How To Ditch Cable

December 3, 2012 by Michelle

Two different friends within two days asked me how I watch television so they can copy what I do and get rid of their cable.  Both were unsolicited, and both know that I cut the cable cord back in April and haven’t looked back.  And with two friends asking, I figure other people must want to know, too, right?

We decided to cut the cord first of all because our cable bill was obnoxious.  It kept growing, even as we scaled our packages back.  I keep a spreadsheet of our monthly expenses, so I could see how quickly our cable bill was climbing – even when I was calling the cable company to negotiate pricing with them (which is so doable and so easy).  Given how infrequently we actually watch television, it didn’t seem worth it pay what we calculated the hourly rate to be.  Ouch.

Obnoxiously high cable bill $143 per month

The big concern is that one of the few things we do watch on television is sports.  While I knew that ABC and NBC stream their shows online, they don’t stream live sports.  As I investigated, however, I came to discover that those old antennae so many of us have on top of our houses (or in our case, in our attic) actually work remarkably well for over the air channels now.  My husband already subscribed to MLB.tv, which provided him all the baseball he needs, and Monday Night Football is really all we’re missing.  For those games we really need to watch in whatever sport, it’s still cheaper to go to a sports bar that day or night and watch it.

After looking at all the alternatives, we decided to go with a Roku player, for a few reasons.  It’s small, which is nice.  And it has two plugs – power and a USB to the television.  With two Roku devices, we put extra HDMI cables and power plugs into the television in the basement and in the guest room so that we can easily move the Roku devices to those televisions if either of us wants to watch television elsewhere.  It’s amazing how fast Roku players recognize the network and get back up to speed.

Roku device is small enough to fit in my hand

See how tiny the Roku is, too? It fits in my hand easily, which means it isn’t a huge ugly cable box either.

With the Roku device itself, there are plenty of channels to watch.  They range from free channels like Crackle that has tons of movie and television content that changes monthly to Cowboy Classics to Hulu Plus, which requires a subscription but allows you to watch just about anything you want.  There are also news channels, including CNBC and Fox News Channel that have limited streaming, as well as food channels galore, exercise, and more.  This gives us some of what we want, and it’s really our method of streaming.  Truthfully, my husband watches MLB.tv using the Roku, and sometimes we watch Crackle movies or old television.  That’s generally it, however, although I’m enjoying the Old Time Radio Channel.

Beyond the standard channels available in the Roku store, some of which require subscription fees and some which do not, there are also private channels.  These are channels that have been developed by others that you can sign up for using codes provided and then watch with your Roku.  This has a ton of additional content from Justin.tv that has what seems like anything you would want to watch to the Holly and Jack Channel which is a preschool show from the UK to Bloomberg TV and more.  If you are looking for a particular show you want to watch and haven’t found it on other channels, googling “How do I watch XYZ on my Roku” will frequently provide you with a private channel.

As for the over the air channels, let’s just say that I never knew we had so many options.  With the new digital channels, we don’t just get NBC, we get NBC 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  And the same goes for most of the other channels.  Granted, much of the programming isn’t anything I want to watch, but it’s there.  The key is to have your antenna wired to each television, which can be tricky, but if my husband can figure it out, anyone can.  And the over the air channels are free.  With the antenna in our attic, we receive crystal clear digital signals with no problems.  We originally purchased a digital antenna that had great reviews that is an inside antenna.  It didn’t work nearly as well, with CBS simply not being an available channel (because of the frequency it broadcasts at) to other channels being persnickety at times.

The television I watch most frequently however, is the PlayOn.tv I stream as a channel on my Roku.  PlayOn is a subscription based service.  The last time I checked, the pricing for a lifetime subscription to PlayOn was $59.99 and included a free Roku LT (with $9.99 shipping).  There are also annual plans for $19.99 that do not include the Roku.  PlayOn works by streaming in the background of your PC – which means you need to have a PC running whenever you want to watch anything via PlayOn.  You can run PlayOn to your television via Roku, Wii, Xbox 360, or Playstation 3 over your home wireless network.

With PlayOn, the channels grew significantly.  This is how I can watch any network show from ABC or NBC or Food Network or ABC Family or the like.  It also accesses Hulu and provides all those shows, which means I can watch Comedy Central or the WB or even Fox shows that don’t have a specific channel.  I have even been able to watch college football live via the ESPN3 channel.  There are a few shows that I can’t watch, and I’ll admit to really missing Suze Orman, but given the amount of television I watch, I’m perfectly ok with what I have.  And yes, there are plenty of privately developed API channels for PlayOn, too, from WSJ Live to Tiny Toon Adventures (awww childhood!) to HGTV and more.

