Cutting the Cord


Cutting the Cord

Cable and Satellite TV service is becoming increasingly expensive and increasingly useless. Who wants to pay for 9000 channels when you only watch 3!? I recently moved from my parents’ house to a condo where I was faced with a decision – pay for cable service, or make due without? Here are my tips for cutting for the cord.

Compile a list of the TV programs that you actually watch

Making the decision to cut the cord requires that you actually have the information to make a qualified decision. Compile a list of the TV programs you list, ideally with rankings such as “Must Have”, “No Preference”, and “Mindless Drivel.” Carefully consider what is actually a “must have.” My list has football and HBO’s Game of Thrones as a must have, quite a few HGTV shows on the no preference list, and lots of shows as mindless drivel.

Research alternatives

Armed with your list, research your shows and determine if they are available through alternatives such as over-the-air (OTA), Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. I found that the football games that I watched were all available either OTA with an HD antenna which can receive ABC, CBS, and FOX or via internet streaming with ESPN. While ESPN technically requires an active cable subscription, I use the account linked to my parents’ address. This also works for HBO GO – HBO is reportedly working on an internet only subscription.

Over-the-air Channels

Use a service like or to determine the channels and their reception strength available in your area. Buy an antenna that offers the appropriate gain – color codes are used to describe the antenna types – and tune in! Fun fact: OTA HDTV is higher quality than cable TV so your shows will be crystal clear.

Mohu Leaf Ultimate

Mohu Leaf Ultimate

The Mohu Leaf, a flexible and unobtrusive HD antenna, is often recommended – I recommend purchasing the original leaf, rather than the “ultimate” (Leaf 50) version which includes an amplifier (the only difference). I found the amplifier doesn’t help, and infact is a detriment to reception.

On-line / Internet Streaming

Many services offer paid or even free streaming of your favorite television programs. I have listed a small sample below:

  • Netflix
    • Without a doubt, Netflix is the leader in online on-demand streaming. A subscription costs a modest $7.99/month and covers a whole household. Because Netflix is based on DVDs, TV shows are typically available only by season, and only after the season is available as a boxed set. Netflix also offers a healthy selection of movies and original content such as House of Cards and Lilyhammer.
  • Amazon Prime
    • Amazon is in competition with Netflix and has a substantial content overlap. One difference is that Amazon offers both paid and free content, so if you absolutely must watch the latest and greatest, Amazon has you covered for a price. Amazon also offers its own original content, like Betas, (released by episode rather than season) and Prime benefits extend far beyond streaming video. In fact, the single best reason to subscribe to Prime is the “free” two day shipping available for most items offered by Amazon; it pays for itself if you shop online! I prefer Netflix’s interface to Amazon’s and typically use Prime for video only if something isn’t available on Netflix. Get $5 off your membership with my link!
  • Hulu Plus
    • Hulu Plus is a subscription based service primarily focused on TV shows. New episodes are offered a day after airing and the cost is a $7.99/month. I do not subscribe to Hulu.
  • HBO GO
    • HBO GO is currently not available as a stand alone service, meaning you need an active cable subscription with the HBO package to access it. However, HBO plans to offer GO as a stand alone service as early as next year (2015) and GO grants you access to all the HBO shows you know and love such The Wire and Game of Thrones. New episodes are available at the same time they air. GO also includes a full compliment of movies available for streaming.
  • WatchESPN
    • Like HBO GO, WatchESPN is available to current cable subscribers. WatchESPN is useful for catching live sporting events such as the World Cup and the NFL’s Monday Night Football. Pro-tip: use ad-block plus to eliminate ads!
  • NBC Sports
    • NBC offers a completely free live streaming service for their broadcast sporting events. I generally use it to watch football on my computer while I work. Because NBC is an OTA channel, there is little reason to stream at home other than convenience. Ad-block plus also works with NBC Sports.

Make your decision

With you research complete, decide if you will be happy without cable service. If most of your favorite shows are available OTA or via streaming, I urge you to cut the cord – you will likely forget about the missing shows after a few weeks and find plenty of new ones as replacements. Furthermore, streaming options are generally ad free – a huge bonus. I find most 30 minute shows made for TV are 22 minutes when streamed without ads! Take the plunge, reduce your monthly bill, and free up your time.