Ever had a bill that you hate paying, but you feel like you have no other choice other than to pay it? That's been my relationship with Comcast, specifically over our cable TV bill. Over the years I've seen our bill creep up, until a few months ago when I was shocked to open our bill and find $250+ on the "amount due" section. With that price, you'd think we had every channel you could have, but we didn't. And even worse, there were so many times when we'd just turn off the tv because there was nothing worth watching on TV.
That $250 cable TV bill was a wakeup call for LM and I. We were fed up! So I suggested that we cut the cord. LM said "can we do that? How would it work?"
Challenge accepted. Let's figure out how to drop cable.
Research is key
I started by Googling "how to cut the cord" and reading different blog posts. Each resource I found laid out the same general strategy for obtaining content without cable:
- Get an antenna for local over-the-air (OTA) channels like CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW and PBS.
- Get some streaming hardware - Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, etc.
- Sign up for streaming services - Netflix, Hulu, Sling, etc.
We live in a major city so I wasn't too worried that we wouldn't be able to pick up OTA channels, but I did visit the FCC digital transition website to verify which stations we could pick up with an antenna.
Make a game plan and buy what you need
Based on what I'd read, I realized that we needed to buy some things before we'd be ready to cancel our cable TV. LM already had an XBox One in the living room, and we figured out how to download apps like Netflix onto it. For our bedroom, we'd need another device, so I researched both the Roku 3 player and the Amazon Fire TV Stick. After reading reviews, looking at specifications and comparing price, we decided to buy the Amazon Fire TV stick. We also ordered two antennas via Amazon - we chose 2 different brands so that we could compare the picture quality and return whatever one didn't work for us. Thanks to our Prime membership, we received all our items in two days.
We also needed to look at content providers. We already had a Netflix subscription, which is great for movies and catching up on shows we didn't watch when they originally aired. We also have access to Amazon Prime movies & TV shows thanks to our Prime membership. We also decided to try Sling TV, which is a streaming service that provides 30+ channels, all for $20 per month. With a Sling subscription, we have access to channels like ESPN, HGTV, Food Network, CNN and Lifetime, and we have the ability to add a HBO subscription for $15 per month.
Set it all up and test it out
Once we received our Amazon order, we had the fun task of unplugging all the cable equipment and connecting the antennas. The Amazon Fire TV Stick physical setup was very easy and the device has an easy walk-thru that made setup really quick. Once the device was working, I was able to install apps like Netflix, Sling and NBC Sports to the device, using the included remote.
LM had the fun task of hooking up the antennas and getting them mounted to the wall. Once we connected the antennas, we did the autofind option on the TVs to find all the OTA channels. The last step was using the enclosed adhesive to stick the antennas to the wall. We decided to place both of them up closer to the ceiling, and near windows to maximize reception.
We spent that night watching OTA tv and testing the Sling. One tip - Sling only works one device at a time. We discovered this when I accidentally kicked him out of Sling when I turned it on in the bedroom. Other than that, we had zero issues with the new equipment.
The very next afternoon, I took the cable TV equipment back to our provider, and cancelled our cable TV. I did upgrade our Internet speed, but even with that change, we're saving $150+ on our monthly bill.
So is it worth it?
It's been over a month since we dropped cable TV and we both love it. I've discovered that there are a lot of shows I just don't miss watching. I still have access to programming I like to watch and live sports, thanks to the Sling subscription. I've discovered new shows thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime TV, and we can watch as many episodes as we want in one sitting. I've also found myself doing other things that I used to claim I had no time for - writing, reading, knitting, etc. I'm kind of amazed and embarrassed at how much time I wasted watching reruns of shows I'd already seen a million times.
My only regret is that we didn't do it sooner. We spent months paying for cable TV, and only watched a few channels. We spent a lot of time watching Netflix or DVDs, because there was nothing on cable that we wanted to watch. I'm imagining all the money we could have put into our savings account! But at least we figured it out, and took the plunge. There are a few shows I miss, and we'll probably get a Hulu subscription to fill that void. But even with monthly subscriptions, we're saving a good amount of money every month, that can go into our savings account. And who doesn't like saving money? So far, it's been totally worth it.
Have you cut the cord? What are your tips for getting content without cable?