Clark Howard: Cut cable, satellite with Internet TV option

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardHave you thought about cutting the cord from pay TV? I’ve got an idea for you to make it easy to watch free or cheap programming on your TV using your Internet connection.

Today, roughly four in 10 of us have an Internet-enabled TV. As a result, the number of folks who have disconnected from pay TV rose by quite a bit in the United States through the economic slump. The exact numbers differ depending on whom you ask, but as many as 12 or 15 percent of households have fired their cable or satellite provider and gone to a “rabbit ears” antenna for their local networks, along with Internet-only TV for more extensive programming options.

The earliest pioneers who cut the cord were very tech-savvy people. But it’s getting easier for dummies like me.

I’ve been testing the second-generation Roku. This device sells for anywhere from $50 to $80 depending on the retailer. It hooks up to your TV in just a few minutes and can get the Internet either wirelessly or via a hard wire from your high-speed connection. And bam — just like that you’re up and running.

Roku is easy to use as a simple TV system that gives you a massive choice in online programming. Pair it with a digital antenna to pick up your local channels, and Roku will give you more TV to consume than you could possibly want or need.

With it you can cobble together your own “poor man’s pay TV service” using Hulu Plus and Netflix ($20 or less each month combined) versus the typical pay TV bill of somewhere close to $90 each month. Visit Roku.com for more information.

It truly is Internet TV for dummies like me who just want things to be easy.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions at ClarkHoward.com. Listen to his radio show live 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.

15 comments Add your comment

Brenda

May 10th, 2012
8:01 am

We tried Roku for a week and it slowed our internet down drastically and the programs would freeze so we returned the box. We just use the HDMI cord attached to our laptop. May try the digital antenna.

Sid

May 10th, 2012
8:08 am

I thought about doing this….My Roku works flawlessly….Only one downside….No recording capability….Tivo is an option, but you have to buy the box AND the monthly subscription….Or pay for a liftime subcription, which makes Tivo very expensive….I do a lot of recording, and love my DVR from Comcast…There may be cheaper alternatives to Tivo out there, though….If you are geek enough….I’m not.

Turner

May 10th, 2012
8:21 am

We cut out our DirecTV over a year ago. We now use an over the air antenna to receive over 40+ free TV channels. We purchased an Apple TV for $99 to watch the shows that we liked on satellite. We also have a subscription to Netflix for $8 a month. I use the free version of Hulu via my laptop connected to our TV. I can still watch the NFL on the major networks during football season and I can watch most college football games on ESPN3.com in HD.
I find that we can watch all of the programs we used to at a fraction of the monthly cost that DirecTV was charging us. I will never go back to pay TV until there is some type of al la carte plan. I have cut our TV bill down from $95 a month to an average of $15 a month, I still have a cable internet plan that I would have regardless, so that cost is not factored in. Don’t hesitate to cut the cord. The programming is available out there, and you don’t have to pay for the channels that you don’t watch.

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jct

May 10th, 2012
8:30 am

Love the Roku. Been using for about one year. Works flawlessly. Have hulu plus and nextflix so I hardly dvr anymore. Still have satellite but only have a basic subscription. Will probably dump that this summer though.

Steve

May 10th, 2012
8:34 am

I would love to fire Comcast, but have been reluctant to do so because I don’t know how I would get live sports programming, in particualar, the UGA games, Braves, and NFL games. Has this problem been solved?

Turner

May 10th, 2012
8:39 am

Steve – I watch the majority of the UGA games on ESPN3.com or on my Atlanta local channels using an Over the Air Antenna. I live 50 miles south of Atlanta over 40+ channels. I watch the NFL games that are available on the networks (Fox, CBS & NBC). The Braves are a little more difficult due to blackout rules, but I subscribe to MLBTV.com.

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Lisa Vee

May 10th, 2012
9:21 am

My Roku was slow at first but I called the comapny and they told me to check my internet capability my internet service was a lower speed that i need to use the Roku in HDMI mode. They told me to unplug the HDMI cable and just connect using the yellow, red and white plugs…it works GREAT now and the picture is still clear. If you want to use the HDMI cord you will need a Very High Speed Internet connect.

mystery poster

May 10th, 2012
9:55 am

Cut the cable about 3 years ago. At first, we had the laptop hooked up to the TV. We have since bought a Roku, the laptop was old and was the picture kept freezing. The Roku is definitely easier to use. I miss Hulu, though. You can’t get regular Hulu on the Roku, only the subscription Hulu Plus.

I can’t believe we didn’t do this years ago. Pay for TV? What was I thinking :-)

mystery poster

May 10th, 2012
10:37 am

Rolling Stone said that the cable industry today is like the record industry of the early 2000s.

Turner

May 10th, 2012
11:20 am

The Pay TV business model is outdated. Technology WILL bring it into the current century. Albeit with the distributors kicking and screaming. If the Pay TV model does not evolve it will fade into the background.

rally

May 10th, 2012
3:04 pm

Heaven forbid with falling revenues at sports games they jack the price up. Look at what happened with Peachtree Tv for Braves Games and Turner. So royally ticked at this.

Worst move ever made by both sides.

Nintendo9231889

May 10th, 2012
7:21 pm

I download the shows I want each week through bittorrent. The other inanities I watch on over the air antenna channels.

egld02155

May 15th, 2012
11:15 am

We like our Roku, and our Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions. The problem is that we routinely break through the download cap of ~120GB so we get ding’ed with surcharges from ATT for our DSL line.