I’ve been trying to get rid of cable for a while now. And, don’t get me wrong, if you just want to watch a TV show or two at your convenience, there are tons of options out there to justify cutting the cord: from Netflix, to Hulu, to illegally finding it on any plethora of websites based in Europe, if you want to watch something on demand, you’ll find it. But there’s something to be said for live TV. Mindless, always on in the background, ever changing on it’s own without my input, TV. Sometimes you just want background noise while using the internet, sometimes you just want to watch whatever happens to be on, sometimes you’d like to watch a sporting event in real time. It’s okay, you’re not alone and, thanks to some new services, it might finally be time for us to get the satisfaction of live TV –over the internet.

With the launch of Sling TV and the recent announcement that Apple is reportedly working on their own live TV service, it’s finally looking like the cable service providers are losing their grip on the live TV world.

The Reason It’s Taking Cable So Long To Move to the Web

Subscriber Fees

First, I think we need to discuss some of the reasoning for why cable has been so damn stuck behind the times. As with most things like this, it comes down to money.

Cable providers might charge you for access to the channels, but did you know they also get charged a subscriber fee by the channels themselves? To give you an example, ESPN charges the cable companies something near $6/month per subscriber (the extreme high end of the spectrum, if we’re honest), Fox News charges about $1/month per subscriber, TBS $0.72, and so on (head here for a list of some of the other cable channels and their rates by the Wall Street Journal if you’re terribly curious).

This revenue, along side a portion of the ad revenue from commercials, is how channels and, in turn, shows on them, survive. But, that subscriber fee accounts for more than half of the revenue for the channel (according to an article by StateoftheMedia.org from 2013). That’s a hell of a chunk and frankly one, I’m sure, they aren’t quick to give up so quickly.

 

In addition to that revenue, there’s for sure some backend contracts, agreements, and handshakes between the networks and the cable providers that I’m sure is something they both don’t want to rock the boat on (even though, lately, there’s some signs that they are starting to).

Why Cable is Finally Going Online

As I mentioned before, Sling TV and its offer of a decent number of live TV channels for a rate of $20/month is a pretty good catalyst, but even before that, the war on cutting the cord started from an uncommon place –Capitol Hill.

In 2009, the government mandated that all local channels be broadcast digitally over the air, and, the best part? They’re free.

This means that for about $40 for the cost of an HD antenna, you can get channels like NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS (does anyone watch PBS??) and CBS for absolutely no monthly fee. Combine that with Sling TV’s line up of ESPN, TNT, TBS, AMC, Adult Swim, Disney Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, and a few others, and you can see how it’s beginning to cover, at least some, of the major players and – with NBC and ESPN in there – the biggest reason most people haven’t gotten rid of cable –live sports.

On top of that, channels like Comedy Central have full episodes of their shows available on their own site the same day it airs on television and HBO with their new HBO Now product is following suit (albeit only on Apple TV at first, but they’ll be on other systems after an initial exclusivity period for sure).

How to Get Rid of Cable TV

Verge Cord Cutting Tool

First off, let me start by saying that this isn’t going to be for everyone. I don’t know exactly what you pay for cable, what channels you watch, whether you really want to watch MTV just to try and figure out where the music went in that channel’s name, etc. But, considering that most people I’ve spoken to pay close to $100 for their cable (not including internet) and they only watch a small selection of the channels on it, I’d be willing to bet it might be an option worth looking into.

Now, I’m going to see how I can get the most channels for the least money, but if you want to figure out the specific channels you’ll be able to get, head over to The Verge’s neat little TV stream price guide. It has a bunch of the different channels and you can select the different streaming services to figure out what channels are included with each and the total price for them. Only thing, keep in mind that NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, and CBS are all available over the air for free (which we’ll show you how to get them shortly) so pretend those ones are included before you even begin.

 

Get Your Local Channels Over the Air

Amazon Indoor HD Antenna

Cost: Free

1. Go to TabloTV.com/Channels and put in your zip code to see, not only what over the air channels you can get, but also how strong the signal is (which you should use to determine what strength antenna you need, 35 mile, 50, etc. based on how far the tower is from where you live –always buy the next highest than you think you need to be safe).

2. Head to Amazon.com and look for an HD Antenna you like and purchase it (again overestimate what you’ll need for mile range just to be safe).

Amazon makes their own and it’s got great reviews here.

