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Best Alternatives to Satellite TV and Cable

Updated on January 3, 2017
There are alternatives to cable and satellite TV.  You can save money, and your sanity!
There are alternatives to cable and satellite TV. You can save money, and your sanity! | Source

Life without Satellite TV or Cable

Television has come a long way in the past several decades, and it seems impossible to go without cable or satellite these days. Some people younger than 40 may have trouble believing it, but there was a time not so long ago when most homes only got the three main networks, and maybe public broadcasting.

There was no cable TV, and the signal came via an antenna mounted on top of your house. Sometimes if you wanted to change the channel, you had to move the antenna too!

Then came cable, and suddenly we had dozens of channels instead of four. It seemed to snowball from there, to the present day where most homes get hundreds of channels via a satellite or complicated cable setup.

This is great for some people, especially families with kids of different ages who are all interested in different channels. But for others it might be a little overwhelming.

The Decision to Leave the Dish Behind

In my home it is just my wife and I. We had a popular satellite system installed a few years back, and grew increasingly frustrated with it as the months passed. It’s great at what it does, but we only watched a handful of our 18-bazillion channels.

In other words, we were paying for a lot of channels we didn’t watch or want. In some cases we were paying for channels that went against our personal beliefs and lifestyle, and would never have financially supported if given a choice.

There were other channels we would have liked but did not get, and to see those channels meant signing up for a more expensive package, which, of course, meant paying for even more channels we did not want or need.

We were simply paying way too much for too many channels we did not want, and not getting access to what we did want. Unfortunately, there really is no alternative to the huge packages satellite and major cable TV networks force you to sign up for if you want to use their service.

It would be nice if you could pick the twenty or so channels you actually want and just pay for them, but it doesn’t work that way. They lock you into a contract, and you get what they give you and you like it.

When our contract was up we decided we’d had enough. But how could we still have some kind of access to the shows, news and sports we wanted?

This is how we did it.

Free TV!

Did you know there is free TV floating around out there right now, just bouncing around for anyone who wants it?

It’s not like the grainy, sketchy over-the-air signals you might remember, from way back in the olden days.

A small HDTV antenna like this model from Terk may be all you need to receive free TV!
A small HDTV antenna like this model from Terk may be all you need to receive free TV!

This is high-definition television.

If you have a high-definition TV, in most areas all you need to receive over-the-air programming is the proper antenna.

Some people who live close to broadcasting towers can get by with a small antenna in their living room. Others, like me, might have to mount a more powerful antenna on the exterior of their home or roof.

With our antenna we get around 20 channels: CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, all of our local stations, several PBS stations, a kid’s network, a shopping channel and a few other channels with general programming.

And it is all 100% free, in high definition.

Of course we had to buy the antenna and the cable, but it was only a fraction of what we were paying for one month of our satellite package.

With the antenna you’ll get your local news and weather, plus the major network TV programming. If you’re worried about being cut off from the world if you get rid of your cable or satellite, it doesn’t have to be that way!

ClearStream 2V Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna with Mount - 60 Mile Range
ClearStream 2V Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna with Mount - 60 Mile Range

This is the antenna we ended up using. It gets a clear HD signal from towers 20+ miles away from our home.

 
Terk HDTVAZ Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna
Terk HDTVAZ Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna

This indoor antenna will work well if you live within a few miles of a broadcast tower. It's easy to set up and comes with an amplifier to boost signal.

 

Setting Up the Clearstream 2 HDTV Antenna is Super Easy!

What About My Favorite Shows and Movies?

Without your fancy TV hookup you might miss the movies, documentaries and reality programming available on some of the networks that do not broadcast over the air.

This was one of our major hang-ups as well. We don’t really watch a lot of major network TV, but we do love shows on networks like the Discovery Channel. How would we get our MythBusters fix?

The Roku is a great little device that lets you watch shows, movies and more!
The Roku is a great little device that lets you watch shows, movies and more!

