Cutting the Cord: Alternatives to Cable TV

The Incentive to “Cut the Cord” (to Cable TV)

The intellectual and entertainment value of satellite or cable TV is debatable. There is, no doubt, loads of crap television out there. And if you sit there, channel flipping, and let yourself get sucked in, your time, mind, and soul can atrophy. There is also some smart, informative, and really entertaining purpose-driven television out there. And, if you’re selective and smart about how you watch it – DVR & skip commercials – it can be a good time investment, similar to reading a good book or learning something new and constructive online.

But, if you’re trying to debate the value of cable TV against the cost (even with the smartest programming schedule), you’re fighting a losing battle.

The lifetime cost of cable TV can easily exceed $1 million had it been invested instead (sadly, more than most Americans will ever save for retirement). For those looking to achieve spectacular financial results or simply keep your head above water, cable TV is simply not in the cords, er.. cards.

cutting the cord

Cutting the Cord: You’re Not Alone

About 47% of American households still pay for cable and satellite TV. That number has been sinking fast, and shows no signs of slowing down. If you’ve thought about cutting the cord, you’re definitely not alone.

Alternatives to Cable TV

It should first be said, that in today’s fast paced world, consuming even the best television entertainment should be low on your priority list. Your time would be much better spent doing any combination of the following cable TV alternatives:

  • going for a bike ride
  • walking your dog or just yourself
  • getting some other form of exercise
  • cooking (remember?)
  • reading a book
  • learning a new hobby
  • starting a business for side income
  • hanging out with family, friends, and neighbors
  • meditating
  • writing
  • traveling
  • etc., etc., etc…..

For some perspective, the entire history of the human race never witnessed television until about 75 years ago (cable, really only for the last half of that), and they somehow survived the lack of reality shows and commercials.

But you don’t want to miss out on television that is better than all of life’s true pleasures, you say?

If you are patient, just about every television show worth watching these days, comes out in streaming format or on DVD. You could simply get a library card (for free), and wait. Or you could stream your favorites online, on-demand. Most of my favorite shows stream full episodes online for free:

If your favorite shows aren’t streamed online for free, technology has also presented some very legit alternatives to cable TV, at much lower prices.alternatives to cable tv

  • A Streaming Device: all kinds of free content is available through apps and a streaming device can replace a TV Box/DVR from your ISP (Xfinity is charging $10/month per device and you can cut that to $0). I prefer the Roku Ultra and personally use this as my streaming device as it has everything, including USB digital file compatibility, compatibility with just about every app, 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, & more. No monthly fees. Amazon Fire TV stick and Google Chromecast are good alternatives.
  • Digital antenna: Pick up 4K & 1080p HD digital TV with a good ole fashion antenna to get CBS, FOX, ABC, NBC, PBS, and other channels that broadcast in your area. No monthly fees.
  • Tablo OTA DVR: record OTA TV (when paired with digital antenna above) with no subscription cost.

There are other options out there. If you want over-the-air and DVR capabilities, you can use all kinds of wacky TV tuner cards on your computer and Windows media center setups, etc. And there are constantly new competitors hitting the market, as the content wars wage on.

Without cable TV, you’re probably going to lean in to streaming, as most households have. I’ve written about how to cut your video streaming costs to close to $0 per month. I’d suggest rotating (vs keeping them continuously). Content gets stale anyways – and signing up new often gets you discounts. These links include free/discounted service to various streaming services:

  • Amazon Prime Video (comes free with Amazon Prime, $8.99/month if you don’t have a Prime subscription) – 30-day free trial
  • Hulu (30-day free trial, then $7.99/month w/ads)
  • YouTube TV (usually runs 1 week free trial. Get $50 off YouTube TV with this referral link plus $22 off each of your first 3 months)
  • Paramount+ (1 week free trial, then $5.99 for “Essential” or $11.99 with Showtime per month)
  • PBS Passport ($5/month donation)

What Alternatives to Cable TV do you Use?

The most informative part of this post is going to come from all of you, in your infinite cleverness:

  • Do you still pay for cable TV? Why? and how much?
  • If you’ve cut the cord, when did you do it? And what’s life been like since?
  • What cable TV alternatives do you use?
  • How have you been able to replace sports content?

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