A Simple Guide For How to Cut The Cord on Cable TV and Get More Content for Less

imgedward20scissorhands1This site is one page long, written by a former cable subscriber who has found new light without cable.  By the end of this article you will be able to get local HD TV programming for free, get more TV/movies than you can digest for $20/month or less, get free two-day shipping on everything you order from Amazon.com, and learn a bit about home media serving for when you’re really a cordless rockstar.

Time to Jump Ship
I had finally had enough. As they do every six months it seems, my cable provider (Comcast) raised my cable TV rates and added a $10 “technology fee” on top of what was already becoming an outrageous monthly expense. And I don’t watch enough TV to justify $120/month, which if invested at 7% over the next 15 years could likely be enough to send one of my kids to college.

So I called and cancelled. And much to my surprise, they didn’t fight it. There was no retention specialist or anyone pitching me a three month sweet deal (which I wouldn’t have taken anyway). They just let me go. And I was happy about it.

I had been planning how I would do this for some time, and I want to share my experience with you because the cable companies are ripping everyone off.  Unless you must watch every reality TV show on the day it airs (and this solution may still allow you to do that), or you consume a lot of live sports (you can do a lot of that too), or have to see the premium channel content (HBO, Showtime) on the season it airs (this is the only one that bothers me), this plan very well could work for you.  This is the future of TV and it is much less expensive and easier to implement than you might think. Are you ready?

This is the dirty little secret the cable companies don’t want you to know.  There are a ton of HD TV signals broadcast right now in your house.  You likely just don’t have a way to pick them up.Enter the HD antenna.  Once an expensive item to own can now be had for $30-$40 and they work really well; at least in my house near the Atlanta area.  I’ve highlighted two of them here.  I purchased the Terk antenna and my TV instantly found 51 channels, twenty of which are viewable and ten of which I will actually probably watch – those being the major network broadcasts and a few ancillary ones. But it’s plenty for me.I use the Leaf Paper Antenna in my basement and it works great too.  This is a laminated piece of paper that works as an HD Antenna.  It’s mind blowing how good it is.  Read the reviews on Amazon.  Also note, they came out with an amplified version.  I don’t have experience with it, but it’s worth a look.Update: AmazonBasics just came out with this $20 paper thin HD antenna that looks like a copy cat of the Leaf at a fraction of the price.  For $20 this is definitely worth a look.You won’t know how good these will work until you try.  Where you live is a huge factor but you can check www.antennaweb.org to find out how far you are from a broadcast tower and determine what direction to face your antenna.

I was blown away.  You may be too.  The quality is fantastic, in some cases better than my clunky HD cable box, and it only goes out when the weather is bad.  That’s really the only downside.  Give it a try.

Once you have the HD antenna set up, you will need some on-demand content to supplement the live feeds.  Thanks to three key services right now – Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime (this one gets you free 2-day shipping too and some Kindle books), you can get virtually all the TV shows and movies any normal personal could consume, and much more.  Each of these services cost about $7 a month for streaming content, so get all three for $21/month (1/5 of what I was paying for cable), which is what I did, and see if you really are missing anything. (Get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime here)There are many options for streaming devices.  The Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 are both amazing.  For $50 you can get a Roku, which is a super small but massively powerful device that can bring you all this content.  I have both of those and then added a WD Live Streaming device which adds DLNA server functionality (which I’ll get to later). The cost is minimal for what you get and it’s a one time investment.
ANOTHER TIP: if you have a smartphone or tablet, check for apps from many of the major TV networks.  Many of them have apps, and stream their content, and they do it for free.  A simple HDMI connector can plug it right into your TV.  NOTE: I watched the Superbowl this way.  The app stream had a live Twitter feed on one side of the screen and a choice of multiple camera angles on the other.  Cable can’t touch this…(note on the HDMI connector listed above.  I know they are more expensive, but I highly recommend using Apple branded cables for the iPad.  They just work better and more consistently than the generics)

Get a networked attached hard drive.
Here’s a sleeper many people don’t know about.  Are you using a gigantic hard drive to store your content and back up your files?  Does it connect to your router?  If not, you’ll be jazzed as heck to learn that you can scoop up a new networked hard drive from sizes ranging from 1TB-3TB for under $100.
I didn’t even realize all the benefits when I bought one.But these new ones have personal “clouds” built in and will stream music, photos and videos right to your aforementioned streaming device.  Have family visiting? Bring up all your photos in a nice slideshow right on your big screen.  Having a party?  Stream all your music right through your TV.  On the go? Some network hard drives, such as those from Western Digital even include mobile apps that connect to your drive (and your cloud) and let you access files from anywhere.  It’s amazing technology.  Please look into it.  You won’t be disappointed.I keep everything on here now and serve up the files to every TV in the house along with app-connected devices.  My Western Digital streamer will even allow me to stop a movie in the basement and resume it in the bedroom.  This new “personal cloud” may be better than the corporate-run clouds everyone’s pitching nowadays.  (I do love Dropbox though).
Upgrade your wireless router.
I upgraded my wireless router to the fastest one I could find.  Based on CNET tests and some research, I opted for the Linksys router you see here.  It’s blazing fast, the wireless coverage is amazing, and it’s throughput is other worldly to support a bunch of streaming devices throughout the house.  It’s not a requirement for any of this, but it can help significantly.

This is just a tip but make sure you get a receipt and hold on to it for the return of any of your cable boxes and remotes and such. Once you’re gone, you won’t want to deal with the cable companies ever again.

Now you’re ready.

Everything I’ve outlined here is 10X easier to do than you might think at first. It’s a gut wrenching plunge to disconnect a service that has been your best friend for so many years. But it’s time has come. It can’t keep up with technology. So why not put money in your pocket and get tons of the content you want the most. Go for it.

A Few Updates From My Original Post

Amazon Fire TV

There’s been a lot of activity in the cable cutting, streaming space over the last 6 months since I began writing about the movement on this site.  It appears more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon and companies have realized this is far from a fad, but is now a real-life change in media consumption.

I’ll try to keep the updates rolling in, but I wanted to hit a few high level ones that have made an impact recently.

First up is an excellent offering from Amazon.com that took everything that was great about Roku and many of the other stand alone streaming boxes, and upped the game even further.  The Amazon Fire TV is a new highly powerful $99 HD streaming box that deserves proper exploration.  In addition to allowing you to access the major streaming services, including primeAmazon’s own excellent Prime service, this box allows for gaming, photos and music applications and also voice control, which is a first.

Next up is a service that has been in the news quite a bit recently, because it is the subject of much debate [UPDATE: Unfortunately Aereo lost its court fight; their future is yet to be determined at this point]. This usually means that they are doing something cool, and indeed they are.  The service I’m referring to is called Aereo and it allows you to watch high quality local programming through your streaming box.  It helps the issue of spotty signal reception you might be encountering through your HD antenna, by harnessing a powerful signal and beaming it down to your box.  aereoAs an added bonus it allows for DVR like recording capabilities so you can save your favorite shows and watch them at your convenience.  It’s not available everywhere yet, but at $8/month it’s a heck of a cool option. When paired with everything else I’ve listed on this site, you can replace cable TV almost in its entirety, and perhaps access even more content.

Please feel free to add comments on new services and technologies that you encounter.  Thanks for visiting the site.