Fortunately there is a cool device called the Roku that saved the day. It’s a tiny little box that connects wirelessly to your household internet service, and with it you can receive hundreds of special channels on your television.

Using the Roku, we subscribed to services like NetFlix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. They’re inexpensive to join, and you get access to thousands of movies, and hundreds of TV shows you would see on the major networks or cable networks.

You can also sign up for Sling TV. which will give you access to many of the channels you'll miss without satellite or a cable connection. More on that in a bit!

Many of the channels on the Roku are free and do not require a subscription, so you don’t have to sign up for anything if you don’t want to. You can still watch movies and shows through free channels like Crackle.

You can also watch programming from FOX News and NBC News (though not in real-time) without having to subscribe to anything, and there are cool channels like NASA TV, TED and Pandora Radio that don’t cost a dime.

The Roku is a fantastic little device, and even if we were going to keep the satellite we probably would have got one. Without the satellite or cable, it really fills the void.

Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 Model)
Roku 3 Streaming Media Player (4230R) with Voice Search (2015 Model)

Even if you decide to keep the cable or satellite, Roku is great for watching movies and shows. And it costs a whole lot less than a year of cable or satellite service.

 

Learn What You Can Do With Roku

Sling TV

Once you've got your Roku or other streaming device set up you may want to check out Sling TV. We've been using it for a few months as I write this, and I am definitely happy with it. Sling TV is live, streaming television. You can get channels like History, ESPN, NFL Network, Travel Channel and CNN in real time, so you can watch sports, news and much of your favorite cable programming.

While I like Sling TV quite a bit, there are cons here. There is a cost to it, so if you are looking to go totally free this isn't the way. But it is much, much less expensive than most satellite and cable services. You are also relying on your internet connection for service, so if you lose internet you lose your access to Sling TV. And, if you don't have a great internet connection to begin with, the quality of your picture won't be so great.

I do think the positives greatly outweigh the negatives, though, at least for me. Sling TV comes at a great price for what you get. As of this writing prices start at $20 a month for their Orange package. We get both packages for $40 a month and that gives us around 50 channels. Including our HD antenna channels, we get something like 70 channels in total, no satellite or cable required.

You also get (mostly) channels you'll actually watch. Unlike satellite, where for every one channel you've heard of there are three shoved at you that you don't want. Sling gives you very few oddball channels you've never heard of, and many of the big names you know you'll watch.

For me, the combination of the HD antenna, Roku and Sling TV gets me about 95% of what I need from satellite for a much less expensive cost.

More Ways to Watch Sports without Cable

Finding a way to watch sports was a big issue for me, NFL football especially. With the antenna I’ll get the NFL games broadcast on the major networks every Sunday, but that still leaves a few games every week I won’t be able to see. If you’re not a huge NFL fan you might not get the problem here, but surely many football fans see where I’m coming from.

Sports may be your biggest hangup when it comes to getting rid of cable or satellite, but there are solutions.
Sports may be your biggest hangup when it comes to getting rid of cable or satellite, but there are solutions. | Source

As for other sports, the antenna is actually better than the satellite for my local teams. So many games were blacked out with the satellite, and they did not have the rights to the channel that broadcasts all of my favorite baseball team’s games.

To see my favorite hockey team I had to upgrade to a special package, and if any of my teams happened to play on a channel I did get the game was blacked out.

Sling TV solved this problem almost entirely for me, but in the past I had subscribed to NFL Game Rewind on NFL.com. You get to see every NFL game on your computer, including the post-season, but you can’t watch the games until a designated period after they are over.

So, if you absolutely must be the first person at the watercooler talking about a game this might not be the package for you, but for my purposes it is perfect.

MLB.com has a similar product called MLB.tv I may try next season for baseball, and that one is actually available through the Roku. NFL Game Rewind and MLB.tv aren’t cheap, but you get a lot for your subscription.

And, a year subscription to each individually costs less than a month of what we were paying for our satellite service.

