Cord Cutters Survival Stories: Bye Bye Cable TV


What’s it like to cut the cord from pay TV? What’s working, what’s missing, and what kind of equipment does the best job replacing the cable box? In our new weekend series, we’re asking cord cutters to tell us about their experiences. This week’s featured cord cutter is Ryan Flynn, who estimates that he saves around $70 per month since he cut the cord.

A few weeks ago I did what some might deem impossible or unthinkable: I cancelled cable TV. In retrospect it was long overdue. With today’s technology and high speed internet connections, I can watch most of my favorite shows on-demand with little or no extra cost. Ditto for movies, news, and even some sports.

Pre-Cord Cutting Setup: Our house has two TVs: a 42” LCD coupled with a soundbar/subwoofer on the main floor and a 50” DLP with 5.1 surround sound in the basement. The TV on the main floor has a DVD player and in the basement we have a DVD player and Xbox 360. We also have been subscribers of Netflix’s 2-disc-at-a-time plan for years and use their streaming service to watch movies on the Xbox.

Our traditional TV package that we had for the past year was from AT&T’s (s T) U-Verse.  Before I made the call to cancel the U-Verse TV, I put together the following products and services for a seamless transition:

1) Antennas Direct DB4 Multi-Directional HDTV Antenna An antenna hooked up to your TVs still allows you to get all of your local channels, over the air, for free, the good ol’ fashioned way. Lucikly, my attic was already wired with coax cable from a previous owner who had satellite. This allowed me to easily split the antenna signal to both TVs in the home without running extra wires. To my surprise, all of the local HD channels look better when received over the air than they do on AT&T or Comcast. However, a HUGE disappointment is that the local CBS station doesn’t come in at all. Doing some research online, it appears a lot of people in the Chicagoland area experience the same problem. Once the snow melts and the weather gets warmer I may attempt to mount the antenna outside on the side of the house towards the transmitter.

Cost Savings Breakdown:
U-Verse Costs Pre Cutting the Cord
U-Verse U-200 Package – $70/monthly
HD Technology Fee – $10/monthly
HD Premier Fee -$5/monthly
Additional Receiver – $7/monthly
Total: $92

One Time Costs to Make the Transition
HDTV Antenna – $45
Roku XDS – $100
Total: $145 

Monthly Reoccurring Costs Post Cutting the Cord
Hulu Plus – $8
Netflix – $15
Xbox Live – $5
Amazon / Zune / Redbox Rentals – $12/month (estimated)
Total: $40

Time to Make Up One Time Costs: 4 months

Monthly Savings Thereafter: $52

Ryan was already paying for Netflix and Xbox Live before he cut cable so his true savings by cutting cable is $72/month.


2) Roku XDS

3) Hulu Plus Hulu Plus allows my wife and I to keep up with most of our shows from NBC, ABC and FOX.

4) Netflix This combined with getting physical discs delivered in the mail fills our movie fix just fine.

5) Xbox Live It  might just seem like an expensive online gaming platform but they have really come a long way the past several years to offer quality content through partners and their own store, the Zune Marketplace. Zune allows you to purchase and rent movies and TV shows. A rather new, but interesting feature of Xbox Live is ESPN3, the sports giant’s solution for streaming and on-demand sports content. While I’m not a huge college sports fan, ESPN3 offers dozens of games either live or on-demand. There are also clips from other ESPN shows (but no full version of Sportscenter yet.) I would consider ESPN3 still a work in progress but the intial version looks very promising.

How It’s Going So Far: We are now about a month into no cable TV and we haven’t looked back. We didn’t watch a ton of TV before we cut our cable and watch less now. Yes, we have less content to chose from but we still are able to watch most of the shows we did before.

We have started to use one of the queues in our Netflix account just for TV series on DVD and we are currently catching up on past seasons of shows we just started watching. The TV series on DVD in addition to Hulu Plus has been taking up most of our viewing time. We were never big movie-on-demand people with cable but surprisingly we have already bought several movie rentals through Amazon Video-on-Demand on the Roku box and Zune on the Xbox. Amazon runs daily movie rental specials and some choices aren’t that bad. FOX and NBC have been great to watch football on over the air but since I don’t get CBS I have been forced to stream games through my laptop’s HDMI port through not-so-legal sources.

A DVR system is noticeably absent from our setup but it’s not too significant since most of what we watch is streamed on-demand. The potential cost savings of cutting our cable and watching TV through alternative methods was never the primary motivating factor for doing it. Don’t get me wrong, its great to save a good chunk of money each month by ditching cable but it was more about the dissatisfaction of paying a lot of money for a service that we really didn’t use that much anymore.

