So I'm thinking about canceling cable TV

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I am buying my first house soon, so money it tight and I am thinking about ways to save myself some money. One of the biggest money savers would be to get rid of my expensive cable TV bill. I realize that I only watch a handful of channels (mainly Discovery) and I know how to watch basically any TV show through the web.

My plan at the moment is to build myself a cheap media center PC and hook it up to my TV. For those live sports moments I am thinking about hooking some sort of bunny ear antenna to get the signal on my HD TV. From my experience the HD signal coming from "over the air" is one of the clearest HD signals.

I am am here asking for suggestions from people who have done this transition. What hardware do you use to get around it? How has your experience been? How do you watch live events?

I haven't turned my TV on in a year or more, but I didn't watch much TV to begin with, but sports and live stuff is always available with friends =)

You may be able to get away with using your home console as a media center, if you already have one. my Xbox360 performs admirably for the majority of tasks required of it. PlayOn assists with Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube.

However, it's not perfect. Either through my own idiocy or through the idiocy of other stuff (I blame wood nymphs and Hulu's drastically reduced usefulness in the last year), many things still require me to jury rig my laptop to the television to watch. cbs.com, usanetwork.com, and nbc.com are three big ones that are just incompatable with my xbox setup.

Overall I am in the market to just build a HTPC and use that for everything. I just want to wait a bit longer so I can buy one of those cool HTPC cases that look like they belong in an entertainment center. Thermaltake, especially, has some very cool options.

I need to get around to cancelling my cable myself. I don't watch it nearly enough to make the cost justifiable. For 'live' events, there's usually a good stream on the internet somewhere, or a bar within walking distance.

I only regularly watch 5 shows, and only 3 of those are on cable, so the transition hasn't been rough for me. I'm not a sports guy, though. I do have to use some shadiness, however, because FX is on an 8 day delay on Hulu, and that is simply too long of a wait for new Sunny.

My vote = Cancel it.

I'm halfway considering doing the same for Sky TV over here as I literally haven't watched anything other than the news in...at least a year. Anything I am interested in watching (fringe, stargate, whatever) I'll quite happily wait until the dvd is available or grab from itunes / bbc iplayer or something.

If i switch the TV on these days it's just for background noise while I'm doing something else.

I dropped cable TV two months ago and it was rough on my wife (a die-hard sitcom fanatic) but otherwise we've made the transition unscathed.

I have a HP S7700 slimline PC running Windows XP as my sort of media center / HTPC going into the VGA port on my HDTV and it is fantastic. I'm running the Hulu Desktop app as well as Boxee (for video streaming), and iTunes (for the occassion TV show/movie purchase and podcasts). I also have my bookmarks in Firefox setup for quick and easy access to Revision3.com, Netflix.com and a bunch of other streaming video sites I enjoy. Thank God for Netflix as my kids love watching Dora, Blues Clues, Cailou and Wall-E through the Watch Now instant streaming. I'm planning on buying a terabyte drive and TV tuner this weekend actually so I can turn it into a DVR.

As far as live events, that gets a little trickier. I have a RCA Amplified antenna as my Over-The-Air HDTV antenna and it works phenomenally well... for the most part. I went with this antenna because of the powerful 55db Amplifier which you usually only find on the much more expensive models. I have it in my bedroom on my wife's nightstand facing out her window towards the antenna farms in Parma, Ohio (I live in Cleveland, Ohio) where all the major TV channels are setup to broadcast about 25 miles away. OTA HDTV signals are absolutely stunning compared to the crappy compression I saw on Time Warner Cable (I did a side-by-side live comparison before I dropped Cable).
BUT, I cannot get the local CBS affiliate WOIO19 at all and I guess it's a huge problem because of the frequency they broadcast on.

