How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: Have You Cut the Cable Cord?

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The proliferation of streaming services and diverse media content has made cutting the cable cord an appetizing option for many people. Have you cut the cord, stuck with traditional services, or mixed the two together?

It’s easier than ever to ditch the cable subscription and still keep watching your favorite TV shows and movies (but still tricky to catch live events and television without a cable subscription). This week we’re interested in hearing all about your media arrangements: Do you have a traditional cable bundle? Ditched it for a Netflix-only experience? Pay for both because you just can’t get enough of live TV and streaming content?

Sounds off in the comments with the state of your media setup, the more detailed the better, and then check back in on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/7/12

Comments (55)

  1. Grant

    We use Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, Crackle, and others on a Roku as well as OTA on a Tivo Premier. The Tivo is simply the best DVR interface I have ever used. The Tivo Netflix application, though, is terrible, and it does not support Amazon Prime. Having both boxes makes it easy to use all of the services.

    Things we really miss from satellite: Discovery Channel, Science Channel, History Channel, BBC America (OK only really Top Gear) and Cartoon Network. There is no shortage of things to watch, but there are a few things we want to see that we cannot. The bill is enough less, though, that it is worth it.

    The closest city is only about 60,000 people, and that is almost 20 miles away, but I still get over 40 channels from 4 different states with a really big antenna, some of them from 109 miles away.

  2. Josh

    I just ‘cut the cord’ about two weeks ago. I’ve replaced it with an OTA antenna, Netflix, Hulu +, and Crackle.

    My regret is that I didn’t get a larger antenna as all my channels (about 15 of which some are odder than anything I’ve ever seen on Cable) are 75%-80% and will occasionally cut out… but that will likely be remedied in a couple weeks. The one thing that I’ve noticed is that I’m just not watching TV as often which is making me more productive. I’ve been reading much more, which is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while and I’ve done almost all the tasks that I’ve put off for the last couple months (like winterizing the house).

    As for cable channels that I’ll miss, probably just the BBC, SHOWTime, and HBO.

  3. Alan

    I had cut the cord for almost a year. I was paying solely for a cable modem hook-up after I did. I had an OTA antenna (Better HD than Cable), Hulu, Crackle, DVDs, and some other net streams. I had it all streaming to my TV through an old PC. It worked great, but I really missed watching live sporting events most of all. Then Verizon called and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. For a minimal price increase of what my cable modem was costing me, I got faster internet, a landline, and basic cable, so I caved in.

    The best part about not having cable was that it curved my random TV channel surfing. I only watched the shows I religiously followed. I still don’t channel surf as much, but it’s nice to watch the local sports teams in action without always having to visit a bar. Plus Verizon has great Xbox integration: Live TV, ESPN 3, Fox, etc.. My previous cable modem carrier had none.

  4. Rahabib


    I use basic cable with an HD Homerun on an HTPC (WMC – free hulu, netflix, emulators/games, etc.) and Plex to stream to the upstairs Roku box (plus Netflix and a few other free channels). The main media room is in the basement and standard antennas like the leaf still dont work well. One day I will put up a roof antenna and then cut the cable completely.

    So the cable bill is only $70 (basic + internet) which is down from $135 (digital starter, DVR, + internet). I used to get deals from Comcast every 6 months or so to keep it to $90 with the DVR etc. but then Comcast started refusing to give me deals.

    If the rumors about encrypted QAM start rolling out, I am sure that will push me to buy an roof antenna. I just gotta find a reliable omni and I havent found one that works yet.

  5. Rich

    I have an OTA antenna connected to a TiVo for a traditional TV experience, and a Mac Mini running Plex and Hulu Desktop for streaming media. I’ve removed all physical media from my entertainment system, and any discs we want to watch are “backed up” to file and accessed via Plex.

  6. andyr354

    I have not had TV service in over two years. I really don’t watch much of it at all. Do a lot of reading and I am also fairly active out running or biking in my free time.

    I watch a documentary here and there from and youtube. sub is great to.

    I only get the local CBS station OTA so it is not really worth watching.


