I was a loyal cable TV customer all of my adult life, paying just $34/month in 2009 for cable TV. That sounds ridiculously low now, but that’s how much cable TV cost back then, and it seemed reasonable to me.
In 2010, I moved to Providence, RI, where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV.
Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but it ticked me off; it was almost a 10% increase in six months! After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable”!
Of course, now, $57/month seems cheap; many people pay over $100/month for cable or even $200/month – crazy!!
My Rabbit-Ear Antenna
The first thing I did was try an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to get about sixteen channels, many of which were HD, with picture quality better than cable TV! At that point, I was sold. I canceled cable that weekend. It felt great!!
Next, I played with the antenna position. It turns out that the original place where I had put the antenna was the optimal position. That’s great, except for one thing: it was right in front of my TV screen. In other words, it was the one place in my living room that blocked my view of the TV!!
I played with the location some more and tried some homemade wire antennas with varying results. The best spot was still right in front of my TV. So, I ended up putting it there and just bending the antennas out of the way of the screen
After my antenna tweaking, I was able to bring in one more channel for a grand total of 19 unique channels! I was happy with this. Here is a list of the channels I got using this cheap rabbit-ear antenna:
My TV Stations in Providence, RI
|PBS HD||Hi-Def (1080i)||Weak|
|NBC (duplicate)||Hi-Def (1080i)||Strong|
|PBS Local||Hi-Def (1080i)||Medium|
|PBS Local 2||Standard (480i)||Medium|
|PBS SD||Standard (480i)||Weak|
|PBS World||Standard (480i)||Weak|
|PBS Create||Standard (480i)||Medium|
|Kids Channel||Standard (480i)||Medium|
|Country Music||Standard (480i)||Strong|
|Qubo (kids)||Standard (480i)||Weak|
|Ion Life||Standard (480i)||Medium|
Providence, RI is a city of fewer than 200,000 people, to give you an idea. Using the FCC’s Station Finder, I determined which channels were available in my area. The stations labeled “strong” came in pretty much wherever I put my antenna. The ones labeled “weak” required very specific tweaking… sometimes inches mattered.
Now that I have lived without cable for a while, do I miss cable? Absolutely not! In the modern era of streaming channels, you can get plenty of free content, along with a lot of low-cost paid content for much less than the cost of cable TV.
And, I find that I’m channel surfing less since there are fewer channels to surf. It takes me less time to find out when there’s nothing good on TV. I am also watching a lot less trash TV – stuff with no redeeming value – like mindless reality shows. I have banished these forever and feel better!! I now spend more time going out and meeting with friends and family. And I’m saving a ton of money by spending ZERO dollars for TV most months.
I’ll continue to post my findings and research on DisableMyCable. I hope it is helpful to you. – Brian
My Antenna Experiments and the Mohu Leaf
My old rabbit-ear antenna got a good number of channels, but there were more that were flaky or that didn’t come in at all. So, I went out and purchased a big metal antenna, the Antennas Direct DB-4 from Solid Signal.
This got me more channels, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Around that time, there was a lot of hoopla about a new flat antenna, the Mohu Leaf. So, I ordered one.
When I tested it, I was totally blown away that this small flat antenna could get better TV reception than a bulky more expensive metal antenna!
Since then, I’ve moved back to Santa Monica and continued testing antennas. But, the Mohu Leaf has remained the best indoor antenna I’ve tested.
I have all of the major streaming boxes, but I use Roku most often, especially now that it has AirPlay, allowing me to stream from my iPhone or iPad to my TV. For recording broadcast TV, I use the Tablo.
I spend little to nothing on streaming TV services. I watch over-the-air broadcast TV, free video services like YouTube, and some pay services on a temporary basis to binge-watch certain shows, then I cancel them.
Read more about my current antenna setup in my blog.
My Product Review Policy
I don’t accept payment for writing product reviews. All of my reviews express my personal opinion after evaluating and/or researching the product or service myself.
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I am from Los Angeles, CA. I have a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. I’m a freelance web developer and blogger. I currently live in Santa Monica, CA.