On the otherside of Lake Erie is a Canadian TV station on the same frequency but at a much higher power level. Since the Canadian station went live first, they get to control that frequency and WOIO runs at a reduced power until they switch to a new frequency (been pending FCC approval for years). Now, I don't get the Canadian channel or WOIO, I just get static because the two broadcasts screw each other up. Considering how WOIO is the major affiliate for NFL football (not that the Browns are worth watching anyways) and I love a bunch of CBS shows (I miss you Big Bang Theory, see you on DVD...) I'm sort of SOL. Cleveland has a cable/satellite TV penetration of over 90% so WOIO is in no rush to switch over since everyone is paying to get it anyways.

Ok, bringing this whole conversation around... Living in a metro, your going to probably need an omni-directional antenna. I recommend hitting up http://antennaweb.org and AVSForum.com to find out what sort of coverage you can expect. Clear line of sight is critical. In my case, a window is satisfactory but you might need to install it inside your attic or other high point to get good reception. An amplifer will help as well. Terk makes a very highly regarded indoor/outdoor antenna with a 20db amplifer for $40 that I was considering but I couldn't find it in stock locally. Make sure if you do buy an antenna, you have the means to return/exchange it as well. They can be very finicky to setup.

Hope this helps, good luck!

I haven't had cable TV or satellite in many years and I haven't missed it one bit. Once TV shows started coming out on DVD without any commercials cable became dead to me. For the most part I'm not really a sports nut so I don't loose that aspect. Anything else I can get off the internet. I use my 360 to stream music and movies from my computer. I watch things when and where I want to.

I recently reduced my Sky satellite subscription to a bare minimum. I was in a dispute with them, and took off movies and sports more as a bargaining tool than anything else, only to realise that I didn't miss those services at all.

I built a media centre PC using a variety of parts that some friends in the IT business donated and bits from an old desktop; all I have to buy was a wireless card. When I move (end of the month, fingers crossed!) I will run ethernet to it, but it seems a bit pointless to mess about in the walls so close to moving. £35 for a media centre with 750gb of storage, 4g of ram and a decent dual core processor is pretty good! I even had an rf media centre remote that came with my current desktop, wich is great.

I haven't streamed much; 4 On Demand and BBC iPlayer seem to work well enough. In terms of TV and movie watching, it has been a revelation; a lot of my DVDs of films and TV shows have been coverted to .avi over the years for various portable media players and to watch on laptops, so I just dumped them and my entire music collection on the media centre, and it's fantastic. The only thing that I want to do is add a blu-ray player. I pulled the never-used TV card out of my desktop, and get the UK Freeview channels, with PVR facility, on the media centre too.

I have found that the Sky box is getting a lot less use; transferring my .avis over reminded me that there was a lot that I either didn't get around to watching, or want to watch again.

The only problem that I have found probably wouldn't be so much of an issue for you, TempestBlayze. A lot of new US shows are on either Sky1, Virgin 1 or FX, which are not available to my media centre's PVR function, so I have to watch them or use the Sky+ PVR. Since you can get them from services that allow for US IPs only, you aren't stuck with subscription-TV-or-shady as your only options. Sky have an online service, but a lot of the stuff is pay-per-view, and I have already paid for the TV version, so I am very reluctant to pay to stream them.

I haven't used cable in years. I'm usually at work when important stuff happens anyway, so I catch it on the internet later.

Get rid of it. You can always get it again later. In the meantime, you can save yourself some cash while you figure out if you actually want it or not.

Edit:

Grenn wrote:

www.netflix.com

What he said.

Awesome suggestions! I will check out that RCA - Amplified Indoor Off-Air HDTV Antenna for my TV. I will also check out Boxee since I've been hearing lots of things about it.

Does anyone know if a Logitech Harmony can controls Boxee or windows media?

Streaming Netflix on the 360, baby. I only watch a handful of shows on cable now. If Hulu streamed HD the way Netflix does, I'd just pay for PlayOn & drop cable.

It's a year old but I found this media center episode of Systm

TempestBlayze wrote:

Does anyone know if a Logitech Harmony can controls Boxee or windows media?

