Hello and Happy New Year folks. It is the end of 2022. What’s in store for 2023? Will you be watching television (in a play of words, some Caribbean folks call it “tell lie vision“)? If you will, what methods ( cable, antenna, satellite, stream ) or services will you use?
Few teens through thirties watch live television. They often use their televisions and large screen monitors for playing online video games, on-demand streaming, watching YouTube videos, and other social “streaming” networks. They and others who don’t watch TV at all are not my target audience. If you are someone who watches 3 or more hours of TV each week or have children under 13 who you watch PBS or other educational programming on TV with, read on. The rest of you might have no idea about the following “Weakest Link” TV show reference but “goodbye”.
You may have a smart phone on which you use some the Internet but don’t care about having or paying for home Internet. You are also excused because getting Internet just to get a cable TV alternative defeats the purpose. For the rest of us, home Internet is a utility.
The monthly rates of cable TV services and the paid streaming services that include [some of the] local broadcast TV have been going up and is expected to increase again in 2023.
The term “cord cutting“, “cutting the cord“, “cutting cable” and other jargons meant going away from paid TV subscriptions. Cord-cutting is not a great term if taken literally because, unless you use alternate power like solar and newer fixed wireless / satellite services, you still have power and Internet cables coming into the home but I digress. We’ll consider it for what it was intended and that is cancelling paid multi-channel TV subscription services.
Cable TV subscription prices continue to go up because they can and because more and more people have become “cord-cutters“. The major Internet companies are the cable companies. Satellite TV is dying. You remove cable TV and Internet price increases in some cases, though still less than having both combined. Those of us who wish for more live cable TV-like programming to watch regional and national sports in addition to the local news and programming that OTA antenna allows have caused certain things to be set into motion over the years. Network conglomerates have created their up with their own “streaming packages” that, if you combine 3-5 of them, costs as much as cable TV. In addition, it gave rise to other non-network conglomerates coming up with so-called “skinny bundles” which are also quite expensive. Aside from those, more and more IPTV providers ( mostly underground or unvetted ) have popped up, some “loaded” on to firesticks or other boxes and a monthly subscription charge applied.
Those of us who have decided we won’t pay for expensive Cable TV, conglomerate streaming, or “skinny bundle” services anymore with the $40 – $150 monthly price tag for hundreds of channels that we do not care about, which include ads mind you, have another option.
The way I see it, if I am going to pay for ads anyway, why not consider the cheaper alternative which also shows ads.
The cheapest alternative is to add an inexpensive indoor ( if you live in the city within 30 miles of most network towers ) or outdoor ( if you live in mountainous / rural terrain ) antenna.
A better alternative requires an antenna and a TV with a digital (ATSC) tuner ( any flat TV bought the past 15 years or so ) and home Internet.
1. A Roku or Amazon FireTV
2. Internet access
3. An antenna – for local channels you have access to ( you normally pay for these dearly in the cable TV / “skinny bundles” offerings )
4. An hour or two of patience for initial setup
5. Understanding that you won’t get the tier 1 cable networks that you’re used to
6. Understanding that you won’t get[any or some of] the sports channels for your favorite teams
Television: Roku or Amazon Fire smart TV
A smart TV allows you to connect to the Internet so it has Wi-Fi and/or an RJ-45 (ethernet) jack to connect by “wire” (cable) to your Internet router.
If you do not have a smart TV then you need a box that connects to your TV using an HDMI cable. There are many options but we’ll focus only on Roku box or Fire TV device ( Firestick, etc.). These can be picked up for $15 – $35 from a nearby store or on Amazon.com.
Internet Access: 25 Mbps download
If you already have 25 Mbps or more Internet, good for you. If you don’t, it gets tricky. The Internet providers are often the cable / phone companies. However, there are increasing choices from wireless companies like Verizon and T-Mobile, satellite companies like StarLink ( I won’t mention the founder and CEO in case you are one of the left / right political extremists who have a beef with Twitter ). Obviously if you do not see the use for home Internet, and I don’t know anyone under 80 who doesn’t ( having a smart phone alone gives you Internet access )
You should have 25 Mbps down / 1 Mbps+ up – for Roku Live TV or Fire TV Live channels. You can get away with slower 10 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up but will struggle watching high-resolution videos OR streaming videos on more than 1 device.
