In the first part of this series, I talked about the decision process I went through with cancelling cable. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, check it out.
In this article however I’m assuming you’re pretty set on cancelling cable TV, and are ready to take the plunge. However you want to know more about what the cable TV alternatives are to fill that gaping hole in your evening schedule. Well hopefully I won’t disappoint. I’ve compiled a list of the media and products I use to replace cable television in my life and still feel up to date and current with the world.
In no particular order, here are my alternatives to paying $100 a month for the privilege to watch re-runs and reality TV, very few of which you probably like.
Odds are you’ve heard of Netflix if you haven’t been living under a rock for the past decade. They are one of the largest streaming media providers and boast over 33 million subscribers as of the time of this writing. Currently they offer a Streaming only package as well as a DVD by mail package. I currently have the streaming only package and I feel that’s all I’ll ever need. There are literally thousands of TV shows and Movies available for your viewing pleasure. With their interface redesign you have the option of choosing regular Netflix or Netflix for Kids whenever you first sign on. There are tons of TV shows from both broadcast and cable TV, usually a season or so behind the current broadcasts. There are also thousands upon thousands of movies ranging from classics to new releases. Usually newer movies will appear a few months from when they have been out of the theatres. I’ve spent way more time then I like to think sitting on the couch watching episode after episode of awesome tv shows *cough* Lost *cough* while Netflix seamlessly streams HD quality shows to my TV. Now you do need a device to play Netflix on, but there are so many devices you can use you’re bound to have one already. You can play it through video game consoles, Roku boxes, TV’s, Blue ray players, computers, smart phones, etc. If there is one media package you need after you cut the cord from cable, Netflix is it. You can currently get the streaming only packages for ~$8 a month.
In the same vein as Netflix, Hulu Plus offers streaming video right to your television. Hulu has a wide selection of TV shows from both broadcast and cable television. It has movies, but a much smaller selection then Netflix. It is however a much better option if you want recent TV shows. You can usually catch new shows a day or two after they air on Hulu. It has most broadcast shows and also a wide selection of shows from cable, so selection usually isn’t a problem. Hulu currently has a free version as well as a paid version. The free version will have most broadcast shows and will offer the last few episodes for you to view. The paid version offers access to their full lineup of content, and lets you watch whole seasons of your favorite shows. It costs around $8 a month for the paid version, and I would definitely say it’s worth it as an alternative to cable once you cancel.
Ahhh the internet, the cause of and solution to many of life’s problems. If you’re reading this blog I’m assuming you already have the internet, so you don’t need to go adding anything else to your monthly expenses. The internet as you well know can be a wonderful place to catch up on the news, read blogs, socialize with your friends, keep track of finances, pay bills, and many other ways to be productive or waste time if you so choose. What you might not know, is that by just having an internet connection and being able to connect to a website, you can fairly easily watch most of your favorite shows. Cable networks like Comedy Central, MTV, HGTV, TLC, Etc., usually post full episodes of their most popular shows on their websites. This means that you can stay fresh and up to date with the latest gossip just by opening up your web browser, no cable TV required. If you hate watching on your computer, it’s fairly easy these days to hookup your PC/MAC to the TV or stream the internet through other devices. Cost: ~$50 a month but you were probably already paying this before you cancelled cable.
*Tip: Netflix and Hulu only require about 5 mpbs per second to stream in Hi-Definition. This means for those of you with Comcast or other internet providers, you can safely downgrade your service from the “Performance” levels to one of the more basic speed levels. I went from Comcast’s Performance Plus- 20 mbps package down to the Performance Starter- 6 mbps plan for a savings of around $15 a month without skipping a beat in my ability to watch shows. Don’t pay for speed you don’t need!
Over The Air TV (OTA TV)
Good ole rabbit ears. They have been bringing us broadcast channels faithfully since TV was invented, and they continue to do so today in new and improved Hi Definition! A few years ago the FCC mandated the switch from analog to digital signals, so now all OTA broadcasts are broadcast on the digital spectrum. This has the benefit of allowing broadcast signals to be in high definition as well as generally providing better signal reliability. You either get the signals or you don’t. No more fiddling around with buzzy static or smacking the TV every few minutes like grandma taught you. When I made the decision to cancel cable I realized that I was paying for a ton of stuff I didn’t even watch. When I actually sat down and thought about what I was watching most nights, about 50% of it was from one of the main broadcast channels, not even a pay cable station! OTA TV allows you to get all of the major networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, CW15 and all of their respective sub channels as well as some other smaller free networks that play old movies and TV shows.
