Netflix, and iTunes. It does not give us access to Amazon Prime, but our new TV in the basement came with that built-in.
If you are not a Mac household, here are several other options for streaming players:
- Roku ($99) – Works with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video
- Google ChromeCast ($35) – Works with Netflix, Google Play, and Hulu Plus
Our total cost for hardware, software and subscriptions was about $350, plus about $15 for monthly subscriptions and $79 yearly for Amazon Prime. The $350 in hardware and software is a one-time cost, which we will recover in savings on our cable bill within 3 months.
Our Results After Two Months Without Cable TV
We successfully cut our cable bill by over $125 per month, which is a savings of well over $1500 per year. I advertised this post as saving over $1,000 per year to account for new equipment purchases and the fact everyone’s cable bill isn’t as high as ours started.
With our cable company, all we kept was our internet service (the best level they offer). We replaced our cable TV habits with Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and iTunes.
I know that all sounds like it would be complicated. How do you know where to find what show? Well, that is what the streaming players do beautifully. They put everything in one place. Since we were already an Apple TV family and used it for buying movies, we just go to the same place, but click on Netflix or Hulu Plus to watch other things.
Since we rarely ever watched “live” TV, we haven’t noticed any difference in our TV watching habits. In fact, if anything Netflix and Hulu are helping us explore new shows. The menus are very visual. Netflix makes recommendations for you based on your viewing habits. They also both display a popular category. Through both services we have discovered new to us shows including Scandal, Walking Dead, Almost Human, and most recently House of Cards (a Netflix exclusive show).
We also noticed, we don’t leave the TV on without notice anymore…you know when you put it on to watch one show and then just leave it on the rest of the day. We have to be a little more deliberate about putting on shows, which we think is a good thing.
The $125+ monthly savings is going to add up to over $1500 saved in 2014! Now to be fair, we incurred the one-time cost for the DVR and eyeTV, and added the Hulu Plus subscription, but those are nominal compared to what we will be saving.
With this savings we plan to put our kids in some extra activities each month…something better for them to be doing than watching TV :)
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I wish I could talk my other half into doing this! We are stuck on the live sports issue. If only the NFL would do a paid subscription service like MLB. Once they do that, we can finally cut cable.
I have the same problem. I could care less about sports, but alas, that is basically all my SO watches. So for now, we are stuck paying high cable prices!
I have the same issue! My husband would suffer if we did this.
Heather Loveless says
We did this 2 years ago- its awesome. Don’t forget no commercials (and only limited ones on Hulu). This is great both for us and for our 6 year old- she asks for a whole lot less stuff than she used to. I also love watching a series straight through- we just finished Breaking Bad on Netflix and buying the last season on Amazon.
Megan @ Rappsody in Rooms says
I love this so much. Thank you for posting this. It is something that I definitely want to do…except we (meaning my husband) falls into the sports category. However, I have heard that using Roku you can subscribe to channels as well. This is definitely something I want to look into this year!
Megan, I would definitely encourage some research on the sports. I think you can subscribe to some on iTunes and maybe other places. It is worth looking into.
I’m ready to cut the tv cable too. We don’t watch much live tv or live sports either. We’ve been using Netflix. Love House of Cards! and binge watching American Horror Story is the best! I’m checking out Hulu Plus. I stream from my laptop and plug sound into our stereo. It’s like home theater. No hardware needed for us. Whatever we’re missing from CBS, I have no idea – I’m keeping things simple because we watch so little tv in the first place. I agree this prevents you from mindless tv watching which is good!
My guess as to why CBS won’t let Hulu have their shows is because CBS is the most popular network. CBS has 4 of the 5 top shows in America.
CBS has half of the top ten shows, more than any other network.
Jess, Yep! We love some of those shows, so finding another way to watch was a must for us!
We did this when we moved this past June. We didn’t watch much TV to begin with but my hubby loves hockey and I had a slight addiction to HGTV and the Food Network. We found that we don’t miss it as much as we thought–we too have become much more intentional about what we watch.
Liz-If you go to Ulive.com you can watch some of the HGTV shows that you might be missing now. I don’t know if I’m watching the most recent episode, but I’m so behind that it doesn’t matter. Right now I’m in love with Sabrina Soto!
Ooh, Lisa…good tip! I need to catch up on some HGTV shows!
Jessie G. says
Thanks for the tip, Lisa! I love me some Sabrina Soto :)
We finally cut the cable about 3 weeks ago and we are happy campers. Hulu Plus (on trial), Netflix, and since my mum has cable, we use her account to use our Apps on the phones or tablets to watch other programs we may be missing otherwise.
