So Long, Satellite TV

October 8, 2010 | 11 Comments

deathstar.pngI grew up in a fairly rural neighborhood, outside of the city limits. Cable TV never made it out that way, and satellite dishes in those days looked more like the Death Star’s giant laser turret. I reversed this injustice in my adult life, as a continuous subscriber to cable, or more recently, satellite TV service. Until July, that is.

We’ve gone antenna only. It’s like 1979 all over again. Almost.

There are a few reasons why:

  • While I’m only loyal to a few shows, I’ve long been wondering if I allow myself to indulge in too much TV. One of the most common statements I hear in interviews with people who are consistently making new stuff is: “I don’t watch a lot of TV.” Point taken. And I only needed to hear it 54-ish times to acknowledge it.
  • We had Dish Network. It was the cheapest option available for an HD and DVR viewing family, but we still paid over $50/month. As we were thinking of ways to save money, it’s hard to overlook an expense like that.
  • The final straw came when the Disney Channel was pulled from our HD only package. When I called to ask about options, the only option was to pay more to add standard definition channels to our package. I chose a different option — the option to cancel — and I have no regrets.

The reality is, most of what we watched was a few shows available from broadcast TV, an occasional football game on ESPN or NFL Network, and about four channels not available over the air — Disney, Food Network, HGTV, and Comedy Central for the Daily Show. So, $50 a month for four (and then three) channels.

I’m happy to report that things have worked out fine, thanks to:

  1. A $30 antenna. HD comes in very well with a fairly cheap indoor antenna, and they don’t have rabbit ears like they used to. Wired ran an article last spring that said over the air was the best signal, because cable and satellite both use some compression.
  2. Tivo. I bought a refurbished, discontinued Tivo and pre-paid for a year of service. I bristle a bit at paying monthly for a service that doesn’t really provide any content, but it makes up for it in convenience, and I think we would have spent about that much on iTunes download or a Hulu subscription. The money we’ve saved on satellite has pretty much paid for this already.
  3. Netflix. (You might be familiar with Netflix — they drop ads under browser windows like cockroaches drop crap under the kitchen sink.) This is another monthly expense, but one we already had. Netflix streams to our Tivo, and there are a lot of kids shows that we are comfortable showing our kids. How can you not like old episodes of Blue’s Clues?
  4. – I don’t watch it as much anymore, but the streaming version of the show on their website is great quality.
  5. Mad Men. My wife and I started watching via DVDs from Netflix right about the time we canceled satellite, and we are almost caught up. (We’ve watched this season via Amazon Video on Demand on the Tivo.) It’ll be good to be caught up so we can go cold turkey on this addiction.

I already have plans to be at a cable subscribing friend’s apartment when the Broncos play on Monday Night Football. If anything, I’ve missed Food Network, and they’ve just started adding a few shows on iTunes and Hulu. Beyond that, it’s working out very well. Perhaps too well, because I don’t think I’m watching less TV — at least not until we watch these last four episodes of Mad Men.

I’m guessing that things are about tip drastically out of favor for cable and satellite in terms of content subscribers, because I know I’ve chatted with many others who have said so long to these services. Have you? And what have you replaced them with?

  • Mando Escamilla

    I cancelled DirectTV yesterday. The kids freaked out a little when they tried to watch TV and it didn’t work, but I hooked them up with Netflix on Demand on the XBox and they fell in love with watching re-runs of Kim Possible.

    I think we’ll be ok.

  • byjohn


    I think you’ll be ok too. Netflix really is loaded. I discovered some good content from History Channel and National Geographic recently too, and the HD streaming looks pretty dang good.


  • We have been cable and satellite free for close to 3 years. Haven’t really missed it at all aside from having to use’s lame streaming player. That will go away as soon as I finish setting up my mythTV DVR (like tivo, only a lot better).

  • John Chandler

    Yes…my brother has a big MythTV setup, and I played with it a few years back. I’m happy to go the lower maintenance route that Tivo offers at this point!


    • I’ve done 2 myth tv setups. The way you had to a few years ago, and then mythbuntu 7.10 that worked fine until the hard drive croaked. In any event, Tivo is fine for most people, I’m just a little particular about things and myth has suited me much better. That and I was able to build a new myth TV box for less than the cost of a Tivo, I just have to find a few minutes to assemble it all.

  • streams a lot of ESPN’s content online. That’s how I watched the World Cup, and I’ve caught College Football and Basketball on there as well. You might check on that as a Monday Night Football option. Between that, antenna, hulu and the occasional Red Box trip, there are enough non-cable/satellite options to have me still wondering if I shouldn’t cut down a little.

    • John Chandler

      No ESPN3 for me. They are on a contract basis with broadband providers, and Time Warner doesn’t offer it here.


  • we did the same a few years ago. We just have the free hoa cable for our basic 5 channels. Never looked back, and we still had too many shows we liked watching.

    My goal this year is to not watch much tv during the week at all. 1 show monday, and naturally NBC on thursdays. we catch up on a few tivo shows or hulu on the weekends.

  • Donna

    I’m a Food Network fan myself, but my favorite cooking shows are “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country” on PBS. I like them so much that I have a season pass for both on my Tivo. Check them out if you’re not already watching. They might soothe some of your Food Network withdrawal.

  • Dana Payne

    What do you use for your internet connection? Using the cable company for that?

    • John Chandler