Stop Paying For Cable Television But Keep Up With Your Favorite Shows

By Debbie Dragon on 2 January 2009 (Updated 6 June 2013) 47 comments
Photo: istockphoto

Cable and satellite television subscriptions are expensive.  Let's face it – are you really watching 352 channels and listening to 50 music stations via your television each month to justify the monthly fee?  Most of us have three or four shows we watch regularly, and then other tv watching time is in “channel surf” mode, stopping on anything that looks remotely interesting.  Where I live, the least expensive option for cable television is $60 a month, and I'm positive I don't watch $60 a month worth of television – but I have three shows that I really like to watch and I can only see them if I pay for cable.

Or so I thought!  I've just discovered that I can watch most of the “good” stuff online!  The major television networks broadcast many of their programs over the internet on their websites for free.  You can even watch shows that are no longer on the air in some cases.  The shows aren't always available for internet viewers the same day they are on television, but does it really matter if you're watching a Monday sitcom on Wednesday?

Check this list to see if your favorite shows are broadcast online:
1.ABC.
2.NBC.
3.CBS.
4.Fox.
5.Lifetime.
6.A&E.
7.MTV.
8.HGTV.
9.Discovery Channel. (Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and TLC)  
10.PBS.

Hulu.com has a number of shows available from a variety of television networks.  You can browse and watch for free, and even subscribe to your favorite shows to get updated whenever new episodes are added.

If you're thinking the kids will be lost without the 24-hour cartoon stations, you can set them up with Classic Cartoons.

In addition, many times you can find episodes of your favorite shows on Youtube.com.  Youtube is really not intended for uploading television shows (for copyright reasons) it doesn't seem to stop people from doing it.  Search youtube.com for your favorite shows – you may have to watch more than one clip to get your full episode due to time limitations youtube.com places on uploaded videos, but it sure beats paying $60-$100 a month for cable television if you really only watch a handful of shows a month.

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Guest's picture

I use surfthechannel.com

you can find virtually anything, including ever episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? ever!

Guest's picture

Personally I love HULU.com but sometimes you want to watch your favorite tv shows on a bigger screen.

That's where I find my Netflix subscription to come into great use as I can catch up on whole seasons of my favorite shows such as Heroes, Lost, Prison Break, etc.

Yes you're a season behind but you don't have to wait a week between cliffhangers.

Guest's picture
Squirrel

Check out http://beta.tidaltv.com/ and http://beta.sling.com/ as other sources of online (cable) TV.

Guest's picture
Beth

Does anyone know of any good sites that are available in Canada? (Last I checked, we're still banned from watching stuff on US Network sites and Hulu).

While I enjoy our Canadian shows, I'm still a big fan of US ones -- and we can only get them on DVD or cable!

Myscha Theriault's picture

The Sci-Fi and USA cable channels offer shows as well. That's how we watch(ed) Battlestar Gallactica and In Plain Sight.

And Beth? Here's a link to a Canadian TV show that my husband and I really like. We try to watch it when we are both off the keyboard for lunch sometimes, followed up by a few minutes of online CNN. It's called The Hour. It's a really great show, in our opinion.

http://www.cbc.ca/thehour/ 

 

 

Guest's picture

Our household has no choice but to continue to pay for cable. My 81-year-old husband has no interest in "that computer junk." Some people are too old to change.

However, about a year ago I wrote an angry post about Comcast's "bait-and-switch" tactics. No regulatory agency could do a thing about it. (Amazing, isn't it?)

You can read the post -- all points still valid -- at
my archives>/a>.

Guest's picture

Sorry -- may I change the link to
my archives.

Guest's picture
Russ R.

Another great program to check out is Boxee. Like Tidal and Sling mentioned above it pulls in all the internet content to your TV (granted if you load it on to your Apple TV).

It includes Hulu and all the channels mentioned above. It also includes Comedy Central which has full episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (like Hulu), but also has every episode of South Park ever. Plus, you can subscribe to an video RSS feed and it will pull it in an allow you to watch it.

