Cutting the Cable TV Cord

September 16, 2015

Back in 2009, we published a couple of articles:

Record and Watch TV on Your Computer and Can I Cancel Cable TV?

Back then, there really wasn’t a way to watch live TV over the internet. You could watch some shows after the fact through services like Hulu. But not much live. The conclusions we drew were that there wasn’t really a way to replace cable TV using the internet.

Now that it’s been over six years, we thought we would update you on this.

This year there have been some major changes in this area. One big change is that Microsoft has eliminated Windows Media Center from Windows 10. Windows Media Center was built-in to Windows 7 and a paid option on Windows 8. Windows Media Center allowed you to watch and record TV on your computer. Going forward, anyone who wants to record and watch TV on their computer will have to use a 3rd party software package like Kodi or MediaPortal. The problem with these are that they are difficult to set up. That means doing this will pretty much be relegated to us geeks.

The biggest news, however, is Dish Network’s Sling TV service. This is a new service that lets you watch live cable TV channels on your computer, smart phone, tablet, Roku box, Amazon Fire TV stick, or Smart TV. The basic package is $20/month and includes 24 channels. There are additional channel packages you can add (for additional fees) like a kids package, sports package, movies packages, and so forth. For most people the best solution will be a Roku box or Amazon Fire TV. No computer required.

Sling TV is the first Internet only live cable TV service. And it’s a sign of things to come. There are a few drawbacks though. One drawback is that you can’t record anything. Some channels let you watch previous episodes on demand. Some channels allow you to pause, rewind and fast forward, but many don’t. Another drawback is that it doesn’t have local TV networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, WB, and so forth. For those, you would have to switch over to watching using an antenna. One other drawback is that you can only use it on one device at a time. If someone is watching Sling TV on the living room TV, another member of the family can’t watch Sling TV on their tablet or another TV.

Before Sling TV, there was no cable alternative for sports fans. Now, sports fans can watch sports live on Sling TV.

Cutting the cable cord can save you money. Our cable bill was about $200/month or $2400/year before we canceled it. In order to cut the cable cord, you may have to purchase a device and you may have some subscription fees, but they will be far lower than a cable bill.

What devices you need, what subscriptions you need to subscribe to, and how much money you will save all depend on what services you want. Even if you subscribe to several streaming services, you still save a lot of money. Here’s an example:

One Time Fee Monthly Fee   Annual Fee

Roku Box:                   $100
Sling TV                                               $20                  $240
Sling TV Sports                                   $ 5                  $   60
Netflix                                                   $ 9                  $ 108
Hulu                                                      $ 8                  $   96
Amazon Prime                                                             $   99

We used a Roku box in the example above because it will work with any TV. The other options only work on certain TVs.

In the above example you have one time startup costs of $100 and annual fees of $603. If your cable bill is $200/month then you would be saving about $1800/year.

You may not need or want all of the subscriptions above either. So you could save even more money.

There is one Caveat to all of this. You have to have a good and fairly fast internet service. Around these parts, that means you have to have Time Warner Roadrunner or AT&T U-verse. If you have DSL or Satellite internet, forget it.

You may be wondering how easy it is to operate a Roku box. It’s very easy. Not quite as easy as cable TV since all you do is change the channel, but not much harder. Your Roku box will put icons on the TV screen. You use the remote to select Netflix, chose a movie or TV Show, and watch it. Want to watch live TV? Use your remote to select the Sling TV icon, choose your channel, and start watching. Want to watch local TV channels? Now it gets a little harder. You have to change the source on your TV from the Roku box to the antenna on your TV. Most TV remotes have a source button you press. It’s pretty easy.

If all of this sounds complicated to set up, don’t worry. You have us! We can get a Roku box for you, set it up, help you set up all of your subscriptions, and show you how to use it.

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