Friday, September 10, 2010

Cutting the cable cord, Part 2

Ed. note: a special post from Peter on our nearly never ending saga to ditch our cable!

I thought the airwaves were free?

I have been trying to get our TV to show the free broadcast channels -- not as easy as it used to be. Without an antenna, our “fancy” TV does not receive any channels! I bought three different TV antennas that were supposed to receive HD signals from the broadcast networks before settling on one that the guy at Best Buy said works so well that no one had ever returned. That seemed like a bold statement and I went with it. The “Clearstream Micron” made by Antennas Direct does work better than either of the RCA products I tried, and now we get CBS, Fox, ABC, PBS, and about six versions of Telemundo and Univision.

My main motivation for getting the Antenna working is sports. Were it not for the sports problem, I feel like many people would cancel their cable. Now, I can watch football on Sundays and the baseball playoffs in October on the TV in HD, without cable. Girls, this is a big deal to us!

Something Else That Works!

One of the big reasons we didn’t go back to Playon (in addition to the fact that Netflix works so great from our Wii while Playon works so poorly) is that all of those videos are already available online. It just seemed easier to connect the computer to the TV instead. During one of those trips to Best Buy for antennas, I got the cables I needed: an S-Video cable, and a sound cable that plugs into my computer’s headphone jack and into the TV. That’s it! Now our TV works as a giant monitor, and when we watch something on Hulu it looks just like we are watching it on a standard definition television. Victory!

So two months after cancelling our cable, we are going to stick with it. It hasn't led to less TV watching. But it has made us more deliberate TV watchers. We don’t have it on as background noise anymore (no more random episodes of House Hunters, sadly). But I’ll take that trade off for $1,000 a year.

General tips to watch things online:
  • iTunes - We have been going to iTunes to watch this season of Mad Men. If you have a fast computer, this should work fine. $1.99 an episode is a lot cheaper than cable.

  • Google – Google is supposed to be launching GoogleTV this fall. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it might make all of this moot. In the meantime, I have had success googling “watch top chef online.” This takes me to many (foreign, I think) sites that are hosting episodes of any show you can think of.
  • CBS – I was surprised to discover a lot of awesome shows hiding on Our favorite right now is Twin Peaks. You can watch the entire series on for free! (Ed. note: watch it! Then we can talk about it!).

  • Hulu – Works great, but I'm disappointed with the number of episodes it's hosting. We watch Top Chef on Hulu, but this week Bravo decided to stop sharing new episodes and posted web exclusives instead. So we found out that the annoying girl was kicked off before seeing the episode! (It actually didn’t ruin the episode for us; we loved watching it knowing that the annoying girl was going to leave). The limited episode problem is probably a preview of life during HuluPlus, a new service they are planning to offer. I’ve read that for $9.99 a month, you will have access to the complete archive of every show on there. If that turns out to be true, I will be back.

  • MTV – They are nice enough to have every episode of Jersey Shore for free on their website.

  • ESPN – I can basically watch everything on Sports Center by watching the videos on their website. is dedicated to showing every sporting event that ESPN has the rights to show, for free, live. Until this morning, it was not available to Time Warner subscribers, but now it is!

That concludes our cable adventures (for now!). Anyone have any tips of their own to share?!


  1. I've been following this series with great interest; a few months ago we also cut the cord! We did it mainly out of protest against the fact that so much of TV is just, well ... pretty bad. I could feel my brain turning to mush.
    So far, a nice HD antenna has fulfilled all of our TV needs. But I'm a raging sports fan, and now that it's college football season again, I'm missing ESPN like crazy.
    It made me SO happy to read your post this morning - can you believe I hadn't heard of I almost cried with happiness...until (as a Time Warner internet subscriber) I realized that even with the new deal with Disney, we're still locked out. Apparently, the new deal allows TWC CABLE subscribers to access - not mere internet service customers. Quelle Trag├ędie!
    But here's the bright spot - thanks to your post, we've finally got a great excuse to switch to Verizon! And I can't wait to feel smug about watching so many sports games without having to pay for 200 channels I could care less about. Merci, Peter!
    (and my apologies for the monstrously long comment - this is just so exciting!)

  2. This is super timely for me too--last night it occured to me for the first time since we cancelled our cable (last month) to turn on the TV and see if we got basic channels. Alas, no. We'll check out the Clearstream Micron and Netflix for the Wii too. Thanks for doing all the investigatory work for us Peter!

  3. You're welcome!

    I thought that espn3 for Time Warner internet customers was coming, just not here yet. I could very well be wrong about that, though.

  4. Great guest-posting, Peter! Neal & I still have cable, but I LOVE, especially since post-world cup soccer, they got it working better. It's a great way to watch tennis (if you're a tennis fan) that they don't show on the major network covering the tournament.

  5. Glad to hear this has been working for you guys! I'm going to share your findings with Nick tonight.

  6. Femme - looks like you are right...espn3 will not work if you are not a Time Warner Cable subscriber. Hopefully someday a court will see what seems to me to be blatant anti-trust violations and let us subscribe to the channels we want to watch!


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