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How to Save Money by Cutting the Cable

by on May 22, 2012
in Music and Video, TVs & Video Players, Music & Video Services, Tips & How-Tos, Money Savers :: 24 comments

family watching videoThe number of U.S. homes paying cable, satellite or fiber optic TV service last year actually declined by 1.5 million, or about 1.5 percent, according to Nielsen’s latest Cross-Platform Report. That’s an annual savings for the average home of $840 - $1,200. So is it time for you to pull the plug on your pay TV provider?

What's available online

If you’re willing to cobble together a few sources, there’s a lot of great streamed content out there. You may already be using Netflix ($7.99 per month), Amazon, iTunes or Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) to stream or download your favorite shows. To round these services out, try the following.

Network and basic cable

The three major networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—plus most other network and basic cable channels stream full shows the day after they air. Other sites, like Fox, let you view episodes the day after only if you’re a pay TV subscriber, opening the content up to non-pay-TV viewers after eight days.

Don't forget that you can get most local broadcasts over the air. When combined with a DVR like TiVo (around $200), you can record programs for playback later.

News

You can find streamed news clips on most major news sites, and on MSNBC.com and Fox News you can even watch a full program. (CNN only streams full programs for pay TV subscribers.) For single programs or niche news stations, try Ustream.tv, which carries live, streamed news programming, including the PBS News Hour, Nikkei Japan News, TMZ Live, AP Live and the Wall Street Journal.

Premium Channels

HBO and Showtime fans have to wait for the season to end and purchase it from Amazon or iTunes, or wait for it to become available on Netflix.

But if you’re a pay TV subscriber, you can watch episodes on Showtime Anywhere or HBO Go immediately online on your computer, smartphone tablet, smart TV or game system.

Sports

All of the major sports leagues have streaming services. There’s NFL Game Rewind, NBA League Pass, NHL GameCenter LIVE and MLB.tv. You’ll pay about $20-$25 per month to watch on your computer, tablet, smartphone, smart TV or game system. And with MLB.tv Premium, you can even choose the home or away team feed.

For pay TV subscribers, there’s Watch ESPN for iOS, Android, computers and Xbox 360, which provides live streaming feeds and replays from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 and ESPNU.

And if you want to watch boxing, North American Soccer League, or the Olympic News Channel, you can tune in to Ustream.tv.

Kids

There’s plenty of quality kids’ programming that’s available for free on sites like DisneyChannel.com, DisneyXD.com, Nickelodeon and PBSKids.org, among others.

The hurdles

Even will with all of these streaming resources, there are still a number of hurdles if you choose to only stream or download your favorite shows.

  1. Most live events aren’t streamed—the Super Bowl being an exception. (Though, you can always purchase an antenna and pull in an over-the-air signal for most major events.)
  2. You’ll have to wait at least a day to watch network TV.
  3. Your video viewing will be fragmented, so you’ll have to remember where you watch each show—the network’s website, an online streaming service like Hulu or on iTunes.
  4. You’ll have to wait months to watch content from premium channels like HBO and Showtime.
  5. You’ll have to pay to watch sports.

Saving money without cutting the cord

You don’t have to cancel your service to save money by streaming TV. If you're paying for service on one TV, video providers like HBO, Showtime Cartoon Network and ESPN, will let you access their content for free through the web. So you can ditch your second or third cable box and stream via your computer or a Roku HD box ($59.99). You will also save on video rentals while on the road by streaming movies instead.

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Discussion loading

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Great options

From Trish on May 22, 2012 :: 1:03 pm

Thanks for your piece! We canceled our cable a few months ago- and are loving it. We have been getting by with watching a few of our fav shows on the network’s website, and it’s been easy peasey. These additional options are super useful, especially for the hubby who’s been wondering what he’s going to do when football season starts. Thanks for the tips!

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Great article

From Andrea on May 22, 2012 :: 1:20 pm

I have cut the cable cord years ago and do not miss the outrageous monthly bill especially in lieu of the current economic climate. If there is something I have to catch I go over to my sister and brother-in-law. But in general I love not having to be compelled to a set schedule.