3. Setup the HD Antenna by plugging it in to the TV’s coax cable or into a free HDMI slot.

4. Jump up and down because you have PBS for free! Woo hoo!

Get Sling TV

Sling TV Fire Stick Deal

Cost: $20/month

OK, so this is optional, but you should get a way to beam the content from your computer/app to your TV. I personally use a Chromecast for this and it works with most of the apps I use and even lets me transmit my computer browser (using Chrome, of course) to my TV as a bonus, BUT Sling TV doesn’t work with Chromecast (at least at the moment) so to stream that easily you’ll either need Apple TV or an Amazon Fire Stick.

Luckily though, Sling has a solution, sort of. If you prepay three months of Sling TV up front when you sign up, they’ll send you an Amazon Fire Stick for free (normally $40). If you end up getting Sling TV, you might as well get the free stick to go with it and use that for Sling, Netflix, Hulu etc and not have to switch back and forth between that and another HDMI input on the TV.

 

1. Head to Sling.com/devices/offers and choose the free Amazon Fire Stick offer.

2. Once that’s all set, you can download the Sling TV app from the Play Store or App Store, plug in the Fire Stick when it arrives begin streaming all that glorious live channel goodness. Ah, that’s the stuff.

That’s really it for the live TV (at the moment) but if you want other TV shows just on demand there’s always…

Netflix

Netflix on Tablet

Cost: $8.99/month

1. Head to Netflix.com and pretend you don’t already have it like everyone else on the planet and signup there for the free one month trial.

2. Either start playing the shows directly from their site or download the Netflix app from the Play Store or the App Store and use that handy Fire Sitck to get it to the big screen.

Hulu Plus

Hulu Plus

Cost: $7.99/month

This one is iffy for me frankly. The only real channel I want from here that’s missing from the ones above is Comedy Central and, well, you can get that from cc.com and it has full episodes the same day as they go live on TV so…

But, if there is a part of you, a horrible dark part of you, that needs Bravo, Discovery, or FX, then this is the only way to get them.

1. Head to Hulu.com and sign up for the free one month trial.

2. Either start playing the shows from the site or from the app located in the Play Store and App Store and, again, get some use out of the free Fire Stick.

To Recap

Let’s assume you used all of these (which you probably won’t actually need) and let’s also assume you probably already have Netflix (cause who are we kidding, you do). You’re looking at a $28/month bill for all of this ($37 if you didn’t already have Netflix, you liar) and it cost you roughly $25 one-time for the equipment up front ($25 for the antenna and $0 for the Fire Stick). Comparing that to my own $75/month in cable bill and adding the fact that the majority of all of these channels are also available on my phone and from anywhere I am –we’re getting a lot closer to losing our reliance on cable companies (except for the fact, that, well, they also provide us the internet…).

The only real downside, besides missing some channels, of course, is that you need to swap inputs on your TV from the TV to the HDMI for the Fire Stick depending on if you want the local channels or the rest of the channels. Frankly, a small price to pay for saving over $50/month.

The Future of Cable

It’s my guess that the networks and, even the cable companies are all watching how these new services do with baited breath. And we all know it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when and how exactly. Maybe the channels will all start their own apps and charge subscribers directly like HBO and CBS are doing? Maybe we’ll have internet services where you choose the channels you want and pay a small fee per channel and create your own bundles? Or maybe it’ll continue like the cable companies have done it with bundles but just over the internet like Sling sort of does. Who knows. All we do know is that change is coming like the cable salespeople of yesteryear –it’s knocking and will only get louder and louder.

Let me know if this is viable for any of you guys or if it isn’t why not? Love to hear from you, guys!

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  • Ken Sacco

    One important note left out by the author: the free over the air digital hd channels you get with the hd antenna have two nice perks. First, there are usually multiple iterations of each channel, and more importantly, they are uncompressed HD, with a vastly superior picture quality than you get from the cable companies.

    • Awesome point, Ken. It definitely is better ququality. What do you mean though by multiple iterations?

      • Ken Sacco

        For example, my local Fox affiliate is WFXT. OTA HD gets you WFXT – 1 which is the standard Fox channel, and WFXT -2, which is a movie oriented channel. You usually end up with about 25 channels this way.

        • Got it. Ok, awesome, good to know. Thanks!

    • Bianco Bianco

      You got that right! My daughter pays for cable, while I view shows OTA HD and my pictures are much clearer and crisper than hers on the same television set.