  7. neuroflare

    Football: gotta have cable

  8. neuroflare


    Football: gotta have cable

    well, to watch legally

  9. Shack70

    Cut the cord over a year ago! Using Xbox, PS3 and Roku to stream off a local server and use Amazon Prime. We had Netflix but the selection got so bad we dropped that too. I noticed my kids don’t have the “I wants” anymore since they dont sit through all the commercials!

  10. jchris

    I never even bought cable, I use a custom built htpc with a Phenom II x4 and a low profile HD 5750 for games and the HD media. Have an outdoor antenna for HD OTA hooked up to a dual tv tuner card in the HTPC. I use Media Center as my dvr. I also use windows built-in homegroup to serve my media files across the network.

  11. Jay

    We cut the cord over a year ago. Silicon Dust HDHomerun for over air digital, WMC 7, Netflix, Hulu+. I would subscribe to Amazon Prime if they had a media center app.

  12. Glassman

    I dropped Comcast 1 1/2 years ago. Use MythTV with Hulu and Netflix. My wife misses some of her college football games. No plans to go back to cable, even if it means going to the bar a few times a year to watch her team. I know, life’s tough.

  13. trinity343

    we just dumped cable 3 months ago

    we use netflix through the xbox 360 and wii and hulu from time to time. but to keep up on current shows i just use torrents. eventually i’ll switch to hulu+ but it just doesn’t fit into our budget right now. so a pirates life for me! YO HO!

    now! where’s me rum

  14. Besquigit

    Cut my cord after the wife and I split up 2 years ago and haven’t looked back since. I even shut off my cell last December, don’t miss it a bit.
    Air channels are all I need, with the help of an occasional Netflix movie.

  15. CaptainCasey

    We are dumping our basic cable this month and I just purchased the new Boxee TV. All I need cable for is internet and as long as we get our channels through the antenna I’m happy. I still can’t believe the amount of control Cable companies have now. My wife was telling me that she doesn’t want us to get sucked into that much TV which I totally agree with. Netflix is enough as it is.

  16. Scott

    I had never actually heard the term “Cord Cutting” until I read The Pirate Bay’s tweet that brought me to this article: It turns out, that myself and my whole family had ‘cut the cord’ long ago. When my family moved out in to the middle of nowhere (thirty minutes from school/work/civilization) my parents opted to not pay for satellite and cable was unavailable in the area, so then we cut the preverbal cord. Well, kind of, at the time only dial-up internet was available. (I know it makes me feel old.) There were very few online TV web services and even if there had been it would have taken hours to buffer, but that is beside the point.

    To put it precisely, cutting the cord is dropping your cable or satellite subscription and using free or paid web services to fulfill your television desires. Many people are doing this because the price of traditional TV is, in my opinion, ridiculous. According to ABC News the “average cable television bills nationwide jumped by 5.8 percent in [a] one-year period,”[1] that compared to the 3.7% increase of all goods and services shows that the television companies are gouging people, because they know that people are addicted to television. Now there is a solution, is has been around but in the past two years, its popularity has skyrocketed. Yes, I am talking about internet TV, or IPTV.

    Services like Hulu and Netflix all offer the same idea, watch it when you want it, any where you want. This is very appealing to me because of my very busy schedule. I, like many Americas, have many shows I like to watch but often I am busy when they air or there are two shows that appeal to me on at the same time. But by streaming the TV shows online, these problems are resolved because you can watch it at your convenience and pause and resume at the exact spot you left off, without paying the high prices for a DVR.

    In the end, it is up to you if you want to jump on the internet TV band wagon, for now that is. I believe that in the near future cable and satellite companies will be almost forgotten and be replaced by services like Netflix and Hulu, just to name a few. But until then, look at how much you pay for television service, and then look at the cost of a subscription to either (or both) of the services aforementioned.

  17. CaptainCasey

    Now that I read that you want detailed:

    Time Warner Basic Cable: $15 (for one year, normally $25)
    Digital Cable Box: $12 per month.
    20Mbps Internet $40 a month
    Netflix: $8
    I was using WMC for TV and DVR but now the basic channels are scrambled almost every day?

