Cord Cutter Tool Kit: Get Started with Streaming TV, Digital Broadcast
Are you ready to be a cord cutter? Whether you just shouted an emphatic “yes!” or just wonder about the possibilities, you need not make a definitive choice right now — you can cut the cord in steps and here are the services and devices you need to get from here (i.e. paying too much for TV) to there with minimal hassle.
First off, you can sample the cord cutter buffet before you take the leap. See what the leading streaming video services — Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Redbox Instant, Target Ticket — have to offer without spending a cent:
• Netflix (30 days, $7.99/mo)
• Amazon Prime (30 days)
• Hulu Plus (7 days, $7.99/mo)
• Redbox Instant (30 days, $7.99/mo)
• Target Ticket (10 free UltraViolet movies)
— Sign up is a lengthy pain
Look at that list again. You can well over three months of free TV — thousands of shows and movies, including Breaking Bad, Avengers, Orange is the New Black, Skyfall, House of Cards, Star Trek Into Darkness, Arrested Development and more — for nothing.
Without exception, all of these services require you to sign up with a credit card and, if you don’t cancel by the end of the trial period, you will be charged. That said, I’ve tried all of these services haven’t been charged yet (TIP: Set up multiple calendar alerts to remind yourself to cancel service).
Cord Cutter: Thinking Inside in a Box
Of course, you can test all of the above services on your Mac, iPhone or iPad. However, watching on the big-screen TV in your living room, the real cord cutter experience, is the ultimate test and the best way to do that is a game console or set top box:
• Gaming consoles — The Xbox, Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation all deliver the Internet onto your TV. While these cost from $200 to $300 new, you can pick one up used for as little as one-quarter the price.
— Xbox requires a $60/yr fee to access streaming services
• Roku — Thousands of free channels, including adult fare, essentially for free. Plus, you can subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, etc without paying for a cable TV package. Your cost is $50 to $100, though refurbished models are also available for less.
— I’m a satisfied Roku LT owner.
• Apple TV — Apple’s set top box integrates seamlessly with your Mac, iPhone and iPad. If you can see on your iThing, it plays on the Apple TV, as do all of the major streaming services.
— See also refurbished Apple TV
— Note: These three solutions all require broadband connectivity (i.e. via wifi or, better still, ethernet) to view streaming internet video
Digital Broadcast = An Antenna
If you live in or near an urban metro, you could be getting a dozen, and very often, or many more broadcast digital channels just by tuning in. These channels include ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, Ion Television, My Network TV, RetroTV, NBC, PBS and more.
Aereo — If you live in the right metro and are willing to part with $8 a month, you can get “antenna deluxe,” aka Aereo, which delivers digital broadcast stations to your home via the Internet. If the internet is up, you’re getting crystal clear digital content without ever spending any quality time on your roof.
Some folks won’t need an antenna at all, while others can get by with an indoor antenna ($9 and up). Personally, I went with a Winegard MS2002 MetroStar, though if I could go back in time there would be a Terrestrial Digital DB8 Multi-Directional ‘Bowtie’ UHF DTV Antenna on my roof.
There are two fabulous advantages of having an antenna — 1.) digital broadcast HDTV is superior to cable and satellite, and 2.) putting up an antenna is a one-time cost (i.e. no recurring fees).
Cord Cutter Cables
If you have a game console, chances are it’s already connected to your TV. However, neither Roku nor Apple TV include an HDMI cable. When it comes to cabling, I have two suggestions: 1.) get a name brand product 2.) avoid the price extremes (i.e. you don’t need gold plated anything).
Sick of paying too much for TV? Ready to be a cord cutter? At the very least you owe it to yourself to dip in a toe…
What’s your take?