Can you get by without Cable/Satellite TV?


Well of course the answer is YES! I grew up with a father who thought paying for TV was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard of. So needless to say, if it wasn’t on the major networks and on at a time I could watch it, I didn’t see it. Maybe that explains my addiction to cable now. Although it seems that I still (for the most part) only watch the shows that are on the major networks, I couldn’t dream of giving up my cable TV (ie “the pipe”). I don’t even think about it anymore. My TiVo HD is all set with Season Passes to my favorite shows and I watch them when I have time to without missing a beat. But what about the costs?


How much do you spend each month on Cable/Satellite TV?

My Comcast Cable bill is nothing to sneeze at! I have the digital/HD package with HBO and I would swear that I could probably have another small car for what I pay them each month. It’s worse! I also have DirecTV in my kid’s rooms. I can certainly consolidate and give up DirecTV, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. That’s another, albeit smaller bill.


What about the internet?

With almost everything being streamed over the internet these days, do we really need to “pay” for TV? If you live in a relatively large metro area, chances are you can pick up your HD signals through the air. So the only thing you’d be paying for are the premium channels. Isn’t a lot of that content being streamed these days anyway? For example, check out It also seems like the major networks are also broadcasting their shows for free via their websites. If all else fails, you might be better off just buying a season of your favorite show on iTunes. Two of my favorite shows are 24 and LOST. To buy both seasons in HD on iTunes would cost $118.00 (keep in mind that these shows are streamed for free on their respective websites with commercials). That’s cheaper than one month’s cable bill for me.

This ABC news report shows how a family completely cut their cable bill ($100/month) and went to just broadcast and internet only TV. There are also several computer gadgets out there that will let you record shows and watch them later just like your physical DVR. I’ve experimented with EyeTV and it works as advertised. I plugged in a basic cable line (it can work with an antenna too) and after it was setup, I had it record a show that came on later that day. Once the show was there, I was even able to do basic editing like removing the commercials and from there I was able to either watch it on my computer or move it over to my iPod or Apple TV to watch on the big screen. Sure there is extra work involved when you don’t want to watch it on your computer or when you don’t have a computer connected to your TV, but it’s a lot cheaper to do it this way.


Let’s not forget Netflix

I had never seen an episode of the Sopranos while it was on TV. However, I did watch the first 5 seasons on DVD. I loved the show, just never got into when it was airing. With Netflix I was able to watch all of them as quickly as I wanted with no commercials of course. Since Netflix charges a flat rate, all you can eat subscription price, you can watch as many TV shows on DVD as you have time for. The cost will be the same. Same goes for Farscape. I had never watched a single episode of this show when it was on the air. A friend loaned me the complete series on DVD. So even if you like a show that’s on TV, that doesn’t mean you have to watch it on broadcast TV. There are several advantages to renting your favorite shows on DVD once the season is over on TV. The biggest advantages are you don’t have to worry about commercials and you don’t have to wait week to week to see what happens next?


This is all good, but I need the big screen

While this cost cutting stuff is all good, let’s face it, we want it all on the big screen in HD! Sitting in front of my computer watching a TV show is not my idea of a good time. I do it when on the road, but that’s about it. I have a sizable investment in large screens around here and I want to see my favorite content in all of its HD glory. So what’s the answer? Apple has the right idea for the most part with Apple TV. However, it’s just not enough! I couldn’t get by with just Apple TV alone. There is no streaming from the websites and it’s a pay per view model (when will you go to a subscription option Apple? When?). So a better option is to have it all is to probably hook up a computer directly to your large screen TV. There are several caveats to this, not the least being the size of the computer, connections, etc. I’ll be covering my switch to the Mac mini soon.


The Bottom Line

I’m not quite ready to cut my cable line just yet, but if you’re constantly being frustrated by the ever increasing cable and satellite TV costs, this may be a way out. I could at a minimum give up HBO. There’s just nothing left on that network that I watch. Well there is “Big Love”, but I could live without that 🙂

Explore your options! There are plenty of them in this competitive world we live in.

