Cord-cutting conundrums

“So it may seem that the cable and satellite TV industry is in deep trouble. People are getting more and more disgusted with paying up to $150 or more each month for a bucket of channels, many of which they don’t even watch,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “Even when you want to get a cheaper deal, in order to get a good cross-section of the content you want, you may have to buy several tiers — or higher tiers — of service. You cannot choose from Column A and Column B. So you’re stuck!”

“It never seems to get any better, so jumping ship [cutting the cord] may seem an attractive way to reduce your expenses,” Steinberg writes. “If you try it, however, and you try a little too hard to replace what you lost, you may find that it’s not really so cheap after all.”

“Does this mean that cord cutting is a bad idea? Not at all. If you are judicious about how many programming options you select, you can keep your costs down, and don’t forget your ISP’s limitations,” Steinberg writes. “You might find, at the end of the day, that you want to keep around a basic cable package with local stations and some of the cable channels. Flesh it out with Netflix and that might be more than sufficient to meet your needs. Besides, you won’t have to mess with a TV antenna, and you can still rent a DVR for time shifting.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’re still on cable for TV and Internet, but the allure of cord-cutting is very intriguing. One problem is, as Gene mentions, availability: “Netflix and Amazon do offer a fair number of traditional TV shows, with no guarantee how long they’ll be available. As content deals change, the shows come and go.” We’ve thought about cutting the cable cord, though: We’re able to receive all four major U.S. networks plus PBS over-the-air with an antenna. We have Apple TV units on every screen, so we suppose supplementing over-the-air with buying season passes via iTunes Store, Netflix, and some other services might be able satisfy everyone in the family.

Cord-cutters, how are you doing it? How’s it working for you? If there are other family members, how do they like it?


    1. Eight years for me to. I just use Netflix and buy iTunes seasons. I don’t watch anything local.

      I see commercials so rarely at home that when they play at a friends they are beyond annoying. Why do people subject themselves to such loud manipulative low-mentality interruptions?

      Also seeing people fiddle with what shows they want to record seems incomprehensible. Why cable isn’t all on-demand at this point seems insane. Old infrastructure and execution on the part of cable companies.

      1. You can buy an outstanding TV antenna on eBay for under $35, with built in amplifier and remote control rotor (no wires). If you have lots of service points you can also install a distribution amplifier for about $45. That will deliver a 100% signal to every TV and computer (EyeTV) in the house. I live 30 miles from a small metropolitan area and I get 27 channels in uncompressed, digital HD.

        For everything else we use Amazon Prime, Netflix, and AppleTV. The only two things I crave are an ESPN stand alone service and a good OTA DVR (presently using EyeTV on an old G5 Mac Pro for that.) It seems the cable companies have bought out all the DVR manufacturers and killed off the OTA DVRs with tuners built in. All I can find are cable compatible DVRs.

  1. Perhaps one should simply unplug the cord and try it and if they’re unhappy they can plug it back in. Great way to lower your cable bill too as your new plan will be much cheaper than your old one, at least for a year or so. Then it will begin to creep upwards again.

  2. We got rid of cable almost 5 years ago and haven’t looked back. With over the air broadcasts and a MacMini hooked-up to our TV we get enough content. It stinks at times not having access to as many live sports as I would like but then I think about the $6000 save in that timeframe and smile. It also helps us watch less TV which is a good thing.

  3. It’s been frustrating. My over the air reception is bad. I miss the DVR. I still can ‘t get certain shows. Plus the shows I watch on Netflix, I can’t watch the current season, only previous seasons.

    That being said, I am finding content on Netflex that is far superior to some of the crap I use to watch on cable.

    I am really impressed with the following series:
    The Fall
    The Killing
    House of Cards (season 1 and 2 only, 3 sucked)
    Hannibal (on Amazon Prime)

    I am caught up on The Walking Dead and The Good Wife, but have to wait till next season to watch the current season. Very frustrating.

  4. The main thing keeping me from cutting the cord is Fox News. I tend toward Tea Party in my politics and I am a politics junky. The main thing I watch there is the last part of Bret Baier with the Fox News All-Stars. I am currently paying about $160 for just about everything but the premium movie channels and my internet is pretty fast.

    I suspect I’m not alone given Fox News ratings as the numbers leader in cable news.

      1. I can see more than enough FOX News with my TV and computer both turned off. You do realize they went to court to determine they were entertainment and were not required to present any factual information at all.

    1. Fox News is the channel people watch who pay for the stuff Obama gives away from their hard-earned income and are tired of it. I don’t mind giving to people who are truly in need – I do it frequently. But I do mind giving to those who shine a couch with their butt because they’d rather get a govt check than take a job that’s “beneath them”.

