There have been various write-ups on Gizmodo and Lifehacker about the evils, or at least super inconveniences and dickery, of cable and some alternatives. So here's my specific story of how I cut cable and what alternatives I'm using. Since most articles with someone describing how they saved money or made some change get ripped apart in the comments, I'm going to list a few specifics to my situation. If none of them apply to you, save yourself some time and stop reading (unless you've got time to kill).
-I live in the greater Los Angeles area and my local monopoly holder is Time Warner Cable. I was only subscribing to the broadcast channels and DVR service. I am able to pick up all the HD broadcast channels with a regular indoor antenna.
- I am not really into sports and don't watch anything beyond what gets shown on the regular broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC), if even that. The only thing I ever watch on ESPN is when they show the annual 4th of July Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest (and that always gets posted to Youtube).
- As mentioned above, by the time I fully cancelled cable I wasn't getting networks like USA, TNT, SyFy, AMC, Cartoon Network etc, so cancelling cable didn't change anything for me as far as being able to watch the shows on those networks (yep, I missed Sharknado).
- Although I will save money in the long run, the upfront cost for how I did this was pretty high.
Now onto the actual story. As a Time Warner Cable customer, I have been subjected to their feud with CBS (including local channel KCAL). Even though I don't care about sports (including Football), I do have a few shows I watch regularly (Person of Interest, The Mentalist, The Big Bang Theory, and I'd like to see the last season of How I Met Your Mother after all the time I've invested in watching the more recent seasons that haven't been as good as the earlier ones). And with September approaching, I decided I didn't want to rely on a cable company and network to resolve things so I can watch my shows.
Here is the breakdown for my monthly cable bill with TWC:
Broadcast: $28, HD DVR Receiver & Remote: $10, DVR Service: $12.99
For a total of: $50.99/month
I bought a rabbit ear RCA basic indoor antenna, which cost me $8.05 + tax (and free 2 day shipping through my Amazon prime account).
My TV has a digital tuner, so I plugged in the antenna (placed by a window), switched the input from cable to antenna, and ran a channel scan. I get all the main broadcast channels and a few others. So I didn't need TWC for good reception. The next thing was to find a DVR alternative, which didn't take long. I went with the TiVo Roamio (the regular one can receive signals from an antenna, the Pro and Plus require cable).
The Roamio costs $199.99, and can record up to 4 shows at once. There is also a TiVo Premiere that costs $149.99 and can record up to 2 shows at once, also available refurbished for $99.99. I've never had 4 shows I want to record on at the same time, but I have seen 3 on at the same time, so I felt the extra $50-100 for the Roamio was worth it.
Then there's the cost of TiVo Service. You can either pay $14.99/month or $499.99 for the lifetime of the TiVo, which saves you money if you use it more than 3 years. I went with the one time $499.99 lifetime payment. I figure if I end up not using it for that long either it will be because I moved to a nicer area where I can't get a signal with the antenna which means I have more money so no problem, or something happened to all the TV signals and not being able to use TiVo is the least of my problems.
So my upfront costs are: antenna ($8.05) + TiVo Roamio ($199.99) + TiVo Lifetime service ($499.99) for a total of $708.03, which means after about 14 months I will have evened out with my monthly cable bill, and after that I'm saving $50 a month, for as long as I continue using the equipment I bought upfront. And that's assuming TWC never increases their rates, which would be nice of them but isn't likely.
There's also some personal satisfaction in cutting a major tie with the cable company. I still use them for internet, but bought my own modem and router so at least I'm not renting any equipment from them.
Update (9/3): Just saw an ad that CBS is back on Time Warner Cable. Too little too late. I am still happy to be free of them as far as my TV viewing goes, and it will still save me money in the long run. So I'm glad this dispute happened when it did.
The TiVo itself is pretty nice so far. It also has Amazon video on demand, so now I won't have to fire up the PS3 just for that, and see updates on who signed on/off or get game join requests. I might get another 50ft ethernet cable to run from my router, instead of using WiFi but that's just another $5.15 on Amazon.
Update (9/3): Turns out free streaming content for Amazon Prime account holders is not available on TiVo, as I learned the hard way when I clicked on an episode of a show that would normally be free, thinking it would show me info about that episode, but instead charged my account for it without any confirmation of my purchase.
Update (1/12/15): The TiVo Roamio got an update late in 2014 so that it now offers Amazon Prime streaming, as well as the Vudu app if you've redeemed any UltraViolet or Disney Anywhere movies.
As I mentioned, I already wasn't getting a lot of cable channels, so this doesn't stop me from watching shows like Psych, Children's Hospital, NTSF: SD: SVU, SyFy's monster-combo movie of the week, or whatever cable shows you want to watch.
For those I will rely on streaming (I have Amazon Prime, and some shows I like are on Hulu), Google Play (I bought the Psych season 7 pass, and use Chromecast to watch on my TV), or DVDs/Blu-ray. There's also going to my gf's apartment where she gets free cable
(also TWC so still no CBS) and she shared her Netflix streaming login so I have that at home too (and I shared my Amazon streaming and Vudu).
So that's my story. If any of these suggestions help you, great. If not but you read all the way down here, thanks!