Life without cable TV is an alternative

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I clicked on the TV in the morning to catch up on the latest news. I started channel surfing between the major morning shows and the local Fox station. There was no other choice where I was staying.

After watching decades of cable TV, Dish and DirectTV, whenever we are in the San Antonio area, I only have access to free TV. That is all the house has.

The house next to us has a big antenna protruding from the roof. After school, the kids do things like play soccer in the yard and do their homework outside on a bench. The boy then rides his four-wheeler up and down the street. The lack of cable TV seems to be working well for them.

We recently ran an article on how more and more households are cutting the cable TV cord and reverting back to free, over-the-air TV. I was not planning to do that, but after these excursions to a place where there is no cable or satellite TV, I am beginning to have a change of heart.

I decided to call up the story and read it again, being curious if I am just getting too cheap or merely exercising common sense when it comes to spending.

“Since 2013, the percentage of broadband households in the nation using only antennas to watch linear TV has jumped from 9 percent to 15 percent.”

So I’m not all that cheap, after all. Many people are thinking like me.

With coffee in hand one early morning, I went through all the broadcast channels, and wound up with something like 50. Granted, many of them were stations I would not be interested in, like the shopping channels and those that broadcast in a language I do not understand (although I am making some progress on my Spanish).

I was like a kid in a candy store. Where did all these channels come from? They weren’t around when I switched to cable a very long time ago. Old movies, game shows, travel, classical music and even the PBS radio station.

And there was the Antenna TV channel. That one is addictive. We turned it on just for some background noise, and there was Patty Duke, Jethro, Samantha, Dick Van Dyke, and all those crazy characters from our childhoods. My wife finally turned it off because we weren’t getting anything done.

I’m not getting all this on my Direct TV line-up, which is costing me a fortune. Not as much as U-Verse did before I switched over to Direct-TV, but it is still a nice chunk of change.

“The resurgence in antenna usage in the U.S. isn’t all that surprising. What with some cable and internet packages climbing well past $250-per-month, a consumer push back was seemingly inevitable,” wrote The San Diego Union-Tribune in that piece we published on Feb. 7.

(It pays to re-read our own articles. Some of it doesn’t sink all in on the first read and the editing process.)

That describes me, although our package is somewhat lower, and it also includes high speed internet and a landline, which we don’t use all that often.

There has to be a better way, and it was right in front of me on the screen as Patty Duke pretended to be two people and kept changing accents.

Free TV does require a one-time investment of hooking up an antenna. I bought one for $20, and it guaranteed that I would pull in all the stations within 60 miles. But for the southern areas of Brazoria County, a rooftop antenna would work a lot better. There are plenty to choose from and are not that expensive - definitely not $250.

There are other pitfalls. I’d have to listen to Astros games on the radio, because the games are only on Cable or Direct-TV. Oh, this is such a First World problem. I think I’ll survive.

And, no more all-day news networks like CNN, FOX and MSNBC. That, actually, would be relaxing. I sure don’t miss them while I spend time away from the house. I am a news junkie, but the break from all the talk of doom and gloom is actually a nice change.

The biggest loss, if I do decide to just let the Direct TV contract expire, will be the Home and Garden Network. I really like watching those houses being bought, sold or refurbished. But, so be it. I have to sacrifice sometimes.

Beware cable companies and satellite TV. Our numbers are growing, so maybe you should give us a break. If not, the antenna manufacturers will be even busier, and in a few months, I’ll have a nice new shiny one wrapped around my chimney.