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I want to cut the cable TV cord! What's your setup like?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 11, 2015 5:15 PM PDT


I want to cut the cable TV cord! What's your setup like?

Here is a topic I don't remember seeing in the "community" forums. I'm currently a cable TV subscriber, and I'm tired of paying through the nose for the service. I want to know what is the best overall setup for cutting the cable cord (cable TV or satellite service) to save on monthly bills with the following conditions:

-- Easy to use (plug & play & accessing content)
-- Most reasonable entry costs (best box for overall performance plus reasonable costs).
-- Best overall performance in accessing content (especially free content).
-- Hookups for Internet access -- both Wi-Fi and wired.
-- Local antenna required -- range of 150 miles minimum.
-- Best reasonably priced monthly services to subscribe to.

I know many may already have this information, and many may even already be set up, however, this would give others, including myself, some very valuable information from the experiences of those who are already enjoying such setups. Please share so I can cut the cable cord once and for all. Thank you.

--Submitted by Jesse G.

Post was last edited on October 27, 2017 3:29 PM PDT

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been doing it for years
by renegade600 / September 11, 2015 5:45 PM PDT

my setup
two cheap 300 dollar walmart computers
wireless keyboard with touch pad for each computer
netflix and amazon prime video
linux operating system
chrome browser with adblock
vlc as default player

I use linux os since it does not require any antiviruses and some pages I access to find shows are not exactly safe. You never know what you might run across when doing searches and it would be very risky if running windows - even with antiviruses installed. I try to find channels is also free on roku for additional sources.

I use chrome because it is the only browser you can install and run both netflix and amazon prime without any addition browser modifications within linux.

no local antenna. Most local stations stream their news and weather so if that is the reason you want the antenna, then it is not really a factor any more. If you want antenna for 150 miles, forget it. it will have to be outside and high, possibly higher than the old analog tv antennas. Also you may have to turn the antenna to pick up some stations and every time you do, you will have to rescan the channels on your tv - like you did when you first bought it. and you know how long that takes.

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forgot to mention
by renegade600 / September 11, 2015 5:52 PM PDT

reason I use computers instead of roku, chromecast or other, with computers you can watch anything online. You are not limited to what is offered in the boxes. During slow parts of shows I can check my email, check this forum, read the news and such from the comfort of the recliner. Getting lazy in my old age.

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forgot to mention
by RockFox / September 19, 2015 3:02 AM PDT
In reply to: forgot to mention

With a Chromecast you can watch anything on your TV that Chrome can display on your computer.

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you are limited
by renegade600 / September 22, 2015 1:12 PM PDT
In reply to: forgot to mention

with chromecast, you are limited to what chromecast offers. That limitation does not exist with a computer

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Just keep in mind...
by JCitizen / September 22, 2015 12:51 PM PDT

that even in Linux, if you have any flash, java, or silverlight replacement app, extension, or plugin, you are just as vulnerable as Windows. However since Linux users don't operate as administrators, and update often, your threat profile is still way lower than the typical Windows user.

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Cutting the cable
by shozbot / September 11, 2015 6:13 PM PDT

Hey Jesse -
You listed a bunch nothing on: connecting to the TV, does the computers you bought from
Walmart come with HDMI connectors and does it output 1080p?
Why Two computers, I know you need one but why two?

Thanks for your Quick run down,

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I am not jesse
by renegade600 / September 11, 2015 7:42 PM PDT
In reply to: Cutting the cable

I am not Jesse. More than one computer, more than one tv Happy I am not that concerned about 1080p but yes I can get it. I am not going to give the specifications of the computers. As far as listed a bunch of nothing...well, the post was not directed to you but it does list a bunch of somethings if it fits your needs. The list shows for my needs and shows a setup that works for me with a bit of explaining as to why.

