I have been doing some research related to dumping the cable company except for the broadband Internet for which we have no viable alternative. There seems to be a number of problems with the TV end. I was wondering if others out there have found adequate solutions on several things below:
I really, really despise this cable company. We have cut our TV service for two years is a row and the bill seems to stay over $100/month for less and less coverage. Your ideas would be appreciated. :-)))
Jerry, thank you for introducing this important topic. Within 2 years our cable/Internet bill went from $50/mo "introductory offer" to $150/mo "regular price" to $183/mo for who knows what reason? As you say, not only is that hugely expensive, but 95% of their programming is crap. So we "cut the cable" 6 months ago.
We now use a power-amplified "rabbit ears" and get about 30 channels of which 8 or 10 are of interest to us(including all the major networks and a weather channel). We also use an old digital converter box but I think that all TVs built after 2007 have a built=-in converter. I found a list of local stations we should be able to receive here: ATLANTA TV CHANNELS - Atlanta Digital TV you might be able to find something similar for your area. Of course, depending on signal strength and topography, what you could get and what you do get are two different things. This is a great web site for finding the signal strength and the best orientation for your antenna to get the best reception: TV Fool
We subscribe to both Netflix streaming ($8/mo) and Amazon Prime ($7/mo) and are happier than we were with cable. We don't like Amazon much-- I really subscribe to Prime for the free shipping. I heard that NBC is going to start streaming their programming over the Internet but I expect there will be major battles with the FCC and the cable companies about that first. I know that sports are the main reason why a lot of guys keep cable so I hope that the NFL and/or ESPN can start streaming, too.
We miss one or two cable channels (like CNN) but overall we are very happy with our choice. My husband (the main TV watcher in our house) had to put in some effort but he eventually found a few TV series that we never saw and that he likes a lot-- The Shield, Breaking Bad, Eureka (my favorite), The Unit and so on. So he'll watch the evening news on TV and then choose to watch an episode or two of a series he likes. Then we sit around and count the $1,000 we've saved in the last 6 months!
I will be interested to learn what other people are doing to get out from under the thumb of the cable companies. Retirees of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your cables!
Thank you for sharing your evaluation of Netflix and Amazon. I suspect that as time elapses, the sports channels will, for a fee, come around to Internet transmission, although the revenue from the cable guys may keep them in the fold. There seems to be a slow drift towards what many of us would like and that is the ability to pick and choose the channels that we are willing to pay for. And these new services which can cost money add capabilities like all of the episodes of a favorite show for the entire season and probably past seasons too. No more need for that expensive and vanishing DVR.
It sounds like you are in a major urban market. Those of us out in the boonies have much less choice via antenna as is evident that we are out-of-sight of NBC due to a big hill between us and their transmitter. I even had the NBC techie guy here and he thought that he could solve it but could not even though somebody 5 miles away as the crow flies can get them. He held out little hope of their station spending the million dollars to erect a better transmitter. :-((((
You do point out that those of us that love those cable biggies like CNN, CNBC business news, Fox News, etc. are probably left without.
As to your "Retirees of the world unite", I just read of another solution that may be available to us. Maybe people are not that familiar with the fact that cable service is a franchise (see the franchise fee on your bill). That franchise is pretty much granted by your local town that gains tax money from the arrangement which is usually a sole-source deal. This agreement is regularly renewed (got to give the locals a chance to raise their tax level). Since your local elected officials are involved, it may be possible to petition them for more favorable rates for seniors who have been paying the freight for years. You might gain insights from Freedom of Information requests on the discussions.
We used this tool to fight with elected idiots that destroyed our volunteer fire department and added multiple in costs for a city department. One of the things to aim for is a machine-readable email list that many towns have for utility billing. This is your legal and cheap means to put your case before the citizens.
I think I'm very close to "pulling the plug" on our cable TV. We are also fed up with the cost. Your 100% correct when you say most of the broadcasting is crap. It won't be long for us.
We use a product called Tablo (www.tablotv.com) that pulls TV broadcast signals from the airwaves and streams them over the Internet. Since we have one house with good broadcast TV coverage we locate the tablo receiver/DVR there and then can stream the live or recorded shows to our other house which has NO broadcast coverage. This means we do not need cable/satellite at the second location.
Along with Hulu Plus and Netflix we are completely set at our second location.
