Treehouse

One Month Without Cable TV

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Roku Apple TV

I ditched DIRECTV about a month ago.  There were many reasons for doing so, a few including:

  • I live in Madison, Wisconsin and it gets very cold and snowy each winter.  Whenever one of these storms would hit, I'd have a hard time getting reception for days.
  • My base package was $89/month and I didn't watch any of it;  I needed that package, however, to be able to order the soccer packages, which cost me another $35/month.
  • I was being charged ~$20/month just to "rent" the boxes

I was able to swallow that pill for a while but I snapped a month ago.  Why was a paying so much?  I had justified it by telling myself "It's only $30/weekend to see loads of European games" but why should I pay $120+/month just to watch the $30 product I wanted?  Ridiculous.  I cancelled DIRECTV  and bought a Roku and a AppleTv.  For about the price of one month of DIRECTV service I bought one-time media products.  A few thoughts about my experience without major media outlet entertainment so far:

  • I didn't miss the basic channel package and I don't now.  I may miss a Monday Night Football game here or there but there's really not much to miss, even on the major networks...
  • ...though I can say this easily because of my Netflix subscription;  Many people Netflix is too lacking but if you can't find anything to watch, you're being a diva.
  • I much, much favor the Roku.  Its open app platform and store makes finding apps easy and enjoyable.
  • How the AppleTV doesn't yet have an App Store is crazy.  Their app choices are incredibly limited and an App Store and open environment would fix that quickly.
  • The AppleTV interface is still much better than Roku's.  Too bad their content doesn't compare.
  • Roku's iPhone app is incredible -- a must-have owners of both.
  • Roku's app language, BrightScript, looks inspired by Visual Basic.  In an emoticon... :(.  A JS/HTML/CSS-based API would have been way better.
  • Since the AppleTV remote works for both the AppleTV and MacBook, my remote has a fun time adjusting the MBP volume and ATV navigation at the same time.
  • I've been able to find HD streams of the soccer games I want to watch via Twitter.  I've not yet been able to push them to my big screen TVs yet but I can watch them on my other MacBook just fine.
  • My whole don't-buy-content-from-iTunes sort of backfires with my AppleTV.
  • I can't see the cable TV business model lasting too much longer.  I know that networks are pleased with where cable TV networks have taken them but private network streaming has to be coming soon.  Paying for channels you don't want will soon come to an end.
  • In fact I'd gladly pay for ABC/NBC/CBS/FOX Roku apps despite them being available via air in the US.  Just so getting them is easier than bunny ears.
  • I read that Apple bid for Premier League rights in the United States a few years back;  serious statement of intent but no dice.

Those are just a few thoughts from me.  Anyone else own a Roku or AppleTV?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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Discussion

  1. I dumped cable about 4 years ago for very much the same reasons you stated. Used my Xbox as a Netflix machine. Quitting live TV was a bit of an adjustment, but you get used to it. We started by watching old TV shows that we missed when they originally aired. Eventually Netflix gets the newer stuff. After you’ve been out of the live TV loop for awhile, it’s all new to you. May not sound exciting, but $8 a month versus $80 makes you put up with a lot.

    Also been on and off of Hulu plus, but I usually get mad at it for the increasing amount of commercials that I’m paying to see.

    Switched to an Apple TV last year from the Xbox. Makes much less noise, uses less electricity, and opens apps faster. I like it a lot. As an iOS/Mac user, I think it’s worth having one for AirPlay alone. I agree that an App Store makes sense and is probably in the cards for the near future.

    As far as buying content, I rent movies and buy episodes Doctor Who (because I can’t resist). That’s about it.

    Oh, you mention having trouble with your Apple TV remote controlling your Mac and Apple TV at the same time? Did you know you can pair the remote with the device? I don’t do this simply because I use multiple remotes for the same device and I think it only allows one at a time.

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1555

    • I have an XBox as well and it was great for Netflix but I felt the same way as you; Roku is less noise and it keeps me from the allure of playing video games for hours. Plus, with the Roku being only ~70, I wasn’t taking much of a risk.