Boxee is still in Alpha right now so it's really wet behind the ears, but I'm hoping that it's a cable killer.

Guest's picture
Ryan

cancelled cable on New Years.

We have: Tivo HD for OTA + Netflix, AppleTv + Boxee for downloads and online content.

The biggest part was getting the buy in from a preschooler and a kindergartner.

Guest's picture

Unfortunately, my cable TV is just one of those things I am willing to pay to play for. I'm a bit of an addict that way. I concept of watching it through a computer with my wife just doesn't thrill me the way chilling on a couch and clicking through does. Plust the DVR is great!

Guest's picture
boognish1

When I bought my house, it didn't have an antenna. As a result, I pay $10 a month for basic cable (just the local channels) that should be "free." To buy in and install and antenna would cost upwards of $600! I know I'd eventually save money, but I'm really torn. Do I spent the big bucks for the antenna or keep shelling out the $10? I'm definitely not willing to give up TV just yet and hate watching TV on computer. Don't even know if rabbit ears will work (pretty rural area). Any suggestions?

Guest's picture
Squirrel

For those with new(er) TVs with VGA and/or DVI/HDMI inputs, it's pretty easy to connect a computer (think older laptop for noise considerations) to the TV. voila! Streamed online content on your TV! And *possibly* all for nothing but the cost of a cable (VGA to VGA or whatever inputs your TV may have. pun intended btw).

A wireless mouse in conjunction with the on-screen keyboard helps with navigation so that you don't have to get up to go the computer each time you "change the channel."

Guest's picture
lucille

We are not quite ready to give up cable but we are seriously considering switching to one of the dish services and buying a lower service tier. We will also have to get an antenna to get all of the local PBS but we intended to do that anyway even with cable. Our cable service has jacked the price, downgraded service and their customer service has become horrible. Another company bought our cable company.

We can get some of the content we want via the internet. Honestly, the things we have found online had better picture at full screen than our cable broadcast.

Until we can get live cable news some other way and a few channels we watch all the time we won't cut the cord. If certain channels started providing a subscription to stream live we would be all over that as an alternative.

Guest's picture
lucille

Does anyone know of a full list of the content Netflix offers online? I can only find a sample offering on their website and want to know everything they offer before we bought a subscription or used their free trial.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have Netflix (one disc at a time plan $9.99 month), and recently bought a Roku box from rokudotcom (www.roku.com)
It is the greatest!! It connects to your TV (cable or DSL broadband 256kbs or better) and you stream many online 'view instantly' movies and Documentaries directly from Netflix. I pay $10 a month and can watch all the movies I can handle directly to my widescreen TV. Plus the DVD's they mail to my home.

The "Browse Selection" section on www.netflix.com shows you pretty much all their movies etc. There is NO central point to see exactly what they have, they change too often to keep it up to date...

Go for the Roku box ($99.00) that's it!! You can't beat that deal, and NO commercials!!

I LOVE IT!

Enjoy...

Guest's picture
Guest

http://instantwatcher.com/

Use the above link to see whats on Netflix instant watch. Then buy the $99 Roku box and hook it up to your tv. Oustanding value.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

Unfortunately, most of the shows I watch (a lot of HGTV, some PBS, Discovery, "Nat Geo" etc.), are still not available online. For example, the Discovery Networks site you link to offers full episodes for only two shows, and short clips for a couple dozen more. The HGTV site likewise only offers a small fraction of their full offerings as full episodes.

Ditch-the-cable might work if you really only watch a few blockbuster series, but if you like talk shows, DIY shows, etc., it's still slim pickings. I may only watch 10% of the channels on my cable package, and watch only 10% of the shows those channels offer, but *I* get to pick which 10%!

Guest's picture
falc

i recently bit the bullet and purchased an Apple TV for me and my wife. We've canceled our Comcast digital cable about 8 months ago and now have the 'basic' of basic packages (around 30 channels). I used to hook up my laptop to play hulu and itunes content but that got rather annoying and tedious to do. Plus no remote for lappy. So i purchased an apple product (shudder) and read up about putting boxee on it so we could watch all that great content on the big screen.
So far its been great! hook it up to wifi, tweak it a little... its awesome. no netflix support yet (apparently the apple tv cpu isnt fast enough to handle it). but the ability to watch virtually anything we want on tv and only pay $15 per month... priceless...

this motivation grew solely out of my hatred of comcast...