  5. Between iTunes and Netflix, I have access to lots of content on demand and commercial-free. I spend $8/month for Netflix and about $40 (or less) per season of the shows I like and I spend a total of about $300 per year on the two sources combined, saving $1500 over the sample cable rate quoted above.

    Why pay for boatloads of crappy TV you don’t watch. Cut the cord and be free!

    1. Just watch out for the Netflix/iTunes trap:

      1. Find a show on Netflix and fall in love with it
      2. Binge watch up to end of last season
      3. Go into withdrawal
      4. Give in and buy the current season pass from iTunes.

      This has happened to us three time in our household. It’s still a lot cheaper than cable, though. 🙂

  6. I do OTA exclusively, and have done ever since Comcast decided out of nothing but greed to encrypt all their channels, including the local access stuff (which should be illegal but apparently isn’t), and here in the Boston area, there are dozens of channels, and many of them are not available on the cable listings, which, AFAIK, is against FCC regulations, but since when has that stopped cable companies? Granted, about 5% of these channels are non-english, but I’ve become quite an addict of MeTV. Otherwise, we Hulu or Netflix. Besides, what’s the point of a cable subscription now that the BBC fired Jeremy?

  7. I cut the cord long ago and never looked back. Instead of paying 150.00 a month for a load of crap I never watch, I pay $90 a month for a 300Mb/s connection to all the information the world has to offer, not to mention pretty much everything I ever want to watch from conventional television and more.

    It depends on what is important to you. Some people miss live sports. I don’t care for sports. Well except for rugby. Those guys try to kill each other. Others miss the 24 hour news channels. No seriously, there are people who watch those.

    Other than that, meh. Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes are enough for me.

    Oh and YouTube. YouTube is a national treasure from my perspective.

  8. Cut the cable 3 years ago. Netflix and Hulu on apple TV. Buy show that I just have to see (read: Walking Dead).
    Wife buys a lot on Amazon, so we have prime on iphones and airplay to ATV.
    Have a mac Mini connected too- rarely use it. (Some shows are on Hulu via computer but not on ATV). Powered antenna.
    Lowest internet package, a good router, big HD for music (shared via iTunes)…
    I’ll never go back!!!

  9. Cut the cord almost a year ago. I have internet through Comcast, so they gave me a receiver for free just for the local channels. I use Netflix, a website called and iTunes. After a show airs, it is immediately available to watch on that website. I also know someone who has Comcast cable, so I use their login info for all the extras on Apple TV, as well as the Xfinity app on my Xbox. Between all these, we can watch just about anything that anyone with “the cord” can watch. I do miss having a DVR, but that’s such a small price to pay.

  10. Home Phone, DSL and Dish Network with a lot of channels and my total bill with taxes is $86.47 month and add in $9 month for Netflix in the winter months only …. So under $100 month for everything but my secretary cable bill alone is $220 month ….

    All about choices!

  11. We are four years in after cutting the cord. We use multiple AppleTVs and subscribe to Netflix and Hulu+. I also built my own Grey-Hoverman OTA antenna and pick up all 4 networks Fox and PBS for a total of about 24 channels. We have access to Charter internet but we are still getting by with CenturyLink 7meg DSL.

  12. Cutting the cord was a genius move. I did’t realize how bad packaged TV had become literally 57 X 10 Channels and Nothing On. The best part of the entire process is no or very limited commercials.

    This is how I get content now:

    Subscribed to Podcasts audio or video. A lot of awesome content.

    Netflix – Great source for Indie, Docs, TV shows and older films or commercial releases that were not a huge hit big. And of course the original content they produce. House of Cards anyone?

    Amazon Instant – I love Amazon, shop there all the time. So I pay for Prime and since having Prime I get Amazon Instant for free. And using AirPlay to stream Amazon Instant to my AppleTV works so much better than Chromecast.

    iTunes for Movie and TV Show subscriptions. Current TV without commercials is just awesome. Exactly how Hitchcock had envisioned TV. Just awesome! Sometimes you can watch movies that are in theaters on the AppleTV. Also the 99 cent movie of the week are a good watch too.

    If I want live NEWS, the AppleTV has SkyNews streaming 24/7, and I think NBC, CBS, and ABC also streams news clips.

    Not to mention YouTube, VEVO, Vimeo for original Indie content on the AppleTV.

    HULU I don’t pay for, but since it is free for computer use only, I sometimes mirror stream HULU to the AppleTV if I don’t want to pay for a subscription on iTunes. (AppleTV works better if wired directly to the router if you do mirror casting).

    For Sports I like Baseball so I subscribe to the basic $2.99 plan to stream audio from the At Bat app. If I want to see it, I see it live at a local bar. Done & Social.

