How to get rid of cable and watch TV online

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Photo © Meddygarnet, used under Creative Commons license.
Every once in a while on Facebook or Twitter, I see a plea for help to get rid of cable and start watching TV shows and movies online since cable may be slowly going the way of the dinosaur. I have been doing this for about three years and wouldn’t go back. But I’ll be the first to admit, it’s still a wonky system that requires a little finagling on your part. There is definitely more micromanaging than just scheduling a season pass on a DVR. But a benefit is that you only watch the shows you actively want to watch, and save time by not channel surfing and settling for trashy reality you wouldn’t ordinarily watch.

There are two methods that will help you with this: a digital media receiver (or set top box) like Roku, Tivo, AppleTV, or most of the game consoles. But I hook my HDMI-enabled television to a laptop, which gives me more freedom.

The set top device method is fairly straightforward: purchase the device and it will enable you to access your current streaming media choices like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. In some cases, like AppleTV, you’ll also get access to their full streaming library for a small fee per show or movie.

What you’ll need:

(Note that the focus is on viewers in the U.S.)

  • A laptop (or a desktop PC with a cool wireless adapter like StreamHD)
  • HDMI-capable television
  • A wireless mouse and keyboard (unless you’re looking to add a little more excercise into your routine or again, have the wireless adapter option). I use this setup.
  • for researching where to find a show on the internet in places like Netflix or one of the station websites.
  • or DVD listings
  • Something to keep track of your television shows. (I actually use a janky Notepad file!)

Access to any or all of the following:

  • Hulu Plus
  • Netflix streaming
  • iTunes
  • Amazon Prime

Once you’ve done your research and have a little pool of shows you want to start (or continue) watching, use a site like to figure out where everything is streaming.

For movies, I head over to the upcoming DVD listings on or for what’s new to download from iTunes or find on a streaming site. This way I also get to see a lot of movies that fly under the radar and don’t hit cable networks.

Streaming sports

Watching sports is a different beast altogether. Sports networks are still lagging behind in embracing their internet viewers, but some sites like offer live streaming. You may end up just having to hit the sports bar or a friend’s couch.

Final thoughts

There will be times where you just will not be able to find that show that you want to watch, especially lifestyle and cooking shows, sports, and some of the premium network shows. This is a bummer, but waiting for the DVD set of the season isn’t so bad. You can marathon it in your jammies on a weekend and really experience the arc of the season. I’m pretty sure The Oatmeal knows a little something about this stress, too (and about shady sources I won’t mention here.)

And finally, some of the best content is created FOR the web. Check out Above Average or Geek and Sundry on YouTube for some quality web programming.

If this sounds doable to you, cut the cord with cable and contribute to the big push to get cable networks on board with content via the web.

This post originally appeared on Movie Gnome.

Comments on How to get rid of cable and watch TV online

  1. I find the best combination is a Roku 3 or Apple TV for streaming content… between Hulu+, Netflix, Redbox, and Amazon Prime there are tons of good options… as for live stuff like sports HD antennas are essential and if it is on ESPN you will likely have to go through one of the packages offered by the league to watch sports online legally… but it is important that we keep making the point to the cable companies and TV networks that the service they are offering in the way they are offering it, at the price they are offering it is no longer what we want and we will continue to cut the cord and get rid of cable until they are capable of giving us what we want… it is a basic lesson in capitalism for them 🙂

    Please check out my website on this subject as I will try and keep it up to date with current information related to how to get rid of cable.

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