Guest's picture
Steve

This doesn't make any economic sense. Computer costs 500 dollars. Internet costs 50 dollars a month. Computer needs to be maintained and you have to put up with firewalls,viruses,malware, freezes,updates internet going down, etc. For 500 dollars you can get a nice 32 inch HD TV and get the cable with HD channels and lots of free movies. Then go to the library for free internet.

Guest's picture
Khürt

I already have a computer. I already have a TV. No one is suggesting buy a new computer to attach to the TV. Just use an existing one. Broadband cost at most $50/month and can be used for Internet AND TV viewing.

Guest's picture
lucille

Who pays $500 for a computer? If you know what your doing a few freeware programs will provide proper security. Were moving the opposite direction, towards online content.

I just waiting for one of the content providers to grow a pair and start offering full content streamed online for a subscription.

Debbie Dragon's picture

When I wrote the article I was assuming most people already have computer and internet.  I should have mentioned that, thanks for pointing it out!  It probably would be silly to buy a computer and get internet for the sole purpose of watching tv... my thoughts were more along the lines of if you already have all of it (cable tv, internet, computer...) you could save by getting rid of cable.

Guest's picture
Guest

The internet has uses beyond entertainment. I use my PC
for TV, Telephone and of course the internet itself and it saves me more money than it costs. I could never pull off the kind of product research I do at a library with a short time limit. I guess it all boils down to how much you are willing to give up to save a hundred dollars a month for me its all worth it and I don't feel the pain.

I use Skype and a wireless USB phone it has served me well beyond my expectations and costs me just 2.99 a month unlimited in the U.S and Canada.

I use torrents and live streaming for my favorite shows
and there is almost nothing I cannot find.

Some useful sites are Btjunkie for finding torrents and Utorrent has the program to download. Downloading this way gives you an easier viewing experience no commercials or glitches to deal with like streaming.

Guest's picture
Khürt

I'll be using a combination of TiVo HD/Netflix and Boxee on my MacBook with my broadband connection to get all my video entertainment needs. I expect to save over $1000 this year. I already had a Netflix Unlimited plan and the TiVo HD was a gift. I connect the MacBook to my TV via a DVI to HDMI cable.

Guest's picture
mudnessa

I was looking at all our household bills yesterday and while cable is the highest it is just something I am not willing to part with. I actually get very good use out of it and while I don't think it is actually worth the large amount of money I don't even want to write down I just don't want to part with it. I am however getting rid of the two movie channels I have and while I will miss the 5 or 6 shows I watch on them, I guess I can just wait for them to be on Netflix and catch up that way. I do believe some of the shows are available online so I am hoping for that once the seasons start up again. It is definitely not worth the $21 just for the movie channels when I only watch two of them, they come with at least 5 each and while I do watch the occasional movie I rarely even stop on some of the other channels. Depending on how the next few months pan out though I might just be forced to scale it down even more.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's amazing what can replace cable. I've replaced cable with OTA TV channels, netflix (at first, but I've cut that out too), online TV, blogs, library books and conversations with friends. When we have something we can almost always justify why we "need it" or "can't live with out it", but the truth is you can live without it and you don't need it. Once gone you hardly miss it.

P.S. Comedy Central and CNN also have a lot of online content.

Guest's picture
Billy

Fancast.com has TOOONS of stuff, movies, tv shows, etc.
watchtvsitcoms.com is ok too

Guest's picture
M W

We found the same thing you did - it is much more economical to watch TV over the net. Then we moved out to the country where the net was not so great.

Even though we have high-speed our shows are constantly skipping. It would be nice if more of these sites allowed us to pause video and let them load into the buffer YouTube-style...

