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Canceling Cable, out with AT&T, or dropping DirecTV — a step by step guide


Here’s what we did to cancel cable yesterday (OK, technically, satellite!). DirecTV with no premium movie channels, etc., had been running us $62.11/month after all the taxes and fees, or $745.32 a year. And yes, we’ve done the call, threaten to cancel, get the rate dropped thing multiple times, but it always creeps back up — that $62.11 already reflects an $11/month credit from the last time we called and played that game. Think: What do you watch that is worth $2.00 a day, and can you replace that with cheaper alternatives?

The hardware we bought


Here’s what we purchased. We may also later hook up a computer so that we can stream shows from network sites, etc. to the TV, but will see how it goes first and if we actually need more to watch.

Hardware we bought:

  1. Antennas Direct Clearstream 2tm Long Range HDTV Antenna with Mount. We actually got this at Fry’s for cheaper — So figure around $100 for an antenna. We tried an indoor antenna at first, but it wouldn’t pick up channel 5 and didn’t pick up as many channels as the roof-mounted one — and the quality we’re getting is awesome.
  2. If you don’t have an HDTV, you’ll also need a converter box to convert the digital over-the-air signal to an analog signal your TV can read. This runs about $40 (and up, depending on what kind you buy). Read reviews before you buy, because some have pretty bad reviews. For an example of a decently reviewed one at a decent price, see Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box (for Antenna Use).
  3. We also picked up a Panasonic DMP-BDT110 Wi-Fi Ready 3D/2D Blu-ray Disc Player for $110 from Video & Audio center.
  4. Lastly, we wanted a way to record shows, so bought a Channel Master CM-7000PAL Digital Video Recorder for $342.43. While this has a higher initial cost than something like TiVo, there is no monthly fee as there is with TiVo and many of the other services, so it pays itself back relatively quickly.

So that all ran about $560 — which is about 9 months of DirecTV, so will pay itself back in less than a year. There are also other, cheaper DVR alternatives, or your setup may be cheaper if you already have a Blu-Ray player or stream Netflix through a Wii or PS3, etc.


Here’s where we are receiving content:

  1. Over the air. We are receiving 52 channels in the Western Chicago suburbs, but what you can pick up will vary, depending how far you are from a city center, how high your house is, and what’s in the way. Check AntennaWeb for a conservative estimate — it estimated we would pick up about 23 channels, and we’re getting almost twice that many.
  2. We have a $7.99/month Netflix streaming subscription, which we just dropped down to streaming-only this month when they raised the price of DVDs by mail. If you don’t do Netflix already, what I’d suggest is signing up for the free trial and seeing if there is enough of the types of shows you want to make it worth it to you.
  3. The Blu-Ray player we purchased has built-in streaming for both Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, as well as other services. Amazon gives out free instant video credits sometimes, and also runs sales fairly often.
  4. We’re both signed up for the monthly Redbox free rental text club.
  5. We occasionally rent from Blockbuster Express with the free codes — which I’ve been trying to post for you at least weekly 🙂 They’re out of business.
  6. We use our library heavily. Many will let you put reserves on movies and TV shows on DVD, so even if they’re popular and often checked out, you’ll get them eventually — or they’ll send them from another library in the system. Put yourself on the list for a number of items, and something usually comes in each week.
  7. Many network sites also have certain shows available online the next night or the next week. We don’t currently have a PC hooked up to the TV, but can watch on the computer.
  8. We have not signed up for Hulu Plus — if you’re a heavy TV watcher and your shows aren’t available over the air, do their one week free trial and see if it will work for you at $7.99/month. Also see what is freely available at
  9. Several years ago, we owned a Roku box, but it broke some time ago and we never replaced it — because by that time we were watching Netflix through the Wii. If you do Hulu Plus or another online service, you can stream through a computer to the TV or look into something like Roku if you want a cheaper solution — the boxes run around $60 and up.

