Cable TV Is Here to Stay...for Now
The economy is in rough shape, and everyone wants to save a few bucks where they can. And thanks to the Internet, you can cut your cable bill without missing any of your favorite shows.
But after doing some research and running the numbers, I realized that cutting cable won't go mainstream until someone comes up with an easy, convenient solution that gives couch potatoes what they want. Or people stop watching TV.
Until then, cable is here to stay.
There are tons of articles out there on how you should prepare for cutting your cable, but here’s a quick rundown of what you need to do and how much it costs to make the switch. (See also: Now It’s Easier Than Ever to Cut the Cable)
Check the Airwaves
The goal here is to replace all your shows by simply getting an antenna, so the first step is to see what you can get for free via the broadcast networks. That’s ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and so on. Then head over to Antennaweb and enter your address — it’ll show you which channels you’re likely to get over the air depending on where you live.
If I were you, I’d put all this into a handy spreadsheet to make things easier to track.
So far so good — we haven’t spent any money yet! But if you don't have one, you'll need to get an antenna. And if you want to get the broadcast channels in HD, you’ll need you may also need to buy an HD tuner depending on what kind of TV you have.
Total Cost: $30 for the antenna and another $50 for the tuner (if you need it)
You may be able to find your shows for free if you’re willing to wait a week or so, but if you want them right away, some will charge you — make sure you read the fine print.
Total Cost: Depends, $10–$20 a month
Do You DVR?
If you have a DVR in your cable box and you can’t live without it, you’ll have to find an alternative solution. Sure, there’s TiVo, but the whole point is to cut out monthly bills. There are tons of great articles on how to turn your computer into a DVR, but it takes some knowledge, some new hardware, and patience.
Total Cost: $100 and a fair amount of your time/sanity
Watching on TV
Sure, it’s great you can stream so many shows to your computer, but you want to watch TV on your TV. Cable is pretty good about that.
You’ll need a way to get what you’re streaming showing on your TV. There are tons of options — Roku, Wii, X-Box 360, Apple TV, Slingbox, and the list goes on and on.
If you already have one of these devices, you may be in luck. Odds are it won’t have access to ALL the streaming services, but it’s a start. Ideally, you have a setup that allows you to show anything you can bring up on your computer on your TV.
Total Cost: $50–$150
Your Internet Connection
The elephant in the room is your Internet connection. You might have a fast enough connection that all your shows look nice and crisp when you stream them online, but they may not. If you want to use your Internet connection to replace your cable, you might have to upgrade to a faster connection.
Total Cost: $15–20 a month
Once you run all those numbers you’ll find that the savings might not be as significant as you thought.
After doing all this work, I figured out I could cut my monthly bill from $92 to $60, and I'd have to shell out around $200 in one-time costs. That includes bumping up my Internet speed, buying the shows we can’t get for free, and buying the hardware to get everything up and running.
Thirty bucks a month might be worth it for some, but I'm guessing it's not enough for the masses to go through the hassle. You should run your own numbers to see if cutting cable is worth it for you.
What We Need
We need one easy-to-use/install product you can buy that allows you to get ANY of your shows. Until someone out there can do for television what iTunes did for music, most people will probably stick to cable — with good reason.
Editor's note: Antenna information was updated since initial publication.