I’ve been tossing around the idea for a while now and I finally cut the cord on cable TV.
I had a package deal that included digital cable TV, a DVR, high-speed Internet and digital telephone. Of course they sell you on the package deal and they give you a pretty nice discount for bundling everything together. Years ago when we first started with the bundle the monthly cost was about $110. Prices have risen, not to mention we added the DVR service, and lately our bill had grown to about $140 per month. I finally grew weary of paying so much, especially considering the lack of quality content offered by cable TV. I would be happy to pay for about 3 of the cable channels and that would be all I need. ESPN, The NFL Network, and The Food Network are the only stations I miss. I would happily pay a fee to have those 3 channels, but of course that isn’t an option. I felt it was better to stop paying for all of the crap I didn’t want to watch and give free TV a try.
Not that I was ready to give up TV completely however. Especially this time of year with the NFL going strong. With digital TV broadcasts becoming more popular and mroe and more content available online, I’ve found that I miss cable a lot less than I thought I would.
Here’s what I’m doing to replace the cable:
My first step was to buy a cheap rabbit ears antenna and see what kind of reception I could get. I’m about 20 – 30 miles from most stations in my area so I have a bit of a challenge right at the start. I did some searches on Amazon and decided to buy the Terk Technology TV-1 Passive Indoor TV Antenna first. I was pleasantly surprised by this antenna, considering its low price. I immediately picked up NBC, CBS, and ABC. However, I couldn’t get much reception from FOX and that really hurts when it comes to the NFL on Sundays.
My next step was to try a Digital TV converter box and see if I could do any better. I had already requested DTV coupons a while ago so I was ready to make a purchase. Next I went to the Consumer Reports DTV converter box guide to find the top rated convert box. I decided to buy the Tivax STB-T8 Digital to Analog TV Converter Box and I’m really happy I did. This is one of the more expensive boxes available, about $40 even after the coupon, but I think it was well worth it. I’m now getting NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and several more stations and the picture is crisp and clear.
Some of the great features of the Tivax STB-T8 are component cables output, a program guide that shows you the next 4 hours of programming on a given station, a signal strength meter, and a nice-looking small hardware profile. It does not have S-Video out, but that is the only feature this unit is lacking. From what I could find, it looks like you have to spend a lot more for S-Video so I’m okay with skipping it.
I’m really shocked at how much higher the picture quality is now. However, I think I can do better than the cheap rabbit ears I’m using, so I also ordered a more powerful indoor antenna. Finding an antenna is a big project in itself. I highly recommend starting at HDTV Antenna Labs to start your research. You’ll find reviews of antennas, features you need to look for, and a link to a map that will pinpoint your address and signal strength in your area. This step is critical as it will help you determine how powerful an antenna you need to buy and this site will even color-code signal strengths and match them to specific antennas.
I decided to rule out outdoor antennas- I just didn’t want to be bothered with the installation and I’m not crazy about putting a huge antenna on my roof. I’m somewhat limiting myself by only looking at indoor antennas, but based on my experience with the cheap rabbit ears, I think a quality indoor antenna will be sufficient for me. After much research, I decided to go with the Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor U/V Antenna. This antenna is about $60 and based on the reviews I could find it should greatly improve my reception. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I will be sure to write about it after I have it set up. I found this antenna to be a good compromise between price and features. Take a look if you can’t get by with simple rabbit ears.
I’m only a couple of weeks into my cable TV free life, but so far I would say it’s a success. I’ve had to spend a little money getting set up to receive free TV, but these costs will quickly be recouped after just a few months of smaller cable bills. Overall, I’ve cut a nice chunk from my fixed expenses and I had to give up very little in return. If you have been considering quitting cable I encourage you to give it a try. I think the digital TV transition has made the switch easier than ever, not to mention the large amount of content available on the Internet. I’ll write more about what I’m watching online soon.