Cutting the Cord: Can I Do Without Cable or Satellite TV?

Over my lifetime I have used just about every cable and satellite company available, as well as over-the-air broadcasting for my TV viewing needs. Then last night as I was watching the Chiefs vs. Charger game on ESPN, I mentioned to friends that one day I would like to cut the cord to my current satellite TV provider and try going with over-the-air broadcasting. I told them that I thought I could supplement my viewing entertainment with services from other paid services like Netflix and/or Hulu Plus.

I was then surprised when one of my friends stated that they had already cut the cord with their cable TV provider and placed an antenna in their attic in order to receive our local HD channels for free. For now he feels that this meets his family’s needs, but he isn’t sure if he will want to re-order other services in the future. That remains to be seen.

This then brought to mind another conversation I had when talking with my son-in-law, who lives in Texas, and his neighbor. We were discussing the merits of cable vs. satellite when he stated that his family did not watch very much TV and found the expense of either service overly expensive. To solve the problem and therefore reduce the cost, he stated that he bought a laptop computer with an HDMI connector and is now streaming much of his viewing entertainment via his laptop to his HDTV. He stated that this setup worked well for him and his family.

That gave me the idea to try this avenue of viewing myself and since I live close enough to a city where I can, I know that I will have no problem receiving over the channel programming from the local networks. To try it out I am using an old TV in one of our spare bedrooms to which I have connected a portable antenna and the picture comes in perfect. That tells me that if I were to connect all of the televisions in my home to an antenna in my attic, I would be able to receive the local channels in HDTV without issue. In addition, I would take advantage of my Netflix account for streaming video and add Hulu Plus for additional viewing abilities.

I believe this would provide me with plenty of TV viewing while saving me approximately $75 a month or more. Has anyone else done this? If so, what has your experience been?

Share your thoughts and comments.

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Nick V

    Ditched cable and FiOS TV a while ago and bought a Roku box.  I get all my local channels in HD over the air and they even look better (not compressed) than they did with cable.  I get movies and cable shows through Netflix, Amazon Instant and Hulu Plus and watch a few sports events through online streaming sites (may not be 100% legit, Google search for these) or mooch off friends/hit up the bar.  I figure I’m saving close to $100/month.

  • Road Dog

    -After being laid off which led to divorce ( I have 3 kids, my oldest lives with me) I have had to cut back on everything just to keep a roof over my head and pay child support. The ONLY thing that survived the budget cuts was my iPhone which I tend to use more then my notebook.
    -I dropped Direct TV and connected a 30$ antenna. This gave me 4 channels. I worked out a deal with my neighbor to split her ISP bill (Verizon FIOS) We settled on $20 a month.
    -I took advantage of the free month of NETFLIX. (my son connected using his xbox, I connected my Macbook to my TV. At first I was disappointed. I expected new movies weekly, but as I continued to use the service I have found many great movies, documentaries, and seasons of my favorite shows that give me 1000’s of hours of entertainment (especially since I enjoy watching a good show/movie a second time)  ie: I am a huge STARGATE SG1 fan. 10 years running on the SYFI channel there are over 200 episodes of that show alone! SG Atlantis 5 years….and so on.
    -I was very excited to see the past seasons of SONS OF ANARCHY released. It kills me that I can’t see the new season, but knowing it will be added to Netflix soon gives me something to look forward too. I can sit and watch several episodes at once. No more waiting in suspense for the next show.  
    -I have found TV/cable shows that I have really gotten into (ie:Madmen). Netflix is releasing alot more during the past 6 months then when I first signed up.
    -I eventually purchased a used xbox that serves as double duty and a gaming console for when my yonger children visit on the weekends and for Netflix. I tried HULU but decided it was not worth the $5. a month. (yes, with the economy the way it is, and me not being able to find a job in my field for almost 2 years, it IS that bad.)

    SPORTS-I am not hardcore into sports so I am able to do without. If you are big on sports then this may not work for you.

    My son agrees,
    WE can ALLWAYS find something good to watch on netflix.
    So yes, it can be done.