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love the savings

From Linda on May 22, 2012 :: 2:34 pm

I will save almost $600 this year after cutting the satellite, that’s after a year of netflix and hulu plus subscription, buying a Roku, buying an antenna and a lifetime subscription to PlayOn and PlayLater. The savings will just increase each year since now it will just be the netflix and hulu subscriptions.
And the signal is great on my HDTV.

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Cable Savings (Cablevision)

From William on May 22, 2012 :: 3:08 pm

Nice Article,

But it doesn’t compare the options of usage via the large cable companies, and there billing schemes that tie you up and force you to take a specific package simply because they have a lock on the services available for multi language subscribers. By this I mean show me a way to save on spanish language channels like telemundo, who offers an alternative at a much reduced cost, please tell me. I can’t cut the bill because my mother-in law and wife have to have these services and I still have to pay $165.00 roughly per month… Strangled on Long Island by Cablevision…

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Telemundo offers streaming on its site

From Josh Kirschner on May 22, 2012 :: 3:47 pm

Hi William,

Telemundo offers streaming of some shows directly on its website (go to the “videos” drop down menu on http://msnlatino.telemundo.com). Hulu.com also offers a Latno channel of Spanish language programming. Hopefully, there’s enough to make your wife and mother-in-law happy. And we know how important that is!

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Telmundo Offers Streaming On It's Site..

From William on May 22, 2012 :: 4:01 pm

Josh,

If that being the case then you may have helped me out tremendously, I’ll look into it as soon as I can..

Thank You…

Bill

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The plug has been pulled!

From Patricia Knight on May 22, 2012 :: 3:51 pm

I pulled the plug back in September on DirecTV.  One of the best things I did.  We utilize Roku, our Playstation 3 and our Boxee to stream exactly what we want to our big screen.  Love it.  Don’t miss live TV at all.  We really enjoy watching what we want, when we want to, not when the networks decide to air stuff.

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I have never had cable.

From Jez on May 22, 2012 :: 4:10 pm

I have never had cable. Does anyone remember how it was first marketed—that since you were paying for it cable channels would be commercial free. hahahaha. You get the worst of both worlds, you pay AND you get commercials every 5 mins.

My TV reception is horrible even with the antennae booster. I refuse to get cable.

I use netflix and go to websites to stream my favorite shows. Some stations don’t give access to all of their shows. I keep emailing them and asking them to stream all of their shows. Maybe someday they will listen. But in the meantime, there are plenty of things to stream.

Crackle.com offers movies and shows and some unique content. PBS.com also lets you stream videos so I can watch masterpiece theatre, NOVA and other favorites as well.

The other upside to streaming is that I can watch what I want when I want, pause it and do something else then go back to it. I have two monitors for my desktop, one to watch TV and one to do work on.

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Get PBS Without Cable / Satellit ?

From Don Greene on May 22, 2012 :: 4:36 pm

I currently get 3 local PBS stations via Direct TV. I enjoy Downton Abbey, Masterpiece Theatre, etc. Can I get PBS stations if I dump satellite and/or cable?

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Hope about sharing the how-tos?

From Kym J on May 22, 2012 :: 4:59 pm

I had been locked into the life of continuous cable, however, the cost has gotten too pricey for me, that I was in the house more, because my money was going into the cable box!!! So, last month, I cut the cable off, and except for the complaints of my daughter, we have been watching all of the movies, we had bought, and saw once! Yeah, she complians, but, she isn’t paying the fees… So how about doing an actual piece on how to cout the cable bill and use other resourses; and a review of the different types as effective or worthless; where the best bargains are in movies, shows, and the unknown blessings of little known websites. I have three HDTVs, and I wish to provide access on all three. My friends are still locked in, so there is no one around with the “new technology know-how,” I am always ahead of everyone… I would like to know about antennaes; new DVR boxes; gaming usage (my daughter uses the game station for movie viewing, so we are nearer in ideas… This type of information would be great to enhance my viewing pleasure, and my pocketbook’s economic measure… Thanks!

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Help with the how-to?

From Judy on May 26, 2012 :: 9:16 pm

I love the idea of dumping Directv for my two HDTVs, but how do you stream to them? I’ve watched shows on my computer, but that’s impractical for the whole family. The internet we have available (country living) is Verizon’s mifi, so we cannot connect that to the tvs. So what and how do I utilize these other sources of shows and movies?