Guest's picture

I love Surfthechannel as well - you have to put up with pop up ads but it's totally worth it ... just delete your cookies after each session!

Guest's picture

We gave up our satellite TV last year and haven't missed it. We've used our little "live TV" in the guest room exactly twice since then: for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and for the New Year's Eve ball drop. (It helps that we don't watch a lot of sports.)

Our big regret until recently was that the kids' PBS shows weren't available. But we just discovered this week that full episodes of FETCH are now available. Woot!

The computer is hooked to the TV, so we're watching full screen from the couch. The only drawback is that the resolution isn't really good enough to adequately read the web pages of hulu and the networks to see the listings. And a big-screen TV is NOT in our future.

Oh, and we didn't pay for the computer that runs all this. It's a frankenstein: cobbled together spare parts of dead computers.

Guest's picture
FrugalNYC

I watch OTA tv via rabbit ears. Wrote a post about it here. http://frugalnyc.blogspot.com/2008/09/free-dtv.html

You don't need the converter box if your tv has a digital tuner already, just a good set-top dish antenna would do.

Great resources from this post and comments though.

Guest's picture

On the end it comes out pretty much the same, better to buy complete season dvds.

Guest's picture
Guest

The cartoon network has lots of episodes up if you are worried about the kiddos including Ben 10 (which is a favorite with my boys) kids wb also some content available but their player isn't as good as CN's in fact CN has one of the best online players we've come across. I don't know why some others aren't as good (cbs can be finicky and fox isn't great -- use hulu for fox shows). I suppose the idea was it should be so easy a child could use it, lol.

Guest's picture

Times are tough. We’re all looking for ways to cut spending. After looking at my cable bill, I decided (with zero research and zero preparation) to see if my wife and I could live without television for 52 weeks, relying solely on the internet.

Two TV Junkies under one roof can consume a remarkable amount of programming content. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is no silver bullet one-size-fits-all solution to replacing television with the internet. We watch a mixture of streamed shows and downloads.

After a bit of a learning curve we’re up to speed and have not missed a single show. Election night was a bit tense, but I didn’t miss a beat. Plus, we’ve saved $250 in five months. Best of all, my setup has passed The Wife Test (your milage may vary).

I just started writing my 6-month write-up @

http://replacetelevision.wordpress.com/what-im-watching-and-how-im-watch...

If you've cut the cable, please e-mail me or visit my website and tell me your story.

Guest's picture

I've never had cable and I think I never will.

It's never been a priority for me. Now Internet access is a different story, I may give up food and water before I give up my pipeline. An Internet connection is a much more entertaining option than cable TV.

It's going to be fascinating to see how the different forms of media survive the digital age, my bet is that newspapers and cable TV are going to suffer.

Guest's picture

This will be a great money saver!! Thanks for sharing! :)

Guest's picture
lucille

Something else to add to this. PBS is adding two new channels that most state PBS systems will be broadcasting when the DTV switch is done. One is called "Create" the other is "World". Create looks to be the craft, home, food type content only more of it all the time. The "World" one is science, current affairs and history including documentaries. So even our in State PBS will have 3 channels OTA. Watching it on cable or dish we will still get one channel only.

Since we live near the borders of 3 other states OTA we can get Iowa (4 channels) MN (4 channels) SD (3 channels). If we can find a way to get Nebraska that is another 4. Granted two of the channels on each are duplicates of Create and World. We then also have at least three other channels with unique programming that is the traditional mix of shows and BBC reruns.

We also had someone give us a free to air sat dish. We need to buy a computer card and an aiming motor for it. This will get us the Nebraska channels, national PBS and some other channels.

Guest's picture

I wrote a post on this topic last month and there are a few other resources you can find online. Check out my post for other links and ideas like RedBox!

I've read recently about a few people who are completely cutting out tv for a year. I don't know that I could go that far - but it should would open my eyes to what else life has to offer!

Guest's picture
Juliette

I got a Nano (8gb) for Christmas, and while I was pleased to get it, I had no idea how thrilled I'd be within 24 hours. It took that long for me to realize I could download shows onto my iPod, then plug my iPod into my TV. (It cost $50 for the Griffin brand cable.)

