My Story: Cable TV Costs Too Much

Last updated: September 11, 2018 at 17:30 pm by Brian Shim

I was a loyal cable TV customer all of my adult life, paying $34/month for basic cable back in 2009. That sounds insanely 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.

Providence, RI

Providence, RI

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!!

Rabbit ear antenna

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 cancelled cable that weekend. It felt great!!

Next, I played with the antenna position. It turns out that the original place that 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 where blocked my view of the TV!!

I played with the location some more, and tried some home-made 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
Description Resolution Strength
PBS HD hi-def (1080i) weak
CBS hi-def (1080i) medium
ABC hi-def (720p) strong
NBC hi-def (1080i) strong
Local standard (480i) strong
NBC (duplicate) hi-def (1080i) strong
Local standard (480i) medium
FOX hi-def (720p) strong
PBS Local hi-def (1080i) medium
PBS Local 2 standard (480i) medium
Local hi-def (1080i) weak
PBS SD standard (480i) weak
PBS World standard (480i) weak
PBS Create standard (480i) medium
Kids channel standard (480i) medium
CW hi-def1080i (HD) strong
Country Music standard (480i) strong
Ion hi-def (720p) medium
Qubo (kids) standard (480i) weak
Ion Life standard (480i) medium

Providence, RI is a city of less than 200,000 people, to give you an idea. The stations labelled “strong” came in pretty much wherever I put my antenna. The ones labelled “weak” required very specific tweaking… sometimes inches mattered.

Now that I have lived with this for a while, do I miss cable? There are channels that I do miss like the Discovery Channel, History Channel, Travel Channel, AMC, and stuff like that. Instead of Samantha Brown, I watch Rick Steves. Instead of History Channel, I watch Ken Burns. Instead of Discovery, I watch Nova. You get the idea. But when I think about how much I’m saving, I don’t mind. I still get the shows that I like on the networks, plus I seem to get even more PBS channels than with cable, interestingly enough.

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.

I am not anti-cable. For some people, cable is the only option (if you live far from TV transmitters, or love to watch live sports). I just want to show people that there are alternatives that they might not have thought about. I don’t think people know how good broadcast TV is now that it has gone digital.

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.

Antennas Direct DB-4

Antennas Direct DB-4

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.

DB4 and Mohu Leaf antennnas

DB4 and original Mohu Leaf antennnas

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 one of the best ones I’ve tested. I currently use it upstairs and I use the Cable Cutter Aerowave downstairs.

I have all of the major streaming boxes, but I use the Roku most often.  I occasionally use my Apple TV if I want to stream content from a website on my MacBook Pro to my TV. For recording, I use the Tablo.

I spend zero dollars per month for TV. I watch over-the-air broadcast TV, free video services like YouTube, and some pay services using limited-time free trials.

For more details on my current antenna setup, see this article.

My current antenna setup

My current antenna setup

My Review Policy

I don’t accept payment for writing reviews. All of my reviews express my personal opinion after evaluating and/or researching the product or service myself.

When I write a full review of a product, my policy is to puchase the product myself, just like you would. I don’t accept free samples for review.

Why not? Well, when I get a free sample from a manufacturer, it puts me in an uncomfortable position where I feel obligated to give it a good review. Purchasing all of my review gear and services frees me from that conflict of interest, and allows me to give the most honest review possible! Yes, it costs a bit more, but I believe my credibility and articles benefit from this policy.

If You’d Like to Help

I’ve had some awesome readers email me wondering if they can donate to the DisableMyCable cause. I really appreciate the offers, but I want this site to be totally FREE to you, my readers, so I do not accept donations.

However, there are many ways you can help without spending a dime! If you’ve enjoyed this site, please consider doing one or more of the following:

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Thank you!

About Me

Brian ShimI am from Los Angeles, CA. I have a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. 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  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

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Ask Me a Question Below

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each question. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. I'd also love to hear about how you saved money. I hope this article was helpful to you. - Brian


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