4 Alternatives to Cable TV

The price of cable has gotten out of control, but we still want our TV! There are companies who understand, and who want a piece of the cable pie. So, they’ve created equipment and services that help you skirt the cable monoliths and pay much less.
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Alternatives to cable TV
Use Your Computer!
Connect your PC to your television set by using a DVI to HDMI cable so that you can stream any video on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.

The economy is ... shall we say, tight? Most people are looking to cut costs in any way they can, and the cable bill is often one of the first on the chopping block. Let’s face it―you really don't need cable, but when you can’t really justify the expense of concerts, movies, and other night outs, cutting off your only form of entertainment seems downright cruel. But it doesn’t have to. There are alternative ways to get your TV fix without paying $200/month, and none of them require theft or illegal downloads.

Digital Antenna

If you watch a lot of network television, get a digital antenna. Since the law now requires networks to broadcast digitally, the small upfront cost of a digital antenna means you can get network shows for free. This means ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and more, especially if you’re close to a major city. This one step gets you news, weather, children’s shows, local sports, and daytime and prime time programming. However, many people can do without this stuff. If your tastes don’t run along the mainstream, still there are ways for you to access your shows.

Set-top Media Gateway

A set-top media gateway is a small box that you plug into your TV that gives you access to alternative media sources, like Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu. They’re not exactly cheap, but they run about $100 for a good one; however, it’s a one-time expense and still less than your monthly cable bill. Roku, WD, and Apple TV are popular brand names, and reviews about the various features (for each) are plentiful online. Some brands even include bonus features, like Angry Birds and trivia games for family gaming, and some also offer a variety of "channels" that include movies sectioned by genre or area of interest, plus most of the channels are free. Before you buy one, check out your TV’s full capabilities―many newer TVs come with things like Netflix access built right in.

Live Streaming

Live streaming is also a viable option for getting sports, local news, and even new episodes of current TV shows. Some live streaming is free, usually news and local sports, but also certain TV shows that are trying to build hype. Some live streaming requires a subscription―generally sports channels and popular TV shows. These subscriptions vary in price, but they are guaranteed to be a fraction of your cable bill, and you only pay for the programming you want. You can watch live streaming programs on your TV set by plugging your computer to it via a HDMI cable or a set-top gateway. If you have a newer TV, you may be able to connect directly to that.

Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are the services you will access to get your movies and TV shows. Netflix and Amazon Prime offer an enormous selection of movies and full series of TV shows from throughout the ages. Netflix even has original programming that is quite a hit (House of Cards raked in bundles of Emmy nominations). Amazon Prime offers perks outside of TV as well―free 2-day shipping on Amazon purchases and a lending library for Kindle. Hulu is mostly television series, and the Hulu Plus upgrade includes new episodes of current TV shows. All these services cost money, but still a tiny fraction of your cable bill. For all three, it will cost you about $24/month, and Amazon Prime even offers reduced rates for students.

Few More Options

Services to Use
  • Aereo
  • Amazon Instant Video
  • CBS
  • CNN
  • iTunes
  • C-SPAN
  • YouTube
  • YouNow
  • Internet TV
  • Vimeo
  • Frequency
Devices to Bet On
  • Slingbox 500/350
  • Boxee TV
  • Chromecast
  • Google TV
  • Roku
So, it’s entirely possible to painlessly cancel your cable and still remain the TV junkie that you are (admit it). Even if you’re skeptical, give it a shot―worst-case scenario, you could always reinstate your cable subscription if you need to, although you just might get used to having a couple of hundred extra dollars a month.
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Published: October 17, 2013
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