How to leave Cable

When people come over to my house, and I tell them I have left cable, they always want to know the details. All lot of times it is complicated, and honestly it never seems like I do the subject justice. To clear things up and make it simple, I have created Flip the Channel to answer those questions I feel like I never get to answer.

If you haven’t heard, people are leaving cable television in record numbers. The Wall Street Journal has reported that over 800,000 subscribers have left Time Warner in 2013 alone. That’s a lot of views even for a monstrous company like Time Warner. In response the company is said to be raising its rates. Great reward for staying, right? Especially after most costumers of cable TV already feel abused.
If you are interested in getting off cable television, and you want something different there are a few things you should know first. I, and my family, have moved away from cable television. We view antenna or set-top boxes, and I never want to go back.


Will it be cheaper?

It will be cheaper to leave cable, but honestly not by a lot. The first problem you will run into is high speed internet. Cable TV companies not only control and monopolize the markets of television, they do the same with high speed internet. Cable companies supply (at least in my area) about 25 megabytes of speed via their cable lines. When I called around to try to leave cable all together I found that the next highest speed was about 6 megabytes. This means if you have a computer, online gaming system, set top box, maybe an ipad running, you will be slow. I mean you will be very slow. If you want to stream video, and online game, and surf the web (again in my area) the only show in town is cable.

Worse than having to stay with a cable company even after you leave their TV service is the fact that they are now charging more money for bandwidth. You also get a discount for having cable TV, so in all I save maybe $40 per month by canceling my cable television. My bill is around $70. I should say I’m saying $40 over the basic cable plan, but if you compare it to having HBO and other premium channels, then the saves are much higher. I’m about $180 off my highest cable bill. Cable has however increased the high speed internet price exponential to stop people from leaving.

So, how do you leave cable?

Step 1 About using today antennas

The first thing you will want to get is an antenna. No, you will not need a huge one for the side of your house, like the old days. If you have one of those still, by all means use it. If you do not, go with one from Wal-Mart or Target. They do very well for beginners. I will have some reviews on these very soon, but for right now buy one that is not too expensive AND is powered (this means it plugs in). In my experience the ones that have their own power source get better reception. I don’t use my antenna a lot, but you’ll want one. If you have an old set, hook them up and see what happens.

First you should know that today’s TV via antenna has higher definition than you will get by buying HD from cable companies. The picture quality is very high. Unlike the old days, if you have problems with reception, the picture just simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t get fuzzy. You can’t tune it, it just freezes black screen. Lastly, you will get a LOT of channels. The last time I hooked up an antenna back in the 1990s I think I picked up 3 channels and a fuzzy ghost channel. Now I get 32 channels! Many of these stations are repeats, but I get 32 channels.

Step 2 Wireless

Make sure that you have a wireless router. If you have a very old one, you might want to invest in a new one especially if you plan on doing more than just watching one set-top box at a time.

Step 3: Set top box

If you have a Ps3 or an Xbox or a Wii, yes these devices will play streaming media. You will NOT however get the full experience with these devices. There are many set-top boxes to choose from (we will review all of them in the future) but the one I highly recommend is the Roku 3. First let me say there are other cheaper boxes out there. Roku 3 is pretty moderately priced at $79-$100. I have bought 4 or 5 cheaper boxes, but I will say if you plan to make this the way you watch television, those boxes take away from the experience. They are slow and frustrating, have internet connectivity issues, and they generally don’t have the content you want. Roku 3 is the best out there, and you are only spending another 30 or so dollars.

Step 4: Channels

You can take a look at our in-depth reviews of premium streaming channels. I recommend buying Amazon Prime ($99 per year), Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) and Netflix ($8.99 per month). These will be your go to channels. Trust me. Luckily each of these channels offers a free trial period. So I would sign up and try them. You can also try Redbox, but I’m not a big fan. Check out our listing of channel reviews here.

Step 5: Get into the grove

Once you have your wireless, your Roku and your antenna you want to find a groove to watching TV again. Right now you don’t realize how non-active of a television watcher you are. Most of the time you watch what television companies tell you to watch. I know this doesn’t sound right, but it is true. Once you have everything set up, you’ll sit and look at a blank TV thinking, “Now what?” So I highly recommend setting up a television schedule. Pick your channels (Roku has 100s). Pick a couple shows from Netflix, a couple from Hulu, maybe some from Amazon. Set up the amount of hours per day you want to watch television, and then come up with a rotation of channels. Mine looks like this right now.