Yup. A quick google search will show you some easy ways to make this happen.

We're gearing up for this shift ourselves (our DirecTV contract ends in November, it wasn't worth the cancellation fee to stop early). I've built a 4+TB (and growing) unRaid server to house all my DVDs, Blu-rays, games, music, photos. etc. And have a dedicated PC at each TV in the house (which is only two). We watch most of our TV shows through Netflix, so we're just on a one-year delay, and still get OTA for the major networks. As with others, I can't recommend it enough. I do highly recommend the Windows Media Center route, as the plugins make it such a powerful tool; especially look at secondrun.tv if you're interested in replacing cable. MediaBrowser is my personal all-time favorite plugin for organizing movies, TV shows, etc. and it looks fantastic. It's a fair bit of work to get everything running, but shaving $80/month off the budget? That's worth a lot.

I haven't had cable for over 10 years.

I have a nice HDTV with an HD "rabbit ear" antenna and the picture is freakin' fantastic. I get all the reg. non-cable networks, 4 pbs stations (rock) and a bunch of oddball stations to boot (Al Jazeera, Retro TV Network, etc.). All 100% free and more than enough tv to watch.

I couldn't be happier.

The one caveat is that we do have a good friend with cable who Tivo's cable shows like The Soup, Project Runway, etc. and we keep up with them regularly.

spider_j wrote:

I recently reduced my Sky satellite subscription to a bare minimum. I was in a dispute with them, and took off movies and sports more as a bargaining tool than anything else, only to realise that I didn't miss those services at all.

Yup, totally did the same thing earlier in the year and dumped the movie channels. Don't miss em one bit.

spider_j wrote:

The only problem that I have found probably wouldn't be so much of an issue for you, TempestBlayze. A lot of new US shows are on either Sky1, Virgin 1 or FX, which are not available to my media centre's PVR function, so I have to watch them or use the Sky+ PVR. Since you can get them from services that allow for US IPs only, you aren't stuck with subscription-TV-or-shady as your only options. Sky have an online service, but a lot of the stuff is pay-per-view, and I have already paid for the TV version, so I am very reluctant to pay to stream them.

I've been pretty much done with trying to keep up with interesting shows directly on TV. I've discovered it's much more fun to wait just a little longer and then have the whole thing boxed up in a single dvd set than to bother with adverts or waiting a week for the next episode. For one thing, it frees up a lot more time for gaming

I went without cable for several years. HDTV over the air, even with a cheap antenna, was great for the news and football games and episodes of Lost we cared about. The handful of shows on cable we cared about (Deadwood, The Wire) we had to wait for on DVD, but with Netflix, it was worth it for the savings. (And as our only way to strike back against Comcast, the monopoly cable provider in our area.) We really didn't even feel the need for a PC to stream things.

However, about a year ago, they made available a plan where if you got internet and phone through Comcast, cable was basically free. We took the deal; I don't know if that kills our credibility... we're finally getting Verizon in our area, and I don't think one company is better than the other, but the existence of competition should be nice for us.

Dropped DirecTV in January. Other than sports, I haven't missed it a bit. We did get a TivoHD, as it was too hard to give up the DVR, even just for the OTA shows we watch. And we have the cheapest Netflix account that allows streaming. So we are now spending $22 a month, and still don't have time to watch everything we want. And because the Tivo can use my network connection, unlike my DirecTV DVR that needed a phone line, we also cut out the home phone, which more than paid for the monthly fee of Tivo and Netflix.

While I have a 360, streaming Netflix through the TivoHD is much better. First, my 360 is louder than the Tivo, even without the disc running. Second, I can use the Tivo remote and get close to the same functionality as my DVR, and more convenient that buying and using an additional 360 remote.

I'm considering picking up a Mac mini for web content and Hulu.

