cutting the cord, part 2

Continuing my series on cutting the cable cord which I started discussing my broadband solution, I wanted to spend this next post talking about how I get live sports and the occasional local news broadcast.

I should start off by saying that I’m not the “average” TV viewer. I’m not stuck on the usual prime time shows. I could care less about who’s winning the race, the loser, or the bachelor. If there’s a show I really want to see (Mad Men for example) I’m more than happy to rent an episode or buy a season pass. I don’t mind being the only guy at the office to not know what happened when a season premiered. All that makes it easy for not to care too much regular TV, with one major exception. Sports.

Man (and woman) shall not live by movies alone. You’ve got to be able to get your sports content, including NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA and PGA. Generally I can get my weekends full of sports with a simple, cheap HDTV antenna.

Living in downtown Seattle I’m lucky enough to get pretty good broadcast TV signals. I think too many people don’t know that the “broadcast” networks still do exactly that. They broadcast a high definition signal available for free, or at least for the cost of the antenna. After trying a cheap alternative from Target I finally settled on a unit from Terk that I picked up at Best Buy. It plugs directly into the coax cable/antenna jack and after letting my Sony 42″ Bravia search for channels and set up its tuner I’ve got “free” TV anytime I want.

While I’m sure there are several great HDTV antennas out there, and a savvy shopper could be comparing Amazon.com reviews until the cows come home. I spent about $50 on my unit, though you can certainly spend more as well as find units with external power supplies to boost signal strength. Unless you live far away from a broadcast tower I doubt that’s really necessary.

As for the quality my antenna really works well. As a Kentucky fan I couldn’t miss their championship run and CBS came through in clear HD. A week later I got to see every blade of grass at Augusta National for Bubba Watson’s win at the Masters. During the fall NBC Sunday Night Football worked just as well as did the Super Bowl. You can’t see every game, and you miss out on Sportscenter or Monday Night Football on ESPN, but there’s still more than enough sports for me.

This solution isn’t perfect. As I said I’m in downtown Seattle so I imagine I’ve got a pretty strong signal from the broadcast towers. Still I will see interference from time to time, usually weather related. I also had to find the right position for the antenna (mine is on a window sill) via trial and error. Aside from the occasional glitch there have been no complaints.

Adding the cost of the HDTV antenna, $50, I’m spending about $4 a month over the course of a year. Added to my broadband costs my running total so far is $34.

My next post I’ll talk about content services, starting with getting sports delivered over the Internet through services like MLB.TV.

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