My Family Has Been Happily Cable-Free for over 2 Years. Here's How...12:46 AM
You've heard the phrase "cut the cord." You know that there are more affordable options than cable or satellite service for watching your favorite shows. Maybe, however, you just haven't done the math, or are worried about gaps in seeing the content that really matters to you.
I'm happy to report that, since 2012, we have been cable-free. We were subscribers of a cable service for almost 4 years, hooked into the low $30 rate that they offered for the first year of a new contract. As the programming costs neared the $70/month mark, however, and the programming became awful, we knew it was time to look at other options.
Here is a rundown of what works in our house to get us the programming we want at LESS than $30 a month. (Select links to shopping or service sites may be my own referral links, but opinions and experiences are 100% authentic):
For local stations:
When we want to watch news, local live sports, or anything else that we don't have to stream, we use an amplified antennae from Mohu, called Curve. Up until this past month, we were barely getting any local channels on our HDTV, even with one of those indoor antennae that is supposed to work with all the new digital channels. We hooked up the Curve unit so graciously provided to us to try from Mohu, and the difference was night and day. This unit comes with an amplifier that you plug into an outlet, giving it a much-needed boost. It claims to pick up frequencies for 50 miles, depending on interference. We were able to get football games from the station 60 miles away -- in English!! (This ia big deal, because with our old antennae, we could get the football game, but in Spanish for some reason.)
Mohu also has a more powerful option for people living the in the country -- like us -- or who need even more range. The Sky HDTV Outdoor/Attic Antennae is geared up for a 60 mile range, and you don't need to be a DIY guru to install it.
For streaming content:
We cannot commit to just one service provider for streaming content, mostly because they are always changing their licensing agreements. One provider may offer new episodes of our shows, but another may have all the archived content to a show we haven't ever seen. We split our watching time between Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and Netflix streaming, currently.
Hulu Plus - This service runs $7.99 a month for the basic version, which gives you access to new shows the next day (after midnight) and commercial-free movie viewing. We also really like watching the movie trailers on this service, as it helps us to know what new films are coming out that we'd like to see. We actually took the plunge and subscribe to the $11.99 a month plan, which gives us commercial-free viewing for most shows. This is important to us as a family with young children in the home, because many of the prime time shows have commercials which are NOT kid-friendly. It also saves us about an hour to an hour and a half a week with commercials we don't have to watch!
Amazon Prime - This service is $99 a year, but we use it so much for the free shipping, Music library, photo storage, and Kindle lending library features, that we don't really count it as solely an entertainment service cost. We can view thousands of TV shows and movies, which we mostly use to binge watch older seasons of shows (currently, Suits). For new release movies, we will pony up the $2.99 - $4.99 cost to view it outside of the free viewing plan. This is a nice treat for the kids one to two times a month -- or for date night!
(For the occasional new show that is not being streamed anywhere, we may subscribe to the entire season at a discount through Amazon, as well.)
Netflix - Because there are shows that only Netflix offers (like many of the reality TV cooking shows), we also subscribe to this service. At $7.99 a month, we get quite a bit of the kids' favorite shows, as well, including Cartoon Network favorites, their Star Wars: Clone Wars, and our family-favorite episodes of MacGyver. (Plans can cost more if you want HD viewing, and the ability to watch on more than one screen at a time.)
All of these services are viewed on our mobile devices, or on our family TV with either our Roku 3 (which also offers a wide variety of other channels, including YouTube, PBS Kids, and several faith-based channels) or on the other TV's in our home with the ChromeCast.
SlingTV - Owned and operated by a cable provider, SlingTV is as close to cable as you can get. A Basic subscription starts at $20 a month, with add on packages available for $5 each. This includes channels such as Food Network, HGTV, ESPN, Disney Channel, History Channel, and many more of the top stations. We usually only subscribe to this during the college football season, and also pick up the Kids add-on package (which includes Disney XD and Boomerang, among others) for an additional charge. Since we really don't watch much of "live" TV, and many stations these days just replay the same episodes over and over, this is only a good buy for us during football season.
(Note: Sling TV has become increasingly popular, causing some streaming "congestion" when trying to watch sports channels at peak times -- such as during Bowl Games. We have found that you can get the ESPN app to watch on your phone or Roku device and log in using your Sling TV password. The viewing experience is much better, and you can watch the same commercials as those watching the game, as opposed to some of the lame SlingTV ads that they show from their app.)
Before the Sling TV offering, we had limited options for watching our beloved Huskers play in Big 10 Football. We do catch live games, when aired locally, with our Mohu Curve. If it happens to not be airing on the ESPN channels (and instead hits the Big10 network), we listen to the rest on the radio. Once in awhile, we find it worth it to hit the local restaurant that shows the game or even hit The Amazing Pizza Machine, which has a big viewing room with all the games playing!
Other services we will use when there is a promotion (Walmart gave out $5 movie credits for VUDU in their Marketside pizzas awhile back), include:
MGo (Watch your first movie for $1 and earn rewards for every purchase made.)
VidAngel - We are also BIG fans of the new VidAngel service, which lets you buy digital copies of movies for $20, then sell them back for $18-19 dollars (depending on whether you want HD or SD). You can use their included filters to remove objectionable content, such as swear words, nudity, or violence, or you can just choose to remove the ending credits, if you want to keep the movie in tact and just get the good deal. They currently stream almost all new releases, as well as as some oldies. (They also have all of the Star Wars movies to stream for a low price of $1 for each title after buy back!)
In total, with our family getting all their favorite shows, 3 new release movies a month, and 1-2 new seasons of shows that aren't offered for free, we get almost all of our entertainment for a cost of less than $30 a month. This is without a contract, excessive DVR rental fees, and a pretty good offering of parental controls I would need to make sure my kids are watching decent content. (Note: the best parental controls are actual parents, but many of the services I mentioned do have "Kids" dashboards to keep them on safe content for when I'm not in the room.) We also see far more new release movies on this budget than we ever did with cable.
Are you looking to cut the cord? What's stopping you?