Free HDTV with DVR saved us $828/year… Disconnect Cable and Satellite TV.

UPDATE: Tablo TV dual and quad tuner DVR’s is where it’s at.  After writing the article below, a new product came out.  If you have OTA TV and want a DVR, Table is the way to go.  Watch for an update and review soon…

Santa sometimes comes early.  FREE TV!!! Here is how we eliminated our TV bill by disconnecting satellite and cable, saving over $800/year. It sounds like a sales pitch, but it’s not… it’s just our story, why we’ve decided to try to ‘cut the cord’ even without high speed internet.

Surprisingly, even the thought of no cable or satellite TV service used to scared us.  Especially without DSL or cable modem (neither available here), we don’t have option for Netflix, Hulu or other streaming where we are. What will we watch?  Will we die without satellite TV?

But I keep thinking about two big factors:

  1. We already often had nothing to watch on very expensive paid TV: Even with ‘over 145 channels’ on the lowest advertised DirecTV plan, we often found nothing interesting to watch – and ended up watching the same shows on the binge stations;
  2. We’ll be saving at least $830/year.  That’s what we’ve been paying DirecTV service with taxes and fees. That’s enough for a short cruise, Mexican blue ocean vacation, or final step in that dental implant I’ve been putting off… for over a decade. haha.  Better us than the satellite TV provider executives going on more vacations, right?

On with it.  DirectTV disconnected.  It’s been over 3 weeks on antenna only.  We didn’t die yet.

Here’s what we found…

If you haven’t taken a look at the free digital HDTV broadcast television lately, you might be pleasantly surprised.  Takes an open mind, and some getting used to… but it’s not that bad. (Best of all, it’s FREE!)  Sure, you’ll miss the latest episodes of Suits or House Hunters.  (You might be able to stream them if you have access to high speed internet – which we happen not to have.  Yes, people still live without DSL or a cable modem.)  But you will still run across marathon-style programming you’re accustomed to with paid services – episodes of Law and Order, Blue Bloods, or other recent (and vintage) sitcoms.  You will also find movies, not the most recent – but they are there, there are channels dedicated to showing movies.  And tons of educational and documentary content by multiple channels of PBS or Create Network that easily compete with paid channels like HGTV or The National Geographic Channel.  Did you know PBS has at least 4 different channels showing different programs simultaneously in most over-the-air (OTA) markets?  Sports is another matter all together, but you’ll get most of the local games.

Next, we discovered how to record and watch our OTA programs later.  We bought a Mediasonic 180 HDTV receiver/DVR for less than $30 on  That’s right: a working OTA DVR for less than $30!!!!  Wow! (For the money, it works great, we love it.)  Together with a 128gb USB flash drive we already had,nowwe can record dozens of hours of content.  How to record?  Simple… first look at programming guide on the Mediasonic box.  Most channels transmitting OTA programming also send digital program guides for maybe 24-48 hours in advance.  You can’t see the schedule further in advance, but you can setup a weekly record time based on time/day of week.  It works more like an old school VCR, recording by date and time not program name, but it works.   Sure, it’s a little cumbersome, not exactly what you get with costly satellite service… but it’s free, in fact…

But it gets better… We get to see programs we never would have seen with cable TV or satellite TV!  We like to watch a few shows broadcast by PBS on their alternate channels not available on DirectTV or DISH Network – like NHK World News.

Out of money?? If you want to save some money, maybe pay attention to a few other things this wonderful life has to offer, instead of TV, maybe read a book, take a class, adopt a puppy, you can do it!  Cancel paid TV, grab an antenna… they still work.

Are you trying it yourself? Let me know how much you saved, and how you are coping with the switch. haha.


Grown up in Cleveland, Ohio, USA., and recently co-located to Asheville, North Carolina area. Trained as Army MP, but bit of a renegade career wise. Phil has owned businesses in insurance, private investigations industries, and has experience in computer network engineering, asset recovery and repossession, and commercial over the road truck driving. Career long entrepreneur, property investor and rental manager. Phil loves sharing his experiences of great food, travel, experiences and products.