Three months ago, Larry made a bold move. An avid sports fan with a wife and four kids, he unplugged the satellite TV. Larry loves TV, so much that he once worked in a TV station for six years. But his wife made him do it. That $50/month fee had to go, so he learned how to hook up his TV to the internet. “We’ve had our challenges,” he writes, but, “even with March Madnes I’ve managed to save a ton of money and with a few small adjustments, not miss out on any of our entertainment.” Here’s what he did and how it worked out. There’s nothing super fancy here but for someone just trying to get their feet wet, it has some good ideas:
Maybe because she was tired of waiting between the hours of 1 and 9. Maybe it was my growing suspicion of the mirror resemblance of the satellite installer and one of my children.
Either way, my wife made me do it.
Long story short I read this from the New York Times and I’ve been cable/satellite free for 5 months.
The idea is simple, you simply connect your TV to your computer and watch programs over the internet instead of having a provider. Do a Google search of “how to get the internet on my tv” and you’ll get lots of good results.
There are a lot of different ways to do it, but few stories on how well it does/doesn’t work. Moshing over a lot of the technical aspects and challenges here is basically what you need:
a TV (the newer the better)
a spare computer
internet connection (at least DSL speed, the faster the better)
wireless mouse and keyboard (this will be your “remote”)
We had an old school, standard def box TV so we went to My Cable Mart. Minus one audio cord, they were pretty accurate with what we needed. We shelled out the $50 for the kit and set it up.
That’s all the time I’m going to spend on how to do it, the part you need to know is: how good does it work?
The short answer — it’s like drinking diet soda. You’ll get no calories and pretty close to the original taste but it will be an adjustment.
The long answer– if you can trim a few places on your entertainment tree, you’ll get by great.
The first weeks are fantastic. You are new to Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video On Demand. They have a ton of shows and movies and you wonder why you used to PAY for all this stuff. I would say I’m an average TV viewer and there wasn’t a show I watch that I couldn’t find on the internet.
Netflix is especially great, no more waiting for the movie in the mail. Complete seasons of great tv shows just a few clicks away. The picture quality is so great I can’t tell the difference.
And commercials disappear. A 30 minute TV show broadcast has about 8 minutes of commercials. Hulu will give you about 2mins of commercials per show and no break is longer than 30 seconds. There are NO commercials on Netflix.
And with the kids there is a new cartoon (and the quiet that comes with it) just a few moments away. No more buying DVD’s that kids get tired of after 3 viewings. Stream it, click close and you’re done.
Keep in mind Netflix will cost you $9 a month. Everything else is free and you no longer pay a monthly cable/satellite bill.
Amazon rentals are $2-$5 each and give you access to stream movies for 48 hours.
Challenges are part of the internet switch that you can over come, but it’ll take some work.
You don’t get live TV. I love the TV show “V”, which airs Tuesdays. But its not posted to the net until Wednesday. Most of the first-run shows you watch will have to wait a day later.
And while Netflix has a ton of movies to stream, a lot of them aren’t the first run movies people clamor for.
Sports. If you love sports you’ll need a bigger adjustment. No more flipping through and finding that mildly interesting game that will hold your attention for hours. IF you have a pre-approved internet provider [like Charter, AT&T, or Verizon] you can get ESPN360.com programming for free. It looks pretty awesome, but I don’t know how awesome, because my provider doesn’t provide.
On the plus side the NCAA tournament is streamed for FREE. Any game, any team in March Madness you can simply click and watch, no matter where you live. Remember when the satellite guys wanted to charge you over $100 for that?
MLB.tv is almost as good. It will cost a pretty penny but it gives you all the games (minus some bogus blackout rules).
The big problem is the NFL and NBA. If there is a legal, cheap way to stream them, I haven’t found it.
You’ll have to kiss goodbye:
That wireless keyboard and mouse are a lot more awkward than an easy to use remote. And if you’re like me and didn’t spring for the wireless, you actually have to get off your chair and walk to the computer to change your programming. It’s like the 1800’s all over again.
When you’re watching something “on TV” your sucking bandwidth in the house. Someone using the computer and internet at another source could cause your programming to give you the dreaded eternal buffering message.
DVR/Tivo is gone
You can pause your programming, but recording is a thing of the past. But keep in mind, many web sites keep the shows there for streaming for quite a while.
Did I mention the sports?
Of course there are other things, like a Roku box that can make the switch easier. If you need something to grease the wheels of your switch I’d look into it.
In the end, my wife and I decided that ditching the $50 a month fee made more sense. It is an adjustment, but one that can be made.
Now I just have to figure out how to make my internet a tax write off.
For another story about a family who made the internet their TV content provider, check out How To Cancel Cable/Satellite TV Without Being Miserable.
What tips and services do you use to get your entertainment while bypassing the cable, dish, or satellite providers? Leave your thoughts in the comments.