  2. Rob

    Every time I see an article about this I say to myself, “Yeah, I gotta do something about that”.

    My son has not had cable for two years where he lives and doesn’t miss it at all. He has Hulu and Netflix. I would miss my sports. I could go to the bar down the street but not in my pajamas. And CBS doesn’t have a clue.

    I get the impression Charter has its eye on online distribution of content gathering from what I read and that they’ve been the first and best at high-speed internet in our area. However, distribution does no good if the producers aren’t willing.

    The first producers of content who to get their act together and distribute all their content online will be the next Google of media.

    • Agreed on your last statement; it will be a bold move by someone that gives them the advantage. I hope my kid never knows what “cable TV” is.

  3. I find my self sending the signal from my MBP to my AppleTV in the main room to watch something (like the State of the Union) last night on the big screen. I’m an NHL fan and am always watching that on the AppleTV. Like you said though if only the ATV had an App Store because I can’t get rid of my Cable just yet since alot of my daughters shows are on it and i have been wanting to stop paying so much each month for it.

    • Can’t your daughters find something on Netflix? :D I like hockey too but probably not enough to buy whatever the Apple TV package costs.

    • Eliza C

      I have a 7 year old. The two of us sat down and looked at all the kids programming available through Hulu plus and it seems they have all her faves.. They even group them according to suggested age.

  4. I am torn between Google TV and Roku. I have committed to Android for phone and tablet so it seems to make sense to go with Google. But then again Roku seems to be emerging as the standout. Both have entry at less than $100 so I might just get both :) I am ready to dump cable too!

    Thanks for the writeup.

    njenney

    • That was my thought: I could buy a Roku and an AppleTV for less than the cost of two months on DIRECTV. Was a no-brainer. Even if I didn’t like the one, the other would be great. You could even sell the one you didn’t like, get some cash to buy the other that you do like!

    • Eliza C

      David,
      If you purchase the Roku directly from their site, you get a 30 day money-back guarantee, so there’s nothing to lose.

  5. The remotes can be paired to a specific device so that you’re not accidentally activating one device instead of another. As for HD streams of soccer games, you should be able to turn on AirPlay Mirroring on your MacBook to send the signal to your Apple TV. (I haven’t done this myself, since my dual-screen setup goes wonky whenever I use the feature) You can use various apps to turn your iPhone or iPad into a touchpad for your computer, and control your computer remotely with that.

  6. Tyrone

    For your soccer HD streams, try the Twonky beam app. I use this myself to stream some NFL games straight to my Roku.

  7. Matt

    If you have Charter internet, hook your coaxial cable up to the TV. For some reason, you get FOX/ABC/CBS/NBC in HD, plus some local channels.

    Also, congrats on the kid! (finally catching up on my Dave Walsh blog posts)

  8. Nahan Querido

    Hey David,

    So, a couple thoughts:

    - You either pair remote to the Apple TV or the Mac. Or, even better, turn it off under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Advanced > Disable remote control infrared receiver
    - Did you try ‘opening’ the Apple TV up at all with Firecore? I guess if you purchased the 1080p Apple TV, then that isn’t possible yet.

    So, besides Apple TV, what I actually have a is Mac mini connected to the TV, where I have the latest version of XBMC installed. It’s pretty awesome when setup properly.

  9. Kwalsh

    Tell me when we can stream Project Runway and I’ll be happy we got rid of cable

    • Not in front of my friends, babe! :D

      P.S. Can we do pizza for dinner tonight?

    • Eliza C

      it’s available on Hulu

  10. Erik

    I made the switch roughly two years ago. My wife was dead set on having live tv still, so I did a mac mini w/ a tv antenna and dvr app from ElGato. And any shows that were ‘must watch’ we got on itunes.

    It took just under a year to get my money back. Unfortunately the Apple experience hasn’t been great. Updates, firmware issues, updated color profiles (for the worse), loss of Frontrow (it worked for me) and a few more annoying issues. Of course if you wait long enough Apple will silently fix it, but how long are you willing to wait?

