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How to Drop Cable for Internet TV and Video - Step by Step Guide

By Buttermouth Tuesday, July 31, 2012
If you can't justify paying $80/month for a standard cable package, join the club. Over 1.5 million American's dropped their cable service in 2011 due to rising prices, increased availability of online video, and general discontent with the choices and customer service provided by the cable providers.

If you are considering making the move, you've come to the right place. Dropping cable for other alternatives is easier than ever. If you're aren't a diehard TV or sports fanatic, the only difference you will really notice is the large amount of money that you will save.

For an even easier time switching, we've created this guide to cover all the basics of dropping cable in favor for internet TV and free OTA (over-the-air) local TV.


Step 1) Get an Antenna

The biggest concern people have with dropping their cable service is that they'll miss out on local and primetime broadcast TV. However, with the recent switch to digital TV signals, chances are that you can receive your local ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS stations all in HD for free!

  • If you have a newer flat-screen that has HD hookups, all you will probably need is a standard antenna that can receive UHF signals.
  • If your TV is an older TV without HD, then you will have to purchase a digital converter box AND an antenna to receive OTA broadcasts.

Here a few good antennas and converter boxes: A standard indoor antenna should work just fine in urban areas, while a rooftop antenna will be needed for people not within 25 miles of the broadcast towers. To check your distance from broadcast towers, check out AntennaWeb. Just input your address and you'll see a interactive map of towers within your reception area and you'll even see what channels you can expect to receive.

It's pretty amazing, isn't it? For a one-time fee of $10, you can get all broadcast channels in HD without ever paying a monthly fee ever again. What's even more amazing (or ridiculous) is that cable providers actually charge their subscribers around $20/month for the same service. o.0


Step 2) Find an extra computer/laptop, Xbox, or media center box

If you're fine with just the basic cable broadcast stations (FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, WGN, etc...) you can skip right over to step 4 to learn how to DVR your favorite shows.

Otherwise, I'd highly recommend finding a spare laptop or computer and using it as a media center that is connected to your TV. This way, you can watch practically anything you want online. If you do not have an extra computer, you can also use an Xbox 360 or a standalone media box to access your favorite streaming services. However, with a media box you will not have access to the whole internet, just services that have apps made for media boxes.

If you decide to hook up a computer, then you probably will need to get a cable to connect your computer to TV. This part is always the hardest for non-techies, since it uses a lot of abbreviations, but I've tried to make it as simple as I can below;
  • If you have an HDMI slot on your computer, then all you will need is a standard HDMI cable
  • If you do not have a HDMI slot on either your computer or TV, then you need to buy a specific cable for the slots you have available.
  • A lot of computers come with a S-Video slot. If your computer has one, then you can hook your computer with this cable
  • If you don't have a S-Video slot, this cable should do the trick. It uses the monitor slot on your computer to connect it to your TV.
  • There are some other options, but one of these three should work for most computers. If you do not have any of these slots, I would take a picture of the back of my TV and computer and go into a local electronic store to see what other options you have.

If you decide to go with a media box  here are some of the most popular ones out there;
Any of these products will connect easily to your TV and provide you with a expanding number of different streaming services. Some of the most popular are; Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, ESPN3, Pandora, and HBO Go.

Step 3) Subscribe to a couple online/offline TV and DVD streaming services.

Once you have a computer/media box hooked up to your TV, using and watching your favorite streaming video websites will be a breeze. All you need to do is turn on your computer/media box and just switch the input on your TV to HDMI/PC/VGA depending on which slot you are using. Here a few recommended websites and streaming services to get you started;

Paid Subscriptions:
These channels provide free full episodes online (most are NOT available on media boxes):
Sports:
Kids:
Educational:

Step 4) ADVANCED: Setup DVR through a connected computer
DVR is one of the few advantages of having a traditional cable plan. But, there is actually a great (maybe better?) alternative to DVR available for all computers. It's called XMBC and it's a free piece of software that has a channel guide and recording options just like you would find on a regular cable plan. The only difference is that you manage everything through your TV-connected computer.

The only really drawback is that the whole process of setting this up may be a little difficult for some people. It includes buying a special video card and installing it in your computer. There are other options without having to install any new hardware, but they are pricey and your recorded shows could get recorded choppy.

Things you'll need to setup DVR on your TV-connected computer;
Once you connect your antenna signal to your computer, all you have to do is launch XMBC and follow the on-screen instructions. You'll be watching and recording broadcast TV in no time!


Conclusion

Hopefully this guide helped answered some of your questions about cutting the cord. It's really not as hard as many people would imagine, with a small investment (under $20) you can be cable-free in less than 5 minutes and still receive broadcast TV. With a bit more investment (around $100...much less if you have a spare computer), you could be streaming all your favorite TV shows, movies, and channels right to your TV!

If you have any other questions or concerns, let me know in the comment section below. I'd be happy to answer any of them. I also plan on adding more information, details, and updates to this article as they are needed. You can friend us on facebook or subscribe to our RSS feed in order to be notified of any new updates.

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5 Comments " How to Drop Cable for Internet TV and Video - Step by Step Guide "

connan August 2, 2012 at 1:24 PM

I would rather have both options available to me. I love my Dish service because I have so many channels for the lowest cost around, plus I enjoy streaming my same channels that I get at home on almost any mobile device! Dish sold me the sling adapter for a really cheap price. I can watch from anywhere for no charge at all and watch my DVR recordings. My Dish coworker told me about Dish's free app called Dish Remote Access. This allows customers to manage their DVR recordings.

Dave August 4, 2012 at 12:38 AM

Great Post. My formula is: video streamer + video streaming sites (hulu, netflix, vudu) + indoor antenna (mohu leaf) = big savings.

I have been using a mohu leaf for over a year now and love it. To begin you should start by going to Antenna Web to see what channels you can pick up. Over at KilltheCableBill we offer a 10% Coupon Code and provide more instructions on how to do this....Leaf is the number one selling Indoor Antenna on Amazon!

Free Movies Online August 4, 2012 at 12:49 AM

I have time warner cable tv/internet and my monthly bill is around $180. I have standard tv service plus HBO OD, and I have road runner turbo. Is that to much for both internet/tv service? Am I getting ripped off?Thanks in advance...

John Hogan April 20, 2013 at 7:17 PM

I set up a HTPC running XBMC over a year ago and I wouldn't go back to cable if they offered to pay me. There is a ridiculous amount of content on the web that you will never see on cable. XBMC has plug-ins for hundreds of websites and services that offer free and paid content. Examples Hulu, Youtube, Crackle, ESPN, Netflix, Vimeo, Apple Itunes Podcasts, Cnet, Revision 3, CBS News, and hundreds more.
Including 3rd party plug-ins for most of the websites in the articles list of "Top 25 Websites for Free TV (Some of these sites may be unlawful depending on your country)"
Everything in 1 interface controlled with 1 usb remote.

Anonymous

this is a great introductory article. very helpful to me. thank you