On Cutting the Cord

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You requested it – I listened – so here it is – a post about replacing your cable or satellite television system.

This past July, we made the decision to shed our television provider for a local antenna. We simply were tired of dealing with price increases and playing the promotion game in order to get a reasonable rate we were willing to pay.

Your biology class may have used a dichotomous key as a tool to identify organisms as trees, flowers, fish, and others. These keys begin with a question followed by options (typically 2) that force the user to make a choice. The decision may include information followed by a “Go-to” statement, which directs the user to their next question (by number). To me, this tool is similar to a flow chart displaying a decision tree.

I constructed the dichotomous key below as a tool to help interested parties make a decision about cutting the cord. Answer the question, then follow the appropriate “Go-to” statement. Bullets are notes that go with that answer.

A Decision Tree

1) Do you want local channels?

1A) Yes – Go to 2

  • Depending on your distance from the stations, you may need an amplifier
  • The higher the antenna location, the better the reception
  • In general, outdoor-type antennas are better than indoor antennas, and multidirectional/omnidirectional antennas are better than directional
  • Condos owners – consider an attic because high inside is better than low outside
  • Consider an using an installer
  • You will receive more stations than you anticipate because some local stations offer substations. Click here to find your local channels by zip code.

1B) No – Go to 3

2) Do you want to record shows from local channels?

2A) Yes – then purchase a DVR – Go to 3

  • Beware of monthly fees
  • DVR will only record shows on stations from the antenna, not from streaming
  • We purchased a TiVo Roamio OTA, no monthly fees (from Amazon)

2B) No – Go to 3

3) Do you want “cable” stations?

3A) Yes – Go to 4

3B) No – Go to 7

4) Do you know your options for receiving cable stations?

4A) Yes – Go to 5

4B) No – You will need to do the following, then Go to 5

  1. Identify the most important stations for your household
  2. Research available streaming options as Sling, DirectTV Now, Hulu TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, Watch TV
  3. Prioritize the services by comparing their offerings to your most-important stations list

5) Do you want to record “cable” shows?

5A) Yes – Go to 6

  • Remember, DVR equipment (as TiVo) does not record streaming services
  • Some (but not all) streaming services offer DVR cloud service, so select the service with this option

5B) No – Go to 7

6) Does your preferred streaming option offer DVR cloud service?

6A) Yes – Go to 7

6B) No – re-prioritize your streaming options or change your desire for DVR cloud service – Go to 7

7) Do you have or want streaming services as Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, Showtime, or others?

7A) Yes – No problems – Go to 8

  • Previous choices should not affect these services
  • These services run on dedicated apps
  • Streaming service are more efficient through wire than through wireless

7B) No – Go to 8

8) Did this exercise help?

8A) Yes – Congratulations because you may know more about the topic than you did

8B) No – Seek professional help

Our Decision

Although we did not do this to cut expenses, our decision saved $75 per month. However, we spent about $800 for the antenna, its installation, and the DVR – but our savings should take care of the expenses in 11 months.

Based on what our viewing preferences, we selected Sling Blue – but at the expense of me losing the ESPN family (and Discovery Channel). (We gained BBC America.) However, I may expand to Sling Orange for several months to have access to ESPN college football – then cancel the Orange tier at season’s end.

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45 thoughts on “On Cutting the Cord

