How (and Why) I Cut the Cable

Just over three and a half years ago my wife and I moved into an apartment complex that offered cable television as an amenity. It was great while it lasted. December 31 of 2009 was the end of the free ride. We quickly realized it was going to cost some serious coin to continue the setup we had. So come 2010 we had a choice to make: pay $47.99 (plus fees and taxes) for standard cable + $14.98 for DVR + $43.99 for high speed internet or cut back. Essentially we’d be paying around $120/month for the goods. I think the apartment amenity helped us forget how expensive cable is. So if perhaps, you’re looking for one way to be a better steward of the resources God’s given you then this post might fit the bill (bad pun intended!).


In the end, my wife and I decided to cut the cable television and keep the high speed internet. The way we figured it, all of the shows that we watch on cable we can catch on the web for free (or very inexpensively—I’m assuming legal, non bit torrent approaches to content acquisition for this post). For broadcast television shows we break out the good ol’ bunny ears. So far it’s pretty successful. So if you’re looking to pinch some pennies this new year here’s my list of places to go for free or cheap shows:

Network websites — whether your a fan of Burn Notice, Sons of Anarchy, Glee, Lost, or House they’re all backed and distributed by a network. Virtually all networks post their shows on their own websites for viewing. ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, MTV, VH1, USA, etc. have more shows than you can watch on their respective websites. Some networks, like NBC, even post “classic” shows, such as the A-Team, Magnum P.I., or Quantum Leap, on their site (and who doesn’t love themselves some A-Team?!!).

Hulu.com — Hulu is an online repository of major programming. It sports a clean interface, robust search function, and well designed player. There are close to 200 companies represented on Hulu. Apart from the individual network sites, Hulu has the biggest name recognition in the biz today.

Streamick.com — a site that looks like it just fell out of the 90’s, but man is it cool! Basically, you can live stream any channel to you computer. Channels such as ESPN, FoxNews, CSPAN, Cartoon Network, MSNBC, CNBC, TLC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, etc. The sheer coolness factory gives it enough bonus points in my book to overlook the horrific design, cluttered interface, and sometimes buggyness of the video player on the site.

iTunes — If you don’t know about iTunes, then you may have been in a cryogenic freeze for the past decade. If so, iTunes allows you to buy songs, movies, television shows, and e-books for use on your computer (PC or Mac), iPod, or iPhone. Individual episodes cost $1.99 and up. Some television shows and movies are available in HD 720p.

Amazon On Demand — If you don’t know about Amazon, here again, you may have been cryogenically frozen for the past decade and missed it. If so, Amazon sells just about everything and recently branched out into selling music, movies, and television shows. The files play on a Mac or PC. Amazon sells TV shows for $1.99 and up with some shows and movies available in HD.

Set-top boxes — Devices from Apple, Boxee, Netflix, and Samsung help you connect to the content you want to watch. These devices allow you to search, purchase, rent, or stream content immediately.

While the adjustment to losing cable has taken some time, my wife and I think the savings speak for itself. Additionally, with the rise of the internet and broadband speeds  constantly increasing it made plenty of sense (or cents) to stop tossing our money to the major cable company (or at least as much money…we still need their internet connection, though with other options cropping up that may soon change). Maybe it’s time to start getting Lost via the Internet and not through cable or satellite!

This may be a simple way for you to better stretch those dollars and use your resources for other things God may be calling you towards. Please note, however, that I am not saying cable television = bad stewardship. I simply want to point out that your money may serve better elsewhere than in Comcast’s or Time Warner’s pocket. And while you don’t want to pay the cable/satellite telco company, you may still want to keep up with pop culture. Hopefully this list will help give you some options to help you get your content cheaper through a different channel.

About rholmes
  • http://flickr.com/photos/decom André

    Too bad most (if not all) of the options you mentioned don’t work if you live outside the US… I get some variation os this “nice” message: “You appear to be outside the United States or its territories. Due to international rights agreements, we only offer this video to viewers located within the United States and its territories.” (I’m in Brazil. Cable here is even more expensive…)

  • Matt

    Live sports is the only thing that keeps me from cutting our satellite service.

  • http://www.robdale.ca Rob

    Like Andre, I am unable to use Hulu or even view shows on many of the network’s home pages because I live in Canada. Much of this content is blocked for us.

    Now, I did figure out a couple of workarounds. I set up a U.S. based iTunes account, which allows me to get American content that they provide. And, when I really want to watch something from one of the cable companies, I surf using a proxy.

    Still, while I have debated getting rid of cable here in Canada, my struggle has been how to access all the stuff that is not available to us without it.

  • http://twitter.com/coreyddavis Corey Davis

    …or you could look into Dish Network or DirectTV.

    I bundle my TV package with my DSL and telephone but, if you break it out, you can get over 120 channels for around $40/month straight from DishNetwork. Not a bad deal…

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    I would add a ESPN 360, some internet service providers don’t allow for you to sign up for it, but if yours does, it is free and a great way to catch some NFL, quite a bit of college football and basketball and La Liga, Serie A, and Bundesliga soccer! If you are a soccer fan, let me know and I can tell you about some cool ways to catch soccer you can’t get on ESPN.

    I too cut the cable. My wife and I get all the shows that we need online and via Netflix insta-que. I highly recommend Netflix–for $10 a month, we get movies fast and we can stream a lot of shows to our PS3 for free (it works with xBox 360 too) or with a computer which you can easily hook up to most HD TVs).

  • http://pos51.org Charles

    We got rid of cable because we found ourselves spending three hours a night watching HGTV; since we were renting a condo, “25 ways to stage your house for a quicker sale” wasn’t really useful.

    I’m way more productive now…

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    Every time I visit the doctor’s office, I know that I’m going to be in the waiting room for a bit so I always bring whatever book I’m waist-deep in, planning to get a nice chunk complete before my appointment begins in earnest. It’s a stupid plan. Because every time I go in, they have HGTV playing. Every time. I know this. And this is why my plan is stupid.

    Because no matter how entrancing my book is, I cannot help but be drawn into watching home makeovers and how to turn your tired old entertainment room into a living space that likely makes the rest of your house look stupid and boring.


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