6pm News from Roku
6:30 Dexter
7:30 Downton Abbey
9:30 Catch up (Modern Family, Grimm, Parenthood)
10:30 More catch up
11:30 The Late Show on Antenna

This schedule keeps me sane. If I have it, and follow it, I enjoy TV. But I can always change the schedule to whatever I want. As important as the schedule is just a list of shows you are currently interested in (trust me, do this or you will be watching reruns of something you’ve already seen).
My current list:

Show Channel Status
Alpha House Amazon Prime Original (Waiting for new season)
Dexter Netflix Binging
Arrested Development Netflix Waiting for a new season
House of Cards Netflix Watching
Justified Amazon Prime Waiting for New Season
Parenthood Hulu Weekly
The Middle Hulu Weekly
Being Human Netflix Waiting for new season
Grimm Hulu Weekly
Falling Skies Amazon Prime Waiting for New Season
Downton Abbey PBS on Roku Waiting for New Season
Sherlock PBS on Roku Waiting for New Season
West Wing Netflix or Amazon Occasional Watching
Good Eats Amazon Occasional
House Hunters Amazon Occasional
The Late Show Hulu/Antenna Occasional
Orange is the New Black Netflix Binging
Mad Men Netflix (In Cue)
Sons of Anarchy Netflix (In Cue)
Walking Dead Netflix (In Cue)

Ok, so you get the idea. A lot of these shows my wife and I watch together. We also have a movie night, but you get the idea. Keep a running list of shows that you want to try, or that you have heard of, and it will keep you from feeling like you have nothing to watch. I have found that since I left cable, I have 10 times as much to watch. Before I watched House and one other show I can’t even remember. Now I have the list above plus movies.

Step 5.1 Binging?

Yes, you will find that running a marathon of your favorite shows might be the most fun you can possibly have! For instance Grimm, Downton Abbey and Justified, Dexter are all on my list above, but I binged these shows. I watched every episode in a row until I was caught up. It was relaxing and enjoyable, and I have Walking Dead, Mad Men, and Sons of Anarchy (all high quality shows) just waiting for me to watch.

Step 6 Movies

Develop a list of movies that you want to see. Make a list or put them in your cue. At first there will be a ton of movies you want to watch. The streaming channels honestly do not do a great job of adding new movies, but you certainly want to have a movie night and if you love movies you will be happy to know that Roku is not short on free indie films and B horror movies. Some people loves these. Also, Redbox gives you 4 movies per month from the box with a subscription, and I use Hulu or Fandango to find movie trailers.

Step 7 Sports!

The first question people ask about my Roku is, “Is it cheaper.” The second question almost every guy asks me is, “What about Sports.” You CAN watch sports on Roku. You can watch a lot of sports on Roku. They have ESPN on demand. They have the network that has “HD Quality broadcasts of every out-of-market game live or on demand on your Roku system. Choose Home or Away feeds, pause and rewind live game action with DVR capabilities.” They have a lot of sports channels. I am a football fan, but I just use my antenna. It’s higher quality than watching it with HD on cable. You can check out some Roku sports channels here. SOME of these channels DO cost extra money, so do your research first.

Step 8 Enjoy

What’s the point of leaving cable? Most people want to leave because they feel they pay too much. It’s probably true. Some people want to leave because they feel like they have been mistreated. This is probably true too. Both of these feelings played a role in me leaving cable, but ultimately it is about enjoying television. I didn’t know it when I left, but I hated TV. I hated it! I was frustrated with commercials, pvrs being filled, no new movies, not being able to catch up on shows that I had missed, frustrated that I was paying for 200 channels and reality TV was the only thing on. I was frustrated that for 6 hours a night this box babbled on in the background mostly playing HGTV shows that I vaguely watched or like. I was frustrated that in the end the shows I did watch were poorly written and repetitive. I didn’t have a list of shows on every channel, so I had no idea how to find new shows. Overall I was overwhelmed and sad that even if I paid top dollar (I was paying 250 per month with all the premium channels) I could not find shows that I loved. My last month with cable I watched mostly movies on HBO that I had already seen. My entertainment life when it came to television, was dismal. It was made that way by bad programing, and poor quality.

Leaving cable changed all that. I ENJOY watching television or I do not watch it. I save a little money, and it’s fun. That’s more than I’ve gotten from my television since I was a small child.