The real downside is sports, and there is no good way around it. I'm hitting a bar for the Cards in the playoffs and Blues games. Will do the same to catch my Jayhawks. The Chiefs suck enough right now that I can live on whatever gets aired here in St. Louis. But I do miss a ton of other games that I would watch if they were on free TV. The playoffs on cable is pretty sick. I'm fighting off the urge to pick up the NHL package to watch games online. Of course, the game that was making me consider it was the Caps and Flyers last night, and that might have been worth the entire package.

Another option is to plug your TV in when you move in and see if you're getting a signal, the built in TV tuner may be able to get you by. Odds are the local channels will be there as well as their HD equivalents. Then for a DVR you can use Win7 Media Center (built in clear QAM support). We only subscribe to basic cable but get most of the expanded (no HGTV/TLC to my wifes dismay) with this method. Don't get me wrong those channels will disappear as they start encrypting them but by law the cable co's have to leave the local HD broadcasts unencrypted due to many people not being able to use an antenna (especially here in the mountainous puget sound area).

With XPMCE/Vista you can do this as well but you will most likely need any beta drivers for your tuners card for the clear QAM support (this was included in a Fiji update pack to Vista but it wasn't made available to regular users, just oems).

I do it similar to Eezy_Bordone. I subscribe to Comcast basic (not standard, but basic) for <$20/mo. Then with a digital QAM tuner (I use the HD HomeRun by SiliconDust) and a media center PC, I get most if not all of the channels that I would get with standard analog cable (incl. Discovery, Food, ESPN, Versus, etc). Only the network broadcast channels are available in HD, but that is fine by me. Check your local forum on avsforum.com for info on what your local cable company does with regards to QAM being encrypted or not.

Wow I'm amazed how big of a shift the Media Center PC has taken. I haven't payed any attention to it at all and now I know I can cancel cable without feeling like I'm missing out.

Eezy_Bordone wrote:

Then for a DVR you can use Win7 Media Center (built in clear QAM support).

So I don't need to buy a tuner card with Win7?

No cable here, cheap attenna gets all the locals in HD, the only thing I ever really watch is football anyway. Missing MNF on ESPN kind of sucks, but usually I can find a good stream online to watch it.

Canceling cable is one of the best decisions I've made!

Anyone know a good quiet media center case that can fit standard mobo's and PCI cards? I had a bunch of spare parts lying around from an old PC and want to use them.

TempestBlayze wrote:

Anyone know a good quiet media center case that can fit standard mobo's and PCI cards? I had a bunch of spare parts lying around from an old PC and want to use them.

If you are building your own HTPC (and I recommend it, even if you don't know what you're doing), this is the most definitive guide I've ever found to building your own: Guide to Building a HD HTPC

I followed this guide a year or so ago, and was able to put together my own box that allows Hulu and Netflix streaming pretty painlessly.

TempestBlayze wrote:
Eezy_Bordone wrote:

Then for a DVR you can use Win7 Media Center (built in clear QAM support).

So I don't need to buy a tuner card with Win7?

You most definitely need a tuner. If you want to do QAM, make sure it can handle the trickery that's required to convince Windows that it's coming OTA (over-the-air). Although perhaps this is no longer necessary with Win7, not sure ...

Anybody doing this in Canada?

You do need a tuner but you don't need specific drivers anymore and Windows7 will be able to process the QAM signal natively.

I use the older version of the AverMedia G2.

I have a three-way splitter off a 1 foot cable from the wall. The three way splitter sends cables to the TV and the two coax inputs on the card (one is analog and one is digital/QAM).
This way I can record something on HD but still use the analog signal (this gives me only the channels I suscribe to from cable) to watch something else. The TV signal is there in the rare case there are already two things set up to record at the same time and I want to watch a third (the HDTV has a built in tuner so I get the expanded line up here).

This is why I say, wait and see. If your TV picks up channels you know you can go DVR with Win7 (or any other product) but still not necessarily pay the cable company for service. While not ethical (or legal) the cable company it seems rarely sees the need to disable the signal on houses when people move.

Do it. I have cable internet, and they never remember to shut off the cable TV anyways.

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