5 Steps to Cutting the Cord: A Guide to Canceling Cable


Are you tired of paying $80 or $100 per month to your local cable company for the three networks you watch, and for hundreds you don’t? You’re not alone: Hundreds of thousands of people canceled their cable or satellite TV subscriptions in 2010, and many use Netflix, Hulu & Co. as a cheaper and more convenient ways to get their TV fix.

Making that call to your cable company can admittedly be scary. However, there are plenty of options out there to get TV programming. Give them a try, and you might find that you’ll not only save money, but also watch TV on your own terms.

We compiled a list of five steps to help you ease into your cable-free future. Follow them, and you’ll be a happy cord cutter in no time:

1. Get an antenna

Watch this video to learn how a simple $12 antenna can get your free HD TV.

Let’s face it: We all like to sit back and flip through the channels sometimes, and we also like to watch our local news to keep up with what’s going on in our community. That’s what over-the-air TV is for. Rabbit ear antennas may bring back memories of snowy pictures on your grandmother’s TV, but a lot has change since the transition to digital broadcast in 2009. Viewers nowadays have access to dozens of channels, many of which are broadcast in full HD. And we’re not talking about those crummy compressed HD pictures you’re used to seeing from your cable TV provider.

Reception can vary depending on where you live, but oftentimes, a simple $12 antenna is enough to receive stunning HD TV. Check out the antenna episode of Cord Cutters to learn more, and then just go out and buy one to give it a try.

2. Find content online

Chances are, most of your favorite shows are available online.

Are you a fan of Modern Family, Glee, NCIS or even the Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Well, you’re in luck: All of those shows are available as complete episodes online, oftentimes 24 hours after they’ve aired on TV. Broadcasters like NBC, ABC and Fox have been making most of their content available through Hulu.com, and many shows can also be found on websites like CBS.com.

Don’t want to deal with the hassle of hunting down individual episodes? Then simply use a video search site like Clicker.com or Sidereel.com that will direct you straight to the videos you want to watch.

And while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and check out Netflix if you haven’t done so already. The subscription service not only offers instant access to thousands of movies, but has recently added more and more TV content, including episodes of Saturday Night Live the day after they air on NBC.

3. Connect your TV

We've been reviewing many devices to get Internet content on your TV. Check out this video for our personal picks.

Watching videos from Hulu or Netflix on your PC is nice, but you didn’t buy that big LCD TV for nothing, right? Thankfully, there are tons of devices today to get all sorts of Internet-delivered video goodness on your TV screen. In fact, you may even already own one or two: Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3 are both excellent video players, and most Blu-ray players also offer access to Netflix as well.

Devices like the Roku player, the Boxee Box or the Apple TV go further in offering access to even more video sources — and with prices starting at $60, some of these quickly pay for themselves once you cancel cable.

Choosing the right device for yourself is a matter of personal preference as well as a question of the type of content you’re into. Check the links to the right for a more detailed look at each device.

4. Learn from others

Sometimes, cutting the cord starts with a trip to Home Depot. Read more about how people like you have canceled cable in our Survival Stories.

The tough thing about cord cutting is that there’s no one single solution that works for everyone. A hardcore sports fan doesn’t have the same needs as a movie buff. The good news is that there are already tons of people out there that have come up with their very own cable- or satellite-free TV experience. So if you want to figure out the best alternatives to pay TV, talk to cord cutters, and learn from their experiences. We have been featuring some of them in our weekly Cord Cutters Survival Stories series, and we are going to launch additional ways to connect with each other soon.

5. Make the call

Getting an antenna and watching TV through Hulu and Netflix can be a good test run for cord cutting, but at some point, there’s really no way around it: You have to call your cable or satellite TV company, and stand your ground.

Cord cutting isn't just about saving money.

Chances are, your pay TV provider doesn’t want to lose you, so they’re going to offer you a really sweet retention package. Maybe you could get six months of introductory pricing, or maybe three months of HBO. Some people have made a habit out of threatening to cancel every few months so that they never have to pay the full price, but let’s face it: Most of us will forget about it until our bills suddenly go back up to $100 or more.

Occasionally, you’ll also deal with an overzealous sales person who will try to convince you that you won’t be able to watch local news without cable, or that your Internet costs will explode. The latter is actually half true: Cable companies tend to charge around $10 more for Internet-only packages. However, it pays off to do your homework before making the call. Simply check what AT&T and other competitors charge for Internet access as well as what new customers of your cable company pay for Internet-only plans, and then threaten to switch your Internet provider as well. Chances are, your cable company will cut you a deal.

Finally, it’s also worth remembering: Saving money is great, but canceling cable is also about being in charge of what you watch and what you pay for. That’s something no retention deal can offer you.

Do you have your own cord cutting tips? Then fire away in the comments, and make sure to tune in every week for our Cord Cutters show!

Images courtesy of Daniel Cooper Clark and Flickr user alancleaver_2000.

Related content on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):


Jedi Master

Back in November of 2008 I canceled my cable subscription when the bill hit $83 a month. It has been raised even more and if I didn’t cancel I would be I would be paying $100 a month right now. I have saved $2,500 in cable fees since I cut the cord. It hurts when I think of all the money I paid for cable the last 3 years I had it. If I would have spent that money on DVDs I would have 3 bookcases full of DVDs instead of the one bookcase full I have now.

But I still have plenty to watch. I’m now watching more TV than ever since I cut the cord. And with my DVDs I’m watching what I want uncut, commercial free, and with a clutter free screen. Then I get to keep them. No more paying to watch repeats. Also I have 60 years of programming to choose from instead of just whats on TV.

I get 15 channels (7 in HD) where I live with my antenna for free. So when I do watch something with commercials in it I’m not paying for it. If nothing is on I put on a DVD which is most of the time.