Post was last edited on September 18, 2015 12:04 PM PDT

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It's All About Content
by Bob_Meyer / September 11, 2015 7:21 PM PDT

What do you want to watch? See what services carry whatever it is. If it's only available with a cable or satellite subscription, the short answer is "Doh!" If not, then what services are only carried by boxes (Roku, Cromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV (new and improved)? If you have to buy all the boxes to cover what you want to watch, then the answer is "Arrgghh!". But wait! Some of those services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) charge a subscription fee. So what do the fees add up to? Time to run the numbers: (Number of boxes) x (cost per box) x (number of TVs) + (number of subscriptions) x (cost per subscription) and from there it's easy to calculate how much you'll be saving over your cable bill. Oh, wait. There's still all that free content that's streamed over the interwebz. So add (laptop) x (cost per laptop) x (number of TVs that don't already have dedicated laptops connected) + AC network upgrade cost + 1000 cables to connect everything to the TVs so you can watch all that free content. Like ESPN 8, "The Ocho."

It's just that simple.

But here's my story: I'm an old guy and my old lady is, well, an old lady. It's worth a lot to me (more than my cable bill, for sure) for her to be able to sit down, turn on TV, DVR and sound system with one remote, pick a channel and sit back and watch TV. I have a setup in my office with a Roku, a ChromeCast, an HDMI switch and a few other toys so I can explore the land of the cable cutters whenever I feel the need. But my setup is cable.

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you are right about costs
by renegade600 / September 11, 2015 7:52 PM PDT
In reply to: It's All About Content

Yep, you have to watch costs. If you start subscribing to this and that in addition to buying this and that when cutting the cable, there is a point where you are wasting your money just like you do with cable. I have netflix for obvious reasons. I have amazon prime for multiple reasons not just streaming. However, I have cut the cable years ago, the computers paid for themselves in 5 months. So for less than 20 bucks a month for netflix and amazon prime is nothing when my cable bill was about 145 a month, not counting internet.

True cutting cable is not for everyone - especially sports fans (at this time) but it works if you know what you are doing.

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yes, I currently have a month free HBO "reward"
by James Denison / September 13, 2015 9:51 AM PDT

I ran a search for the first week and didn't find a single thing in that time I wanted to watch! We get more enjoyment from the older shows on ME and RETROTV. Living in the past on TV in today's world is more satisfying. There's a few good new shows each year, but so much out there today is just garbage from excess violence, language, promotion of immoral behavior, etc.

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ME too
by dianemoro / September 19, 2015 5:27 AM PDT

I so agree with this post. So much stuff out there is not worth watching and I love the old channels. Turner Classic Movies, plus all the retros are my go to. I also agree with the poster who said it's worth a few bucks to be able to just sit down and point the remote, I guess I'm an old lady too and the last thing I want is my husband futzing around to try and find a show with computers. When I want to watch something special, we can borrow just about anything movie or series from the library for free.

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Old TV shows
by squeezon / January 15, 2016 2:28 PM PST

Try HULU free for 30days then pay $11.95 /mo (for no commercials) and you can watch all the old TV shows such as NYPD, Kojak, westerns etc. I added it and really enlarged my viewing coupled with Roku, Prime and Netflix.
The only stations you cannot get unless you have cable or satellite is the Encore channels
which have all the old westerns, movies etc--which would really complete the package
Are You Listening Encore??

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You can get sports!!!
by hultquist14 / September 18, 2015 6:04 PM PDT

As a sports fan who cut the cord years ago i agreed with your statement until this year. I tried out Sling.TV and it's great! For $20 a month you get ESPN, ESPN2. You also get a bunch of other stations - all via the internet - TNT, TBS, A&E, etc. For an extra $5 a month you can get the sports channel which adds the SEC channel, ESPN News and ESPNU, Universal Sports, a few other sports channels and a Goal Line channel - sort of Red Zone for college football.

I'm in football heaven again!