We already had Netflix, so I’m not counting that as a new cost — but $7.99/month is $95.88 a year, if you’re a new signup. Again, even if I add that in, we’re still paid back in less than a year. So if we really want to, we can also throw in the occasional new on-demand TV show or movie.

What we’re missing

We are no longer receiving channels like Food Network, CNN, or TLC — no Extreme Couponing or Toddlers and Tiaras for me. We’ll live. We don’t get Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon, but the amount of kids content in Netflix is more than enough, and we’re getting a couple of PBS channels over the air. We don’t get A&E (no Hoarders!) but many of their shows are available on their site.

What we’re getting


We are receiving all of the network stations over-the-air — NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, PBS — plus a number of other stations. So for those of you who are sports fans, any games that would normally be broadcast on Fox, etc. are still there for the watching. And the HD channels are gorgeous.

How our expectations change

Not to sound like an old curmudgeon, but… when I grew up we had the rabbit-ears TV where the knob had broken off so you had to turn it with pliers, and you had to wrap the antenna in foil and sometimes have someone standing there holding it to get the signal, and it was a big deal when we got two more channels when they added the UHF.

We’re now conditioned that we have to pay for cable, and have to have hundreds of channels, and have to have movie channels, and … well, you know what? I’m now getting 50 channels over the air for free, plus more cartoons through Netflix than the kids could ever watch, plus $1.00 movie rentals from Redbox, plus I can still pause live TV and set everything to record automatically… it’s more than enough entertainment for any one family.

So that’s all she wrote! If you have any other suggestions or alternative ways you cut the cord yourself, please add in comments.


Wednesday 9th of November 2011

Thanks for this great description---dh and I have been debating how to do the same! Do you think someone would need netflix if they got the new roku box that has hulu plus?


Thursday 10th of November 2011

I don't know -- we don't have a Hulu Plus subscription. You'd have to see what types of things you watch and what's available on each service to see what works for you :)


Friday 16th of September 2011

Well from what I can tell from reading all these forums is that when you have internet through the cable company they cant stop cable from coming through because they use the same line? Of course the company isnt going to tell us this but I am willing to give it a try! Im tired of paying over $200 a mo for triple play. Switched my landline to Vonage today. Once thats done I will be droping cable TV but keeping my internet. I will let you know what happens!!


Friday 16th of September 2011

OK, I don't mean to beat a dead horse but I am inspired now and really want to dump comcast or at least lower my rate as best I can. I have to keep comcast internet because we have a home business but I am wondering about the 1 TV with free cable from comcast? Does anyone know about this?? I called comcast and of course they told me I can drop to basic cable for $21.xx a month plus internet. Is this what everyone is talking about???


Friday 16th of September 2011

Yeah, Comcast insisted to us too that there was no such thing. We've called twice now and they told us we can get basic cable for $10/month but that's it. No one there has any idea what they're doing and everyone has different info. I am so fed up with that company--I guess they're doing me a favor by being so lousy though. I'm much more likely to drop them entirely!


Wednesday 14th of September 2011

Hi: Is there a way to watch sports events from Comcast Sports Net without paying for cable tv? We used to have u-verse and loved it, but it was too $$$. We love Hawks games and they are usually on Versus or Comcast Sports Net. Any ideas/websites that offer free streaming sporting events?


Wednesday 14th of September 2011

Don't worry, Toddlers in Tiaras is ON NETFLIX! LOL.

What I really like about our increasing use of Netflix for TV is that we are less likely to just turn on the TV to see what's on and leave it on, with all the commercials, scary news stories, etc., that I don't need my kids to see. We've gotten positively out of touch this summer when it comes to what TV news shows are talking about -- and I LOVE that!

(Of course I'm a reporter and not against keeping up on the news -- but I read it in this vintage thing called the newspaper.)


Wednesday 14th of September 2011

You're not boycotting them now? ;)

Phew, on the Toddlers and Tiaras. I was starting to get the shakes already... lol