For a DVR that works with OTA you can buy the Channelmaster 7000 DVR online. It has two dual HD tuners in it.


Mark your starting point ladies and gentlemen. Although my days as a soccer mom are behind me I am a card carryin suburban non-techie, non geek who just cut the cord. Enjoying internet enabled tv, netflix, pc enabled hulu, and off air via a 30 year old rooftop antenna…saving $$$ never felt this good. watching what I want when I want, on my terms. Not paying for no choice bad tv anymore. If I can do this, all those other soccer moms can too, and I hope they do.


Apartment building dwellers and similar situations may be precluded from getting a good OTA signal with a rabbit ears antenna from whatever side of a building they live on. That’s my situation.
I get the lowest-priced tv and internet service from comcast (~$41 total) and watch “the daily show” on line.
I have a 13″ crt tv, so it has to be an really good show for me to be bothered to watch more traditional tv.
50% or more of my entertainment comes from the computer or printed page.


Good article, except the part where you ask everyone to get on bended knee to the Cable providers. That’s not going to happen.

@aep528 – If you have a strong enough PC you are good.


all for ‘cord cutting.’

have a question: what do ‘cord cutters’ do for DVRs?


On a similar token, are there recommendations on how I can cut my landline and yet maintain my old number? TIA

Buddy Scalera

Cord cutting today may work, if you are really dedicated to “the cause.” It is a little like driving an electric car or getting solar panels for your house. It’s not completely about the economics of it, as much as it is the principle of the concept. People who really, really want to cut the cord will find 5 Easy Steps. For the rest of us, it may seem like the cost-benefit ratio is still a bit high.



FYI both the Super Bowl and Grammys were broadcast on Local Television. In other words you could watch them with “Rabbit Ears”.

Need my sports

How do i get my NBA playoffs on TNT and ESPN if I cut the cord? Let me know and I will cut it today. Also, it needs to be viewable on an high def TV, not on my 19″ laptop…Thanks.

Um, OK

While I admire the spirit of these posts, the notion of “cord cutting” is really shaping up to be mythical. And when it does happen, the numbers are so insignificant, the concept doesn’t look mainstream, but rather something niche that only involves those fluent in specialized technologies (rabbit ears?!?) with too much time on their hands.

Until there’s an easy, affordable solution, that offers you the FULL library of content out there, cord-cutting will continue to thrive amongst zealots only.

While Comcast lost 135,000 cable subscribers last quarter, those losses are smaller than they were a year ago, and smaller than the preceding quarter as well. Comcast ended up adding nearly 700,000 subscribers overall, by adding more broadband and voice customers. And the customers it does have pay more than ever – revenue per subscriber was up 10.6 percent. There was not one mention of “cord cutting” in last week’s earnings call.

If anything, it’s the economy and people defecting to satellite/fiber. Directv added 174,000 new customers last quarter and you’ll probably see similar numbers in this week’s call. You had record Super Bowl TV ratings, record Grammy’s ratings, record BCS Championship ratings all within a matter of months on traditional ‘ol TV.


If you mark today as the starting point, let’s see where we are in 5 years. Our customers will have saved more than $15k in payments to Comcast/DirecTV.

Chris Albrecht

I love that you think rabbit ears are a specialized technology.


Chris: I believe you misunderstood “Um, OK’s” meaning. Rabbit ears are decidely not a specialized technology and s/he is questioning their usefulness in a cord-cutting scenario. In other words, the mentioning of rabbit ears in the article is ridiculous. Without speacialized technolgies, cord-cutting would never happen.


“While I admire the spirit of these posts, the notion of “cord cutting” is really shaping up to be mythical. …..”

Agreed. All you have to do here is look at the need to have instructions (5 steps to cord cutting) or the use of a third party (GoodbyePayTV) to realize how far this needs to go before cord cutting is more than a temporary economic reaction or a tech hobby.

Cutting my phone cord in favor of mobile gave me an easy way to have a more feature rich phone experience. This is completely different than PayTV cord cutting which for most installs offers less features, and it is far from an easy install. Yes, Geeks can do it, but talk to me when soccer moms can do it on their own. That’s when you can mark your starting point.


Do you work for Comcast? Zealots?… Sounds like political speak to me. It’s no big deal to leave Comcast and use my computer. Niche? I don’t think so. Just the smart way for me to go. And I can do a lot with the money I am no longer paying to Comcast for cable.
It does not take a tech wiz to do this, folks. I am not exactly a whiz. But, do what you want. You are free to pay whatever you please to whatever provider you wish. I just don’t want to.

Buddy Scalera

It’s hard to say that if a Hulu subscription will replace regular broadcast, at least not quite yet. There’s still a lot of useful content out there, particularly in live video programming. You’d have to rely on your PC to watch a lot of TV to really cut the cord at this point. That said, Clicker is pretty amazing at digging up video content on the web.

Should be interesting to keep up with this series to see how streaming continues to evolve.

Buddy – http://wordspicturesweb.com/?p=1349


So, how do I replace cable without buying additional hardware, and with the ease of a single guide and remote to control all of the content? Oh wait, I can’t.


Silly Rabbit, one of the benefits of not being tied to cable is that you watch WHEN you want. So you don’t need a guide. And if you have an Apple computer, you can get a remote I believe. But seriously, the reason you don’t want to cut the cord on $100/mo is so you can have a remote control?

Cut the cord years ago and never looked back (and I LOVE the tone the cable people get when I move into a new area and they try to sell me cable & I tell them I DON’T OWN A TV – $100/cable, the cable company’s expression : priceless.


You definitely can and we do it for our customers all of the time, except for buying the additional hardware. Our systems have way more features than the pay systems and we are saving our customers thousand$. You can check our site – goodbyepaytv.com for more information.

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