Cable TV Is So Over: A Quick Guide to Cutting the Cord

So, you hate paying $100 or more a month for cable, especially since the price will keep going up year after year. You want out from under. Technology to the rescue!

I’ve been living cable-free for six months now, and loving it. Here’s a quick guide for all of you who hate cable, broken down by requirement.

What You’ll Need, Bare Minimum:

  • A Roku 2 XD ($80)
  • An over-the-air TV antenna ($30)
  • Subscriptions to Netflix Streaming and Hulu ($8 each a month)
  • An account with Crackle (free)
  • An Amazon Instant Video account

Honestly, for most people, this will be absolutely everything they need. Most people don’t want to cut the cable because of shows like “American Idol” or “House,” but you can just catch these on air. Ditto a lot of major sporting events. This has the added benefit of you getting for free what you previously had to pay for. Yes, cable pays to carry the broadcast networks, and passes the cost on to you.

For most broadcast TV and basic cable, Hulu, Netflix, and Crackle, which is basically Sony’s reply to Hulu, will fill the gap. You won’t see it day of broadcast, but that’s not that big a deal for most people. Anything else you may be missing you can usually find on Amazon Instant Video for two bucks an episode; reality TV junkies can get a fix for ten bucks a season, usually. Don’t get Amazon Prime just for the videos — there’s a lot of overlap between Hulu and Netflix, and currently the service isn’t worth the $80 a year Amazon wants (although you do get free shipping).

It’s not a perfect one-to-one match. HBO will only let you rent episodes of their shows, and usually for prices that are inflated: a buck thirty-nine to rent an episode is pretty crappy. Food Network is completely MIA, for no explicable reason. But 99% of what you want to watch is on one of the four services.

But what if you’re a hardcore sports junkie? Well, you can still cut the cord, but it’ll hurt your wallet. The Roku will cover baseball and hockey fans. Deluxe is $120 a year, and NHL GameCenter Live is $170 a year. Football fanatics should buy a PS3 used ($200) and DirectTV’s Sunday Ticket ($340). College football and basketball fans, as well as NBA fans, should first check to make sure their ISP supports ESPN3, and if it does, get an XBox360 used ($200) and an XBox Gold subscription ($60 a year).

In short, there’s no reason to pay through the nose to a cable company. Unless you’re a sports fan, but even then, you should be able to keep your bills down.