If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know about my life-long quest to pay less for pretty much anything and everything. Cable TV is one of those non-essential items that I always find myself struggling with.
There are a litany of services out there that have come close to replacing cable tv like Slingbox, Apple TV, Netflix, Hulu, etc but none of them are quite there in my mind.
I Pay $70/month for Live Sports
One of the main reasons why I still pay $70/month for cable tv is because I love watching sports. I’m a huge Lakers, NFL fan and Dodgers fan, in that order and none of the above services can provide me with consistent sports programming. Some of my sport-loving friends without cable tv tell me that it’s not that bad, they just go and watch the games at a bar. But that sounds like a pretty counter-productive solution to me since I’m trying to save money here. Food and drinks at a bar are expensive and generally not that good.
I may sound like an old man here but I also don’t want a bunch of drunk hooligans bothering me while I’m trying to watch the last two minutes of a playoff game. I would much rather be sitting in the comfort of my own home on my couch with a cold $1 micro-brew than on an uncomfortable bar stool for 3-4 hours with a cheap $4 Coors light in my hand.
I Love TiVo
I also have a limited time budget so when I do watch tv, I have to be able to fast forward through commercials and football is about the only sport I still watch live. I’ve gotten it down to a pretty good science and I can watch a Lakers game in just under an hour by fast forwarding through commercials and free throws. If I’m real pressed for time, I’ll only watch the first and fourth quarters that way. Nothing really happens in the middle of the game anyways.
I think the paid services like Hulu and Netflix are getting closer to providing everything you’ll need but they’re still not quite there for me. It’s getting tougher and tougher though to justify paying $70/month for cable TV now that I’ve found out about a couple new tricks too.
Using an HD receiver
Remember those bunny ear receivers that people used to have before everyone started switching to satellite and cable? Believe it or not, they still work! As long as you have a newer version TV(think HD and/or flat screen), all you have to do is buy a simple receiver and hook it up to your TV.
I actually bought this RCA receiver(pictured left) from Amazon for $8 and set it up. Depending on your area and reception, you could have up to 20-30 HD channels. Most of them will be in Spanish or Korean or some other foreign language, but you will get the local channels like CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, PBS, etc in crystal clear HD.
The first time I tried it, my reception wasn’t great so I only got a couple local channels in HD but now that I’ve moved and my TV is right next to a window, I get full reception on all the local HD channels. I know there are Tivo-type boxes you can get to record off an antenna but you still have to enter all the recordings manually. Once there’s a service that will be able to auto-update their guide based on what’s on TV and interface with your antenna, I’ll be sold.
Using an Old Cable Outlet
This hack is slightly on the unethical side, but I don’t really have a problem with it personally. If you get your internet from a company that also provides cable tv you can actually use the same input cable to get HD channels for free. It can be a little bit hit or miss but a friend of mine told me about it and I thought he was full of crap until I tried it myself.
Since we recently moved, I ended up signing up for Direct TV and internet from Time Warner Cable. Once the internet guy was done, I hooked up their connection to my TV and did a quick search and sure enough I had over 50 HD cable channels! Again, a lot of channels that I never watch and couldn’t understand but I did have access to all the local channels in HD. The nice thing about this method is that the picture is perfect and doesn’t rely on a pair of antiquated bunny ears(which tend to be very sensitive to wind, touch, rain, etc).
You can buy a simple splitter for under a couple bucks and split the connection from your cable internet company and have one line going to your modem and another to your TV. I’m not sure if this works for every cable tv/internet company but it definitely works for Time Warner so give it a shot and let me know how it went in the comments below.
Readers, did you know that you can still buy a simple inexpensive receiver and get free local channels in crystal clear HD? What do you think about my cable tv hacks?
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-Harry @ PF Pro
I bought these bunny ears, hoping to get local channels as well. BUT I live in San Francisco. Is there any way around the hills blocking the signal?
Harry Campbell says
You’re pretty much screwed haha, do you have internet from a cable company that does tv/internet? You could try the second trick to see if you get local channels.
Grayson @ Debt Roundup says
I have the Mohu Leaf and it doesn’t have any “ears” and it is the size of a piece of paper and about as thin. My time warner turned off the service the day after I cancelled it, so your work-around is not an option for me.
Harry Campbell says
Nice, I haven’t tried the leaf but it sounds like it works pretty well based off what I’ve heard. Did they turn off the internet? If not, I think my trick should still work, you just have to split the incoming cable(or disconnect the internet and try it on your tv), set your tv to cable and do a scan..