13 Replies to “Can you get by without Cable/Satellite TV?”

  1. Great post. I’m with you on the idea that Apple TV is headed in the right direction, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed in the event that they offer an option in the near future for subscriptions to the various broadcast and cable networks. I only watch about 10 networks anyway, so this would be a huge advantage to me and my wife.

  2. Hey Terry,

    Really good post, I have been struggling with almost the same issue (must be the economy). I recently got rid of HBO, I was tried of the same movies being recycled and after the end of the Sapronos and Deadwood not much was worth the price.

    Got netflix account and a blu-ray player with the money I’m saving by not having HBO .

    So I am now premium channel free. Which leads me to the same question, why pay for cable at all ?

    I will be looking forward to your suggestions.

    Is there such a thing as a DVR without a subscription service ?
    Is there a satellite dish that can be used to pick up over the air signals?
    Is there a good way to stream video from any source from your PC to HDTV ? Does Apple TV fit the bill ? (sorry I’m a windows user, retired and to much software to make conversion + cost of MAC)

    Thanks all your effort

  3. Live without Big Love Blasphemy! And if you didn’t watch season one of True Blood you need to check it out. It’s from the guy who did Six Feet Under and it’s great. (but I’m an HBO fan)

    I recently looked into this as well(Ditching my dish for no tv service) but the price didn’t add up for me.

    My biggest problem is that I can’t have Direct Tv in HD and a HD TiVo. I’m told they are not compatible. Is there anything out there for me or should I just break down and give Comcast my money. I love my Direct TV and I love my TiVo. I want my cake and eat it too. Is this possible?

  4. Hey Terry,

    If you really hook up your MacMini you really do have to install Boxee (, even though it’s still in Alpha, it really runs smoothly for me. I could hook you up with an invite if you wish.
    With Boxee you can stream the following internet channels at the moment: ABC, Apple Movie Trailers, BBC iPlayer (UK only), CBS, CNN, Comedy Central, hulu, joost, MTV Music, mzspacetv, Netflix, next new networks, on networks, Revision3, theWB, youtube, and your own specified video feeds.
    In addition it pulls Metadate for all your local video files like movies and tv-shows from and There are also a few internet radios, like and a few more.
    Try it, and you’ll be hooked.

  5. You should make it clear that you can receive HD, digital broadcast TV over a normal rooftop antenna. We have a high-end 42-inch Sony HD plasma TV and get full 1080i digital reception from all the local channels (except, strangely, PBS) over our antenna. (We live in Brooklyn, close to antennas in Manhattan.)

    We’ve never subscribed to cable, but we’ve gotten HD reception for a couple years now, ever since we bought the plasma set, and few people I talk to seem to know that it’s possible.

  6. My family made the move to drop cable a few months ago and we haven’t looked back. I thought it was going to be a hard transision for me too, but in reality most of the shows I watch are on local channels and the others are on the internet. Hacking the Apple TV to add boxee allows you to stream internet content from hulu and the likes right onto your big screen. It’s a wonderful invention. With my new macbook pro that is due to arrive in a week and the I’ll be replacing my tivo. Anything I record on it can easily be transfered to the apple tv. The only thing left to do is to sign up with Netflix, and I plan on doing that during the summer when there is less new shows on tv. You can really save a lot of money just dropping cable and your landline!

  7. Terry,
    I’m thing about getting a DVR service but it’s difficult to choose between Time Warner cable DVR service and TiVo DVR service.
    My cable company charges $10.15 for the box and 9.99 monthly for the Dvr service. TiVo charges 12.95 a month but I can get a Product Lifetime service plan of $399 Plus TiVo Series2™ DT DVR for $149.99. Do you use TiVo and what’s your take on these deals?