    SWITCHING to Boxee TV and keeping the internet
    $100 for the box
    $10 a month cloud DVR (Its no longer $15 a month!)
    $8 a month for Netflix
    I wish we could get Hulu+ since CBS is getting onboard but oh well.

    Either way, my wife and I are happy with the new setup. (Or will be for that matter)

  18. Geoff

    My family cut the cable almost 2 years ago and we haven’t looked back. I have a roof mounted antenna and get 13 channels OTA. We use a Roku for Netflix, Youtube (was able to get the private channel before Roku shut it off) and HBOGo in the bedroom and use a Wii for Netflix in the living room. Netflix provides plenty of kids shows for our children. We made this decision because I was unemployed and couldn’t justify the $70/month for TV. The only thing I miss cable for is the live sporting events.

  19. sragan5

    I originally had only the most basic cable, which only included local, a couple of shopping , and somehow, a Chicago channel. And I was very content and happy because this was the only TV that I wanted to watch. And it was only $15 monthly. I taped my shows on my wonderful VCR which I’ve had for years and it still works beautifully. When viewing TV at my sister’s home, her cable subscription includes over 200 channels, plus HBO and a few other things thrown in, plus a DVR. And it’s way over $100 monthly. I have to admit, I really enjoyed watching the cooking channel and HGTV. But que sera sera. When Comcast changed from analog to digital, the only way to watch TV through them was using their digital converter. I tried it, and the picture was awful. And my VCR would not work with the converter. So I decided to convert. I got myself an indoor antenna and a refurbished and less expensive Channel Master CM7000Pal OTA DVR. So for the last 6 months, now I’m in full control of my TV viewing. I still use my VCR to view older taped movies and shows. But on my Channel Master, I’m getting many more channels, including Create TV. So I can watch both cooking and home decorating shows. And, most of the shows are in HD. Of course there is the occasional pixelation, but in general, the picture quality is excellent. So, all in all, I am again content and happy.

  20. jeepmanjr

    Wish I could – I live in a very small town in the desert southwest and pay $89/mo for bundled Internet (7 meg) and VoIP (SuddenLink). I use DirecTV for TV purposes. Cable speed sux, but nothing else around here even comes close. And that’s a business account if you can believe that! And because of FAP policies, satellite services aren’t even a consideration. You city folks have got it made!

  21. Kansas Bob

    Google Fiber (replete with a Nexus 7 tablet and app) should be in my neighborhood in the spring. I tried it last week. Amazing how much faster a wired fiber connection is than a WiFi one. Can’t wait.

  22. Urichhai

    Hmm My 20 year old wasn’t even born yet when we dumped cable. the prices and bad service made it not even worth it. OTA for some viewing but Custom built HTPC in the front room for netflix, HULU, and for Walking Dead and Game of Thrones also get Dr. Who on that site. of course need OTA for my wife and daughter to watch DWTS and the Chew also some good shows on reg tv.

  23. Katie

    i cut the cord over 2 years ago, dont miss it at all. i have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and a few others. i watch everything through my Xbox. Xbox has many apps that i havent really even looked into yet. i pay 35 for internet service, 8 for netflixs and Hulu. plenty of kids shows, although cartoon network would be nice. the shows are a day later then live but so am I……………..
    i would like to know how to use some of these other hardware ans software to watch more TV, like HBOgo, it looks to me like you have to have cable for that?? i also am watching less TV and watching more shows i really like. also marathon watching series is the best.

  24. Meredith Skinner

    We dropped cable about two months ago and we haven’t looked back. The cost of cable was outrageous when you consider the quality and availability of good content. We are using various services to ensure that we don’t miss out on our favourite shows. We also found a better deal on internet so we are saving approximately $100 per month because of the changes.

  25. Jim Lillicotch

    Laptop with a wireless mouse is my cable box, DVD player and DVR
    Will be 4 years in Feb. Haven’t missed a thing

  26. A.D.Wheeler

    Cut the cord 3 years ago, never looked back.

  27. Braxx

    There’s wires that come into peoples houses?

  28. thesilentman

    Internet is very helpful, so yes, we cut cable. The only problem is that I’m a Linux user while the rest of my family is Windows happy, so content coming through my computer is not going to work as well.