Don’t forget, there is also ESPN online where you can keep up with all the latest sports and watch clips from SportsCenter and other shows. Plus, just about every major network, and every sport, has a website packed with news, clips and scores.

If you’re a big sports fan it might make you nervous to be without cable or the satellite, but there are ways to cope if you have other good reasons to ditch the satellite.

Taking the Plunge

It’s easy to feel trapped by the policies of major satellite and cable companies, and the whole industry seems to be working together to make sure consumers get squeezed for every buck. It would be nice to see a company give the consumer better options and pricing, so we could get more of what we wanted and not have to pay for things we don’t.

I don’t think that will happen as long as people are willing to pay jacked-up prices and accept what is given to them. And, there may be reasons it isn’t even possible.

For my wife and me, our decision was not made for financial reasons but we’re still seeing a benefit. Even with the cost of the antenna, Roku and various subscriptions, we’re still going to save close to a thousand bucks over the course of the next year. And, we have the peace of mind of knowing we’re only paying for what we want, and can quit at any time.

Satellite TV and cable might be exactly what you need when it comes to home entertainment, and you might find it worth the price. When it comes down to it, we’re all responsible for ourselves. Only we can decide if their system is in our best interest, and worth the cost.

There is nothing wrong with satellite and cable. Just know there are other choices.

Thinking of getting rid of cable/satellite?

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    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I've never been a big television watcher. I have one or two shows that I'll watch but most of the time I have the television on for background noise! We had antenna for about five years and only recently added basic cable because when it's windy here, no channels will come in with antenna. And we have netflix on the Roku. Overall, however, I was perfectly happy with antenna and we may even get rid of cable again as it's just something we don't watch. Great hub and voted up!

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      I'm one of those people who are fed up with the high cost of cable but won't get rid of it yet. I'd like to see them go to a system where a person can pick the channels they want and pay so much per channel. As you said, it probably won't happen. My guess is that it would be easy for them to do, but the cable company will tell you it would be more expensive. I doubt that. I'm thinking they just want you to pay for the packages so they make more money.

    • billd01603 profile image

      billd01603 3 years ago from Worcester

      Very informative Hub, Thanks Eric

    • EricDockett profile image
      Author

      Eric Dockett 3 years ago from USA

      @epbooks. We're very happy with the antenna+Roku setup too, and like you we don't watch a ton of TV.

      @sheila: With cellphones there are more no-contract plans offered and people are starting to gravitate to them. I think when/if a cable or satellite company eventually offers a no-contract product that let's people choose their channels it will have a similar effect. I would happily pay for satellite/cable if I could just pay for what I want, and if they skip the "contract".

      Thanks Bill!

    • drpennypincher profile image

      Dr Penny Pincher 3 years ago from Iowa, USA

      We finally made the decision to drop satellite TV this month at the Pincher household. The cost was just too much for something we don't spend much time on. If you are somewhat flexible about what shows and channels you want, you can save a lot of money by cutting satellite or cable TV as you suggest.

    • jimmyglaughlin profile image

      Jim Laughlin 3 years ago from Connecticut

      Netflix, Huluplus and a computer! That's all that's needed.

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 3 years ago from Earth

      I've never heard of the Roku before, but it sounds interesting... Now, here I was thinking that the primary alternatives for cable and satellite TV was YouTube; ha!

    • EricDockett profile image
      Author

      Eric Dockett 3 years ago from USA

      The Roku is pretty cool, Insane Mundane. Lots of great stuff though the various available channels. I'm happy with it.

    • connieow profile image

      Connie S Owens 3 years ago from El Cajon, CA

      I have broadband satellite internet, that cost enough. I live in the country, a bit of a valley, have been considering the digital tv antenna. But have not committed. I watch some shows I can get from the library, Netflix, and Hulu Prime. But I have to limit the viewing or it eats up my bandwidth limits.

      Thank you for the links to something you have tried.

    • profile image

      Mort 3 years ago

      Unfortunately, many of these options may not be viable. An antenna does not help me. If I'm lucky, I may get a channel. As for sports, what is the use of watching a game after it has been played.

