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, but we’re very close to a resolution), 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?

Here’s 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.

Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna

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.

AmazonBasics Ultra-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna

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, plus you can upgrade it to reach up to a 50 mile range.

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 you can get all three for $21/month (1/5 of what I was paying for cable), which is what I did, and then see if you really are missing anything. (Get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime here)

Roku 3500R Streaming Stick

There are many options for streaming devices.  The Playstation 3/4 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.

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.

WD My Cloud 2TB Personal Cloud Storage

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).

The latest bad boy on the block: ASUS RT-AC87U Wireless-AC2400 Dual Band Gigabit Router

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.  I also upgraded my modem recently and that made a world a difference in streaming to so many different devices around the house.

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

How To Set Up An Easy Outdoor Theater For Streaming Movies

This is a super fancy setup

This is a super fancy setup

Watching a movie outside on a nice summer night is an amazing experience whether you’re a ten year old kid, or a 40-year old adult.

I’ve seen a lot of different set ups over the years.  Just last week I visited a friend’s house who had a fifty foot HDMI cable running across the floor in his basement to an outdoor projector. Granted, the picture quality was good, and he had a lot of options for programming, but he was likely paying up the nose for the service, which is something streaming fanatics like me, refuse to do. Creating a streaming set up is not hard, and not super expensive either.  Here’s how I did it:

The Screen

This is the one place I’m going to recommend not spending a lot of money. I went to Home Depot and bought a large plain white Martha Stewart curtain for $12. I put two nails in the bottom level of our deck and hung the curtain between them. Done, and it looks and works great. If you want to darken the screen even more, buy two curtains and hang one in front of the other.

You can buy a fancy screen if you want, but it’s really not needed. You can even beam the picture onto a part of your house or garage if you have a nice clean light colored surface. I’ve used older projectors in the past (the ones that weigh ten pounds, cover an enormous foot print, and have connections for a bunch of cables no one’s used since the early 2000s). Thankfully those days are over. The new projectors are brighter, clearer and easier to see on a wider variety of backdrops.

Final thoughts on the screen: I’d start inexpensive and go up from there until you find something you really like.

The Projector

The RIF6 CUBE, an amazing little device

I started with one of the huge aforementioned projectors and it worked ok, but the color was inconsistent, and it wasn’t as clear or as bright as I hoped. With young kids, they were still fascinated by the whole idea of watching something outside, but I needed more.

I hunted and hunted on Amazon, reading almost every review for the new wave of portable projectors that are popping up.  I saw one demonstrated at the Salt Lake City airport at a Sharper Image store, and right away knew I was on to something.

My searches on Amazon led me to the RIF6 CUBE, which is the smallest projector I could find (it’s not much bigger than a GoPro camera). It seemed like it did everything, and did it well.  Hop on over and read them yourself. This is a magical little device. It’s not without a few issues (cheap remote and mediocre audio), but overall, it’s a purchase I don’t think many people would regret, especially if you’re making an outdoor theater.

The projectors I viewed at Sharper Image would work fine too, and they might have been a little less. The CUBE is on sale on Amazon for $269; Sharper Image has some starting around $100. Several of the other portable projectors are likely to be good picks too, and they are priced less than the CUBE. There’s just something about the CUBE that drew me in, and when I got it, I fell in love.

(FYI – I did not receive any of the products mentioned here for free. I purchased them all, and I am sharing what really worked for me.)


I chose the Yamaha NX-P100 Portable Bluetooth® Speaker for my audio

Good audio is key to the outdoor movie experience. The CUBE has a built in speaker that would be nice if you were around a conference room table in a quiet room with five people. But it can’t handle the sounds of a real movie outdoors.

I recommend using a Bluetooth speaker, and not connecting it via Bluetooth.  Rather, use the headphone jack.  I say this because I’ve experienced audio lag via Bluetooth especially when streaming a show from Netflix or my media server.  Hard wiring the audio from the headphone jack on the CUBE into the Bluetooth speaker via a little $5 cord like this, alleviated that lag.