Tablo is a one-time purchase with no subscription except for the program schedule updates. For those you can get a lifetime subscription for one-time $150. So, for $450 total you have unlimited usage for life, provided you can locate the tablo box in an area with good TV broadcast coverage and both that location and yours have good Internet service.
Best thing I ever did. My cable bill got to $200 a month. I asked for a better rate and they offered me a discount of $14 per year. For $19.95 I bought an HD antenna ( about the size of a small book) attached it to the tv, stuck it in the window and I get all the tv I need. Cable is pricing themselves way out of business.
We live in one of the larger metro areas where we have three providers, AT&T, Grande and Time Warner. In the alternative, we can go "a la carte" with satellite services like dishNet/DISHTV or DirectTV. With the competition one would think that the rates would be low and stable; however, all seem to have the same convoluted business model! You get a low "introductory rate" and then the rates steadily go up each year. The companies seemed determined to promote customer churn. One strategy is to change providers every two or three years and take advantage of the low "introductory rates". We have been with Time Warner (or their predecessor companies) and their bundled service (TV/internet/telephone) for over 30 years. Every two years, I negotiate with their customer service people and get a discounted rate. It's a pain in the tail having to deal with them, but the alternative seems to be to play their game and change providers every two years. It's a really stupid business model where you incentivize "new" customers and penalize long term customers. It's a model that is used not only by the cable companies but also by the cell phone providers. The only way we have found to "beat" the system is to either periodically change providers or to go in and argue with them. Goes back to the old saying, "it's a helluva way to run a railroad!"
Seems everyone has the same basic idea about replacing cable. We never had cable, as soon as the analog signal switched to digital, I purchased an HD antenna, stuck it on the chimney, (didn't have small inside version 6 years ago) and we get enough TV to keep both of us entertained when we have the time.
Jerry, et al,
We have not used cable for television...but when the TV signal went digital, we invested in a rather elaborate antenna (can rotate) to put on our chimney. We get the major networks just fine...if we move, I will look into these newer antennas to pull in a signal.
As to the underlying frustration/annoyance with cable companies, I will share my experience with Comcast and modem rental (per month charge)...tried to buy my own modem to save a few $ and it was impossible to get tech help to set it up. That's when I ditched comcast and went with FIOS for our internet service.
In case you like NetFlix streaming...check out Wallander (the Swedish version is a bit better than the English version)...it is about a detective and how crime impacts him...interesting plot twists.
we stream Fox News live at my parents' home where we have cut out the cable TV but retained internet while we clean it out. Works pretty well except that it sometimes does not come back on live after going to commercial break (which we do not see.) So you have to refresh the page sometimes to get back to the live stream. We are saving about $100 per month by doing this so the inconvenience isn't that bad. Recently - when initiating the stream from FoxNews.com, we have been asked to identify our cable company. Because we still have Time Warner Cable at our own home in NY state, we can sign on to that and live stream in Massachusetts. So this might not help you unless you have access to a cable subscription at another location - maybe at a child's home where you could contribute toward their cable bill. Just thought I'd pass that along.
Great suggestion! Unfortunately we do not have another location where we can access local stations and then forward them over the Internet to our deficient area. We do get most of the local channels for ABC, CBS, Fox, CW and PBS but not NBC via digital antenna over the air. NBC is supposedly available but we have a big hill between us and the antenna.
The other suggestions for using an antenna are good for those in more urban areas. For us out of the major markets, the solution is not available. I do find that our antenna reception beats the socks off of the sound and picture quality of the local cable feeds.
Do you know if the Fox News live feed works over Roku 3?
Jim, you bring back the days when we first got TV out in the boonies and needed a "rotter".
Our local PBS station has run a number of "Wallander" episodes. It is great! It seems like the European versions of cops are much more real than those we see here. One of my favorite comments about the female cops here is "I bet you would never see a female cop where that outfit!" or any real cop afford the apartments they live in either.
When researching cable alternatives I came across the dongles from Google, Amazon, Roku, etc. that allow one to stream various channels to your high-definition TV via your Wi-Fi Internet router. I had set my sights on a Roku 3 reduced cost purchase after the Christmas rush just to start experimenting with the capabilities with this approach. I found out that one of the kids had Netflix and that I could piggyback on that account using the Roku. And I was really interested in seeing current and prior episodes of "The House of Cards" on Netflix. The kids heard my questions and Santa produced a new Roku 3 with HDMI cable. I am well into season 2.