  29. Fantasm

    I have a triple HD antenna array, mounted on an old tv tower, each antenna facing out from a different side of the triangular tower. On tope of the tower are two 20+ year old antennas… I’m 60 miles from toronto and get 35 channels, most in brilliant HD…
    Anything else, comes from the Internet…
    Never want cable or sat again…

  30. Bubby4j

    We can’t – We live in a small town and have to get point-to-multipoint wireless (4 meg down, 0.5 up) and we’re limited to 30GB of bandwidth per month, for a 5 person family. Not good for streaming at all.

  31. Sean Patterson

    Our household has gone back to direct tv, mainly because of football season (both college and pro) and can’t seem to find good quality to put on our HD TV for a reasonable price.

    That said, we are big Netflix (primarily for thekids) and Hulu Plus users and love Roku Box, which is a huge value since we can move it into the bedroom formovieswhen the kids are sick. Hopefully there will be something for our sports addiction via Roku soon 8^D

  32. DaveS

    Discovery, Science, Nat Geo, History and the like do not exist (legally) on the internet.

    For a few short months while unemployed I did ditch cable and install an antenna.
    Sure, there was a lot of programming available OTA…but primetime dramas and sitcoms do not interest me.
    Wheel of Fortune and Andy Griffith was about all I could stand OTA.

  33. Plat

    I’ve lived outside the US for the past 27 years, so never had cable to cut. However in the past few years I’ve slowly gotten my US tv back. I use two Roku’s, one in the living room and one in the bedroom, plus a HDMI adapter on my iPad when needed. Content comes from Netflix, Hulu, Justintv, USTVNow, and other various sources via Playon. I am paying about $30 for the various services and means to get them.

  34. Citrus Rain

    My parents pay the cable bill, but personally, I could go without it.

    We have Comcast’s triple play because they’re our only option for high speed internet. The Google TV is set up with easy switching to Netflix, but nobody in the house has picked up on using Amazon or Google Play. (And Hulu isn’t an option since Google TV is blocked by Hulu.)

    I gave up cable once I had nothing left to watch in my bedroom without getting that extra little box just for [adult swim], and I’ve resorted to streaming from my computer instead.

    The only 4 shows I care to catch on TV anymore are Superjail, The Boondocks, My Little Pony, and Doctor Who.
    I think Superjail Youtube links get posted on a Deviantart group… But I can’t remember. I just DVR it.
    The Boondocks was on Megavideo, so I’ll have to add that to the DVR when season 4 comes around.
    Watched the Doctor Who series premiere through a live stream using VLC to avoid spoilers. (then again 6 hours later)
    When the cable TVs are occupied (or if I don’t want my mom chewing my ear off over watching it) I catch livestreams of My Little Pony on Bronystate. ~ Then appears on youtube in about an hour with commercials, by 2 hours comercials are gone, and in 4-6 hours the HD version without commercials.
    And then Youtube is practically a source itself if you follow the right people or if you use Youtube Leanback.

  35. megamon

    Dumped DirecTV 3 months ago after being a loyal customer for 13 years. Now I have dual OTA antennas pointed in 2 directions to get the most channels I can (20), bought a TIVO premier XL with Lifetime service about 900.00 for the whole setup. So I have about an 8 months before I am even with what I was spending on DirecTV (89.00) a month. I have a windows server where I convert the TIVO shows so I can watch them on my tablet or my XBMC mac mini servers. I also use mac mini to watch internet shows. Finally I have a bluray DVD player which gives me the best access to Amazon Prime instant videos and crackle and a host of other choices. I probably will add netflix eventually.

    Really glad I did it.

  36. Lantiis

    Before my boyfriend moved in, I had internet only with Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. Anything I couldn’t find there, I was able to stream from my laptop to my TV (or just watch it on my darn laptop or desktop which connects to the TV). Cheap and effective. I was never left missing a show and could watch at my own pace (plus very few commercial interruptions is a huge plus).

