I enjoy occasionally watching quality content and sports on television but I’ve been without traditional cable for many years. I also happen to enjoy technology and I have owned and tested almost every type of set top device that exist (Apple TV, Roku, FireTV). I’m constantly perfecting and tweaking my setup so feel free to come back as I still update this post regularly. It is possible get almost all content in full HD, including live TV and sports for free or much less than you are currently paying for cable!
Also, check out the updated 2014 version of the post!
The first two Questions you need to ask yourself are:
- What content is most important to me?
- How much do I want to spend on content?
- (And Maybe) Do I even have enough time to watch all the free content out there?
To get access to the best content you need:
- Digital Television w/ Tuner
- High Speed Internet Connection (5Mbs+ Recommended)
Streaming Box of Some Kind (see bottom for detailed list and more info):
My updated suggestions only include three steaming boxes. Why? Because they are the best. They have everything we need. I always suggest buying used if possible and amazon “more buying choices” because buying used ‘like new’ can often save you a few bucks!
Antenna (if Network Tv is desired)
Amplifier (if more than 15 miles from major metro)
For Free Over The Air High Definitions Channels
The setup is surprisingly simple but I’m amazed at how few people think that TV must come from a “Cable Company”. If you are in a major metro, simply plug any antenna into your television and search for channels! That’s it! If you are far from a major metro, a slightly larger antenna (still will fit in your attic) will work.
The free channels available are typically:
ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC, CW, PBS, Peachtree TV, Univision
Distance to Major Metro Broadcast: 40-70 Miles*
RCA Antenna ANT751R + RCA TVPRAMP1R
I also like the Winegard Amp HDA-100 but it is a little more expensive.
*Porch, Attic, Outdoor Mount
*My Current Setup in Athens, GA (Atlanta Broadcast)
To find out if want you want to watch is available for streaming check here:
Can I Stream it?
My Streaming Guide
Previously I had a guide to which boxes could get which content. But, thanks to the ever expanding content, Apple, Amazon and Roku have stepped up their game and they both have access to all of the following content (natively or through airplay).
- Watch Espn/ESPN3
- Hulu/Hulu Plus
- Amazon VOD
- HBO GO
- Food Network (XBMC Only)
- Network Hard Drive/Computer
Best for Live Sports:
Antenna Network TV (NFL, College Football/Basketball)
Aereo (live streaming TV in a few markets including ATL)
ESPN – WatchESPN app
Best for TV Shows:
Amazon VOD (Purchase)
Best for Local Media:
Several Rokus will play files off a USB Hard drive or Micro SD card. Apple TV can stream from your phone, Itunes, or any computers you have around your house easily. Plex is another great options that works with Roku and Apple Tv (Google for more information). But the current setup I am using is a Amazon Fire TV (rooted) with a USB hard drive (and SMB network sharing).
XBMC – Xbox Media Center
What can you do with XBMC? You can have it set up to aggregate all of your favorite content into once central hub. All your movies, television shows, live tv (with guide) are available in an attractive, updated interface.
Media Center Quick Start Guide
Download on PC or Mac to try it out here:
XBMC for PC or Mac
What if Antennas do not work at my house?
You can check AntennaWeb and put in your address to see which channels you might get. Again, their estimates tend to be conservative as I get much more than they suggest. Also, Aereo streams OTA broadcast and USTVNow may work for internationals and some domestic households.
I purchased all of my streaming boxes used (if you click the amazon links just look for the used tab). They run forever and in general are in pretty good shape because people just put them down and leave them. I’d love to have just one box but all currently have their tradeoffs.