I began to hate paid programming about 10 years ago, right after they started putting those big channel bugs in the corner, shortening the time between ads, and lengthening the commercial breaks. The last straw was the introduction of snipes, those distracting promos bouncing across the bottom of the program you’re trying to watch. I would get so genuinely angry whenever I tried to watch TV — then along came broadband.
Hallelujah! Broadband freed me from the tyranny of cable advertising. It was great to finally browse the web at a decent rate (dial-up had become unusable), and it didn’t take long before I discovered streaming video. The options weren’t as inclusive as they are now, but it was enough for me to ditch cable with joy.
So how do you watch TV without cable?
There are several options for keeping up with your favorite shows. One obvious solution most of us have forgotten is the simple TV antenna. If you live near a decent-sized city, you can get HD network programming over the air for free. Some shows are even available on the network’s website.
Hulu was one of the first online services to capitalize on our increasing disgust with cable. Some programs are free, but many of the most popular TV shows are available on Hulu+ the day after they air. For $8 a month, you can watch network episodes streamed to your computer or TV with a half-dozen short commercial breaks. No channel bugs, no snipes.
If you want older movies and TV series, you can try Netflix. Their service is also $8 a month, but they stream without ads. For an additional $8, you can get unlimited DVDs in the mail, which is a convenient way to get the latest releases. Netflix is my service of choice.
Both Hulu and Netflix offer unlimited streaming services, unlike Amazon Prime, which makes you pay for each content (typically around $2). However, if you already have Prime for its free shipping, their programming options are an additional perk.
But what about sports and news?
You can stream sports online, but the selection is more limited. Big events like the Superbowl and Kentucky Derby are usually available in real time. ESPN has a free site, as do several other companies like SportLEMON and WiZiWiG. It’s likely you will be able to find the game you want most of the time.
News is generally only available as podcasts from the major 24-hour news channels. You will miss out on having CNN droning in the background, but given how repetitive and opinionated most cable news is these days (it’s more like commentary), that may not be a bad thing. I prefer to read my news anyway; it tends to be more objective without the announcer’s attitude coloring the delivery.
It is possible to entertain yourself without cable, and it’s much cheaper. You can have Hulu+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime all for less than a month of cable. Few, if any, commercials, no snipes, no channel bugs — no screen pollution at all. You can actually watch your show instead of paying a fortune to be constantly interrupted.
I cut the cord 5 years ago and I haven’t missed it for a minute.