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Not Yet

From Dan on May 27, 2012 :: 7:41 pm

Great article, Suzanne!  It’s great to see some alternatives to cable/satellite but at least for now, I’m staying with Dish Network.  I can’t get my favorite channels via streaming like Nat Geo, History, H2, Discovery, my local sports affiliate and several others and the HD picture from Dish is fabulous.  Plus, they have several packages so it’s not an all or nothing proposition.

If those channels become available to watch via streaming on my TV and not just on my computer or portable device, AND the picture quality is as good as what I’m getting now then I’ll consider cutting my satellite subscription.  Till then, no way.

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HELP JOSH...

From William on May 27, 2012 :: 9:51 pm

Josh,

Thank You from your previous comments. One last question though, can I get access away from cable to the NY Mets, Knicks, Jets? On Long Island of course? I would buy HULU PLUS but cablevision packages their packages in such a way that it locks you into local channels but also all local sports and this makes it very hard almost impossible to find an alternate way of getting access to these other forms of entertainment..
Please help

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Save more by going without TIVO-record on Windows Media Center for free

From Frank on May 30, 2012 :: 3:16 pm

I don’t know why but stories like this always skip a simpler solution than using AppleTV, Roku boxes, SmartTVs etc.  Just plug a cord from your computer’s HDMI output port to one of your TVs HDMI input ports, and watch whatever is on your computer screen on your big flat screen HDTV.  This is what I do.  If your computer does not have HDMI u can buy a card, which I’ve seen for as cheap as $25 to plug into the inards of your PC.  You might have to configure your PC to treat your ‘second display’ (i.e. your TV) so that it shows the same image as your primary display (your monitor).  Want to save more money?  Dump cable and spend $50 or less on a TV internal tuner card (just got a good one for $20 on ebay), and $10 on an antenna and get HDTV over the air on your PC. Use windows media center to watch tv live on your HDTV, or schedule your favorites to be recorded (free - no TIVO needed!).  Works great for me. I recommend Artec cheapo small blue rectangular antenna i bought at Meritline cuz it works better than expensive ones that i experimented with.  I use Windows Media Center to record shows on my PC for later vieweing on my TV and I have a second antenna attached to the TV so i can watch one show live and record another on my PC.  Honestly, once the antennas are set up for good reception, this is cheap and effective ... great picture (better than cable), and you get all the over the air networks (free), and optionally pay for and use internet streaming via netflix/hulu for other shows, which I watch on my big flat screen. Yes, i have to buy internet for the non over the air stuff, but i want internet anyway and yes internet alone is cheaper than internet plus cable TV (at least it is for me).

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Saving Money

From Mitchell Mechanical on June 06, 2012 :: 3:02 pm

We have been cutting costs by doing those sorts of things for a while now. It’s become so easy for people to watch shows for free online- although it may be the day after the show airs since most people (as you mentioned) don’t stream the shows as they air. But if you are ok with watching the show the next day then it is a major money saver.

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My System

From COMPUTIAC on June 08, 2012 :: 2:37 pm

I’m in the process of dumping Cablevision. Since they thought it was fitting to give my account a raise of $52.in May,now up to a hefty $153.mo.having the triple play. My progress so far:

Ooma Telo to replace phone,$40.now,will be $4.26.

Terk HDTVa amplified antenna,mounted on a Vivitar tripod,to replace paid TV with OTA $90.now,will be free.

Roku XD/s for streaming along with a subscription to Play-On $89.LifeTime.

HP nc6220 laptop to dedicated home theater.
Will be used as server for Play-On.

Still open to all suggestions to add to or tweak this set-up.

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Suggestion for your setup

From Frank ODette on June 08, 2012 :: 3:31 pm

Good job! My only suggestion would be to set yourself up with a way to record live TV.  Not sure if laptops support tuner cards but i imagine they do.  If you have a PC with windows 7 and media center, adding a tuner card is cheap, Attach your antenna (or a 2nd antenna) to the tuner card.  You can setup windows media center to record TV shows and you can run the HDMI output from the PC/laptop to your TV to watch at your convenience.  You could also stream from your laptop/PC direct to the TV via this same HDMI port, and bypass the Roku.

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How??

From Dennis Pratt on January 26, 2013 :: 2:19 pm

Okay, I want to dump Directv.  Tired of paying too much for too little. 

