Table of Contents
Free and Cheap Cable TV Alternatives
Television doesn’t have to be expensive, in fact it can be extremely cheap if you do a little foot work. In this article, we’ll cover some of our favorite free and cheap cable TV alternatives!
Update 2017: It’s been over 8 years since I’ve cut the cable costs and almost 7 years since I’ve written this article and these options are still doing great. Some have even gotten cheaper!
OTA (Over The Air):
These are signals that stations broadcast. The signals are now completely digital, but if you’ve used “rabbit ear” antennas in the past, you were watching OTA, aka Broadcast, television.
You can now get a digital antenna to receive these signals, and if you don’t want to change your TV or Antenna then you’ll need to purchase a digital-to-analog converter box which will translate the digital signals into the analog signal that your TV understands.
Streaming Media Platforms
Netflix allows you to receive DVD movies by mail, and it also allows you to stream them to your computer. There are many other ways to view Netflix including streaming Netflix to your Wii and many other popular gaming consoles. If you have a way to hook your TV into your computer then you can also display the movies on your television as well. If this sounds too technical for you, don’t worry, we have more options below that make this very simple. Please note that any of the options below that support Netflix will still include the standard price starting at $7.99 for Netflix service, which you pay to Netflix directly.
Cost: Starting at $7.99/Month
Roku’s claim to fame is that it is a “Netflix Streamer” for under $100 dollars, that you can setup in under 3 minutes! The Roku is a box that you hook up to your TV, and it connects to your wireless internet. Once connected you can begin streaming Netflix, but it does so much more than that such as streaming music to your TV for free using Pandora, News from CNN, FOX News, CBS, NBC, and they have premium channels that you can add if you want to pay for them. Roku has a few different types of boxes including one that supports high definition.
Cost: Boxes Range from $90.00 – $130.00, Channels range from free, to a few dollars a year to a few dollars a month, Netflix starting at $7.99 a month.
Discount Link: Use our link to get $10.00 off your purchase!
HTPC (Home Theater PC):
Home Theater Personal Computers (HTPC) are becoming more and more common these days. This is because it allows you to leverage the power of the internet to get free or extremely cheap television. There are free programs out there that allow you to take a computer and turn it into a dedicated entertainment center. Some of these free softwares include Boxee and MythTV if you are looking for a very in-depth solution that supports a tuner.
Cost: It depends on the computer you use and the services you add. Upfront you should expect to spend about $500.00 on the computer, then Netflix starting at $7.99 a month.
Playon is a server software that runs in the background of your computer. It allows you to have access to many popular shows and sites including Hulu, Youtube, Netflix, Comedy Central, Pandora, FoodNetwork, NHL, MLB, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and many more. They are also always adding new channels. It is intended to be used with popular game platforms such as XBox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii. There are some workarounds to allow a HTPC to use it but that would exceed the scope of this article. Additionally, It has ben rumored that Playon is interested in teaming up with the makers of the Roku Boxes mentioned above, which would really make the Roku box the best option in our opinions.
Cost: $2.50 per month, or $69.95 one time fee. Netflix starts at $7.99 a month, and they may have additional premium channels in the future.
This isn’t an all encompassing list but it should be a great starting point for anyone looking to kick the cable TV bill. These options will obviously vary in price, but upfront cost aside, you can bring your TV bill down to under $10/month and most of it will be without commercials!