Enough is enough. In my house we have cable TV with a few hundred channels, two DVRs, and a monthly bill that – when you figure in HBO/Encore and cable modem Internet service – pushes into three figures. Frankly, that’s just too expensive. Subtract for the Internet service and we’re still looking at $80 or so each month. That’s $960 per year for TV service. That’s insane.
What’s more insane is that we’re paying that much for a service that we hardly even use. After racing through season one of Modern Family on Netflix supplied DVDs (another $10/month), I tried in vain to find season two somewhere we already pay to access. The closest I got was an incomplete season’s worth of episodes cobbled together via ABC and Hulu’s websites and on demand through Xfinity, the cable provider formerly known as Comcast. Then I stopped for a moment and thought about it. Most of what we watch on the tube – er, panel – in my house falls into three categories: A small handful of first-run network shows, a small handful of live programming, and a large bundle of old shows we either missed the first time around or suddenly became nostalgic for and either DVR from reruns or watch on disc via Netflix.
So I did a little more hunting around. Shows from category one are shown for free on the major networks. Don’t need cable for that. Shows from category two are mainly sporting events, and since we’re a basketball household with a little tennis and football thrown in here and there, we won’t need cable for those until the end of Summer (U.S. Open) at the earliest. And should the 2011-12 pro hoops season somehow avoid being scrapped due to labor negotiations, NBA League Pass is now available cable-free via various broadband options. Though, to be honest, we watch TNT’s NBA broadcasts as much for “Inside the NBA” as for the games themselves. Also: ESPN3 should have even more college hoops action available cable-free this year.
Category three is the big one. Cable cutting in its current form caters to “TV on DVD,” if you will. Between Netflix, Hulu, and various networks’ Web sites, there’s a ton of old programming to be watched without the need for a monthly cable subscription. If you want to get illegal about it, the world of torrents opens the door to literally almost anything that’s ever been broadcast – if you’ve got the patience, knowhow, and hardware to find, download and convert/stream the video files to your TV set. And, of course, if you don’t mind breaking all sorts of copyright laws in the process (Note: I’m witholding comment on .
Staying on the legal side of the law for the moment, there’s really a ton of content out there on the Interwebs to be watched for free or relatively cheap. And lest we forget, good old fashioned local and network TV is still free to grab from the airwaves – and broadcast HDTV signals are often higher quality than the compressed versions delivered by cable operators, if you’re willing to spend a few bucks for a proper antenna.
Right now I’ve got the following equipment at my disposal:
- Two HDTVs
- One TiVo HD (owned) with an Xfinity cablecard (rented, on the way out)
- One Xfinity DVR (rented, on the way out)
- Two DVD players
- One Xbox 360 with Xbox Gold (includes Netflix, Hulu, and ESPN3 support)
- One first-gen Apple TV
- One second-gen Apple TV
- Two laptops with HDMI out support and cables (can be used for TV watching, but are often used for other purposes)
- One first-gen iPad
And, of course, I’m in the fortunate position of writing about tech for a living, which gives me access to a bunch of review loaners to try out: Networked Blu-Ray players, wireless media streamer boxes, and so on.
So join me on my cable-free summer, won’t you? Right now I’m figuring out my strategy and preparing to give Xfinity the boot. What comes next? Selling the TiVo to finance a home theater PC? Subscribing to Hulu Plus? Saving my pennies to rent shows on iTunes and Xbox? Share your cable-free strategies in the comments!