How We Cut Cable Without Cutting Our Happiness

For the past year, I’d been contemplating cutting cable. DirecTV is expensive, even after downgrading to the lowest package and only having it on one TV. That alone is more than $50 a month. I was also frustrated that we only watched a handful of channels and many of those repeated the same shows. The boys spent a lot of time watching Netflix even when cable was available.

Earlier this year, I got the Roku HD  with some credit card rewards I had. I wanted to test out what was offered in the streaming world.  We loved it. However, the boys threw a bit of a fit when they found out Cartoon Network was going to be cut when cable got booted but we found a work-around. (More on that later.)

I am a TV junkie. But I’ve been able to keep up with all of my shows with the exception of the OWN Network. Now that I'm past the withdrawal stage I am living nicely without it. 

Here’s our current set up.

Roku

 

We have two Roku boxes. A Roku HD in the bedroom and the Roku 2XD hooked up to our Vizio HDTV in the den.

 A few of our Roku channels

A few of our Roku channels

We currently have Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions. I like Hulu Plus because it runs a lot of network shows like Scandal and Nashville which air on ABC. Because I can’t always watch them live, I use Hulu Plus like I would a DVR and watch them later. I also added some private channels to the Roku to add more content such as Nowhere TV which streams our local news (helpful for the bedroom TV which has no antenna) and PLEX, which features A&E, HGTV and ABC Family among others. I added the Twonky Beam app to my iPhone which lets us watch YouTube videos on the Roku via the Twonky channel. And the boys love playing Angry Birds on the Roku 2XD on the big screen.

What I like about the Roku is that it has an iPhone app remote so when the boys or the baby misplace the replace Roku remote, all is not lost.

Local TV

I bought a $25 antenna from Radio Shack for the HDTV in the den. Our TV, like most late model HDTVs has a built-in tuner so as soon as the antenna was hooked up, I scanned for channels and was surprised at how many over the air (OTA) channels there are and many are in HD. I checked the Digital TV map to see what kind of coverage I would get before buying the antenna. My mother asked how much I was paying for these channels. I had to chuckle. How quickly we forget that OTA channels have always been free. And there are a lot of good shows on network TV.

Apple TV

I received an Apple TV as a birthday gift in July and it’s now the family gift. We all use it as its in the den. It features the standards like Hulu Plus, Netflix & YouTube. They recently added Disney, Smithsonian and Vevo.

Hands down, our favorite feature is AirPlay. AirPlay lets you wirelessly stream music, videos, pictures, AirPlay compatible apps and web video on your iPhone or iPad to the HDTV and speakers via Apple TV. Or you can mirror exactly what’s on the iPhone/iPad display to the big screen. The boys downloaded the Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network apps to their iPhone and can watch their favorite shows. I also use AirPlay to watch CNN. (All of these apps are AirPlay compatible) I have to admit that this is where we cheat. We use my mother or sister’s cable subscription log-in information to sign in and watch full episodes with these apps. (with their permission of course).

MacBook Pro

I have a MacBook that I bought back in 2009. While it doesn’t have AirPlay built in like the latest models, I still use it a lot to watch many of my shows. I use a Mini Display Port DVI adapter to connect it to the HDTV (a separate cord is needed for audio for older model MacBooks like mine) and watch shows from websites that show full episodes such as VH1, MTV and TVOne. (There are adapters for PCs as well.) I also use the Rowmote app on my iPhone to control the MacBook from the couch. 

The Safari browser on my MacBook has a cool plug-in called ClickToPlugin that lets me send website videos via AirPlay to Apple TV. I watch a lot of shows on  www.AllShowsDaily.com this way. The selection of shows is great but some videos are not compatible and just won't work.

I just got hip to Google Chromecast which looks like it will replace me having to hook up my MacBook up to the TV.

Wii/3DS

The boys watch Netflix, YouTube (mainly Favorites they've saved) and Hulu Plus on the Wii in their bedroom occassionally. They can usually be found watching Netflix on their 3DS when they aren't playing a video game on it.   

So that’s how we are living without cable. It’s been an adjustment but with a little research & some tweaking, we don’t miss it one bit.