One disappointment is that the Roku 3 is powered from an outlet and it does require an HDMI cable for TV connection. I had figured that if I bought 2 HDMI cables I could move the Roku unit between 2 of our TV's. I missed the power connection which is kind of difficult to move on the primary TV due to it being in cable runs. Has anybody ever bought a 2nd power unit for Roku? Are they universal or proprietary current and voltage?
I can't say that I really enjoy how one needs to search to locate things on Netflix. But I have found the show I am interested in. I did a check on my cable company's Internet tools and discovered that watching episode after episode can ring up some Internet data usage. Be sure that you get a warning if you are getting close to extra charges. The high definition series seems to easily rack up 7-10 GB of data usage per day.
Is anybody interested in giving us newbies a tutorial on what one can get for free via Roku or other dongles and what subscriptions are of value at what cost for other services? Although I have not looked into it yet, Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month or $95.88 per year may be useful for no-ad live TV viewing at a delayed pace.
One thing is becoming apparent is that it may be possible to power off those very expensive and limited DVR's since historical viewing is available through some of the services mentioned above. :-)))
A good question - the answer to which (as pointed out by several comments) depends on a number of things:
a) How are you defining success?
Do you want a direct replacement with all the features and content available from your cable provider? If so, prepare to be disappointed. But consider how much you're paying and how much of the content and features provided you actually use. Most people pay a lot for one or two things they like and don't use the rest of the bundle package.
Are you defining success as entirely free? If so, you're limited to over the air signal (OTA). If you're looking for greatly reduced costs - but still some costs - you can still reduced the costs by subscribing to Netflix (About $9/mo) HuluPlus (about $9/mo) - also Amazon, YouTube and a host of other on-line services are available - some free, some cost.
b) where are you located?
As noted, larger urban areas tend to have decent Over The Air (OTA) reception. For example, we live in the western suburbs of Chicago. A small roof mount antenna pulls in over 75 stations - obvious with duplication. But a fair amount of content. BTW - you DON'T need an "HD" antenna - that's just a marketing ploy. We got a great small form factor antenna for about $70. There is a bunch of good advice on-line. Check AVS forum ands TVFool among others to check signal strength, get recommendation on equipment, etc.
c) what broadband speed are you able and willing to get?
Often cord cutters (the internet's term for the growing community of folks who have dumped cable and satellite) need to pay a little more for faster broadband in order to get decent streaming of video. Video is a bandwidth hog.
d) What equipment do you have and what are you willing to buy?
Some HD TVs have internet capabilities. Most illustrate the maxim that trying to be all things to all people ends up doing nothing well - but you can get some web-based content through a TV hooked to the internet. To get more serious, you 'll need some version of a set top box. These vary widely in price, capability and the level of technical expertise required. The big there or four are: AppleTV; Roku; Googgle Chromecast and Amazon Fire. Each has it's strengths and weaknesses. Roku probably offers the broadest range of content.
e) Do you want to just watch TV or pause, rewind, and record?
This is a bigger question than it seems. Set top boxes don't interface well with PVRs. But there are options.
TiVo has several boxes, some designed for cord cutters - but TiVo involves a subscription (starting at $14/mo).
If you're technically inclined you can build a Home Theatre PC set up which is more involved than most of the internet advice folks lead you to believe. And HTPCs involve compromises. Ease of use for one.
f) The Sports Question.....
If you want to watch all the sports you get on cable - the sad answer is there is no legal alternative. Disney, who owns ESPN has a monopoly on college sports and a lot of professional sports. If you need to watch Sports Center then you'll have to pay for cable. Some of the set top boxes and web-based content do a decent job - but Cable rules the world of sports TV.
There are some on -line sites that stream a variety of sporting events but getting those onto your big screen TV casually involves something like Apple's Airplay and an AppleTV - or the equivalent in PC of Google world. Plus the quality is poor and someone, somewhere is violating the law by sharing their paid for programming with others.
All that said - we have been cable free (and about $150/mo richer) for a couple of years. When there is a particular program or sporting event we want to watch we make arrangements to view it elsewhere - a friends, a sports bar, etc. Interestingly, we find we are watching much less TV and enjoying other activities more.
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