  • CoolBlackGirlNerd

    you don’t address DVR soaps are hard to find same day and does using Comcast and such sav your video card

    • DVR soaps?

      • CoolBlackGirlNerd

        Yes…most are next day and CBS’s player…don’t get me started…I DVR on Windows Media now but I was hoping for something a little less taxing on my vid cards

        • Hmm.. I’ll have to look into some better DVR solutions. I’ll put them in the bottom of this article when I come across some. Thanks!

  • ePoch 270

    The thing that I personally cannot overcome is live local sports teams. For me, A’s Sharks and Warriors. There is no realistic way for me to get the same amount of coverage. Id have to pay several hundred $ a year for OUT of market (see only 1/2) games. No bueno. So for now, until I can get full coverage, DISH network it is. And I actually like the DISH experience with the whole house dvr and all.

  • Ruth Cooper

    Great article. Thanks for the info, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my spending. You really show your age though! Not everyone is under 30, those of us over 30 do use technology. Well, okay I am having a little trouble convincing my 82 year old mother not to tell people she doesn’t have an an email address because she doesn’t have a computer. But she really keeps up with her friends through Gmail on her cell phone! By the way, PBS is her favorite channel. Yes people do watch PBS, but they are probably your parents orgrandparents’ age. Secondly everyone does not have netflicks. For my family we have never even considered it. We don’t have enough time to sit and watch movies. We are too busy with more important things, like composing and recording music, crafts and…..repairing computers and maintaining websites. But now that you have shown me a new use for netflicks we might consider it. About 8 years ago I was invited to join a Myspace group for people over 40. They basically just bashed people under 40. I turned them down because of their narrowmindedness. I am glad to say that my friends on Facebook, Google+, and my cell phone contacts range in age from the 20’s to the 80’s. I treat them all the same; they all are great people. You should try to be more open to people who are different in age than yourself and not make fun of their differences in taste to your own.

    • The truth is, they’re jokes, and, even though they are exaggerations being used for comedic effect, for the most part, they’re based in some accuracy (isn’t there usually some truth in every jest). Regarding your taking offense to my joke about PBS not being popular and the joke that you probably already have Netflix: PBS’s viewership is much lower than the vast majority of major networks and Netflix’s numbers, 50 million members, means that there is a pretty good chance that anyone watching might have it already.
      Again, jokes and not ones intended to single out anyone, especially because of their age.

      The question is, why are you so insecure about your age, that you felt offended?

  • David Moss

    Mr. Cogen, just to give you feedback. All of the Articles I read, including yours, skip over my preferences, that is, I can’t stand “regular” TV(except for occasional sports-and I find them difficult to view) because of the bloody commercials! I subscribe to a Cable Co. only so I can watch only Premium Channels(STARZ, HBO, Showtime & TMC) and avoid them. What can a person with my preferences do to “cut the Cable Bill?
    David Moss

    • Ha, yeah, I’m used to commercials and as a person that make his living off of advertising, sort of know how necessary they can be for content creators :/
      Not sure of a solution for you though besides the using of Netflix or other on-demand services for watching them as they don’t include commercials generally. Sorry couldn’t be of more help on that, but thanks for bringing it up.

  • 2tor

    I cut cable over 3 years ago. With roku, an antenna that is great, and it was $20. Between that and streaming from phone, tablet and laptop to TV. I don’t even have a monthly bill.

  • Scott Cove

    I am testing the waters with a 37″ smart tv from Costco in my garage. My two issues are; no TV guide so I can see what shows are on ( thus I channel surf all ota stations – a pain) and no easy DVR, so I can skip thru commercials – which I hate! There are two options for DVR; one is $50 with a $15 monthly charge, the other is $250 with no monthly charge. Both offer a TV guide, but expensive for this. I have direct tv with a minimum package costing $50/month and for this I get local stations (plus other stations I don’t watch) + DVR and whole home viewing. The $50 is not bad, but I don’t get the stations I’d like (msnbc, fox sports). I do have Netflix and recently got Amazon prime, which is pretty good. The remote for the TV has two special buttons, one for Netflix and one for Amazon, so a nice feature. I really want to cut the cord, but I’m on the fence at this time, and as you say, it’s not for everyone.

    Thanks for the information.

    Scott

    • Thanks, Scott. I haven’t looked into the DVR option frankly, but the tv guide I might have a solution. Head to http://www.titantv.com/ and click on Add in the middle. Then click Broadcast and enter your zip. You should have a guide now for the broadcast channels.