As for sports, my brother suggested a site that enables you to see live feed of games. I can’t recall what it is, but certainly something everyone should consider looking. As someone mentioned, plug that laptop to the TV and BAM, sports on TV without the bill!
capturing joy with kristen duke says
We’ve never had cable! I like tv, too, and recently subscribe to netflix and hulu as well. My big question is about the DVR. I understood that we had to pay a subscription, and my friend who has tivo just told me that she doesn’t have to subscribe. So i need to do more research. I am also looking into roku vs. apple tv and heard that roku has other channels such as BYU TV which is my college and I’d love to have their programs!
Kristen, I think there are a few different types of Tivos, but I am not an expert. The DVR we use does not require a subscription and we only use it to record shows, like CBS shows, we can’t watch through one of the subscriptions. As for the streaming player, it is a personal preference. I would go with the Roku if it offers you programming you want. Also, note we have an Apple TV for each TV. Not sure if Roku is the same way. If it is, you could always do one of each for different TVs in the house.
We’re in the middle of transitioning to no more satellite bills. For Christmas, we received our Roku and Antenna as gifts, and we got a better router so our internet streaming would be faster. Since we’re expecting our first child in March, we subscribed to Amazon Mom which includes Amazon Prime, so we’ve been enjoying those benefits.
We thought about doing this for a couple of years, but sports was our hang-up. After moving out-of-state, our local channels weren’t broadcasting our NFL team. I suggest looking into streaming certain networks. We would only miss the Big10 network by cutting our cable. My parents still have a cable subscription, so we’re using their account to stream the Big10 network. I know not everyone agrees with this, but my parents don’t use the streaming benefit that comes with paying for their cable subscription, so they see it as us using what they’re already paying for.
Kara, Way to go! And, thank you so much for sharing your tips for the sports channels. Congratulations on your little bundle of joy, too!
Terri A. says
Totally love this idea and have been wondering exactly how to go about it. You’ve given wonderful info on the hardware specifics and programming. Alas, if not for sports… Worth researching that further though, which feels more “do-able” since you’ve done the rest of the footwork for me. LOL! A lot of basketball, football, baseball, and golf are watched here. My poor hubby … with 3 daughters he’s got to have something to level the playing field. LOL!
Terri, Totally understand. My goal was for this post to be a solid starting point, so you can research your individual situation. Definitely do some research on sports subscriptions.
I cut the cord in September 2012 and haven’t looked back. I have two televisions and use a Mohu leaf antenna ($35 each)(www.gomohu.com)and Roku streaming player($99)for each tv. I have a Roku 2 on one tv, and a Roku 3 on the other. The initial investment for all of this was about $270. Internet service is necessary for all of this to work and that costs me $29.99/month. I pay $7.99/month for Netflix and that’s it! I’m thinking of adding a Hulu subscription, but for now, Netflix and regular network tv is working for me. It feels amazing to pay less than $40/month versus costly cable bills.
Mondella, Thank you for sharing your success story! I am totally jealous of your internet price. Our is $75 per month, but it is super duper fast, which I love.
Jenny D says
We haven’t had cable for 17+ years! We use a digital antenna, Netflix & Hulu. And I have ABC NBC CBS apps on my iPad – you can catch just about anything.
Jenny, Thanks for the tips on the iPad apps!
We switched from cable to Apple TV/Netflix/Hulu at the end of last summer when our bill would have doubled to twice our introductory rate from 2 years ago. It’s been great … and, yes, so cost-effective!
Terri A. says
So I shared this blog post on a Facebook mom’s page that I’m on. And I asked if anyone out there knew how to stream sports. A gal gave me this website and she said NOT to click on any downloads because they’re just phishing at that point. She said she watches football this way. There are all kinds of things out there. I’m going to have to check this out on Saturday when all the games are on again. http://www.vipboxus.co
Regarding a streaming player, we’ve been using our Playstation. We used to use our Xbox but then the rules changed and you had to pay to be a member of Xbox Live to stream, which is why we switched to doing it with the Playstation which is free.
Regarding sports, we have an antenna to catch some games – we’re both football fans. Additionally, we bought the Madden 25 video game because it had a promotion code that would unlock NFL Sunday Ticket for the regular season, and thus we got to watch all of those games (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1001215841). I’m hoping there is a similar promotion next year.
As for other games (like Monday night football), we sometimes go over to a friend’s house to watch them.
Awesome post!! I’m older so when I at age 28 had my first child, I made the choice not to have cable. Yes we got PBS and three major networks, a local station, and a Catholic station that played lots of old classics in the evenings. My kids did not watch that much TV as a result and it was more like an “event” than a day to day activity. Now my kids are adults and neither have cable!! (But they did whine at about 12 we were THE only family doing this–we were not!). They are in their 20’s and say that the limited TV made one of the biggest impacts on them reading, playing games, playing outside, along with their extra curricular activities. So its a great thing!!! I look at the list though and I’m overwhelmed though!!! I think a lot of programs I can watch on line too.