For Bluetooth speakers, I have an original Jambox which doesn’t really have the juice to hang with a loud action movie. I also wanted one that could hold a charge for a long time, and I was more concerned over quality than having it be super small. I bought this Yamaha speaker, and it’s perfect: The Yamaha NX-P100 Portable Bluetooth Speaker. The sound quality is superb, the bass comes through, it brings the movie alive, and it only costs $120. We use this speaker constantly, for more than movies.


I’ve covered this quite extensively on this site, but in terms of what to watch….as long as you have a device capable of reaching your wi-fi connection, the possibilities are endless. We use Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu quite a bit (just finished the Bloodline series on Netflix which was fantastic).  You can now subscribe to HBO and watch True Detectives, which is on my list, along with all their other great original content.

Here’s a free trial of Amazon Prime, and a free trial of Hulu.

And I also use the Western Digital apps to connect to my cloud media server which opens up all the content that I’ve saved there in digital format. I stream all of this from an iPad.  You can even play apps on the big screen or anything else that’s on your iPad. This opens up YouTube which can be a lot of fun. The rest is up to you.

The Bottom Line

Let’s add this up. The curtain (your screen) costs around $12. The CUBE is $269 and the Yamaha speaker is $120, if you need an audio cable it costs $5. That’s around $400 for some great equipment, that will not only provide a fun outdoor movie streaming experience that will make you the envy of your neighbors and their kids, but you will definitely use the CUBE and the speaker for more throughout your daily life. It’s a win-win.

Enjoy, and please let me know if there are other tricks or cool equipment you’ve found for outdoor movies, particularly those of the streaming kind.

Posted in Uncategorized

BIG MOVE: HBO Announces Monthly Subscription Service for Apple Products

I’ve never been a huge fan of Apple TV, just because my other streaming boxes can do so much more, specifically in regards to streaming music, photos and video from my dedicated 3TB media server all over the house (all the devices can talk to one another without proprietary systems).

But recent news may put Apple TV on my radar.  I’ve been dying for HBO to offer a stand alone monthly service that does not require a cable subscription.  And that day has finally come, albeit only for Apple products, which includes devices I do love such as the iPhone 6 and iPad 2 Air.hbo3

Announced in conjunction with the Apple Watch (I’m still on the fence with that one), the big news was HBO Now, available for $15/month, with no cable subscription needed.  I can’t wait to see what the cable companies have to say about this one now that their value has almost dropped completely to zero.  You can get sports on the ESPN app and other services now too, further damaging their already questionable value equation.

What a great time for the consumer; there’s so much access to great content, and even if you add together HBO Now, plus Amazon Prime, plus Hulu, plus Netflix, you can still come in around $50/month.  And look at all the options you have.

Nice move HBO and Apple.  This may prove to be more of a game changer than the Apple Watch in the end.

Posted in Uncategorized

Sling Into the Future With Sling TV From Dish Networks

It’s hard to believe it’s taken this long for someone to figure this game out, but it appears that satellite TV provider Dish Network may have taken the first big step in the right direction for Internet television programming.

They took a page from the tried and true Netflix and Hulu model, realizing that people are more than willing to pay for the content they want for a monthly subscription rate that is reasonable. The offering is called Sling TV, and it is accessible via an app for your Roku, Amazon Fire Stick or other streaming box.

The over-the-Internet service is $20 a month, billed monthly, and offers access to 12 critical, previously-cable-only, programming that includes ESPN and ESPN 2 (big ones for most people), along with CNN, Food Network, Travel Channel, HGTV, TNT, TBS, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Maker and Cartoon Network.

Keep in mind this is for live TV. There’s no pausing. But if you follow my advice here and get an HD antenna (because that will get your local channels), and then match that with Hulu and Netflix, and now you’re paying just over $30/month for a massive amount of content.