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roku has sports too
by renegade600 / September 18, 2015 6:08 PM PDT
In reply to: You can get sports!!!

was going through the roku channels recently and found you can now get football and baseball sports packages through their respected websites. for those who are into sports, this is a godsend, unless you have data caps Happy

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Good Job Rob (<--Your new nickname sir)
by avbip / September 22, 2015 8:02 AM PDT
In reply to: It's All About Content

I'm glad Old Gentle men still exist. Thank you! Our Old Ladies need to be treated with the respect they've earned and deserve through sticking with our cantankerous rumpuses.

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Used TiVo with Lifetime Subscription
by johnfixesstuff / September 11, 2015 8:23 PM PDT

I bought a used TiVo Series 3 with lifetime service (which stays with the hardware). I then upgraded to a 1T hard drive (read how to do that here). We love that DVR and record all the shows we want to watch and watch them when we want to. We have a Vizio smart TV with Amazon Prime built into it. To connect it all to the internet we have AT&T U-Verse and I re-negotiate that plan each year to keep a discount on our account (read about that here).

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Cut the cable hoisted the mast
by netsiu / September 11, 2015 8:26 PM PDT

I dumped the cable some 20 years ago when the company lowered the rate and gave us Disney and two other movie channels then sold to Cox three months later who then took away those three plus one other movie channel raised the rate and gave us six new channels saying that justified the rate increase. The six were four shopping channels and I don't remember what the other two were.
Rehooked the antenna and was just fine with our 7 local stations and now with the digital about 15.
To Jesse G antenna range is dependent on height of antenna and objects in the way (buildings, trees, hills, mountains and storms.). Digital antennas are subject to the same problems as satellite. Storm between you and broadcast antenna forget the signal. Antenna not secured to strong enough mast or not guy wired close enough to the antenna, antenna will shack in the wind and signal will be erratic. Also digital signal is direction sensitive. More so than just UHF.
By the way I live in the Calif. central valley, my antenna is only about 25 ft high and I can almost receive bay area stations.

Post was last edited on September 18, 2015 11:53 AM PDT

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Tivo works for me.
by emmert7 / September 11, 2015 9:35 PM PDT

First, you say "range of 150 miles minimum" for the antenna. You would be talking some serious hardware, and a tall (think permit required) mast, really an unrealistic setup for most.
I currently live right between the Miami and Palm Beach stations, so get a LOT of channels with a very reasonable (up to 50 miles or so) antenna. A Clearstream 2v ( the v means it has a VHF dipole for VHF stations, which are actually quite rare nowadays). I actually have a VHF, you might not need it. You can get them with mount and cable for around $100 (I bought mine on Amazon, since I already have Prime). https://www.antennasdirect.com/store/ClearStream-C2-VHF-Long-Range-Combo-Complete.html Another website http://antennaweb.org/ will tell you what you can receive in your location with reasonable ease. It tells me "Up to 68 channels from 28 over-the-air stations may be received at this location." Last scan I did I know I got 82 or 84 on both a Sony and a Samsung TV (and the Tivo).

Picture quality is better than cable (really, it is!) If you want the "cable" experience, the Tivo is ideal, even if not cheap. Just like a cable DVR, it downloads the program data so you can see what is playing, and integrates everything including search across multiple streaming services. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu and now Plex. All except Plex are integrated in the search, so it makes it easy to find things from one interface. My wife has enough problems with just that, but I also have a Roku (which isn't hard to use). Lots of different options with the Tivo, my Premier has 4 tuners and you can also install a cable card if you go back to cable. The spare room I use a Tivo mini, and a Moca network adapter (basically uses your TV coax cable as a network connection). This allows the Mini to stream any recording, or grab a tuner for live viewing.
The Tivo is expensive (I buy mine with lifetime service, but monthly service is available). Lifetime service is about $500 extra, but monthly is only $15. Since I tend to keep mine for a while, the liftetime service pays off after 3 years or so (33 months). I still record shows on an old Tivo Premiere that I expanded with a 4 terabyte hard drive, and can play them back on any of the other two Tivo devices. The program guide and the ability to just create "record every episode of this series" is what you are paying for, and it works very well.