I want to be able to watch local channels in hi-def, and record baseball games off of MLB.TV. 

My computer is in my office, about twenty yards from my t.v. located in the living room. 

What gear do I need to buy to accomplish all this?  Looking for help from those of you who are technically gifted in this area.  Thanks.

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Tech advice

From Frank on January 26, 2013 :: 3:15 pm

Just his past week I set my friend up. First you need to see if you can get your local stations over the air.  I can in Boston, using a small flat paper thin antenna that I got from meritline ($7 on sale) though there are somewhat better ones like the Leaf for $40. Or you could install an antenna on your roof if it came to that. 

Can’t get a good signal via antenna. Consider basic cable. I know with comcast in some areas if you bypass their box and plug the cable direct to the TV you get the local channels in hi-def. Ask your local cable provider what the situation is in your area.

You would have to subscribe to MLB TV over the internet, which I imagine you can do? If so, you can hook your computer display to your TV display.

How? I just did this for my friend.  You need a video card with an HDMI output (some computers come with this preinstalled).  I found one on amazon that arrived this week for $30 that works fine. Install the driver, the card, and go to the control center and tell it to show everything on my computer also on my tv screen. Now u can watch your MLB on your tv via your internet subscription.

Want to record your local channels without paying for a TIVO and subscription? You need a 2nd card, a TV card (I bought one for $25 from ebay tho it ships from china so takes like 3-4 weeks). Hook an antenna input to your TV card, or a splitter so your cable goes to both your TV and your PC.  Use windows media center (free on most versions of windows 7) to record TV shows. If you are using the cable option and can’t get listing reply and I can help resolve that problem.

Any questions, feel free to post and I will get back to you.  Good luck!

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Tech advice 2

From Frank on January 26, 2013 :: 3:20 pm

Warning: The above advice is for a Windows 7 PC, with available empty card slots to install the card(s). Check before u order the cards to see if u have the slots available!

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Tech Advice From Frank

From Dennis Pratt on January 26, 2013 :: 4:47 pm

Frank, thanks for the response.  I guess my main concern with the set up you describe here is the fact that my computer is located far from my t.v., so I would have to go wireless and hope the WiFi would be good enough to get a steady download, and not something that’s being interrupted constantly.  Or ...I could buy another computer and set it up beside the t.v. using a t.v. card and video card with HDMI output.  Basic cable is not something I would want, as I am trying to avoid paying too much for too little, which is the cornerstone of Cable and Satellite t.v. services.

So, let’s say I get another computer and an indoor antennae to use with my t.v. and hard wire everything to my second computer, would I be able to actually record games from MLB.TV and other television programming onto the computer’s hard drive?  If so, what do you think I would need as far as hard drive size, RAM, Graphics card, etc.?

Thanks for the help.

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follow-up

From Frank on January 26, 2013 :: 6:15 pm

Sorry for not reading your note in more detail. I was thinking 20 feet and u said 20 yards!

Well, first u have to see if an antenna will do it for you.  This site can give u an idea: http://www.antennaweb.org/Address.aspx (or do a google search and find another one for a 2nd opinion). If you cant pull in a good signal for the channels u watch, u will need cable or stick with satellite.

Rather than a 2nd computer there are boxes you can buy that stream video over wiFi and I think that would be a cheaper solution.

Now, as for recording MLB games, I don’t know if that is an option because it is not over the air. The MLB service should be able to tell you if they allow that.

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computer hardware

From Frank on January 26, 2013 :: 6:19 pm

As for the PC, most modern PCs can handle it.  Hard drive is a function of how many hours of stuff u need to save.  Small hard drive if u record for 2 and then watch and delete those 2 hours before recording again. Big one if you store hour after hour of stuff before deleting.  I bought a 1 TB USB drive and I can store a lot of stuff there . Can be had for as cheap as $60 i think.

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WD Live hub

From F. Garcia on January 29, 2014 :: 5:39 pm

You can also try WD Live Hub. Under live tv you can watch and record live local hd channels If you buy and install the hauppauge (NTSC) wintv-hvr-950q. It’s a usb digital tv tuner that comes with an antenna.

This can also be used in windows 7 with Windows Media Center to watch and record live and programmed shows in HD.

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