    Once my boyfriend moved in, he required a landline phone and the full cable package with sports, HBO and everything (plus DVR). Despite having Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime himself as well, he apparently cannot live without spending $100 a month on the very same television experience. I suspect he likes commercials and wasting money. We don’t use the landline phone. We almost never watch the TV (and when we do, we usually watch the shows we WANT to watch on Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime instead of channel surfing). And with the exception of Google TV and the additional money being spent, everything is the same. (Google TV is actually pretty neat.)

    I don’t get it. But I’m not paying for it :) I did lose a few bills because I cancelled my Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime since he wanted to keep his. So hooray for me saving a few bucks!

  37. Ryan

    Custom built HTPC with a dual tuner card is my setup. I get all my OTA shows in HD and anything else I want to watch…..I get from the internet. =)

    I’ve been cable free for 4 years!

  38. Rick

    Does anyone have any recommendation for OTA Antennas? What kind of range do the settop antennas have?

  39. Cathy

    I got rid of cable almost two years ago. The shows I want to keep up with, I can still watch online, one way or another, so I get my favorites. I do sometimes miss just surfing the channels, or catching an odd show I don’t watch regularly, like specials on Comedy Central. But the desire to waste time in front of the tv is fading. I really do think I’m more productive without the temptation to zone out flipping through channels: I get more done around the house, I read more, and I focus on work better.

  40. Shoei

    Dropped Cable TV like 2 years ago. Basic cable service (which is almost to slow) and my TV’s pull all the OTA channels through as long as I hook a cable up to them from the wall outlet (so no antenna needed). Was going to do the HTPC way with XBMC, but ran across ATV2. Small, doesn’t take up space (unfortunately you can use the new atv3). Jailbroke, put XMBC on it and away I go. Can almost watch anything along with ESPN live sport or replays. XMBC rules for now and I don’t need anything else. I can also go right in to my NAS for movies, etc. stored on there. I now have 2 of these. Again, they are ATV2, not 3.

  41. danzaemon

    I dropped my subscription to cable tv about 4 years ago. Part of this was because I was going through a divorce at the time, and I associated tv watching with my ex-wife, who seemed to think the thing was video wallpaper and would leave it on constantly.

    But the other part of cutting the cable for me was that I realized that I didn’t watch 99% of everything I was being forced to buy with a cable tv subscription. I hate sports, which accounted for dozens of channels. I was disgusted with the mindless content-drift on channels like TLC, History, or the disgustingly renamed “SyFy.” I had no interest in tabloid news. Reruns of old tv shows just depressed me, and the major networks were mostly throwing “reality show” garbage at me.

    If I needed information, I went to the web. If I wanted audio or video, I went to the web. If I just wanted something interesting to look at, I went to the web. I was choosing my own programming from my own sources at my own time, rather than just accepting whatever vapid nonsense a few entertainment companies decided I should have.

    Although I grew up watching too much tv, I immediately found that I didn’t miss it, and I was far happier. Life is so much better after you leave cable tv behind.

  42. g0bux

    I just moved to a location where the only cable provider has not yet updated to a broadband signal (very rural). They offer standard def cable tv and no cable internet service. I’m not paying for cruddy standard-def, period. I can, however get DSL at a very solid speed since I am very near a fiber tap. So, we’re on OTA antenna for the local channels. Then, RaspBMC running on two Raspberry Pi’s at the two main TVs. They stream tv and movies from a media server in the closet that runs SabNzbD along with Sickbeard and Couch Potato. That satisfies 95 percent of what I want. What’s left? College Football when it is carried on one of the ESPN’s or BigTen Network and then the PowerBlock shows on Spike TV. I miss those two items very much.
    So far, I have not found a solution for either of my two remaining problems. I’m open to pretty much any solution – grey area or not, I just can’t find one.

  43. Ray

    I recently purchased a Roku. I am strongly leaning on cutting satellite service as soon as I can convince my wife.

  44. Jay

    Rick: One of the primary factors is what frequencies your local broadcatsers are using, VHF, UHF, or a combination of both? Check around, and figure out if your local VHF channel is now transmitting on a UHF channel, but using virtual ID to show it its old VHF channel number. Invest in the best antenna you can afford (UHF only, or a UHF-VHF combination), and consider including a mast-mounted signal pre-amplifier if your out in a fringe area. A rotor is also a good investment, even if your signals are only coming from one general direction, it can help you adjust to varying ground propagation changes due to weather or local terrain..