    *Disclaimer — I own an iphone and an ipad and love them both. Not an Apple hater by any means. Also, hi from Waukesha, WI

  11. You can stream Project Runway on http://www.mylifetime.com/… I’m embarrassed that I’m not embarrassed that I know that…

  12. Erik H.

    If you can find HD streams of the soccer games you want to watch, have you tried to use AirPlay to stream from an iPhone or iPad to your AppleTV? I didn’t give AirPlay a thought when I first picked up my AppleTV, but it’s become a feature that I use almost every day.

  13. I gave up cable almost a year and a half ago and I don’t miss it a bit.

    Because I live in Orlando and love basketball, I do wish there was a way for me to watch the Magic games. The AppleTV (which I own) has the ability to stream games using NBA League Pass, but only for games outside my local area. Not helpful.

    I also get NBC/ABC/FOX for free right out of the wall because.. well.. I’m not even sure why. Or why CBS somehow doesn’t work?

    In all honesty, I think I was just watching stuff for the sake of watching something, not even because I wanted to see it. Without cable, my personal projects and family life have benefitted significantly :)

    Don’t get me wrong though, I would still love to see a package where I could purchase just the channels I intend to watch. The first company to make that happen will make a lot of money….

    • cnobi

      Any luck with finding a way to watch Magic games? Even if we had to pay for it? I do not have cable either, and I own a AppleTV, but like you said, there is a blackout for local games! Ridiculous. As of now, I just stream using this shady website, which has multiple popups that are not friendly.

  14. I moved out of my parents basement last year (don’t judge!) and I have always hated cable television because commercials infuriate me. I’ve been living off of Netflix on my Xbox and computer for the few times I do actually watch TV, when not either coding or doing something non-tech related. I love all the free time I have instead of being a vegetable watching TV, it’s quite nice.

  15. Orrin

    Cut the cord in fall 2009 and havent looked back. Roku is the way to go. We watch as much MLB as we can take during thr summer, get caught up on TV and movies via Netflix and Amazon, Nowhere Man TV is also a “have to have” channel on Roku and I still have thr unofficial YouTube channel so live is great with Roku for 90+% of our video needs. We did use Hulu Plus for a while to watch 30Rock but realized that was all we watched there and got rid of it after 1 season. Between Netflix, Amazon, Nowhere Man and MLB we are set. Also in the SF Valley here we get about 30 ota channels (mostly various PBS or public channels) which include ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS when we need them. I agree, I would gladly pay $10 a month to get thr major networks via Roku and put the rabbit ears in the trash.

  16. My taste falls on the Roku side of things as well. The content options simply can’t compare. I’m not sure if anyone mentioned it, but the Mohu Leaf (https://store.gomohu.com/the-leaf-indoor-hdtv-antenna.htmlindoor) antenna is a great companion product to any internet tv box. You don’t have to live without broadcast tv since you’ve cable. This link (http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/) will tell you what stations are in your area and you can expect to be able to pick up.

    • Tom

      I too am a fan of the Mohu Leaf. I just put one up last weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect compared to the RCA bunny ears I have used for years. I was pleasantly surprised with the reception, and did not have to constantly adjust to get good reception. It is also much easier on the eyes and can easily be disguised. I plan to get another Leaf soon. http://www.tvfool.com was helpful in my decision.

  17. Tom

    I love my Roku, I received one as a gift in 2011 and it is a gift that keeps on giving. I subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime, but enjoy many of the free niche chanels available on Roku. I have convinced a few friends and coworkers to try them as well, and they too love it and are considering getting rid of cable. I got rid of cable three years ago. I use an antenna for the local ota channels. I recently replaced the bunny ears with the Mohu Leaf, and I must say I was impressed with the reception. I live an average of 28 miles from the nearest towers. The Mohu is easier to hide, and has not required any readjustment for reception. The picture quality is amazing. I do believe that the Roku is the standout product among others. I also hope that they upgrade the interface. With the recent leak of information from the FCC on a smaller Roku, I’m curious to see what is released possibly later this year.

