What I Use: Cutting the Cable on our Entertainment

It was time.  After years of being under the thumb of big media providers, we decided to take the plunge and Cut the Cable.  (Bye bye, DirecTV.  Hello, streaming.)  And it’s working out great so far.  Read on to discover what we did and why we did it.

PAST EXPERIENCES

When I first got my own place, I became a Comcast customer.  These were the days just prior to the HDTV boom.  Shortly after moving in, I  took receipt of my Sharp Aquos 1080p LCD television (still kickin’ today).  The disappointment began when I was forced to pay the $10 shipping charge for my HDTV-enabled cable box.  Here I was about to commit to an extra $10 per month ($120 per year) and they can’t foot the bill to get me the equipment. When I got married, I inherited a DirecTV account which my wife had installed when she moved into her place.  I grew to like the satellite service — good channel selection and great customer service.  But the service is expensive and I kept noticing extra fees tacked onto my bill periodically.  Our already expensive service just kept getting more expensive. We are not huge TV enthusiasts; we enjoy some of the basic network channels as well as some cable stations like AMC and HGTV.  There’s GOT to be a better way!

OUR CURRENT SETUP

We decided to take a leap and break free from the shackles of a big cable provider.  We dropped DirecTV like a bad habit and signed up for Amazon Prime (which includes the Amazon Instant Video service), Netflix and Hulu+.  It look a slight bit of convincing, but my wife let me setup our Xbox One in our living room.  Now we have access to all those services plus additional services available through the Xbox.  The setup works great.

An HDTV OTA antenna where my DirecTV dish once was.
An HDTV OTA antenna where my DirecTV dish once was.

One thing was lacking, however:  Live TV broadcasts.  We got around this by investing in a Wineguard FL6550A outdoor HDTV antenna.  They have an array of indoor antennas available as well.  To see what channels you could receive with an Over-The-Air (OTA) antenna, check out the FCC’s site, you just input your address and it returns a list of nearby antennas and the channels that you could expect to receive.  Installation was easy; all I did was remove the DirecTV satellite dish and plug the external antenna into one of the two co-ax cables previously occupied by DirecTV.  The FL6550A does require an amplifier which I installed in the basement.  Currently, we have the antenna going only to the living room TV, but this could easily be connected to a splitter to deliver the signal to your entire house.

The last piece of the puzzle is getting the HDTV signal through the Xbox One.  With a recent Xbox One update, an external TV Tuner can be connected via USB to do just that.  We invested in the Hauppauge 1578 Digital TV Tuner for Xbox One (available through various online retailers; we used Newegg).

COST SAVINGS

One of our main goals was to reduce the cost of our entertainment.  How did we fare?

Item Comment  $$$
DirecTV Cutting the cord (95.00)
AT&T Internet Had to bump up our connection speed 6.00
Amazon Prime Video Streaming ($99/year) 8.25
Hulu+ Video streaming 7.99
Netflix (Standard) Video streaming 8.99
TOTAL (63.77)

That’s a monthly savings of $63.77.  Of course, you have to factor in the one-time expenses.  I already had the Xbox One, so that leaves the following hardware costs:

Item $$$
TV Tuner for Xbox One 60.00
Winegard Antenna 99.00
Logitech Harmony One IR Remote (Used off Ebay) 115.00
TOTAL 274.00

If my math is correct, we should recover the one-time costs in less than 5 months.  As I noted, we already had the Xbox One, but you could easily just use a Roku, or similar,  device instead.

HOW’S IT ALL WORK?

Great, thanks for asking.  It’s been several months now and we’re quite happy with our new setup.  The three streaming services deliver 90+% of the video entertainment we consumed with DirecTV (plus TONS more).  The Winegard antenna adds to that by giving us the ability to tune in for live network broadcasts (we get all major networks:  ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and CW).  Using the Xbox One to tie everything together is brilliant; broadcast content is easily available through the TV App.

This really leaves only a couple of areas where we lack:  AMC for our Walking Dead fix, and the array of sports channels that we use to watch UGA Football in the fall.  We can add Sling TV to our portfolio to cover most of this gap — both AMC and ESPN are included, along with many other networks. It’s worth noting that we are also lacking a DVR function which would be nice for recording broadcast content.  However, a whisper of a rumor suggests that it’s possible that Microsoft will potentially consider maybe adding a DVR function to Xbox One.  This would pretty much be an ideal scenario.

IN SUMMARY

I realize that this story isn’t much different from the millions of other cutting-the-cord stories out there.  If you’re like me and feel that the high prices being charged by the big service providers — AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, etc. — is exorbitant, then perhaps this story can help motivate you to break free.  We’re enjoying nearly unlimited entertainment options for a fraction of the price. Now…  If there was only something we could do to get rid of my AT&T U-Verse internet connection…

What I Use: Cutting the Cable on our Entertainment was last modified: July 14th, 2015 by michael

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