  1. What I did was I went to a website called cutting the cord, looked up one of their best reviewed HD Antenna and ordered that one, it was $50 on sale for $75 before that, I decided to do a test before I cut cable, I went to my local Walmart, which here where I live, it’s all we have, I bought 4 HD Antenna’s, from $14.99 to the most expensive at $99, then I watched a youtube video on how to make my own, I made 1 of those out of a 2×4 cut in half I had around, and 1 metal Coat hanger, some copper wire and screws and washers, and 1 food strainer, I tested them all here in the country in the middle of nowhere, the 2 best were the expensive one tied with the one I built, both got 37 Channels, mostly from Cincinnati, 5, 9, 12, 19, CW and so on, I also had an old timey Antenna on the roof, it was very old, I bought a $3 connector with some cable wire and connected with 2 screws to the antenna and and then into the house into the back of my TV, that beat them all, with 50 channels, so you really don’t need a so called HD Antenna and pay a lot for it, you can build your own or many older homes have these old antenna on their roof, it’s easy to do to connect them, now we had all our Regular channels, next My Wife wanted days of our lives but was not always around to watch it when it was on, I had an old Roku laying around that we had not tried, so I downloaded the NBC app and we can watch it usually by 11pm or so the day it is on new, next I bought an Amazon Fire TV Box 2015 model they don’t make those anymore, it’s all firesticks, those would be my next choice, I then downloaded an app Called Terrarium TV, it’s very similar to Netflix if you’ve ever used it, but only 1,000x better, it has nearly every movie and Tv show ever made, almost, it has Gunsmoke from the 50s, The hillibiliels form 60s, The Waltons from the 70s and every new show that’s on now, including every Netflix and Hulu and other shows, it keeps track of them so you know where you left off, all FREE, just get a Firebox or firestick download Terrarium Tv and that’s it, it’s it’s own built in DVR, new shows are updated usually the next day, it’s not illegal to stream and watch anything for free in the USA< only if you download and keep them, so it's not illegal, next we still missed our Live Cable channels, I found a service called Vaderstreams, for $15 a month, using a free app from the google play store called Perfect player, you sign up at vaders for $15 they give you login info to input into perfect player and then you get a TV guide and 100s of cable channels in HD< in fact every cable channel we use to have on DISH and we had the Top tier package, this has more, also it has all my UFC pay per view events in HD Live Free, all WWF and any other Boxing sporting pay per view event, it has a list of sports channels, it has every major league Baseball game, all NBA, it has the Dish Red Zone, it has Direct Tv's Football package every single NFL game, all Golf, Nascar, Tennis, any and every sport with it all in HD< Fox news, Fox Business, Cnn, all news, you name it, it has every cable channel you would want, Hallmark, Hallmark Mystery, Lifetime. National geo channels, all Disney, all the HBO's, all the showtimes, every single Movie channel out there, and all cable from over 30 countries, all for yes,,$15 a month, and yes it's legal, why because your streaming it, not illegal, and these companies like Vaders are just grabbing the channels and streaming them again , not illegal. so now we have all local on the antenna, all shows and Movies on Terrarium Tv and all Cable on Vaders through perfect player, Terrarium has a favorites section, we have over 50 shows in it, old and new, we watch several basically doing our own programming, if anyone ver has a question on how to get or setup any of these just ask me anytime.

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  2. I’m curious what this decision process would look like as a flow chart. That would be fun to see.

    We cut our Dish TV a few years ago and haven’t regretted it. Not being avid TV watchers, we now pick and choose programs from Roku channels. Many of our favorite shows have been BBC or Australian TV.

    We also have an antenna. Most of our over-the-air TV is from PBS. We also use Chromecast once in a while to send online content to the TV.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jim,
      Congratulations on cutting the cord several years ago … and thanks for sharing your avenue for achieve other channels. After all, people have numerous options.

      As for the flow chart version, I considered it. I knew I had to write this first to prepare for the flowchart – then decided this version would be the time saver.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good heavens Frank, that was interesting – what a palaver! 🙂 I cut the cable a number of years back. I receive 0 TV channels. Via my computer and courtesy of my phone company I have LightBox which is, I believe, a local version of Netflix. I rarely watch much of that, though currently I am watching an old show never seen before, Pushing Up Daisies, which I am thoroughly enjoying. When there is something I really, really want to see (like DWTS) I get a good friend to record it for me. Recently I cut off more online time by removing myself from ALL social media EXCEPT for WordPress. I am not plagued by up-grades, changing regulations, price increases, bad news, fear-inducing news, barrages of advertisements etc etc. And yet, oddly, I remain fully informed of all I need to be informed of and am very happy and unafraid of the future. Good on you for changing things up!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read all of the instructions though I knew it didn’t apply to me, living in a far away country, but I was curious if your situation and choices were similar to ours. I cut the cord about 8 or 10 years ago, and chose a minimum communications package which is free here. You have to buy a modem, which comes with an antenna that picks up satellite broadcasts. Everything went well, and I got 5 or 6 channels… decent reception. Because there is so much advertising, I’ve gotten impatient with TV, and see less and less with the passing years. Also, the stations seem to have an agenda, which they force feed. One of the stations used to the state service. Now it is like PBS, but it still seems to have an agenda, and when I feel as if I’m getting propaganda on the tube, I get impatient again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shimon,
      Thanks for sharing your situation in Israel. Interesting to notice the similarities and differences (to me more similarities). It seems to me that many people have difficulty determining wants versus needs. (Something I know you can differentiate.)

