Have you ever asked yourself “could I live without cable?” Has the question ever crossed your mind more than once? If so, the more you think about it, the more you might realize that you hardly watch TV at all. When you do, you may not really pay much attention to it. This, of course, doesn’t cover everyone as there are some channel surfers that watch every single episode of a handful of various series. Those people never leave the house…a slave to TV. But they aren’t asking themselves this question, so they need not apply.
Some simply keep TV for background noise, only watching an episode here and there, saving movies for blu-rays or streaming solutions. If TV is just a minimal means of entertainment for you, then this quick guide is perfect for you. It may be time to ditch these expensive options and go with something much more affordable (which I’ll get to in a moment).
Sure, you may only be spending $50/month for TV if you have the bottom-level package, but that’s $50 x 12 months (that’s $600 / year) x however many years you hold onto it. On top of that, what are you paying for? How many channels do you really watch? 5? 10? Compare it to how many channels you pay for. You are forced to pay for these other channels even though you never watch them. They don’t give you an option of ala cart channel ordering (unless you live in Canada). That means that the majority of what you pay for monthly, is something you don’t even have a use for. The rest of it is usually crazy (socially degrading) reality tv shows, court shows, Jerry Springer-like shows, and so forth. Nothing but garbage when you think about it. Kind of like the things that piggyback onto bills being passed by our politicians. What are you truly paying for?
Surprisingly it’s a lot easier to let go than some would think. It takes about a month for the shock of change to wear off, but when it does, you’ll find yourself watching even less TV.
Solution #1: OTA (“Over the air”) TV!
Setting up a good antenna can get you DOZENS of free channels. People seem to forget that there is a world of TV stations out there that do not require a cable/satellite subscriptions to watch. These channels are *free* and include most if not all of your local stations (news, PBS, CW, etc). You can find out what OTA HD channels are available in your area by visiting the FCC’s Reception Maps page (given, for some reason, it doesn’t always truly list “all” of them, but it at least gives you an idea of a few that you could be getting).
All you need to do is buy into a digital antenna. It would install outside where the cable runs into your home. Preferably at the roof level like you would a satellite, or up in the attic or crawl space of your roof if you have an HOA that doesn’t allow things installed to the outside of your home or roof.
We got our hands on a number of antennas to determine which ones brought in the most stations. Most of us here live in a metropolitan area that is surrounded by mountains. So it was a battle originally to find a good antenna to maximize the number of channels received. Station broadcasts come from all directions (mountains typically), as well as reflecting and bouncing off nearby buildings. We tried one after another after another until finally, the perfect options delivered exactly what we needed. These options didn’t just get 30 channels…nor 40…but around 50-72 channels of over the air (OTA) TV for free.
The following antennas are omnidirectional (they receive from all directions, thus you don’t have to point them into a certain one) and were easily installed on the back corner of a roof with the coax running into the attic where it plugged in and then fed our test house’s main coax feed. Now, ALL of the TVs in the house are getting every single OTA channel in town (and a few from out-of-town even). Including the few channels that 99% of the antennas won’t receive for some reason here. Now THAT was impressive. We followed it up by installing one at a few more of our homes and received the same results. Astonishing!
- Winegard MS-3005 – This has a wonderful range to it (up to 35 miles) when it comes to smaller cities/towns whose broadcast antennas aren’t that far away. It also looks like a small UFO that just landed on your roof. It used to fall in price (sale) all the time, but it hasn’t dropped in quite a while now. MSRP is around $65.
- Clearstream 1Max TV Antenna – This one is a more powerful 4K-ready antenna that has a reach of up to 40+ miles. Also good for small or even mid-sized towns and cities. At the time of this story, it was just $56, making it more powerful and more affordable than the Winegard option.
- ClearStream 2V TV Antenna – This is essentially a more impressive version of the 1Max, reaching up to 60+ miles in range. This antenna has a lot of power to it, is also 4K-ready, and typically runs around $80 on Amazon (up to $120 elsewhere). This one is great for larger cities like LA, LV, NY, CH, and more. They also have a slightly larger 4V model that can reach up to 70+ miles that runs a bit more.
Usually, we find it best to ignore the antenna specialty companies who give you the claim that you need to spend $300-500 on some major metal hardware to take up your roof with. They are obviously motivated by profit and the more they can sell you, the more they can take home for themselves. Their solutions are also (usually) much larger and awkward looking.
So now you have an antenna that cost you around the same price that you pay for a single month or two of basic cable. No more monthly payments, thus the savings start racking up instantly.
Solution #2: Streaming TV/Movies
Next, assuming you have an internet connection (which just about every household has now), get Netflix to take care of any other need you have for watching series, movies or simply having background noise when you are working on things. Your subscription comes with an endless amount of content, including Netflix original content.
Still into TV but as long as you have control of what you watch? There is also Hulu Plus, which has all kinds of series from various popular networks. Not only that but for a low monthly price (currently $12.99 at the time of this story) you can get Hulu Plus along with ESPN+ and Disney+ combined together. That latter one is a big smorgasbord for Disney, Marvel and Star Wars fans. You also get access to all sorts of various other movies, and of course with ESPN+, sports. I’d say this price destroys the options of paying for cable every month. You could, of course, opt for just Disney+ which at the moment is just $6.99/month. Both Hulu and Disney+ come with original content (like The Mandalorian Star Wars series).
There is also Amazon’s Prime Video, which is a popular one if you do a lot of shopping on Amazon as it comes with “Amazon Prime” and gives you free 2-day shipping on most of your orders on Amazon, as well as music streaming and more. So if you spend a lot of time on Amazon, this option is kind of a big deal.
There are also many other apps that deliver alternative content that you may crave, including sports, trailers, anime, documentaries, comedy and more.
So you have free local stations for sports and news, and Netflix and/or other apps for series, movies, trailers and more. Resulting in:
- Cost per month…$0-$13 on average for each streaming option you jump into.
- Thanks to these streaming solutions, most (if not all) commercials are eliminated.
- You aren’t forced to pay the inflated pricing of cable.
- You can take your streamed content anywhere in the world with you using a mobile device, most every smart device supports these services as well.
Most TV models you find now are smart and offer support for these streaming services as well as other useful apps. A lot of Blu-ray players and gaming consoles as well. You can also pick up a small box that delivers streaming media and apps to any TV with an RCA or HDMI input. Some of these include the Roku (which also comes with games like Angry Birds and a motion controller), Apple TV and Google Chromecast branded devices. So as long as Netflix keeps its prices where they are (or Hulu if that’s your flavor), this is an amazing escape from cable or satellite providers.
SO there you have it! A SUPER affordable alternative to TV! You could have an average of 40-72+ free channels (of course that number changes depending on where you live and what channels/stations are around you) plus access to a lifetime of movies and TV for a price that is a fraction of what cable or satellite costs (and no DVR needed). Plus, if you get the Roku (or one of the above-mentioned alternatives), you will be just swimming in entertainment for dollars a month.
Now if you REALLY wanted to go crazy, you could take the money you save and buy yourself a fancy new TV to watch all this great stuff on. That option is completely…optional, of course.
Update: On a side note, we have received reports that the Mohu Sky HDTV Antenna delivered comparable results as well. Although, we have not tested this personally. There is a lot of chatter about this antenna but it is also more expensive than some of the ones we tested. So the choice is up to you if you have heard the same. If you decide to put it to a head-to-head challenge against one of the ones we have discussed, we would be happy to hear from you and possibly even include your results here if we can.
Are you a manufacturer or vendor that would like us to test something out for review? Contact us and we can let you know where to send the product and we will try it out.