  18. E L Frederick

    I too dumped cable about two years ago. I’ve been using the Roku and an XBox, but instead of NetFlix, I’ve been using Amazon Instant Video with my Amazon Prime membership. Slightly cheaper than Netflix, and when switched the two were pretty close as far as content was concerned. Plus with Amazon, I can get new shows of currently running shows for 2$ an episode. That way I can keep up with Justified, Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, and my wife can watch Army Wives and Rizzoli and Isles.

    I live out in the sticks, so my “Rabbit Ears” options are limited to one local channel, and IMHO it hasn’t been worth it to get a antenna.

  19. I ditched cable as well, but quite awhile ago. I always wanted an al a carte option for cable channels, but I doubt it will happen anytime soon. For a long time, I simply bought/rented DVDs. When the second generation Apple TV came out, I decided to take the plunge. I now live very happily with it (using Netflix + iTunes).

    If your Macbook doesn’t support AirPlay, you can watch those streaming soccer games via Apple TV with AirParrot. I have a slightly older Macbook that doesn’t quite make the hardware cut for Mountain Lion’s built in AirPlay feature, but this works as a great alternative.

  20. Joe W

    Which HD streams are these?

    For what it’s worth I usually pay for FoxSoccer.tv when I’m in the US. $20/month for Premier League and Champions League isn’t bad.

  21. Dave

    Hi David, I live in Madison as well, and I cut the cord last year. I usually cut the cord every year, at the end of Badger basketball, and reconnect at the beginning of Badger Football. So I only pay from September through March and at a discounted rate since Uverse considers me a new customer.

    As another commenter mentioned, you can get some channels through analog cable if you get your internet through Charter.

    HD (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS)
    SD (ESPN, ESPN2, FSW, TNT, TBS, CNN, A&E, AMC, WGN, HGTV, etc. No BTN though)

    ABC & NBC have iOS apps w/ some full episodes.

    For iTunes purchases, I get discounted iTunes cards (15-20%), and pre-order or wait until a season is over to get a better price.

  22. ^Why go analog? Get an HD over the air digital antenna from amazon or monoprice and switch between that and your apple/ps3/media center. Or even better, connect a mac mini or other small computer via hdmi and have access to any website/ streaming service.

    • Dave

      Because I get SD channels and HD broadcasts on only 1 input. Using an antenna, which I have, doesn’t really add anything.

      I can airplay mirror web only content from my Mac.

  23. Steve Walker

    I want to ditch Directv and my AT&T bundled land line and internet, and switch to Roku and Ooma for phone service. With no satellite/cable or land line, does anyone have a recommendation for internet only providers/plans?

  24. Tom R

    We ditched cable last year with an OTA antenna (from monoprice. Quick suggestion we initially went with their recommendation and we couldn’t get all of the local channels. Sent it back and upgraded to a more powerful model with a booster and everything comes in now). We could not get over the quality of the picture. We went the apple tv route. Our apple tv has been enhanced to support xbmc which open us up to a lot of options. We also pay for Hulu Plus. The only thing we miss is Nascar. Can’t wait for them to wake up and offer a season subscription like MLB and others.

  25. Kyle

    I’m trying to convince my wife it’s time for Roku or Apple TV. Her push back is what about her channels…bravo, CNN, E, history channel. Can those be streamed via one of the boxes or could I grab them off the net? Thanks

  26. LaSean McCray

    this is such great information but i have a question that I may have missed the answer to. Don’t you need internet access to use the Roku or Apple Tv products?

  27. Mike H

    I clicked on this article because a friend of mine suggested getting the Roku. I thought that Roku and Apple TV did the same thing (stream content from the internet). I don’t know why someone would have both. I get why all of you want to dump cable, it’s very expensive for what you actually get in return. For me, (I have Fios), cable just keeps everything in one place. I don’t want to go to one place for this content and go somewhere else for other content…it’ll just get endless. I’m kind of a technological idiot and my life is complicated enough. Some of the suggestions here make my head spin. I have an iphone because it’s so simple and I can find what I need. The few times I stream Netflix through the Wii, there is literally nothing on. I know this is going to be the way of the future, but until someone can package it all neatly and concisely and in a way that a ludite like me can understand it, I’ll stick with my Fios.