    And when HBO NOW comes out, perfect, but for the most part I want to subscribe to the shows, not the network. The idea is watch what you want without paying an arm and leg for it.

  13. I cut the cable nearly a year ago and have NOT missed it.

    1) I get the equivalent of local ‘Basic’ service via the air. And my off air picture is better than the trashed rendition stupid Time Warner Cable TV bothered to feed me via cable for too-much-money. Astounding. Those rats just don’t care.

    2) I get everything else off the Internet and am astounded at what’s available, paid or free.

    Now if only I could kick TWC out of my life once and for all and cut their ISP service. (Verizon FIOS around where I live is even more budget-busting and is similarly customer abusive). /whining

    1. “And my off air picture is better than the trashed rendition stupid Time Warner Cable TV bothered to feed me via cable for too-much-money. Astounding. Those rats just don’t care”

      A whole lot of people don’t realize this- OTA is mostly HD, except for really small local indie channels.

  14. When I grew up, TV was all OTA and free because it was ad-supported at 8 minutes per hour.

    Cable TV, therefore, is one of the greatest swindles in modern times–the idea that you PAY to watch ad-supported television? And now the ads are up to 20 minutes per hour. Future generations will be shocked we ever put it with it.

  15. Four years running so far. We have over the air antennas on every TV in the house which each one get 21 channels. Including all the networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, plus a number of channels that carry most new and old reruns.
    Apple TV and Roku in a few TVs, with Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime subscriptions.
    For a grand total of around $30.00 per month. Versus $130 for Cox cable in the past. We are saving $1200.00 per year. Thats a free vacation every two years, not bad.

  16. One thing I forgot on my post was the quality of over the air TV.
    With cable you get a compressed signal that eventually gets into your house. Over The Air gets a clean on air HD signal picked up by your antenna and straight into your TV.
    My neighbors are surprised at my clean picture. They cant believe it when I tell them that its from my antenna.

  17. We have been cordless for some time but will be switching to Google Fiber TV service in a few weeks to try that out. Our current setup is:

    Standalone TiVo with rabbit ears antenna
    Apple TV
    The only thing I really miss is NBC Universal sports channel.

    The reason to switch back to cable is really for convenience. It’s a bit of a pain having to swap between different devices, programs and apps to watch TV.

  18. I cut the cord 3 years ago. I have gone through many different attempts at a great DVR and have settled with paying for TIVO because it just works. Best setup for OTA antenna is the old big kind on the roof. Tried Mac Mini connected and EyeTV but they started charging for TVGuide, and it adds a lot of complications for control (keyboard and mouse) not to mention input switching. So just the TIVO does our recorded shows, Netflix, and Youtube, can add Hulu and Amazon Prime if want, It’s $15-$20 a month for TIVO.

  19. Moved to a new town and never got cable. We have pretty zippy broadband internet. We bought an Apple TV, and have enjoyed their offerings (though they do come and go), and also purchase iTunes season passes for certain shows (for us Glee, Dr. Who, and a few others). My kids find YouTube to be an endless source of entertainment and information. We have some digital rabbit ears for the big network stuff (such as the Oscars, parades, etc.) We have thought about Hulu or HBO Now for the future. But between what we have and social media, we are all screened up and out.

  20. I cut the cord a couple years ago, have saved over $3000 since then.

    I set up a Mac mini running EyeTV DVR software and a couple HD Homerun DUAL tuners (each box has 2 tuners, so I can tune in 4 channels at the same time). Since the tuners on my network I can also use them to watch live TV on my Mac Pro, iPhone and iPad.

    While you only list 4 networks + PBS, you’re probably going to receive 15-20 actual channels due to subchannels – a single channel frequency can be used to broadcast multiple channels. The PBS station here in Houston broadcasts 5 channels on its frequency. Last time I did a channel scan I picked up 118 total channels when accounting for subchannels.

    If you’re interested in more info, check my blog:

  21. I weaned my family off cable about a year and a half ago. It didn’t come as much of a shock. We were never that heavy into serial programming and we’d already become seduced by Netflix, which had more content than we could possibly consume.

    Today, we have Netflix and Amazon Prime video streaming over a Time Warner broadband pipe, Apple TV for movie rentals and music, and an indoor digital antenna for HD terrestrial broadcasts. Digital OTA looks better than anything did through the old 720p cable box.

  22. I cut the cord 3 years ago now. Using Plex and online streaming, I can get pretty much anything I want. Granted, sports can be an issue but Roku and others are now adding more sports packages. I tend to watch sports online when they’re free, catch them on the radio (online streaming) when I can find them, or go to the local pub.

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