Tired of high monthly cable bills and looking to decrease my spending, I started to look into cutting the cord late last year. Within a month, I called AT&T to cancel my cable service. Ditching cable has been a great decision and I, mostly, don’t regret it. This is how I cut the cord using mostly Apple products.
Any plan to ditch cable should begin with a trip to Antenna Web. After plugging in your location information, Antenna Web will identify the TV signals you have the potential to pickup with an antenna. If you are in an area where an antenna will not pick up any/few stations, the decision to cut the cord is much more difficult. For me, I live in an urban area within range of all the local TV station signals. I only tried one antenna in my cable free setup and have been happy with that choice.
My journey to cable freedom began with purchasing the Mohu Leaf antenna. Since I was unsure if it would work, I bought the antenna while I still had my cable subscription. I wanted to be sure I had a workable solution before cutting the cord.
The Mohu Leaf looks like a laminated sheet of paper with a cord hanging out one side. When you first open the box, you can’t help but wonder if this antenna is actually going to pick up broadcast signals. I’m here to tell you it will. After attaching the antenna to my TV and positioning it, I received over 30 channels including all my local stations. I watched a beautiful HD picture on my TV for a few minutes and turned off my TV thinking my work was done. I was partially correct.
My wife likes to watch the news in the morning before she goes to work. When I came home the day after installing the antenna, she said the picture kept breaking up so she switched back to cable. I turned on the TV and watched it for a few minutes. Sure enough, the picture was clear for some period of time, then it began to pixelate and sometimes drop completely. My plan to ditch cable hit the first snag only a day after it began.
As it turned out, my iPhone helped me solve this issue. One piece of information Antenna Web gives you is the location of the station signal relative to your home, in the form of degrees. I took out my iPhone and opened the compass app. I found nearly every station was being transmitted from a location facing the rear of my home, not the front where the antenna was located. After testing the antenna with my Macbook Pro (more on that later), I was able to receive crystal clear HD signals that did not drop out. After I found a location suitable to hang the antenna in the rear of my home and ran the coaxial cable from the antenna to my TV, my plan to ditch cable really began to take shape.
Elgato makes great hardware and software and I use the EyeTV Hybrid as a replacement for my cable DVR. I purchased a second Mohu Leaf antenna and hung it on my office window facing my backyard. I’m able to pick up all the same channels as my living room TV and I use the EyeTV software to record them on my Mac. After encoding them into an iTunes compatible format, I’m able to play them back on a variety of Apple devices.
In all honesty, the Apple TV is probably the single most important piece in our cable free setup. Between my wife and I, we use the Apple TV at least a few hours per day. We subscribe to Netflix to get additional content like TV shows and movies. We use it to stream audio and video content from iTunes on my Mac. We also subscribe to iTunes Match so my wife can play music if my laptop is turned off. With the MLB.TV application on the Apple TV, I’m able to watch my Atlanta Braves battle for the NL East crown.
I use my iOS devices with AirPlay to stream a lot of additional content to the Apple TV connected to our living room TV. In addition to streaming local content from your iPad to the Apple TV, the App Store has a lot of apps that provide additional content to stream or watch on the iPad itself. Apps like ABC Player, PBS, VEVO HD, TED, Vimeo, YouTube, and NPR Music provide a lot of quality content for free. I’m also able to watch the Braves play on the MLB At Bat app on my iPad.
Due to the placement of my antenna, I was able to split the signal and run it to both the living room TV and the TV in my home bar. If your setup does not allow you to split the signal, you can replace additional cable boxes with another antenna or a set-top box like the Apple TV, Roku, or other device. You can also use the Apple Digital AV Adapter to hook up your iPad or select other iOS devices to most any TV in your home.
There are only a few things I have not been able to replace in my cable free setup. The first and most missed are cooking shows. My Saturday mornings used to be filled with a relaxing breakfast and a few cooking shows on either Food Network or the Cooking Channel. I haven’t found an alternative method to obtain cooking shows. To a lesser extent I also haven’t replaced home improvement type shows (HGTV or DIY Network), though they were not something I watched all the time. I stopped frequently watching ESPN several years ago so I don’t really miss that in my cable free setup.
My wife and I have been pretty happy with our cable free setup. Between the antenna, the Apple TV (Netflix), and iTunes, we can get the vast majority of content we received via cable for a much lower cost. Our cable plus internet bill was $135. Our internet only bill is now $45. The savings in our monthly cable bill allowed us to spend a little extra money to purchase seasons 1-3 of Chuck on DVD. We started our re-watch of the series in February.
Besides the cost, one of the reasons behind ditching cable was to take back some of the leisure time in our lives. I’ve found myself watching less TV and I’ve replaced that viewing time with other hobbies like reading, woodworking, learning to code, and more. I’ve also been playing a number of iPad games and catching up on my Instapaper queue. If you can find a hobby you enjoy, you’ll miss cable even less.
So that’s how I cut the cord. Have you cut the cord? Share your success story, or lack there of, in the comments below. I’d like to hear what products or services you are using in your cable free setup!