We don’t even own a TV. Haven’t our whole married life (14yrs). Most people think we’re freaks. But it’s wonderful not to pay the cable bill. Here in Italy, they even charge you for just local channels, so not having a TV helped us avoid that fee.
If we want to catch up on most things, we get it on youtube, but I have to specifically search for it.
Though I AM missing the movies at times…
Jackie, love your blog!!!
Ana, Wow! Thank you for sharing. I don’t think it makes you a freak at all. In fact it sounds very peaceful and quiet. I bet you read lots of great books and listen to wonderful music!
In reference to finding an easy way to catch up on CBS shows, the CBS website has their shows available the day after the first airing. An HDMI cable into the laptop puts it onto the television. We have used this for two plus years since we went off cable. With an HDMI cable, if you can watch something on your laptop, you can watch it on your television.
In our area, Time Warner charges an extra $10 fee for internet if you are not also a cable customer. However, they have a $10 Basic Cable package to which we subscribe (so we get something for that $10). We get about 20 channels, including all of our broadcast channels, several shopping channels, TBS, ESPN, and Disney. We also stream Netflix through our Wii. This gets us all the TV shows we want.
My husband really wants to get the newest xbox so that we can access Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Unfortunately, at $500 it’s not going to happen. I’ll have to talk to my husband about your suggestions. It may be worth doing.
Lisa, wow…I had no idea how expensive the new xbox is. There are definitely cheaper streaming players, so obviously that is not the only reason he wants the xbox. But maybe you can give in, if the math works out to save on cable. Keep in mind the xbox can play actual DVDs as well, unlike the other streaming players.
If they ever let you watch premium channels without cable, we’d ditch cable in a heartbeat.. But we watch too many shows on HBO, Showtime, & Stars… That is really the only thing holding us back since Hulu/Netflix/Amazon Prime cover pretty much everything else.
We have been doing all of this for over a year now. You can also stop Hulu for a few months and start it again when your shows are back on. I’ll never buy cable tv again!
I have NEVER heard of purchasing your own DVR! This is incredible news! Some shows don’t go to DVR, and sometimes we wait to long before watching online and the shows expire. My question about DVR is whether you need internet service to run it. We’re thinking about stopping our internet subscription for 3 months until our little girl arrives in April, just to save a small bit of cash. We spend waaaaay too much time surfing and playing games like Candy Crush, but love relaxing after our son goes to bed and watching a TV show. Beginning in the new year, ABC.com requires you to wait like 8 days before watching your shows online! How cruel! Thanks for this post.
I also forgot to mention that we’ve used a Roku for over a year and love it! We stream hulu and netflix (usually only 1 at a time depending on what shows I’m into at the time). But we also stream pbskids.org for our son’s Elmo addiction. LOVE Roku!
HitBliss is a great option as well.
Stephanie Hobson says
We have basic cable plus internet for $68.50 a month and we bought a Magnavox HDD DVR recorder for $238.00 at Walmart. It has a 500GB hard drive for storage and play back, and plays and records dvds. We also have Netflix for $7.99 a month. Surprisingly we get a ton of stations with the basic cable, some of them in HD, and I believe it works just as well with an antenna. The Magnavox seemed complicated to me at first and then I found this thread on a forum which is a tremendous help; someone spent a lot of time and effort researching it! http://www.avsforum.com/t/940657/magnavox-537-535-533-515-513-2160a-2160-2080-philips-3576-3575
Don’t forget borrowing movies and TV series from the library.
We kept the ‘local channels only’ since we were still in contract. It’s a nice way to transition to cutting the cable completely. Once we are out of the contract, we may do the antenna route. With Hulu and Netflix, we haven’t looked back. Just haven’t figured out how to play Amazon on the apple tv so haven’t gone there.
Danielle, We use Amazon, but not through our Apple TV. The new TV we bought recently for our basement came set up for Netflix and Amazon, so we just use that TV for Amazon.
We have done the same thing iver the past yr. We downgraded direct tv to 1 box, no dvr and the lowest pkg $30mth. Until our contract was up. Now we use Rokus and a ps3 to watch Netflix $7.99mth (up to 5 devices) an have an indoor antenna in our room and an outdoor one bolted to the railing of our bk deck for the LR tv. We get about 20 reg channels (not inc spanish or music) but we an not get NBC bc it is a UHF channel. Does not get picked up by antenna :(
But we all watch (fam of 5) tv for 7.99mth total! its not great but we deal!
Ck you local craigslist for Rokus also and newer blue ray players stream netflix and other services.