I'm giving serious thought to breaking up with my cable provider. And this time for good!

Where I live, the cheapest cable package is just $15. So I'm debating whether or not I'll actually save money if I'm buying programs (and season passes for my fave shows) on iTunes. Then again, it's pretty nice to be able to watch Grey's Anatomy whenever I want.

Guest's picture
Larry S

Since getting a HDTV we watch no other channels. The quality is unmatched and not available via the internet. A Blu-Ray DVD player also makes movie watching fantastic, much better picture than in theaters. We easily made up most of the costs by getting rid of our landline telephones and never going to the movies.

Guest's picture
blush48

I'm a big fan of sidereel.com - - - I got hooked on the Showtime show Dexter during a free preview. Then I found Dexter on sidereel and was able to watch each episode. At the end of season 2, I even saw a couple episodes BEFORE they aired!

For each show and episode, there are multiple links. The only caveat is if you get one of the megavideo links, you're limited to 72 minutes of viewing - - then you have to wait an hour before you can view anything else. Sometimes, you've got to refresh or shut down your browser and restart. But it beats paying high cable / premium channel prices! (BTW, lots of the links in turn link to megavideo, so I check out multiple links before actually clicking and committing.)

Guest's picture
joe23521

To me, visual quality is still of top importance when watching a show. While we're surely moving toward that direction, I don't think online videos can quite replace traditional TV just yet.

Guest's picture
Michael

I agree about the web video quality, and this has been a concer of mine, although I've noticed that the cable and satellite companies are compressing their video more and more, so their quality is going down. Meanwhile, the web video is getting better with higher bandwidth, and better compression technologies. Check out NBC and CBS's online video. It's looking pretty darn good now. For the best quality, you can still get "Over the Air" HD channels with an antenna for free, or rent Blu-Ray discs.

Jabulani Leffall's picture

As someone who doesn't own a television and doesn't think he'll be getting one anytime soon, if ever again, I love this post and I think Debbie Dragon is probably No. 5 on the 10,000 coolest names ever list. Don't forget they have set-top on-Demand boxes that are coming out that are linkable to PCs and LCD screens if you want that surround sound feel. Indeed, TV as we know it and cable bills should be a thing of the past. It will be interesting to see if the Internet cannabilizes network programming like it did the movie industry.

Sincerely,

--- A Follower of Personal Finance Guru Johnny U. (Time to get Riyyyyyyyatccccchhh)

 

Jabulani Leffall

Monetary Gadfly, Common Currency

00000 Broke Blvd. Kitchenette #68 & 1/2

Lowcash, CA 90000-0000

Guest's picture
Eugene Davis

For 2 years I debated on canceling my Cable TV and finally I did. my wife was a little pissed off about about but she kind of accepted it. I have a 20' iMac and a 37' HDTV and VGA and/or DVI/HDMI inputs all going from my Imac to my HDTV and I like to watch a lot of TV Shows that I missed over the the years. A pay a small month price of $19.00 for 3click.tv that has every TV Show that cam out with no commercials and it's worth every dollar and way less then Cable TV. i really got pissed of at cable TV because of the same commercials , the same news every half hour and when MJ died my wife watch the the news on him every day for the past 9 days and that for me says enough is enough.She was always glued to Cable TV not me, ha,ha... not me . Now that I had it disconnected the stress is gone and I save $50.oo a month now. I say CABLE TV...WHO NEEDS IT THES DAYS.

Guest's picture
Dan

My wife and I dropped our premium channels and just have basic cable and internet service via Comcast. We’re saving $100 a month and not missing a thing. The kids can watch their favorite shows on PBS and Netflix and I can get ESPN on my Xbox 360.

Guest's picture
Guest

Curious Internet maintains a list of viable, active media providers for TV, Movies, Radio, etc. along with reviews. You can get to the list at: http://www.curiousinternet.com/p/project-replacement.html

Say bye bye to your cable provider!!