The Roku simply gets more streaming, and at least right now, Tivo doesn't have SlingTV. FYI, Showtime can be added to Hulu, and HBO to SlingTV. Switching inputs however confuses my wife, so she sticks to the Tivo and has no problems finding something to watch. The remote with a keyboard works well for searches.

I know this exact setup also worked well for me in the Phoenix area, just with fewer channels. My wife would have nothing to do with the idea of a PC streaming on the TV, so this works VERY well for my needs.

Extra info.

I forgot to add, I travel a lot, and have the Tivo Mini on a Slingbox M1. http://www.slingbox.com/products/slingboxm1/features.aspx
Really works VERY well. I get between 5.5 and 3 meg streams and can watch anything on my tablet from any place that supports that high data stream. It will work at lower speeds, but at that data rate you really can't tell you aren't watching directly. I use a Kindle but know it works well with almost anything, including my phone. I do have a high internet bill from Comcast/Xfinity, but I use it to work from home a lot too. They just announced in my area a data cap policy, I'll have to see what I use now.

FYI, Teamviewer works really well too, for remote access of your machines. I've been in IT for 30+ years, and I highly recommend it for personal use.

I'm not a big sports fan, but I do know MLB streaming is quite reasonable, looks like $25/year?
http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/subscriptions/
It has an app for both Tivo and Roku, but I've never subscribed or used it.

Post was last edited on September 18, 2015 11:54 AM PDT

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FYI emmert7
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 18, 2015 11:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Tivo works for me.

I combined your additional information into your first post. So don't freak out if you are wondering where your secondary post went.

Cheers,
-Lee

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Tivo rules
by lawman_in_austin / September 21, 2015 8:46 AM PDT
In reply to: Tivo works for me.

For quite a few years I was using Windows Media Center. It has been dropped for Windows 10. And current versions no longer get guide info. I switched to TiVo Roamio ($300 when on sale with lifetime guide). better video, easier interfaces, OTA recording, netflix, huluplus, etc. Fantastic.

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Keeping costs low
by jdonalds / September 11, 2015 9:37 PM PDT

1st I must mention that I have found no cheap way to watch sports channels. We simply give up watching baseball and tennis which is hard on us but we've learned to live without.

We have not paid for satellite or cable in years. Our setup:

ROKU 3 which gives us access to our paid Netflix streaming, and Amazon Prime Streaming accounts. Roku also lets us tap into other things.

Simple.TV. I bought Simple.tv when it was a Kickstarter project. It has worked well for us, but it's not without hickups, and it only has a single tuner. We access our Simple.tv through Roku. For content we tap into our local broadcast TV stations. We can pick up about 20 channels on our rooftop antenna. We never actually watch live broadcast TV; we always capture on Simple.tv and watch it later.

PlayOn. We have had PlayOn for about 7 years. In the early days we relied heavily on PlayOn for streaming. But PlayOn added the newer PlayLater feature which lets us download selections to our computer, then watch them through Roku.

That's pretty much it. That combination gives us pretty much all we want to watch, except for sports that is.

Not counting our monthly internet bill, which we would pay for even if we could stream nothing, our only costs are the Netflix and Amazon Prime charges which total less than $20/mo.

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Free Sports, etc.
by muff707 / September 18, 2015 8:20 PM PDT
In reply to: Keeping costs low

Regarding sports-ESPN3 is free with DSL subscription, often ESPN2 content is also streamed on ESPN3. For ESPN basic, many websites are available for this ( you can contact me for these ). These websites also stream almost all Tennis Channel and Golf offerings for free via other sites. I have run into other sites that were shut-down being illegal; the ones used last 4 to 5 years have proven reliable with no problems.

I use mast antennae for locals. USB to HDMI for tv viewing and WiFi for secondary PC hard-wired to tv.

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Free Sports on ESPN
by LNB750_US / September 19, 2015 6:30 AM PDT
In reply to: Free Sports, etc.

ESPN used to give free streaming of its content to non subscribers. But now that they require you to log in. This has been the case for at least the last couple of years.. Looking into Sling TV and its 7 day trial. Any thoughts?