Let’s hope this sparks some interest from more companies to do something similar.  A little competition wouldn’t hurt.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Xfinity TV App Is Actually OK; And Why To Get a New Modem

I’m not sure if this letter went out to everyone, but the other day I received a letter from Comcast. Usually, these go right in recycling after reading the first line, but this one caught my attention. My Internet speed was being increased but my modem was too old to process it. So I needed to get a new modem.

My modem was at least 4 years old, a now ancient version of the Motorola Surfboard so I wasn’t too upset to have to replace it. I called Comcast tech support to find the best, and fastest new modem they would recommend. This turned out to be the best customer service call I’ve ever had from Comcast.

First the gentleman walked me through a couple modem options and I settled on the new Motorola Surfboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem and purchased it through Amazon for $86.

Then the customer service rep told me to call back when I received the model, read them the serial number and some other IDs, and I’d be off and running at new super fast speeds. I wish I had more faith in Comcast.  I was skeptical.

Then as I was getting ready to hang up the gentleman said, “oh and this new speed will be $10 less a month than what you are already paying.” Now I was really skeptical. How often does this happen?  A proactive price decrease? So I said “sure, sounds great.” (After 8 months this cost savings would have paid for the new modem, and I’d be enjoying fast speeds the whole time.  What a bargain)

xfinityThen he went one step further and told me about the Xfinity TV app that I could download and use my Comcast account to access a ton of free TV (I guess he knew I was a cord cutter obviously).

So I asked him why anyone would need to pay for cable TV since I’m getting all this content for free as a subscriber, and he was silent for a minute.  “OK,” I thought, “now I’m on to something.”

So I downloaded the Xfinity TV app, which you can find links for here for all your different devices and mobile operating systems.

And guess what? There’s a ton of good, free content on here. Stuff I wish I had known about the whole time. Using this app may render some of the others I love, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, to be unnecessary. Regardless of what other paying services you might be able to drop or not subscribe too, this is a great resource to know of, for free if you’re an Internet customer.  It’s not a one stop shop that will blow your mind, but it’s not bad.

Then the modem arrived, one day actually since Amazon Prime sometimes really overdelivers, and I connected everything and made my dreaded call to Comcast support to hook everything up.

Turns out I got another really helpful gentleman. And now I’m up and running, and I will say the service is blazing. Pages load instantly. And as we put more strain on the system with a multitude of devices hitting the connection constantly from all over the house, this is a welcome addition.

So thanks Comcast. In this instance, I’m actually a very satisfied (Internet paying only) customer.

Posted in Uncategorized

HBO, CBS and Lionsgate Break the Mold and Announce New Streaming Services

hbo3I never understood HBO’s reasoning for tying themselves to only customers who have a cable subscription.  That was how I remember HBO and Showtime working when I was a kid, but times have changed, and the new media tide is bigger and moving faster than these companies may have expected.

When I cut the cord, losing HBO was my biggest challenge because I love their content. Sure there are ways around it.  You can use someone else’s HBO Go account, or just wait for the programming to appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime.  But HBO’s content is discussed the day after it airs.  It’s timely and compelling.  It demands to be watched now.

Thankfully, HBO announced that they would be launching a stand alone streaming service that is unhooked from the cable subscription.  This was news to my ears.  And they will gain me back as a customer right away, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

And HBO’s announcement apparently blazed the way for a few others to embrace the streaming consumption trend.  CBS said they would make certain real time programming available via a stream for a small fee (I’m ok with that), and Lionsgate along with Tribeca Studios said they will launch a new streaming services for films.

Here’s the thing.  Cord cutting is a reality.  Many of us are willing to pay for the programming we enjoy.  We don’t expect it to be free. We just don’t want to pay for 300 channels of mostly garbage that we never watch.  And it looks like the studios and networks are finally going to give us an offering that meets these needs.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized