About two years ago I decided the cable bill was too damn high (around the time “the rent was too damn high”). I could not see how paying $200 a month for cable was worth it when, for the most part, there was never anything good on the 200+ channels. Most of what I watched was stuff I had DVR-ed and the rest was from Netflix. So, I took the leap and decided to cancel cable and instead watch all of my television shows via internet streaming. I have been doing so happily ever since, as have many other Americans in the last two years. I am going to tell you how I did it and give you a little nudge to try it too.
When I first phoned my mother and told her I was cancelling cable television, her response was a rather humorous “What are you going to do?” The line went silent as I contemplated many responses to this questions: have a taco? go to the beach later? try to bring about world peace? I started rattling off everything I planned to do that day, but that wasn’t really what she was asking. She was just as astonished we would consider living without cable as she would have been if we said we were shutting off the power… and she wasn’t the only one. Anyone I told looked at me with that “are you feeling alright?’ side eye. Explaining I would still be able to watch most of my favorite shows and lots of other stuff via a Digital Television Antenna, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and network websites did nothing to assuage their horror. Apparently, having cable or satellite television has become for most like having heat and hot water in their house. The idea of not having it seems prehistoric, which I find funny because my new found method of television watching is in some ways more technologically advanced.
Despite the fears of friends and neighbors, I pulled the plug and began my cable television free journey. I started by making sure my cable internet service was up to par, by upgrading my plan. It cost me about $70 USD a month for internet (before you chime in with how much are you really saving then, I was paying $50 USD a month previously for internet on top of that $2o0 USD cable bill). I was already paying about $10 USD a month to stream Netflix and I signed up for a Hulu Plus subscription as well for an additional $10 USD a month. That put me at $90 USD a month for television and internet as opposed to $250 USD a month with cable television.
I then made some one time purchases to assist my television watching that were completely optional. Both Netflix and Hulu Plus can be streamed to any computer screen, but I wanted to be able to watch on my home television. After doing some research, I purchased a Roku device for about $70 USD, which allows you to stream Netflix and Hulu Plus (among other things) to your television. You can stream to your television using a variety of devices, including Blu-Ray Players and Video Game systems, but knowing how often I would be streaming I did not want to put additional wear and tear on such expensive devices when I could get a Roku for a reasonable price. I have found Roku to be easy to hook-up and use and are very pleased with how it works.
I also purchased some HDMI Cables, one to hook up the Roku, and another to connect my laptop to the television. With an HDMI cable, you can hook up most newer laptops directly to any television with an HDMI Port. Why would you want to do this? Because you can display anything you would normally watch on your computer directly to your tv screen. All the networks that do not give Hulu the right to make certain shows available for streaming (some networks require Hulu to only give you access to shows from your computer instead of letting you stream it to a device like Roku to watch on your television) cannot stop you from hooking your laptop up and playing them on your tv. Same applies to watching episodes of network shows from their websites. Check out your laptop and television manuals to find out exactly how to make it work. Lost them? Most manuals can be found by going to the brand’s website or a simple Google search.
Last thing I purchased was a Digital Television Antenna for about $40 USD to be able to pick up the local network stations. This was a must for me so I could catch the local news and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I have a thing about seeing the parade every year. Don’t ask). Depending on where you live, you’ll either get just the basics or a slew of local access and other random crazy channels. You should be able to get all the major basic networks allowing you to keep up with all your favorite shows (that aren’t on cable networks).
All of this has worked splendidly for me and two years in I would not consider going back to paying for cable or satellite television. The only downfall is you don’t have real time access to premium cable shows, which are arguably some of the best on television. You have to wait till they become available on Netflix or DVD/BluRay which can be frustrating for some people. My personal view on the matter is that no show is worth an extra $160 USD a month out of pocket. I will patiently wait (ok, sometimes I am pretty impatient about it, but you get the point) until it becomes available through a much more affordable means.
If you are tempted to kick the cable/satellite habit, do a little research first. Check the internet service capabilities in your area (to make sure that you will be able to stream uninterrupted and that the picture won’t look like the first super mario brothers) and try to find out if anyone you know who lives near by is having luck with a Digital Antenna. Figure out if you’ll be able to watch the shows you’re hooked on via Netflix or Hulu (you might want to opt for both like I did to get a good mix of entire seasons of shows new and old as well as movied) and what network websites are providing.