If you liked this site, another one of my sites you might enjoy is TheFrugalNoodle.com. I write about money-saving tips, how-to topics, and career advice there.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment so everyone can benefit from the answer.
I hope this site has been helpful to you! – Brian
Recently the owners of the apartment block where I live discontinued the TV cable and I now find that if I want more than the very basic channels it will cost me another $70-00+ per month .
I am 84 years old, I live on Vancouver Island and my internet is already costing nearly $60-00 per month.
How much do I need to spend for an antenna to be able to receive more TV channels and if possible to also cut back on my internet costs?
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to TV signal strength in Canada. Ask your neighbors or post on Facebook or Nextdoor to see how many channels other folks near you are getting, and what kind of antennas they are using.
An indoor antenna like the Mohu Leaf is about $40:
An outdoor antenna will get you more channels but of course takes more work to set up. I would start with an indoor antenna if your neighbors are getting a good number of channels.
I’ve got a great antenna, and had a great DVR DTV box that worked great for 15 years.
It got 50 channels and a Program Guide (I don’t know where that came from) because I have no internet. It was called the DVR DTV Pal
A roof leak just killed the box in a pall of smoke, it’s burnt and dead.
Do you know of any current DRV box that will do the same thing as my old box??
I want to stay completely cut. No cable, no streaming, no internet, no WIFI
Every video i watch wants me to get “streaming” which is cable by another name to me.
Thank-you so much
According to this article, the Channel Master CM-7000PAL is identical to the DVR you had (but please double check to be sure):
I couldn’t find a new unit on Amazon, but I did find it on eBay:
But again, really make sure it’s the same thing, as I don’t own this unit.
Dear Brian; (I tried to reply to the message you sent, but it bounced)
OMG !!! I don’t know how you did that, but that’s exactly the box I had before.
I searched Amazon, craig’s list and ebay but I guess I didn’t do it right.
I am forever indebted to you for your quick response and knowledge about this tricky area.
If I may, I have one more question about this stuff. How does the box get the PROGRAM GUIDE ??
My box had a guide like the old TV GUIDE Magazine where it would show what shows were coming up in the next few hours,
but how did it know that?? I don’t have any other information coming into my house (cable, WIFI, internet) so
I could never figure out how that worked. If you don’t know that’s ok, I don’t need to know but was just intrigued.
I just bought that box on ebay. Thanks again so much !!
A little about me, I am the true cable cutter. I pay $ 0.00 every month. I will spend anything I must for my system,
but nothing by the month. (Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute) My antenna is 55 feet off the ground, I can get Providence Rhode Island Portland Maine
if I use the rotate feature, but I don’t. I don’t support the big media companies which have become cesspools in my opinion.
Thank you again for your help, Tell me anything I can do to help you on your way as well
Keep up the good videos
p.s. i just read the article you sent me, which makes total sense. I thought you might be interested to hear this. I bought this box a long time ago, 2004 maybe. it was on craig’slist. recommended by a friend of mine (another cheapskate) I went to the guy’s house to pick it up, he was selling the box brand new for $400.00 which I thought was a bargain.
The craigslist guy would sign up for dish network cable, and they gave him the box for free. He then told them it got stolen, and he had to pay $150.00 for another one. He just kept doing this. that was his job.
Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad the info was helpful!
To answer your question about OTA program guides, since modern TV signals are digital, any information can be included in the digital stream. That’s exactly what is happening; a basic program guide is included in your digital TV stream. More info on this, which is called PSIP, here:
I’m a “pay nothing for TV” guy as well!
Interesting story about that box, thanks for sharing!
Thanks again. That article was right on again. If you ever make it to Boston the beer’s on me. The only sad thing about this whole thing is that if you find something you really like, and it’s on the edge of technology, and you just keep using it, as the years go by, and the technology moves forward so quickly, before you know it you’re a dinosaur. I just can’t believe how much new stuff is out there, and how many options the schmuck like me at the very bottom has. The free market works !!
Yeah, the newest stuff isn’t always the best, I agree! Thanks for sharing!