Having grown up in an era where cable TV was the best post-dinner pastime for families, living in a household without cable TV seemed impossible. Yet, here I am today, proudly announcing that I have been “cord-free” for the past 6 years. The best part of cutting my cable TV is that I have saved over $4,000 so far. I will explain how I did it below.
The motivation behind cutting my cable TV was merely an accident. I live in BC and there are three major TV providers: Bell, Shaw, and Telus. They dictate the cost of TV programming due to a lack of competition in the region. Despite this, I have never complained about paying for a TV package because it was always a part of my life. Until one day, a giant satellite dish changed my life. It all began when I moved into a new place in 2010. My next-door neighbor had a huge satellite dish in their front yard. Without exaggeration, the dish must be at least 8 feet in diameter. It was a monster and an eyesore on the block. I have heard of people decoding satellite TV signals (which is illegal by the way) but this neighbor surely took it to the next level.
My neighbors’ satellite dish prompted me to look into getting cheap satellite TV services. During my research, I inadvertently stumbled on something which suited me even better. This discovery offered free TV channels in HD (legally) and the setup cost was much less than buying satellite equipment. It is called Over-The-Air (OTA). OTA broadcast surrounds most of us and a TV antenna (a.k.a. rabbit ears) is all that’s required to receive the signal. The keys to capturing OTA signals are TV antenna location and antenna type.
Free Over the Air TV
Here’s how OTA became the cornerstone of my “cord-cutting” journey. Upon discovering free OTA broadcasts, I knew that I must test it out for myself. From watching YouTube, I built my own TV antenna. Unfortunately, my crude creation out of a coat hanger failed to capture any OTA signal. As a result, I bought a Terk indoor HDTV antenna for my second attempt. However, the antenna mustered only 3 channels from my location and the picture quality was somewhat noisy. I was discouraged but did not give up. I tried a couple of other indoor antennas afterward but the result was still not satisfactory.
Finally, I got a CeKayDigital HD TV outdoor antenna (Model WA-2900-3D) and mounting hardware so I could attach it to my chimney. The reason for the chimney mount is because higher antenna placement translates to better OTA reception. Sadly, my plan derailed when I discovered that the chimney required major restoration. I ended up attaching the antenna to the fence. Surprisingly, our television managed to lock on 9 channels with this antenna setup. I was incredibly delighted to see OTA TV channels for the first time. I couldn’t believe the clarity of the OTA picture quality (which rivals HD channels from cable TV). The best part is that OTA channels are completely free! Knowing I just saved over $800 per year, I went ahead and canceled my paid TV service. Honestly, that call felt very good.
Cord Cutting, no sports huh?
After cutting my cable TV, I was faced with one major drawback: all channels broadcasting live sports were gone. The loss of these sports-related channels was expected but I thought I could stream live games online. However, this turned out to be just my wishful thinking. First of all, websites offering streams of live sports do exist but most are not legal. Plus, these websites make money off their visitors’ clicks so they are filled with annoying and aggressive pop-up ads. Many sites also require the installation of plugins that could contain spyware. If I was lucky enough to watch a live game after scouring through the Internet, the streaming picture quality was often less than ideal, and many times the stream was not stable.
Honestly, life was difficult without live sports because I was used to having full access to sports channels when I had cable TV. Because of this, I contemplated going back to cable TV countless times. Now looking back, watching live sports was almost like an addiction because it was extremely hard to live without it. Thankfully, I was able to survive the cold turkey and learned to live with limited sports viewing options. I eventually adapted by watching occasional live games via OTA and listening to live games on the radio than watch post-game highlights online.
Here’s another drawback: I had access to 140+ channels before I cut my cable so 9 OTA channels pale dearly in comparison. However, this is not such a big deal for me because I mainly watch OTA channels for live news. As for watching TV series and movies, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video do a wonderful job for a low monthly fee. There is also a long list of viewing options to complement OTA such as an Android TV box (free movies and drama); streaming media players such as Roku and Apple TV; free TV App on mobile devices and websites with links to free TV contents, etc. Transitioning to OTA alone would be much more difficult without these viewing options. Now with services like DAZN, streaming live sports is possible, expensive, but possible.
All-in-all, my decision to cut the cable TV subscription has yielded savings of $65 per month. So far, I have saved over $5,300 in 6 years and will continue to do so. This all happened thanks to my neighbors’ big satellite dish and the discovery of a free OTA signal in HD.