Now with all these positives of OTA TV I do have to let you in on the downsides. The first one probably won’t be an issue for most, the second one might.
First downside: Remember when I said the FCC mandated the switch from analog to digital, well that also means your old tube tv won’t work unless you buy an adapter. If you didn’t get one for free from the government when the switch was made, you can buy them for under $50 most places. Another alternative is to just buy a new TV as new ones are required to have digital tuners so they will decode the analog signals straight out of the box.
The Second Downside: For most people that live in the cities or the suburbs, this probably won’t be much of an issue, but for those folks in more rural areas it could pose a big problem. As opposed to satellite or cable tv, you can only pick up OTA TV channels if you are in the range of the broadcast channels signal. Terrain plays a HUGE part in if you can pick up signals. I had a hard time being able to pick up FOX with an antenna where as my friends that live a few miles away can pick it up no problem. Mountains, hills, trees, and distance can play a big part in blocking signal so please use the coverage map found at TVFOOL.com to determine what channels you can get OTA before you cancel cable.
The Big Four
Those four options above will cover the majority of your media needs. You could literally spend your entire life watching Netflix and Hulu and never finish all of the content on those two services. OTA channels also let you get all the major broadcast shows and local and national news. The internet will cover the rest.
What About Sports?
One of the big drawbacks however for a lot of people when they cancel cable is the lack of sports programming that they are accustomed to.
For the most part you can still get a lot of sports on just basic broadcast channels. The NFL is shown on FOX and CBS on Sundays, Basketball is played on CBS, Nascar is shown on FOX, Golf is shown on CBS, and many more sporting events are broadcast on various free channels. There are however a bunch of sports that aren’t shown on the regular channels, many of them being college sports with the likes of the Big Ten and SEC networks now existing on cable. The Monday and Thursday NFL games are also shown on ESPN and the various baseball games on TBS and other sports networks limits the availability of free sports broadcasts.
My obvious suggestion would be instead of spending $100 a month to watch those sporting events, why not make it a social affair and hang out with friends and family who still have cable at their house or meet up with buddies at the local sports bar. This gets you out of the house, socializing, eating, and still spending less then you’d spend on cable. You could also subscribe to one of the many individual sports subscription services such as MLBtv which you can stream on your TV, xbox, ps3, or phone. A yearly subscription currently costs around $120 and you can hook it up to 8 devices *cough* split it with friends *cough* so it’ll still be more cost effective to cancel cable and pay yearly for that.
What About Those Shows You Absolutely Can’t Miss?
Everyone has those shows they can’t miss. For me that’s Walking Dead. Now I sort of cheat in my ability to watch this Zombie gore fest, I go to friends houses that have cable as AMC is a cable only channel. So I’m not truly completely giving up cable in that regard, I’m just sort of mooching off the kindness of others. Now if for some reason I didn’t know anyone that would let me watch these shows with them, I could always shell out the $30-40 bucks and download the season from Amazon. This will still save you money in the long run as it averages out to $10 or so a month for the show, still much cheaper then cable. Just don’t try to follow dozens of shows like this.
As an alternative to cable television you could also try something radical and not watch TV or movies. You could read more books, do outside activities, pick up new hobbies, visit with friends, volunteer, or any number of countless things that don’t involve sitting on your rear end on the couch. These will generally have the side effect of improving your health, mood, and social life…win, win, win.
Cut The Cord, Still Get Everything You Love
Well if you’ve made it this far, hopefully you’ve continued to solidify your choice to cancel cable television and thought about the ways you can get rid of cable but still stay in the entertainment loop. These were just a few of the multitude of ways to watch media and I’m sure over the coming years tons of other options and alternatives to cable tv will open up.
It might seem like you have nothing to watch when you first pull the plug, but trust me you won’t miss it one bit. I know I don’t
Plus it’s nice to have an extra $1200 a year in my pocket.
Tune in next time when I give you the run down of the exact equipment you need to make all this cord cutting possible.
If you haven't read the whole series on cutting the cord, check the other articles out below...