How Can I Avoid Paying for Cable?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by windgineer, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. windgineer macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2012
    I have been trying to read a lot about Apple TV 2 and EyeTV and Mac Minis used as HTPCs, but so far, I cannot understand if there is a way to get all the standard cable channels without paying my local cable provider or some satelite dish company. I have good internet service through my cable provider, and I may even upgrade my internet service with them, but I really hate paying as much as I am for TV.

    Does anyone know how to know how to get standard cable channels without having to pay a monthly subscription fee? Sorry if this is a basic question for any of you HTPC users, but I just cannot get a clear answer on it.
  2. maturola, Feb 7, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012

    maturola macrumors 68040


    Oct 29, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    Well,,maybe you are asking the wrong question...however..i'll tell you how I (persoanlly) cut the cord and now pay way way less a month.

    standard cable channels are just that...they are belong the cable cannot get them for free without stealing them, now the programing on those channel..that is another thing...there are many way to get the programing you want some for free..some for a nominal fee,,some you have to pay (Like sport and special event).

    On my personal case I don't watch tv that much, but I got a few show I enjoy, Connan, Daily show, Colbert report, How I met your mother, Mythbuster, Modem Family. to mentioned a few.

    So I cut the cord from the cable and now this are the Only service I got.

    Internet: $20/m
    Hulu+: $8/m
    Netflix (1DVD): $16/m

    Hardware I got
    AppleTV: $99 (bedroom)
    Roku Box: $60 (Living room)
    HD Antenna: $25

    So I got most of shows from Hulu and Netflix, i get one DVD at the time, and I stream some of the stuff I get from iTunes on my Computer and use Plex to stream it to the AppleTV and the Roku Box.

    You can get a computer on your TV (I love this one for $350) and this will allow you to actually use the Free hulu on the Web (saving you another $8/m), and also others site that offer online content like ABC Player, News, Comedy central, and many others.

    Oh I forgot the Antenna, the HD antenna allow me to pick up most of the local HD channel over the air, I live right in Downtown Atlanta so I am very close (and in a very centry location) to most of the local broadcaster, it is not the same for everyone, depending on where you live, you will pick any broadcaster in about 20 mile range (of course you can get more expensive antenas and increase that range, i went with the cheapo one)

    Edit 2: BTW this is not a new setup, I cut the cord about a year ago, don't miss it one bit, Now i can get mor Lap Dances on Fridays =)
  3. gkarris macrumors 604


    Dec 31, 2004
    "No escape from Reality..."
    I'm assuming you want Cable-Only stations online instead of cable?

    Many of those networks won't put stuff online as to protect the cable companies....

    Just an FYI...
  4. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    As Maturola indicated, an HD TV antenna is the way to go plus an ATV2 and the other options.

    Friend of mine has parents who winter in Florida and they get up to 40 channels with one.

    I get about 7 where I am, but plenty enough for live sports.

    For everything else, most of the major networks have online or iphone / ipad apps.

    I also pay much less per month and to be honest, I'm glad I don't have a regular TV package b/c it was a waste of money.

    TV providers better wake up and smell the coffee b/c the times, they are a-changin' I've always seen them as a middle man whereas now, the networks or channels (like HBO or showtime etc...), can go direct. They just haven't yet. It's too bad b/c I would gladly pay to have direct access to my fav shows from those channels. Even if I ended up paying almost as much as I did with satellite - at least I'd be watching what I want and not paying for 90% of the channels I don't even know exist :)


    Good luck!
  5. Thunderhawks Suspended

    Feb 17, 2009
    If you get your internet via cable, check out which stations you get by hooking up your TV directly to the cable outlet. (Usually an RF connection)

    I have heard (Don't know if that is true) that by law the cable providers are obligated to provide the basic channels like CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX etc. for free as these can also be gotten via antenna.

    In my area that works and there are actually a few more basic channels I can get that way.