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TV subscription required for "watch ESPN"
by jjbrain / September 19, 2015 10:21 PM PDT
In reply to: Free Sports, etc.

In order to access ESPN3 I have to sign into my TV provider. Fortunately we actually have a Comcast account because we own a condo where the homeowners association buys basic cable service in bulk. A subscription to Sling tv will also get me access to ESPN and ESPN2. Sports programming is the most difficult to access without paying someone for that access. Almost anything I want to watch is accessible only with a paid subscription of some sort.

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Free Sports, etc.
by themofoman / September 21, 2015 12:54 PM PDT
In reply to: Free Sports, etc.

Could you please supply the free sports streaming websites?

Thanks

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Keep it link free.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 21, 2015 1:03 PM PDT
In reply to: Free Sports, etc.

The number of spams removed in the past few months over free sport feeds is in the thousands range. Many were pirate channels and as the forum host is CBS you can guess what happened next.

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How did you get PlayOn to work?
by mad_reaper / September 19, 2015 5:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Keeping costs low

I own PlayOn but gave up on it after a few years. It only seemed to work well (or, at least, tolerably) with a dedicated, always-on Windows PC. Also, it relied on DLNA which was pretty hit-or-miss and feels like a forgotten and ignored technology. The DLNA UI and compatibility built-into TVs was very much depended on the TV and was awkward to use. I used a PS3 for accessing PlayOn but the PS3 DLNA user interface was slow and not very good. It lacked features: you couldn't save your spot in the program, rewinding and fast forward didn't work half the time and I often had to rewatch a program from the beginning if the PlayOn stream failed. How did you get around these issues? Is PlayLater the cure?

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You can get your sports fix!
by hultquist14 / September 19, 2015 7:08 AM PDT
In reply to: Keeping costs low

For sports, try Sling.TV. You can stream it through your Roku and it gives you ESPN and ESPN2 plus about 12 other channels - A&E, AMC, TNT, TBS for $20 a month. For more sports you can add the sports package which add SEC channel, ESPN News, ESPNU, Universal Sports, ESPN Goal Line, and a few others. Well worth it especially if you like football and soccer (the real football!).

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working on it
by droslovinia / September 12, 2015 6:01 AM PDT

I'm really loving this conversation thread! I have an AppleTV3 and was streaming some shows from that, as well as playing my stored videos from a NAS drive on my network. It was pretty much okay, but i hated having to work with another computer to route the videos through iTunes before watching.

After a little research on the issue, I found an old (Core2 Duo) computer in the trash, installed Kodibuntu on it, and bought a $6 DVI to HDMI cable to connect it to the back of my TV. I really only needed enough HD space to set up the operating system, since my media is stored on the NAS. Kodi offers far, far more applications and Internet-available content than I can possibly watch in a lifetime, but I have Amazon Prime for other reasons and am looking at Netflix as I prepare to say goodbye to Dish. Basically, I'm just hanging around for the sports, but SlingTV has everything I would want to see, outside of Baseball, so if I get that, too, I'll have little to no reason to not drop the satellite.

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I need some expertise for my OTA situation
by steveblinder / October 29, 2015 3:07 PM PDT
In reply to: working on it

I hope it is ok that I posted this. I am cutting out the cable but my situation is kind of complex, I cannot get the two main channels I need in HD since the towers are to far away, even with a tower and very expensive antenna setup. I live in Northern South Dakota so I get 5 Digital channels and the two networks I need are still being broadcast in Analog. So I have a Tivo and it works with an OTA antenna however it wont pickup these two Analog channels I need thus I cannot record or pause the shows my wife and I like to watch. I have Playon and know I can watch it in full the next day I was just wondering if anybody knows of a DVR solution that would allow the recording of both the Digital and Analog Channels I receive? I have researched for hours and everything I find has a digital tuner in it and thus it does not "see" these two analog channels. Any help or direction would be greatly appreciate.

Thanks
Steve

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