  28. sandra

    I am thinking of buying the Rocku 3 but I don’t see anywhere I can see spanish stations or spanish shows. I really want to stop paying cable. can you help?

  29. Dennis

    Doesn’t seem like much of a savings. Internet costs more without cable add to that Netflix and Hulu plus any movies rented from apple and it sure adds up.

  30. Tempered

    Don’t you still need an internet connection for all this? After ditching cable, what do yoy do?
    I have the triple play (tv, internet, and phone).

    • Yes, content is streamed via local internet connection.

  31. Jacob

    I’m definitely looking at Roku for streaming — I don’t like paying monthly fees to use all the good features of my Xbox 360. With that said, I don’t think I’ll ever ditch basic cable while local sporting events are blacked out by the official streaming outlets. Watching my White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls, Bears is very important. Now, if I move away from Chicago area…maybe I’ll just depend on streaming.

    As far as paying by channel, be careful with that — it sounds great, but the current setup really helps support fledgling channels and programming. The “packages” are frustrating because you have to buy groups of channels, but each one keeps the others afloat this way. You might think one channel is silly, but it supports the soccer channels. Or vice versa. IBM has invested in making this pay per channel idea a reality, and most agree that it will make non-mainstream programming take a big hit. Just something to chew on!

  32. Hey David,
    Just wondering what, or who you use to stream soccer matches. I’m really interested because I have been trying to find something that has premier league, Spanish and Italian or German leagues. So far I’ve been using ronaldo7.net under live matches… but I’m wondering what you might be using? Any tips?

    • I usually use Twitter and search for “{team name} stream” — find everything there! :)

  33. Dan

    Hold out for aereo.com

  34. John

    I just got Apple TV and I have a “smart” blu-ray player that adds the ability to play videos from Amazon to Netflix and Hulu options. I use the mirroring option to get my iPhone and 2008 MB on my Lg flatscreen (utilizing airparrot) and find myself thoroughly entertained with youtube videos etc… I am very close to dumping cable but you still have to pay the “cable company” for Internet right? Or am i Missing something? I am paying $94.95 for cable/internet right now and I was told that Internet only (high speed) is $59.95 so I could save $30/month, which adds up quickly.

    I’m just wondering if everyone else is still paying their cable company for Internet only and what they end up saving? Is there some other way to get an Internet signal?

  35. Cari

    We cancelled cable Jan. 1 this year. Don’t miss it a bit. I watch TV shows online and Netflix. Love not hearing the news. We live in our own little world. If I don’t read about it on facebook, I don’t know what’s going on in the world and that is just fine with me. Yes, I watched a lot of TV shows on netflix I didn’t watch on TV so that is fun. The only thing we will miss is the last season of Dexter, but 6 months after it’s finale, we can buy the last season on DVD.

  36. Margie

    I just signed up with Freedompop for high speed internet for 18.99 per month (have to purchase a $100 modem). On paper, I do not think it is as “high speed” as the Comcast internet that I was paying for, but it works just as fast in my house. I kept basic comcast cable for the local channels, mostly for news and a few shows I like. However, I also enjoy HGTV, and am wondering if there is a way to stream this. I have a macbook pro computer. How would Apple TV help my situation? Thanks for any ideas you have.

    • Matt

      I loaded XBMC on my AppleTV and my wife is able to stream her HGTV on it.

  37. Matt

    I’ve been toying around with the idea also and have started phasing it out but I have to wait til my contract is up. I’ve subscribed to Amazon PRIME for discounts on shipping for things that I order and then found out the other day that they have a video library that you can watch from too. It’s along the same price as Netflix at about $8 a month. I have noticed that I can’t find everything on it to work yet but I use my Netflix to make up for it. All in all after I cancel my cable, I will have a monthly cost $16. Can’t complain about that.

