Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cut the Cord on Cable - Finally!

So I finally did it! I cut the cord on cable on November 21, 2012 . Wednesday afternoon, the cable man came and turned off the service. Now I have a smaller monthly bill. I can't eliminate the bill entirely because I have to keep the cable Internet service on to use some of the replacement services. It is possible to eliminate the cable company entirely; just not for me and my family.  If I were single and childless, I could possibly get along fine with just the free over the air HD channels and using Internet on a mobile hotspot or even tethering to my cellphone's data plan.  This does not work for us, because my solution must please myself, my wife and two daughters.

Before I proceed, I must warn you that this solution is not for everyone. Anyone that is not willing to sacrifice something to lower their monthly cable bill should not consider this.  It is not for someone who is not willing to tinker with different solutions.  Is is not of anyone who is not willing to patchwork together a solution.  There is no turnkey solution that you can just plug in and hit a single power switch like the solutions that the cable and television providers can rent you.  All that convenience has a price; an ever increasing price.

Before you even consider doing this, you will have to do some homework.  First determine how much time you spend watching subscription TV; whether it is cable TV or satellite TV. Secondly, list the channels that you watch. List the shows that you watch on each channel. If you don't know the network or channel, simply write the names of the shows you or your family watch.

This is what we watch.

I personally watch:

  • NFL Football games
  • The NFL channel
  • Some College football
  • Shark Tank
  • American Idol
  • The X-Factor (USA)
  • Revolution
  • Amazing Race
  • Game of Thrones
  • Some major golfing events

My wife watches:

  • Food Network
  • Lifetime Network (aka The man hater network)
  • Family Guy
  • American Family
  • 666 Park Avenue
  • Once Upon a Time
  • The Borgias
  • The Sopranos
  • The Walking Dead
  • The Tutors

The girls watches:

  • Avatar - The last Airbender
  • Avatar - The Legend Of Korra
  • Ultimate Spiderman
  • Wipeout
  • America's Funniest Videos
  • The Mighty B
  • And Various other cartoons

Once you have the list, evaluate it for the following:

  • Decide which shows are a must see (that you cannot go without seeing)
  • Which shows do not have to make the final list; are there alternative shows that can be watched?
  • Do you watch the show live or do you record (DVR) them?
  • Can these shows be watched another way? Though Netflix, Hulu Plus apps on a gaming console, Smart TV, home theater system, Blu-Ray player, tablet, smartphone, etc.?
  • Can they be watched on a computer or laptop via or the networks' website?
  • Can the shows be purchased on DVD or Blu-Ray? How soon after the season end do the disks expect to be released?
  • Can the shows be purchased online from Apple, Amazon, Google Play or another source?
  • Can any of them be rented from any of these sources?
Almost every household today contain at least one device that will stream some form of content into your home from another source other than your TV provider.  You may have a Sony Playstation 3 (PS3), a Microsoft XBox, Nintendo Wii (or WII U), a Smart TV, a tablet or Smartphone that can stream content into your home.  You may have to rely on one or more of these devices to be the entertainment hub for a particular room. Neither one of these devices, nor any of those that you can buy, will provide the entire solution.  No one device can replace your cable box.  You non-cable TV solution will require multiple devices and multiple content sources.

Once my wife and I decided to go for it, I had to start putting the pieces of the pie together.  I knew I would have to be able to get local channels on at least TV, so I picked up a digital HD antenna.  I bought a Roku media streaming player to go on the bedroom TV; the existing Apple TV would stay in the family room. 

So here is my set up: The living room has the Apple TV 2 connected to my 50 inch TV and the bedroom has a 32 inch TV connected to the Roku player. Most of my content is streamed from services like Netflix, Hulu plus or other Internet providers. My Panasonic home theater has a Blu-Ray player as well as "Smart TV" streamed content. Also the Wii game system has streamed content too. 

Push come to shove, I can stream content from the content providers' web site via the iMac computer that is connected to the 50" via AirPlay and/or a HDMI cable. I download some movies and TV episodes and/or rent them from services like Apple iTunes and Amazon. These files reside on my iMac, but are steamed to both the Apple TV 2 and the RoKu XD. The Apple TV 2 is Jailbroken and it is loaded with the Firecore ATV Flash Black media streaming software. The Roku XD has the Plex channel which streams from the iMac. Both do a great job categorizing the content with the meta data pulled to apply the box art and appropriate movie or TV show data. Even buying and downloading whole seasons of shows will be cheaper annually than paying for cable television. 

 The Ruko XD has more content available than the Apple TV 2, even with Apple TV 2 Jailbroken. The Apple TV 2 has AirPlay, so it can receive streamed content from my iPad 3 and iPhone 5 to the 50" HD TV; this is awesome to have and is used more than I would have thought. Local news and sporting events are viewed on the 32" HD TV via the RCA ANT1450BR multi-directional amplified digital flat antenna. What about sports!!! I only watch NFL football, major golf events and some occasional college football games like Michigan v Ohio State. All which is available free over the air. I was worried earlier today when 1pm came and channel 2-1 was coming on. I moved the flat antenna and rescanned and Bam! The game was on. Decided to get a second antenna for the living room, so that we can watch basic television in either room. I went with the next model up because it has a better range. Additionally I have Verizon Wireless on my iPhone 5, so I watch NFL Redzone on Sunday to the teams that are playing in the Redzone. This helps me track my Fantasy players' progress. All Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night games are played in full on the Verizon iPhone 5. I can even use AirPlay on the Apple TV to watch Redzone or the full game on the 50" TV.   

We have enough content to keep us entertained. I was considering subscribing to the streaming channels from at $20 a year, but it requires a Windows PC to stream to the Roku and Wii devices. The downside is that we can not pause live TV and we do not have a DVR functionality. I can get a TIVO, but it is a startup cost of $200+ and a monthly cost of $12. I am trying to reduce costs, not increase it. I already bought the Roku for $59.99; RCA digital antenna for $30 and a second one that I used an Amazon credit to buy. I am saving on the monthly and will continue to do so year after year. 

My Internet and TV combo was $89 a month with a promotional DirectTV customer buyback program. It lasted 2 years and it has inched up quickly to $130 since late August 2012.  That is without any premium channels at all. Plus I paid $7.99 for Netflix.  Now I pay $59 for Internet. $7.99 for Netflix. And $7.99 for Hulu Plus. So I am paying $75 ($900 a year - wow that is still large) a month instead of $138; $63 less a month or $756 saving a year. Was it ever worth $1656 a year? Well it was actually was $1068 a year for the last 2 years, but it was way more before that. I can't justify paying much more anymore.  

 Will it last? Or will go running back to the cable provider with my cable between my legs? It is strange new world we live in where this 46 and his 36 year old wife is willing to cut the cable cord. Our 11 and 13 year old daughters are at a crossroad of conflicting technologies. The content providers will have to start a more aggressive approach to tackling this new demand for viewing content away from the broadcasted mediums. I will update you on our progression into the post-cable world of nearly total dependence on the Internet for our viewing content. 


Carl W. Brooks 

Check out my iPad/iOS/Mac technology website

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