Ryan Flynn is a self-described banker by day, social media and tech enthusiast by night. He maintains a blog on, where you can also read an extended version of this survival story. The views expressed in this guest column are entirely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of GigaOM.

Want to ask Ryan a question? Then fire away in the comments! Send us an email to cordcutters (at) if you have a survival story of your own to share, and please also check out the most recent episode of our weekly web series Cord Cutters:

Image of piggy bank courtesy of Flickr user alancleaver_2000.

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Nice job Ryan. In addition to the antenna type suggestions above, as an experiment you might try removing your splitter and just send the antenna signal directly to a single TV (try this for both TVs). If you get a usable picture and sound, then a distribution amp/splitter is what you need instead of a passive splitter.

For a DVR solution, take a look at the Silicon Dust HDHomeRun network tuner. I have two of them connected, providing four HDTV tuners that are accessible to any computer on my network. I use Xbox 360s as Media Center Extenders for the front end at the display and a Windows 7 laptop as the Media Center back end where all the DVR recording happens. Media Center takes care of all your Guide needs…it’s far better than the junk interface I had with my old cable DVR!


Great write up! I tell much the same story with my cable cutting experience. Got rid of DirecTV a month and a half ago. We only miss a couple PBS shows, all the other stuff we watch is out there on the web. Waiting for Hulu though to get a few more contracts, like being able to stream Community to my Roku…
Over all, well worth the effort and research.


@Matt: I’m curious why you’re missing PBS. Once we went to an antenna, PBS is almost over-represented in terms of the total available broadcasr content. I was really surprised at how much PBS content there is on so many channels and sub-channels.


Any recs for a website that can explain to me how to set up a DVR solution to record over the air HD? I imagine it would be a straight up desktop PC, but where does it get the TV Guide from, and how do I set it up? This is the only thing keeping me from cutting the cord.


@Scott – check out our site –
We install HD antennas and HTPC’s that stream content and function as an incredible DVR that even skips commercials.


Very awesome. I more than survive with my Apple TV and Netflix streaming subscription. It’s been over a year since I ended my cable. Pay for content when I hardly watch half of the shows? No thank you. Now I watch what I want, when I want.


The primary reason that your CBS station doesn’t come in is that it is broadcast on VHF channel 12 and the dB4 is a UHF antenna. The quickest fix is to get a highband VHF antenna like an AntennaCraft Y5-7-13, or Antenna’s Direct C5 and connect it to the dB4 with a UHF VHF splitter jointer (UVSJ) from Radio Shack or Solid Signal. Putting the antenna outside may work, but the added VHF antenna will definitely work.


Great article, we cut the cord two years ago and have NEVER looked back. Even in the beginning when content was not so great, the cost and time savings without 400 commercials an hour made up for it. Just bought a new car with the savings..wife is are happy.. all is good!


Awesome. Cut the cord myself two months ago and have been free since. After a lot of trial and error playing with various os’s, software and hardware, I now have basically the same set-up as Ryan here. I use a re-purposed pc running windows 7 as a backend server which is automated to organize everything and serve as my pvr. For now, I use my 360 as a frontend device. If I didn’t use it to game so much I would probably opt to build a separate frontend but this does the job for now. Everything runs pretty seamlessly with no more hiccups that the p.o.s. box provided by my (former) cable company.


Great article on saying goodbye to pay TV. We are doing that for our customers, and we install an off air antenna to complete the internet setup. In general, our customers have their systems paid off in less than 1 year, then it’s free TV forever.


If these guys are typical of cord cutters, then Id say the MSOs will be just fine. While these guys may be comfortable piecing together multiple vendors and hardware, along with hacking devices and using illegal P2P services, the majority of consumers are not.

I know many want people want this to be real, but it simply isn’t.


It’s mind boggling to me how much is spent on cable connections when 99% of the content isn’t consumed…it has to be the most egregious business model out there…


Nice work! I’m in Chicago too and i’ve done pretty much the same thing (even had u-verse too). I run my setup through my Windows Vista machine and purchased two xbox 360’s as extenders. Keep up with the CBS as it is receivable if you play with it enough. I just have a cheap set of rabbit ears in the attic from Radio shack and they do the trick. It did take some time to get all the channels n (including CBS), but eventually got them all to come in


Great setup Tim! Did you cut the cord to cable TV bills? Next up, install the Ooma phone system and get rid of your telephone bill too.

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