  38. Tony Nguyen

    So I’m curious I pay 90 for Internet and cable. If I where to get either Apple TV or roku and start paying for shows on it wouldn’t it cost more per month?

  39. Pam Roletter

    Hey there, I am really behind with technology but I am a new single mommy and trying to save some cash, I’ve been doing some research and am interested in the Roku… right now we have cable plus I have a netflix and Hulu account! Way too much money, my issue is I use android, I have a laptop, and have not gone out and purchased tablets for everyone so my question is….Do I need the device for each tv in the house? and can we watch different things on different tvs at the same time?

    • So you’d need a separate Roku or AppleTV for every TV/device, unless you want to move it from TV/device to TV/device when you need it elsewhere. Yes, you can watch different movies on difference TVs. The downfall for you, Pam, would be they don’t come with local channels (you’d need “rabbit ears”).

  40. Rick Kieffer

    So help me please(and I am a bit of a dumb-bo)–I am sold on moving to Apple TV as well as the change to Roku–yet–my bride of 30+ yrs-is a live TV primetime lover–ABC/NBC/FOX/CBS–etc.. sorta gal. We are currently paying a ton for our Time Warner Subscription–any advice? Probably some obvious things for sure?

  41. Rick Kieffer

    Ah yes—just read—Rabbit ears—for local— thanks-

  42. KC

    Hi there. Awesome discussion! A question:

    We have AppleTV with Hulu and Netflix only. Cut the cord on cable two years ago. My wife wants HGTV. I noticed there are episodes on their site but those don’t stream to the AppleTV in a way I’m aware of.

    Can I get HGTV’s full list (ESPN would be great too) without buying cable?

    • Unfortunately I don’t believe so :( One thing I do though is find streams of stuff online and then use Airplay to push the stream to my AppleTV.

  43. I’ve never had cable. I am still mad at the crappy, crappy quality of digital TV from my antenna.

    I need to spend time on my exercise bike and am debating whether to spend $100 on a dvd play that will crap out in 3 months (I can get DVDs from the library) and buying Roku. Is there a monthly fee? I don’t pay monthly fees for ANYTHING!

    • I’d recommend a Roku for you. Neither the AppleTV or Roku have a monthly fee, but there are loads of Free Roku apps. Almost all of the AppleTV apps are subscription-based.

  44. Thanks for the great post! I love my Roku box so much that I purchased two more and opened up a website.
    http://www.rokusale.com

  45. KKC

    Roku 3 with Aereo in Atlanta rocks. HD with remote DVR for $8-12 per month. I just hope the Supreme Court rules in Aereo’s favor. With Charter internet I also get free access to ESPN and their Epix movie service that has over 2,000 titles with Roku apps. Netflix works great too.

  46. B.Bailly

    Are there any satisfied Freedom Pop users in the Madison, Wisconsin area? I’m on the near south side and my apt. building has older wiring. I have an Imac and I’d love to try it, if I can get good customer service and speed for videos.

  47. Tia

    I got rid of cable about a month ago and I don’t miss it at all. We have Roku boxes in every room. I use the USTVNOW app for local stations and a quite a few cable stations like Nickalodian, A&E, AMC, Bavo,ESPN,ect. I do pay $30 a month for it. I use the twonky app to “airplay” videos from my phone or online to my tv for free. Idev movie land and idev tv land is the best. I get every movie and show I want and just beam it to my tv. I also use playon for more shows, movies and private channels. I LOVE ROKU!! I am so done with cable. I have too many things to watch now.

  48. Shirley

    Hi all, I’m thinking about Roku, that is if my tv works with it, and wonder if I’ll be able to get Bravo, NBC, ABC, CBS etc. I adore, Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, the RHOA show (yes I know), Long Island Medium and a few others.

    • The Roku is just a box with apps, so it doesn’t come with any networks. You would need a Hulu membership, I’m guessing.

  49. Luis

    To watch Nbc, cbs, New York Times, abc, daily show you can use an app called PLEX. You need to install it in your PC or synology box and stream it from your pc to your roku. Do you guys have ideas on how to watch the European soccer games (champion league, copa del Rey)?

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