Antenna : for local channels
The antenna can be Indoor or outdoor depending on where you live and can cost $8 – $90 depending on indoor / outdoor and amplifier included or not. Ignore those ridiculous claims of 100 – 500 mile range by many of those antenna manufacturers / sellers. Typical ranges are 20 miles to 60 miles, meaning the antenna is capable of picking up channels 20 – 60 miles away from the broadcast towers.
Also ignore the nonsensical “HD / 4K” antenna marketing ploy. Antennas from way back in the analog ages will pick up analog or digital channels. It depends on how far you are from the broadcast towers.
If you do need an outdoor antenna because you live far from broadcast towers, or hilly or vegetative terrains, make sure the antenna has no obstructions, so use a very long pole or mount on top of the roof and test the power by turning the antenna in the direction of the majority of broadcast towers.
Patience: to get the best of your setup
You will need at least an hour or two for initial setup. If you only need local channels, it’s easy. Set up the antenna, plug in the coaxial cable into the mail adapter at the back of your TV, use your TV remote to scan for channels and, viola, you are done. If you don’t get enough channels, move ( for indoor ) or turn ( for outdoor ) until you get better reception. Rescan if necessary.
If you have Roku TV or Fire TV ( like a Firestick ), add apps ( Roku calls them “channels” ) like PlutoTV, PLEX, RokuTV ( if using Fire TV ), Prime (if using Roku ).
Use the Live TV option to watch or go directly to the apps / “channels” to watch Live TV. On a smart TV, Roku TV integrates the local channels from the antenna into the guide so it is no different from watching cable TV.
Ten apps available on both platforms that are FREE with FREE live streaming that you should consider with your Roku TV / Fire TV include:
- General Purpose
- Pluto TV
- Amazon FreeVee (used to be IMDB TV)
- Roku Channel
- Amazon News
- Very Local
- Airy TV
No Tier 1 Networks Live: free is not free
Be ready for ads. Understand that many companies behind all these free options are about making money and they do so with ads. A few of them have “premium” options where you pay a few dollars subscription each month with the added benefit of having no ads on non-live TV streaming and some have additional “on-demand” services that can be bought.
Typical cable TV subscription includes local channels and tier 1 / tier 2 network programming, you won’t get local / broadcast programming from your region except with an antenna as I described above, For me and many who I know, a cable subscription with 150 channels is loaded with “nonsense” channels we don’t watch from both the Tier 1 and Tier 2 lineup. When I had cable TV, I watched PBS, major local networks ( ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC ), ESPN, and maybe 5 more channels each month though I had 180.
With the options I have shared, you will get 200 – 500 channels, mainly “step-sibling” of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 ones offered through cable TV and many others. In one month, I have watched maybe 20 of the 300+ I have.
If any of you have other legal ( authorized / vetted ) free options that you use, please comment. Keep in mind that I am well-aware that there are tens of other IPTV options for “free” or $3 to $60 / month that claim to offer 500 – thousands (yes thousands) of channels, some including the same ones you get from cable. However, I am not interested because they are not offered / vetted within the Roku or Fire TV stores and some force you to accept sharing your personal info, network, resources before you can use.
In this day and age, where unscrupulous characters can do severe damage with our personal information, the perception of “privacy“ should be important to all of us and therefore we should avoid those. I say “perception” because there really is no privacy unless you go to live on a remote island where no ship / boat or airplane can reach and there is no communication whatsoever. Remember that the schools have our info, the utility companies, the Internet companies, cell service providers, email providers, social networks, current and former employers, insurance companies, hospitals, doctor’s offices, credit card companies, and the government. Unfortunately, they can be hacked and have been hacked. While they are not 100% trustworthy, we feel better about them having some or all our personal info than the scum of the earth scammers and hackers.
Thinking about moving on from cable TV or expensive “skinny bundles“? If so, welcome to the world of watching OTA broadcasts with an antenna and free live streaming.