  • Dave

    How does the streamed video compare to OTA in terms of picture resolution and quality?

  • Road Dog

    HD, but I am sharing a high bandwidth line. (fiber) When I tried it on the lowest package via brighthouse (lite) I never got HD and there was a lot of buffering. 
    -also, don’t use a very old computer (i tried to use my 2005 mac mini)  it was unwatchable.

    As far as Streaming vs OTA , Netflix ranges from the same to better. (and my free local channels come in really good)
    It also depends on the show/movie.
    If it’s an older show, then of course it’s not going to look as good as a recent movie/show.

    Give the free trial a couple of weeks.

  • John Smith

    This seems to work great if you want to watch the normal broadcast channels.  However, we seldom watch the local channels but do watch HGTV, FOXNEWS, TMC, TCM, TNT, HALLMARK, ESPN CHANNELS, A&E, BBC, ETC. none of which are available without cable or satellite.. If all I could watch were the local channels, I would not watch at all or get the very few I do watch via Hulu or its equivalent.

  • Jhowelljr

    Been doing this for years and have been totally satisfied.  Using an off air antenna for local hd tv and receive 11 channels and their sub channels reliably includes all major networks abc, cbs, nbc, pbs, cw, & fox.  I use a pc with my entertainment center tv to stream net video and music.  i’m a big fan of hulu and pandora.  both offer quite a bit for free.  my pc also has a tuner card and i’m running the last version of sage tv software offered before google gobbled them up, so i have dvr functionality as well.  my internet connection is not the fastest and my pc is not the quickest but with the money i’m saving, i’m likely to be able to upgrade both.  bottom line, cut the cord. 

  • D Lowrey

    We have the ultimate entertainment solution in our house. My roommate bought 10 TB of hard drives in a RAID5 configuration and an external 5-port enclosure for about $500. With a TV tuner card hooked to the DirecTV box…I record all of my weekly programs and place them on the server. Having recorded movies from TCM/FMC/IFC in the past…along with free pay channel weekends…we have about three TB’s left on the server full of TV shows and movies I’ve recorded though the years.

    Instead of Windows Media Center…we run XBMC on almost every PC in the house. With the add on’s available for free…I can stream US and foreign content. Even have my Asus netbook running Windows 7 streaming online and local content with a media center remote I had sitting around.

    For the local channels…I built a $10 HD antenna from metal coat hangers…a piece of scrap wood and some solid copper wire. Running it through a signal amp…we run an ATSC TV tuner in the back of the house in my room…as well as the flat screen in the main room. We are also thinking about setting up a nettop on the back of the flat screen running XBMC for about $200. The signal looks great and still have a great picture two years of this being mounted on the front porch of a third floor apartment pointing to the TV towers.

    Just like Road Dog…the DirecTV may get cut out soon…since the job situation is looking bad. At least there is free content available online…even though it maybe older movies from Crackle/Hulu/Classic Cinema and other places without needing to resort to torrents…unless you want foreign content unavailable in the US.

  • Gkmarsh

    So sad to read Road Dog…. watching thousands of hours of entertainment, a couple hundred  Stargate, old seasons of stuff, several episodes at once. He must live in front of the TV. We have an antenna outside for my husband to watch…fine with him. I never turn the TV on. I don’t understand how people have time to watch it and I’m retired.

  • ryanfarmer

    I’m up for renewal in May and when  that happens, DirecTV is gone. They’re worse than Comcast with sneaking in fees and upping the bill whenever they feel like it.

    The only thing keeping me with them is the contract.

    Their latest scam was pretending to have a dispute with News Corp (which OWNS them btw) to justify paying themselves more money because they threatened themselves with removing their own channels if they didn’t pay themselves more money. Guess who is paying DirecTV more money so they can pay themselves more money to keep carrying Fox Noise Channel. Me.

    The early termination clause says you have to pay them $20 for every remaining month to get out of your contract. As May gets closer and closer, I’m considering paying them to just go away,