About the Post

Author Information

Television enthusiast and author of Everyday Absurdities: Insights from the World's Most Trivial Man. tylerstanton.com

Cancel Cable and Still Watch It All (Part 1)

Amy and I swayed back and forth for months about whether or not to cancel our cable and try to capitalize on all the free options out there. There was always something we objected to or some minor inconvenience that we weren’t willing to look past. Not to mention the torturous call we’d eventually have to make to a Comcast representative.

Recently though (and kind of by accident), we were able to find answers to practically all of our objections. So we did it. The world’s biggest fan of television cancelled cable – and we’re still able to watch everything we want.

There are a ton of options out there, but I’m just going to focus on exactly what we did. In Part 2, I’ll address some of the specific objections we had before we switched and how they’ve been answered along the way, as well as some other things we’ve loved about the switch. But first…

The cheapest option (which we didn’t do):

Simply connect your computer to your TV. It’s kind of a hassle, but it is definitely the cheapest. There are many different ways to do this, depending on the type of computer and TV you have.

To connect my MacBook to my Philips TV, this is what I use:

MacBook  –>  MiniDVI-to-HDMI Adapter –>  HDMI cable  –>  TV

Then you can download Boxee or Hulu Desktop for free and watch away. Sure, you could just manually visit all the different websites that offer free content, but who doesn’t love a good one-stop shop and beautiful interface?

While this is easily the cheapest option, it’s just too much of a hassle for us. I didn’t want to plug my laptop in every time I wanted to watch TV. I wanted more of an all-in-one hub that I could plug in and not have to fool with anymore. So…

What We Did – Cliffs Notes Version

1. Called Comcast. Renegotiated to Internet-only plan – $29.99/month
2. Bought Roku
3. Subscribed to Netflix and Hulu Plus
4. Plugged it in and enjoyed

What We Did – Extended Version

1. Called Comcast. Renegotiated to Internet-only plan – $29.99/month

I could tell immediately that the first person I talked to was having a bad day and/or was a generally unpleasant person, so I hung up and called back. There’s no reason to stick it out with an operator who is against your best interest when there are 5,000 others you could deal with in their cubicle factory.

The next person I was connected to sounded like a sweet, southern grandmother, which immediately led me to believe she was going to hook me up like she would her grandson. I told her I could no longer afford TV, and that I needed an Internet-only option under $40 (I was paying $120). She made a couple offers above $40, but I stuck to my guns and told her I didn’t want to leave Comcast, but would if she couldn’t go below $40 (I used the AT&T U-Verse plans to get my $40 price point).

She eventually offered me a $29.99/month deal for Ultra speed Internet, which (bonus!) included basic network channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS) for one year. I was planning on using a digital antenna for those stations, but if they’re included, who was I to argue?

2. Bought Roku device

Being an Apple fanboy, I initially bought an Apple TV. The interface was beautiful, of course, but it’s unbelievable how limited it is. You have to rent (pay for!) all the content you want to watch, and NBC shows aren’t even available. You are able to watch content from Netflix, but basics like Hulu Plus and Pandora weren’t even options. So, with much sadness, I returned it.

I researched a couple of the other options – namely Boxee Box and Roku. Both are great options, but due a dramatic cost difference, we ultimately decided to buy the Roku.

UPDATE 12/11: NBC shows are now available on Apple TV, as well as this add-on, which has me wanting to give it another shot. Like I said, I’m still a fanboy.

3. I subscribed to Netflix and Hulu Plus ($7.99/month each)

I was paying over $100/month for this exact same content, so $16/month is a no-brainer. Plus, both of them have apps for the iPhone and iPad, so you can watch this content anywhere. There are tons of other apps for the Roku (both free and paid), but these are the ones we use the most.

4. Plugged it in and enjoyed

Between the free network channels, Netflix, Hulu Plus, the Amazon On-Demand app on the Roku (which enables you to buy brand new TV shows and new release movies like you would in iTunes) and all of the other available apps, there’s virtually nothing we’re unable to watch. There are a few channels that we like that aren’t available through the Roku yet (namely, ESPN, Food Network, and Bravo), so for those we either plug the computer into the TV or just watch it straight from the computer.

That’s it. That’s what we did.

Yes, there are many other methods for doing this. Yes, my information is woefully incomplete. And yes, many of these details will change as the industry evolves. But hopefully our experience will help you, at the very least, realize there are other options out there.

Click here for Part 2.

Speaking of Part 2, help me make it better!

What are some objections you have to canceling cable and using one of these other methods?

Have you made the switch? What do you think?

Also, let me know if I’m wrong about anything I’ve mentioned. This is highly probable.

Click here to learn more about Roku.

  • Pingback: Cancel Cable and Still Watch It All (Part 2) | TV ASYLUM

  • http://mattbortmess.com matt bortmess

    this gives me hope! i’ve thought about doing this… have been with DirecTV and got them to give me a package they don’t offer anywhere unless you call and say you want to lower your payment.
    but my big hang-up would be the ability to dvr my shows to watch later that night. i guess i can wait a day for Parks & Rec, but I sure do enjoy sitting down after my kids are all in bed to get my nightly tv fix. 

  • bravo junkie

    I knew there had to be internet-only cable SOMEwhere — no idea Comcast would allow it for a good price — way to go!

  • http://www.idiosyncratictransmissions.com/ Matt Brier

    We’re in the process of making the switch, but it is a lot more difficult if you don’t have a digital tv to hook your computer up.  Having said that I broke down and ordered a Roku box earlier this week and eagerly await its arrival.  The only issue I see so far is not getting CBS shows through Hulu.

    • http://www.jumpstartmypc.com/ Chris | JumpstartMyPC.com

      Hey Matt – why not try using a computer monitor? You can pick up on a really nice computer monitor at 20″ and up for just a couple hundred bucks or less and almost all of them come with HDMI inputs.  
      I actually use a 21.5″ monitor that I picked up last year for ALL of my gaming on XBOX 360.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a full-sized TV.

      • http://www.idiosyncratictransmissions.com/ Matt Brier

        That’s a solid idea, but I’m still running an old school receiver as the hub for all of my components. Unless there is a way to convert a component out to HDMI in(haven’t kept up enough to know).

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com Larry Carter

    I would love to do this.  Unfortunately, I live in a rural area and do not have the internet options you have.  I’m limited there.

  • Pingback: The Rewind – 3.26.12 | TV ASYLUM

  • TheLaurenJean

    Considering this very much, but what does it offer as far as watching the news or sports? That’s the only downside I can think of.

  • Pingback: Cable Bills to Begin Skyrocketing | TV ASYLUM

  • Pingback: Arbitrary Thoughts « tylerstanton.com

  • http://www.jumpstartmypc.com/ Chris | JumpstartMyPC.com

    I cut the cord over two years ago and couldn’t be happier.  Sure, we are missing some of the same things you are (ESPN being the prime one), but we put half of our old cable bill back into our pocket every month.  I documented our process here: http://bit.ly/BuhByeDTV

    The one big question/comment I have for you – Why haven’t you taken advantage of a HD antenna to get your local channels in HD? In my opinion, the HD antennas that I have in place serve as the backbone of our entire “cable-cutting” package.