    Don't know if any of these are what you want, but FREE is good:)
  6. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    TV antennea, Hulu and Netflix is how I get my shows

    I don't pay for anything (borrow family netflix account) besides my internet service (25 a month)
  7. maturola macrumors 68040


    Oct 29, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    This is not by law, but some "cities" and Counties have agreement with provides (In exchange for licenses) to provide these default channels. this used to be true where small providers were available, Adelphia and such, now you get most of the big players and they don't really play nice
  8. JBazz macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2006
    I want to get rid of cable too. I watch very little tv. Basically one daily soap and the HBO and Showtimes series like True Blood and Dexter.

    I read somewhere that the majority of cable funds go to sports channels, and I have never watched a sports channel in my life.
  9. maturola macrumors 68040


    Oct 29, 2007
    Atlanta, GA
    For those shows you are a bit out of luck, there is not other {legal} way to get them life unless you have a TV subscription (at least not yet). I usually just way for the season to be release on dvd. it is not perfect but IMO it doesn't worth money just for those shows.
  10. glutenenvy macrumors regular


    Sep 6, 2011
    Perhaps the question is: How do I spend less money by purchasing only the shows I watch instead of paying for a ton of cable I do not watch.

    Just about every show eventually goes to DVD and BluRay.
  11. sjinsjca macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2008
    It seems to vary by location. In some areas you'll enjoy lots of broadband providers who compete for your business and will accommodate requests like yours. In others there's only one supplier and you're pretty much their bitch.

    Shop around, would be my advice. Include DSL- and fiber-based providers. Work them against each other and see what kind of deals they'll make for you.
  12. Midlifeinmi macrumors newbie

    Jun 25, 2010
    I'm in the same boat as the OP, and have taken several steps toward cutting cable (e.g., an OTA antenna, JB'd aTV with Hulu, PS3 with VUDU, etc). My biggest hang-up at this point is my HT system with a LCD projector - an OTA antenna does me no good here, since the projector has no built-in tuner. What would be a good suggestion here, to get either OTA signals or (at most) basic cable out to the projector?
  13. cdavis11 macrumors 6502

    Aug 31, 2009
    Depends on the cable market you're in, but you *may* be able to do this with clear qam channels, aTV and an EyeTV product like the HDHomerun, or the EyeTV250.
  14. waw74 macrumors 68030

    May 27, 2008
    as has been said, you won't be getting channels in the traditional sense, but you will be getting shows. And how you get each show will depend on that show.

    you need to look at how you watch tv, and make a decision based on that.

    iTunes has a lot of shows available next day (the day after they air), but you'll pay $54 dollars for a HD season, (22 episodes or about 6-7 months of tv). it's worth it if you're only into a few shows. if your cable bill is $54 a month, then more than 12 shows, and you've cost yourself more.
    Check out the shows you watch though. While Dexter is available, it's a whole season behind.

    Hulu, also has a lot of shows available next day, but again it's limited to certain shows.

    local television channels - if you have a cable modem, they will be available on the cable coming into your house, most of the time in HD. Or you can get an antenna.
    check out the silicone dust site to see what you can expect to find.
    You'll need a HD tuner, most of the time built into the TV, or if you want DVR functionality, then something like EyeTV and an external tuner of some kind.

    for tuners, i've got the HDHomerun it's dual tuner, but only gets unencrypted channels off the cable, so for me, it's the locals in HD and TBS in SD. I use mythtv a linux based DVR software instead of the EyeTV.
    there is also the HDHomerun Prime it's a triple tuner, and with a cablecard, you can get the encrypted channels, but... you'll still be paying for cable TV service.
    These are nice, since the tuner and software connect over ethernet, i can place the tuner by where the cable comes in, and not by the computer running the software.
    also, for any HD recording, you'll need a ton of storage, a 1 hour show is typically about 5GB.

    Sports - if you're into sports, you'll only get what you have access to on local broadcasts, although there are options for MLB, NHL, and NBA on appleTV, and similar options for certain sports to watch in a web browser, if you went with a mini connected to the TV.
    for things like ESPN, you're kinda out of luck.