  45. Peter Ledoux

    I use wireless internet, my trailer park made a deal with the company to put the tower on our land and we get it for a one time payment of $200.00. I also use netflix and basic cable for TV.

  46. LadyFitzgerald

    I had cable TV briefly 35 years ago when it first became available. We had it three months and cut the cord due to unfulfilled promises, poor service, etc. Didn’t miss it. Still don’t miss it. I have a cable internet (not much choice there) and telephone bundle but no TV.

  47. Mike

    I plan to ditch DirecTV in January after the NFL season is up. Now that you can buy NFL Sunday Ticket online, I have no reason to stay. Plan to build a media center PC and record OTA shows on that but we also already have a Roku and Logitech Revue so we can use those for Netflix,, Amazon VOD, NHL Gamecenter (if there is ever a damn season!), etc. My friend said he’d give me his Comcast login so I can use HBOGo and WatchESPN. Plus with a VPN I can watch a lot of programming on the BBC already. Who needs cable or satellite?

  48. Steve S.

    I thought about leaving cable but 1) they gave me too good of a deal 2) they treat me right. I am paralyzed in a wheelchair and I’m home all the time. While I don’t even turn my t.v. on until 9-10pm I do have the full on triple play package from Comcast. I got it locked it for 2 years and just recently called and they gave me another 2 years at the same price. People don’t realize that the middle package is a joke. I got the top package with tv,phone, and highest speed internet (52down/10up) . The top package includes every station Comcast has including movie channels (HBO, Starz, Showtime, etc.). The thing people don’t realize is for $15 more than the med. pack you get every channel plus equipment fees included in the price. Meaning I don’t pay $12 hd dvr rental, $7 modem, etc. I also stream a ton of music using an app called radiosure. I listen to instead of paying for Sirius. I live in a rural area between Philly, Pittsburgh, and D.C. and OTA is out of the question here. All in all I’m very happy with what I have/pay. I don’t pay for cd’s or music and I don’t rent and movies or go to see any movies. This is my one stop entertainment package.

  49. Sam

    @neuroflare, the NFL streams a lot of games every weekend most with a delay, one or two live.
    This link from digital trends will give you some options, just research before you download any service.

  50. hArLtRoN

    I don’t have cable but I do have an Xbox 360 and Netflix and Amazon.

    So if I want to watch a show that’s not on Netflix all I have to do is either buy it on Xbox Video or Amazon.

  51. Mike

    This is something few people realize. In the stone age of electronic entertainment cable companies said that the reason you paid them was because they didn’t allow advertizing. Flash forward to today and they rape the user with fees and force them to watch commercials for which they gouge the companies to air.

    Once I saw the scam I cut the cable and with DRM issues like the Sony gaff and Microsoft’s embedding spyware in their content to beat users with, I don’t stream.

    I watch TV, when I do watch over the airwavs and if I find something I like I wait for it to come out on DVD/Blue-ray and as the disks go bad I make copies to watch. This probably won’t work for most people. I came from the generation where there was NO TV so I can actual read and find it a satisfying passtime as well as actually engaging with people and the world through other hobbies.

  52. Bob P

    I have terminated my cable tv but still subscribe to cable internet. I subscribe to Netflix 1 dvd and streaming. I am trying out HULU and debating subscribing to HULU plus. Of course I still have my inside digital antenna and receive all the local networks. from Philadelphia.

  53. nedly

    Cable? What’s that? If you are living out of your suitcase its usb aircards and prepaid SIMs. Depend on alternatives such as hotel wireless access points or sitting at a coffee shop all night? No thank you.

  54. Sam

    Glassman your wife will be able to get some collage sports. This link will give you a few services.

  55. OldSalt

    Never had cable, always have had a 50 feet tower and 10 feet mast with OTA array. Use rotor to redirect. Get 3 PBS channels, 2 CBS, 1 ABC, 1 NBC, 1 CW, 1 Fox. Once I upgrade internal cabling and add signal booster, should get about 5-8 more channels. More than I need.

    The Kindle gets more workout than the TV….

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