      You need to be in an area where a few if not all of the options can be taken advantage of.

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 3 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      These are certainly great tips. But as of the moment I have to hold on with our cable. Our place is far and signals are not so clear with respect to using the antenna. I also have a very low Internet connection so watching movies using the net would be a long buffering time. However, this hub is certainly informative and applicable to many.

    • EricDockett profile image
      Author

      Eric Dockett 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks JPSO138. Being that you are in the Philippines I don't even know what to suggest. Hope it works out though!

    • profile image

      Lucas 2 years ago from Sterling ct

      Thanks for the great post. We stopped using major tv providers about 6 months ago. Going to look into getting the outdoor antenna. Great information, someone close could also build one fairly cheap and easily.

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 2 years ago from Earth

      It seems like it's not too tough to get away from the TV and cable part of the equation. But how about the high speed internet? That's what I can't cut.

    • EricDockett profile image
      Author

      Eric Dockett 2 years ago from USA

      Well, yeah, of course. Nobody should be expected to live without an internet connection. Let's not get too crazy here! :-)

      In all seriousness, I think the advancement of the internet is what has made some of these other services expendable.

    • profile image

      Rick Noelcke 5 months ago

      My only concern is that we use our DVR extensively with the current Satellite provider. Is there anything available that could substitute for TIVO or DVR?

    • EricDockett profile image
      Author

      Eric Dockett 5 months ago from USA

      Hi Rick. Though we don't use one, I believe there are DVRs available that can be used with an antenna.

    • profile image

      Miche 4 months ago

      Is there any away you can DVR or tape shows with RoKu? I love to watch TV That is how I relax, but Sometimes my schedule is so busy but I have my favorite shows. I like to stay up to date with what's showing because I'm an inspiring TV writer.

    • EricDockett profile image
      Author

      Eric Dockett 4 months ago from USA

      @Miche: You can't use the Roku as a DVR, but there are many different services you can get with a Roku that would allow you to watch recent programming. We have been using Sling TV lately and it is really impressive. It's live TV plus a huge amount of programming on-demand. There's also Hulu and other services like that. So, recording, no, but you can effectively do the same thing if you sign up for different services.

    • profile image

      Trithwinds 5 weeks ago

      I feel it is a matter of principal I make a statement to the Sat/cable companies that if they continue on their present trend I for one can live without them. For $160.00/mo. or Almost 2 grand per year I want flawless equipment, uninterrupted service, and in home tech support when their CRAP goes bad.

      When I find myself connected to a person in another country that cannot even imagine making $160.00/mo say nothing about spending it on something as NON essential as TV there are inherent and unavoidable issues. It's called poor Service due to not being able to comprehend the Value to cost ratio's.

      However, the exec's that make the decisions do. I find they really don't care as they "Think" they have a monopoly on an what they consider an essential service to working class American.

      What they fail to realize is working class America is what made this country what it is today. Powered by innovation and a willingness to sacrifice in order to improve in the long run.

      Therefore I am withdrawing my monetary support from them and giving it to such innovative companies willing to offer service, competent equipment, and support to their consumers... HERE WE GO!!

      I have found a couple of local services here in the Phoenix area that will set these services up for me at a fraction of the cost of Sat/Cable TV per month. So I don't even have to be a technological wizard. One time set up and addition for support when needed. Responsive when called and still a significant savings even if I used them 4 times per year to fix or tweak the system.

      I have 3 children ages 7, 9, & 12. Their needs will be met as well as Mom and I. I demand quality and service for my money. Not the shuffle game of B.S.'em until they I give up and submit.

      If they were to ask me now I would have to say:

      Keep your service and enjoy it. Roll in your own dough. Because it will no longer be mine your rolling in. 2K/year for TV! Poorly designed equipment, roll outs before they have been thoroughly tested and perfected. give me a break!

      I want to thank the author of this article for his insight and cool handed manner. GREAT and viable American idea's.

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