Rising costs for cable services and complaints about poor customer service are just two of the reasons you might be considering finding an alternative to cable for your television entertainment. Fortunately, there are more choices than ever before to replace cable. The best choice for you, however, will depend on a number of factors, including where you live, how you prefer to watch television and how much you want to spend.
Choose a satellite dish if your home allows you to install one and receive a clear signal --that is, if trees or tall buildings do not block the signal -- and if you want an option very similar to what you had with cable. Companies such as DISH Network and DIRECTV frequently run specials for new customers, but you'll likely end up paying about as much as you would for cable. With a satellite dish, you'll still be able to see current television programs and usually have a wide selection of sports packages.
Using an antenna to receive television signals may be a good option if you are in a relatively well-populated area and can pick up a variety of channels. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) advises that the quality of antennas available varies widely, and you may need an amplifier and a digital converter in addition to the antenna. Antennas are made specifically for where you intend to place them: on your television, in your attic or on your roof. The FCC website also provides a reception map so that you can put in your address and find out what channels you are likely to receive based on your location before you decide to buy an antenna.
Use your wireless Internet connection to stream video from an increasing number of sources, some free and some for a minimal monthly fee. You'll need a device connected to your television for this; among the many options are gaming devices such as the Xbox and Wii, many Blu-ray DVD players and newer televisions and dedicated devices such as the Roku or Apple TV, which also require an HDMI cable to connect them to the television. Buying the equipment represents a one-time charge, which will vary depending on the device you choose. With this approach, you'll be able to stream television shows and movies from sites such as Hulu Plus and Netflix (for about $8 per month each), Amazon Prime ($79 per year), Vudu and iTunes (both pay on demand) and even from a slew of free sites. You also have the option to watch shows from any of these sites on your computer. Your computer is also a good way to watch shows posted on the networks' own websites -- many of which post current shows a day or a few days after they have aired and also feature older shows.
Home Video Library
Build your own home video library if there aren't many current television series that you want to see. Look on online auction sites and book selling sites for gently used DVDs or check yard sales and your library's used book sales for DVDs to build your collection. You'll spend only what you can afford at any given time, and before you know it, you'll have a collection to suit every mood. As a bonus, you'll have no pesky commercials to watch.
Consider your viewing preferences carefully before you decide to do without cable. One of the most common complaints is from sports fans; few of the options other than satellite provide much access to sporting events. There are online subscriptions from sites such as MLB.com for baseball games, and you can watch live tennis online for Grand Slam events, but most likely your choices will be much more limited overall than with cable or satellite. You'll also be behind the curve on currently airing shows, so if your friends discuss what they watched last night on cable, you'll likely hear spoilers.
Tips & Warnings
- Satellite TV online is the best alternative to cable TV. There are no membership fees or monthly bills and you can use the service no matter where you are located in the world. For a one time charge of 50 dollars this is a great deal and much cheaper than paying for traditional TV cable or TV satellite service.
- The Wall Street Journal: Cutting the Cord on Cable
- The Fun Times Guide: How to Get Rid of Your Cable Box or Satellite Dish and Watch TV on Your Computer
- Epic Finances: Get Rid of Cable and Pick Up Roku
- Getting Rid of Cable: Getting Started
- Wise Bread: 8 Alternatives to Cable TV That Will Keep You Entertained
- Federal Communications Commission: Antennas and Digital Television
- Photo Credit Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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