    1. Anna,
      While I can’t speak for Time Warner DVRs, Comcast DVRs SUCK! I do use TiVo HD and am very very very happy with it! There’s no way I could go back to Comcast (Motorola) DVRs after using TiVo HD. I do have one Comcast box left in my office. If I watched that TV more, I’d upgrade to TiVo HD there as well. Now as far as the lifetime deal goes, I’m not sure it’s worth it as technology changes rapidly and you may want something different in the future. So if you think you’ll be using the SAME DVR/Cable company for many years to come, then go with the Lifetime, otherwise look at some of their other deals like their 3 year plan.

  8. I dropped Directv early in December. I signed up for Netflix and with my xbox 360 I can stream 12k netflix titles to my bigscreen (plus I get dvd’s in the mail for the titles that are still unavailable to stream). I had a modified TiVo that is hooked up to my network so all the shows I had recorded previously are all on an external HD. I converted them to WMV and stream them to using the 360 as a Windows Media Extender. I’m unable to get decent over-air signal in the valley where I live, but I have an HDMI out on my laptop and between Hulu and the network’s own .coms I can watch most shows shortly after broadcast. My monthly subscriptions total a whopping $15.00/month (xbox live and netflix).

  9. I had cable 20 years ago. Never liked the set top box and when the company increased the cost and reduced the number of channels available in the same month, I had them take it out. We’ve never had pay TV since. Frankly, I was concerned the kids would watch too much TV. Or I would. I could never resist the History Channel, Discovery, Food Network, etc. It was far cheaper to rent the movies I wanted to see.

    Fast forward to 2 years ago. I bought a 61 inch DLP TV, a new antenna and signal booster, and get great HDTV reception over the air. But there’s a problem. The old VHS recorder didn’t work for timeshifting anymore. (It does now, with a converter box, but that’s a recent development and a different story).

    At about the same time, I had upgraded the family’s PCs and had a bunch of spare parts lying around, including memory, cpu and hard drives. With a minimal investment in a case and motherboard, I built a spare PC. Not a barnburner by any means, but a solid, stable machine. And it was the basis for solving the timeshifting problem. I put a Cat’s Eye HDTV video card from Vbox and a 300 gig hard drive (on sale) in the machine, paid a minimal fee ($30 I think) to Beyond TV for the online directory, and I’ve been recording HDTV shows off the air ever since, at no additional costs or monthly fees.

    The PC is attached to the DLP via the TV’s dedicated PC video port and an audio cable from the PC’s audio card. The picture on replay is outstanding. The drawback is that an hour of recording is over 8 gigs (signal isn’t compressed). But that’s probably why the picture is so good.

    I accomplished this with a computer that was obsolescent at the time. Pentium IV 2.8 with a 400 FSB, and an AGP video card. I think that any current PC would be more than adequate to do the same. Given the drop in hard drive prices, I’m tempted to replace the 300 gig drive with something larger.

    I use HULU for cable shows I’d like to see, using the same setup, or rent the BD or DVD if I want the full visual impact. I don’t miss cable at all, and have declined FIOS TV, even though I have FIOS for my internet connection. I have enough to see without a big additional monthly cost, but then, as you might surmise, I’m cheap.

  10. Best post yet Terry. Right up my alley as it were. 🙂

    I’d have to agree that satellite tv can save you big bucks, especially with some of the promos the providers have going right now to lure in new customers.

  11. Am I the only one who reads this blog that likes sports?

    How would you get college & pro baskteball, NASCAR, etc. with out a cable or satalite feed from ESPN,Fox Sports or TNT / TBS?

  12. Hi Terry. Would you go into a little more detail for a tech dummy? Hulu seems to have the programs I want to watch in HD from the networks, as well as TLC, LIFETIME and SPEED. What do they charge? What do I need to get a working HD DVR and HD signal of my programs to my 52″ LCD with HDMI inputs? I have several external HD’s in 500 and 750GB sizes, all USB2. I have an external antenna and rotor. What would I need to buy to set something up? Would a computer serve as my DVR? Thanks, Paul

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