Monthly, I pay nothing except my Internet.  And I will say that at least Comcast jacks up the price of your Internet when it’s your only service instead of being bundled with cable, but it’s still an $80 plus per month savings over what we were paying for the minimum package.  Our only investments have been for the Roku we purchased ($69 on sale at Amazon) and the PlayOn lifetime license that included a free Roku ($79), plus the HDMI and power cables for the other two televisions, which was around $30 total. In less than three months, this paid for itself, and we couldn’t be happier.

Well, ok we could, but we aren’t going to complain.  With streaming television, channels delete their shows after a period of time, so if you don’t watch them in time, they’re gone.  And some channels – like Food Network – provide a limited array of shows rather than everything they air, but it’s still plenty for us.

Had I had more experience, I would have bought the PlayOn with PlayLater bundle when I purchased our original license.  PlayLater is the first online DVR service that allows you to save any show you want for as long as you want.  You simply download it and then watch it at your leisure so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to watch it before it’s removed from the stream.  This allows you to watch shows offline (read: you don’t need your PC turned on) once you’ve moved them to a device, and if you live somewhere that gets busy internet during times you want to watch television (not an issue we’ve had, knock on wood), you don’t end up with buffering issues.  The PlayLater lifetime license is $39.99 right now, or there is an annual package for $14.99 per year.

I have to say that I doubt we’ll ever look back.  Even if we watched television more than what we do, the options we’ve found could never allow us to justify the cost of cable.  Adding a subscription to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD or others would still cost significantly less than our cable did.

So what about you?  Have you cut the cord with cable?  Why or why not?  If you have, what other tips or advice would you give?

Just to clarify, this is not a sponsored post.  I have no affiliate links.  No one is providing me with any product or compensation.  This is purely a public service message.

    Comments

  • megryansmom


    Wow, thanks for sharing this! I’m going to look into it. Do you need a Roku for every TV? Can you watch 2 different shows on 2 TVs at the same time? I’d love to pick your brain for more info from a seasoned user.

    • Michelle


      You need a Roku for each tv you want to watch at a time, BUT I figured out that you can easily move the Roku from one tv to another if you have say 23 televisions and only 2 people watching at a time. You just need the HDMI to the tv and a power cord left in place, then unplug the Roku and move it to the new tv and cords. And yep, you can watch whatever you want via the Roku – 2 shows on 2 tvs with 2 Roku players or 20 shows on 20 tvs with 20 Roku (assuming your wifi were strong enough to handle that without buffering issues!)

  • Sarah Parisi


    We gave up cable to cut expenses about 5 or 6 years ago. I love my Roku!! It’s a lifesaver. We have Netflix and it’s wonderful 🙂

    • Michelle


      I’m impressed you did it so long ago, Sarah! I’m still the only one I know amongst my friends who’s done it, but I know that won’t last. It’s definitely a lifesaver. I know a lot of people swear by Netflix, but we don’t even have that – we just don’t watch enough tv to need it. Yet. 😉

  • Melissa


    We just got the Roku and are thinking about cutting the cord. So tired of Comcast. Thanks for all of the info. It will be useful if we do take the plunge.

  • Laila @OnlyLaila


    When I moved I decided I wasn’t bringing Comcast with me. I bought an antennae for my tv and haven’t looked back. I have a Netflix account to watch some cable shows. I keep hearing about the Roku, may have to check it out. One thing I’ve noticed is now that I don’t have cable I watch a LOT less TV. It’s interesting to think about.

  • Cuthecord


    Cut the cord at the beginning of the year when my directv contract was up and it was the best choice I’ve made. I currently use a roku 2, Xbox 360 and the wii to watch tv. I have Playon for now and also use plex.

  • Timothy Green


    I just want to know which Channels on ROKU are free ?And actually how or who do I have to get in touch with ,to have only 1 person or company to use for all payments for any use on my ROKU

    • Michelle


      You have to go into Roku to investigate because there is an asolutely huge list of channels that are free, and they change from time to time. There are also a vast number of private channels that you can find to add to your Roku that are also free (and many that are paid). Because the channels use Roku just as a device to stream, the different providers don’t take payments except through themselves unfortunately. You will still have to make payments to each provider that has a charge. This is a good place to start, however: http://roku.com/channels/#!browse/movies-and-tv/by-popular

  • Peter Losh


    Free comes at a cost — the cost of commercials. Whereas there are a few good ad-free apps that don’t require subscriptions, the very best ones do. However, prices are reasonable and you can cancel at any time.

    For this reason, I subscribe to Hulu ad-free, Netflix, and Fandor. I’ve been an Amazon Prime member since 2010, so in my mind Prime streaming is essentially free. Sling TV gives me access to the ESPN app, and for things on the wider Internet, I have a box that runs Kodi.

    All this is still far less costly than my old cable bill; the quality of the content is 100 times better. I’m not opposed to paying reasonable fees for my entertainment, but to shell out $100 a month for bad shows crammed full of ads… It baffles me that anyone would be willing to do that.

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