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  5. Cincy,
    I’m glad you wrote this because the cable quandary is real. So many people I know are cutting the cord. I find the decision to be problematic since I am such a TV ‘nibbler’ AND I love my sports channels. I guess if pressed, I could pare down to Amazon Prime and HBO.
    Thank you for the 411!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Your post delivered by refusing to sugarcoat the technical complexities associated with cutting the cord.
    For my wife and me however that’s the easy part, given that we are both victims of the most feared of all cable TV diseases – channel surfing!
    BUT the good news is that last week (influenced by your preview several weeks ago of today’s post), we began a 12-step program to rid ourselves of this pestilence.
    I began by talking (in person) to our cable TV rep, who calmed my nerves by assuring me that “he was there to help.”
    He suggested that I first go to a big box store and purchase a Roku device, and to SAVE the receipt. He warned me NOT to turn in my cable box until my wife and I had spent a couple days checking out the channels Roku provides to make sure we were . . . happy.
    I thanked the man for his council but instead took the alternative step of turning in one of our two cable boxes along with reducing our cable channel package down from ‘Digi Tier 2’ to ‘Digi Tier 1.’
    So far so good, but we’re already feeling anxiety as we anticipate moving to Step 2.

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  7. I’m with Dale. I’d be much too lazy to do this, and I wouldn’t want to bother with getting an antenna. It works for my daughter and her husband not to have regular TV at all. They stream Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. We watch a variety of stations, and my husband likes to watch the sports stations. We also stream with Chromecast.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. An excellent guide to cutting the cord! I will share this with Husband as we have been considering the same. He tried an inexpensive antennae for one tv and got fair reception from local stations. We don’t watch half of the channels we get with Spectrum but hate giving some of them up. At least there are options! Thanks for taking time to put this post together in a logical form!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jo,
      Glad to know that this post is timely for you. I was ready for more than a year, but my wife wasn’t … but then agreed. Once that happened, the transition was quick. Good luck … and keep me posted on your progress/decision.

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  9. Interesting and thoughtful. My problem? Everything I want and watch is tied to cable. There is no getting around it and no sugar coating it, the only TV I watch is tied to cable channels. It isn’t that I watch a great deal of it, right now I am sitting in the blessed silence and have been for hours. But when I turn the TV on, it will be to a cable channel. Add to this, my cable is tied to my internet package. No, no time soon will I be letting go of that expense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Val,
      Don’t sell yourself short because the key to your situation is identifying the most important cable stations for you … and then search within the options to discover the best match! … and beware of falling into the trap that you can’t switch because of the tie to the internet provider.

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  10. Awesome post and I hope
    It helps a lot of people –
    We made changes
    a while back (and did a few of the things you mentioned and then tried something called roku)
    And not sure what we have now – but the bottom line is we have OPTIONs
    And your post helps spread the news!!
    I cannot believe how awesome it was to see local channels and then even some non traditional ones come through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yvette,
      Thank you for the kind words. My aim was to help the uncertain make a decision and to understand that options exists – so thanks for reinforcing that point! Interestingly, my wife (the avid TV watcher is watching more local and more Netflix and Prime than cable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh how cool that she has found some enjoyable things to watch- and for me – I have had seasons with TV – and I was a snob at one point and was anti TV – well never too snobby but for decades did not watch it – just my choice – and then being home as a mom with the boys – well we found shows we found series that we watched together – and then there were some shows all my own – like Airplane Disasters -forensic files – ha- and thanks to DVR and discovery fit and health I found (2012) – yoga teacher (Adrienne reed out of Tampa) that changed my left and helped me go to the next level – so um- I am ever grateful for TV
        /and grateful for modern options – I heard YouTube now has TV options -?

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  11. I cut the cord years ago – and years after I should have, considering I haven’t really been watching anything on TV.
    And now, I’m considering cutting Netflix, since I rarely ever have the time to watch anything anymore.

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  12. As always aFa, your post has supplied me with inspiration, in this case for a new blog post on decision trees (to be supplied shortly).
    Dichotomous reminds me of James Thurber’s remark that the world can be divided into two types of people: those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t.

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  13. You certainly did your homework, and I admire the savings! We might try it again sometime. I’m sure over the last decade (we tried about ten years ago) the equipment has vastly improved. 🙂

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