    The other big thing to keep in mind is the WAF
    You need to remember all people in the house when making these decisions.
    and to keep it simple, having too many remotes, or a wireless mouse and keyboard on the couch might not
    there is also the option of downloading from other sources, pretty much every show is available shortly after airing, from (probably not that legal) places online. but that's a risk you'll have to look at and decide it you're willing to take, I've had friends receive cut off notices from their ISPs for downloading shows.
    And you'll also need to keep in mind how you'll be able to play these files once you have them, most should be directly playable on a mini, but would have to be converted to play on AppleTV.
  15. JBazz macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2006
    I can get my daily soap on TV.coms iPad app. Not the best option as it is often slow and occasionally an episode will not load. I can wait to get the series on iTunes. These aren't the best options, but it is better than $175 a month for cable. I think I am going to cancel my cable this month and just learn to live without.
  16. Spencie macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2011
    The Mothership
    For ESPN, you're really not out of luck, you're IN luck. ESPN offers an online streaming service, called ESPN 3 that is accessible online or on the XBOX 360. It has every sports event that ESPN broadcasts, live in HD and recorded. Usually I use it on my XBOX since the interface is the best, but I got it to work on my jailbroken Apple TV.
  17. dgalvan123 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 16, 2008
    I have Time Warner cable in the L.A. area, and I only pay for high-speed internet service, no TV service. Yet, when I plug my co-ax into the TV, I get all the network channels in HD (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, etc.), as well as some extras like Discovery Channel and AMC, all for free. I do think it used to be a law that the cable companies had to provide the local channels free of charge, but I've heard that is no longer law, but some companies just don't go to the trouble of scrambling those channels. It's called "Clear QAM" cable signals, if you want to google and learn more about it.

    Anyway, even without this source, I get great Over-the-air reception, so an antenna provides the local networks as another free option. (You don't need an "HD Antenna", that's just a marketing gimmick. I'm using a 20+ year old TV antenna on the roof of my condo complex, and it receives the HD content just fine. Rabbit ears work as well, if your reception is good enough.)

    Anyway, my clearQAM (or OTA) sources provide most programming I care about. I use the HD Homerun tuner and EyeTV on my macbook Pro as a DVR system. EyeTV records the shows from the clearQAM or OTA broadcast, then transcodes them to iTunes automatically, and hence the shows are served to my two Apple TVs (living room and bedroom). This completely replicates the DVR/Tivo experience, with the exception that you have to manually delete the shows you are done with in iTunes and EyeTV on your mac.

    I also jailbroke my Apple TV and installed XBMC with the Hulu plugin. This gets me the rest of the content I don't get over clear QAM or OTA, like the Daily Show and some other cable shows.

    All of this is unambiguously legal and free to operate (though you have the upfront costs of the HD Homerun tuner, the EyeTV software, and the Apple TVs). Oh and there is a $20/year cost to get the TV Guide programming guide information in your EyeTV program, but at $1.66/month, I'd say that beats any cable company DVR monthly cost by a lot.

    For more info on this setup, see this thread:

    For more info on enabling Hulu on your Apple TV, see this thread:


    The WAF was a big reason why it took me so long to get a setup I was happy with. I knew my efforts would be futile if the setup was too much of a hassle for my wife to use easily. The HD Homerun --> EyeTV --> Apple TV works well because everything comes through the Apple TV interface, which is quite simple and pleasant to use. The Hulu functionality in XBMC on the jailbroken Apple TV is less user-friendly, but still comfortable enough that my wife got used to it. But most of our shows we watch are handled by EyeTV and then transcoded and served via iTunes.

    Regarding remotes:
    I use the Logitech Harmony 300i, which you can find online for ~$30. I have two of them, one for living room and one for bedroom. They are completely customizable and very simple to configure, and it makes it quite simple to operate our TV, blu-ray, and Apple TV in a way that can be consistent between the different rooms and only requires one remote per room. Since we are using ATV's and not HTPC's, there is no need for a wireless mouse. And in the rare instance we need to enter text (like when searching netflix or youtube on the ATV) we use Apple Remote app on our iphones. Or if we need to enter text in XBMC on the jailbroken ATV, we use Rowmote Pro (another iphone app which costs ~$3 I think).
  18. spencers macrumors 68020


    Sep 20, 2004

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