      As for the DVR, definitely something I’ll have to look into and maybe something I’ll have to do in a future video. Thanks again, Scott!

    • Scott Cove

      I found the app TVGuide for iOS is very good. Problem there is that I need my iPhone or iPad with me if I want to see what’s on. It’s a small issue but worth noting. The Titan tv was ok but so many ads, drove me crazy.

      • TVGuide had listings for the OTA channels? Didn’t expect that, but that’s awesome. And yeah, who doesn’t have their phone within arm’s reach nowadays anyway 🙂

        Thanks!

      • Scott Cove

        Sorry, but perhaps an even better app is BuddyTV. Just saw it in the App Store. I am trying it too.

  • I can’t help it. I’m a flaming liberal hippy old lady, and am hooked on MSNBC. I looked at everything that Sling offered, and, as I feared, no MSNBC. I wonder why they don’t stream on computer too. I know nothing about how stations work. Thanks, though. This news IS hopeful! We grit our teeth as we pay the cable/internet bill.

    • Yeah, guess it isn’t on there is it… Apparently Playstation Vue has it though if you wanted to check that out. I didn’t mention it here because it’s $49.99/month and that’s too close to the cost of cable in my opinion. But yes, this absolutely is a step in the right direction!

    • Scott Cove

      I’m like you, I like MSNBC but have started viewing podcasts of the show, which are not that great. I’m doing without at this point as I refuse to let one show dictate me watching tv. Good luck.

  • Bianco Bianco

    I’ve never in my life paid for cable so I don’t have to cut the cable. I have a dandy setup that pretty much allows me to watch what I want, when I want it.

    I have a main TV in the living room, connected to a computer that is connected to WiFi and also connected to OTA antenna.

    I have a computer in the bedroom, which is also connected to WiFi, with a decent size monitor (for tv viewing) that has an inexpensive usb tuner card connected to OTA antenna. On this setup I can watch OTA shows or record them for watching later or I can watch anything on the internet such as Hulu, NBC, CBS, etc..

    While I’m constantly on the lookout for ways that I might enhance my setup, I decided to read your article and then checked out the Sling TV thing. While on the surface it all seems like a great way to finally stick it to the cable companies, IMO it screams cable all over again. First it has the same PACKAGING setup that cable has always had. I don’t want someone deciding for me what I will buy. Second while the price now is reasonable, I can envision quick/large price increases coming shortly, down the road, much like cable did once they get everyone hooked.

    • First up, nice setup! lol
      And while I agree that the Sling TV is still bundling stuff (which I think is not going to be the way we go forward) it’s definitely a leap in the right direction as far as price and just the TV being completely over the internet (new infrastructure at least).
      I also know what you mean about cable jacking up the price like they did, but I also don’t think that’s something that can happen with Sling. There’s too many competitors (and, again, Apple doing it soon apparently will really make it hard for them). If anything they’ll be adding new channels and leaving the price as is (already heard that since they got AMC they’re getting BBC America and other affiliates and adding that to the lineup at no cost).
      Again, we’re not there yet, but feels good to see things moving in a positive direction after years of stagnation, no?

      • Bianco Bianco

        Oh indeed. I have wondered for years what the holdup was. Glad to see some movement. I just feel if they want to be considered as the NON-cable folks then they need to drop the SOSO packaging scam that cable has always been known for. A flat price, say maybe $20 with a menu to choose say 10 or 15 things is something I could get on-board with.

  • JD

    Hi David- Thanks for a great article. I got rid of cable a few years ago and never looked back! Currently I subscribe to Netflix and Hulu plus only, use a Roku and bluray, and have tried numerous OTA antennas for local programming but have trouble getting a reliable signal. It’s hit or miss, but I can watch most of what I want on demand anyway. It took quite a bit of research when I set this up myself….so your info is a great summary& would have saved me a lot of time. I will say most people I know in my age group (over 50) don’t know where to begin to do this…so thank you! I may add Sling, too. And I liked your jokes too:)

    • Thanks for the response. Did you ever try to use the different OTA antenna. They make some that are pretty strong…
      Thanks! I appreciate it!

  • Dan Dwyer

    Just saw this video and appreciate the information. Useful & helpful. Am very interested in how to DVR the free hdtv, if this is possible. With cable/DirecTV, am able to DVR programs and zip by the 6-8 commercials per en minutes, which seems be the norm and growing. Again, thanks.