Help me ditch cable
December 23, 2009 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for online sources of information about alternatives to cable TV for watching TV shows. Forums are my favorite online learning mode.

I would love to ditch cable TV and make use of other modes to access TV shows (such as internet and over the air TV). I'm vaguely aware of Apple TV, Neflix, etc., but I'm finding the field, too me, is pretty complicated and changing very rapidly. I would like to find a good forum where these ideas are discussed and where I can ask questions.
If you have any forum suggestions, please speak up!
Other online learning guides for this topic that you think are good would also be interesting to me.
posted by Rad_Boy to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I know you say you are looking for online forums, but why don't you just go to the websites where these shows are hosted? has tons, and generally each network will host at least the most recent episodes of their programs. Netflix just streams stuff available on DVD, so it's not going to be useful to you when you want to watch that Lost episode from last week that you missed--but for that you go to Just google the shows you want to watch and go to their official sites.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:32 PM on December 23, 2009

I would recommend either Boxee Box ( or if you are tech-savvy, making your own media hub.

If you aren't looking to hook a tv into it, I would highly recommend Netflix. I find that between Netflix and Red Box you can pretty much get what you need. Not to mention Netflix offers streaming to your PC, Xbox, or PS3.
posted by Easternwind54 at 12:33 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're looking to find more TV shows that you might like then I would suggest typing in 'TV forum recommendations' into google, or typing in the name of a TV series into google or wikipedia and look for similar series'.

If you mean to find TV series online without the use of cable or such things, then I would suggest downloading the series from torrents, as it's a cheaper way of doing so. You can pay for such a service or you can get it free.
posted by sockpim at 12:36 PM on December 23, 2009 is a good resource for looking at the alternatives to cable tv.
posted by digividal at 12:44 PM on December 23, 2009

What I am really looking for here is a forum or other online source where I can learn about the various techniques to watch TV sans cable to help me decide which way to go with this. I appreciate the suggestions given but I would like to discuss the various techniques of using AppleTV, Netflix, torrents, TiVo, PCs, etc. so I can learn about them. I'm not tech savvy when it comes to internet, wifi, PCs, so I would like to learn more and understand the commercially available systems.
posted by Rad_Boy at 12:46 PM on December 23, 2009

You'll be surprised how much information is right here on the green. Seems every couple of days somebody asks a question similar to this, albeit with something specific (stuff like "Should I get a AppleTV or PS3?" etc.). I'd start just by plugging in the terms into the search box and see what you can find (it'll be a lot).
posted by General Malaise at 12:54 PM on December 23, 2009

don't know of any forums really, but you might get better Google hits if you search for "home theater pc" or "htpc", as that's what a lot of people build to do what you want. however, to give a brief overview of things:

Netflix offers a streaming service that you can use to stream available-on-DVD content over the Internet. not everything they provide in normal ship-you-a-DVD format is available on streaming, though, but they do have a good selection of movies and TV shows you can watch. you can stream the video to your TV by either building a system, getting a Roku box, replacing your TV with one that supports NetFlix, using your PlayStation 3 or XBox 360, or buying a Blu-Ray player or other device that supports NetFlix. you'll have to have a Netflix account that supports streaming (all but the very basic ones do).

Apple's iTunes Music Store and Amazon Video-On-Demand allow you to purchase and watch TV shows and movies as well. unlike Netflix, which typically only streams stuff that's already out on DVD, these services often allow you to watch TV shows that are currently in-season. (Apple, for instance, has a feature called a Season Pass that allows you to download the current season of a show and then all the rest of the episodes of that show as they come out that sesason.) the main difference between the iTunes Store and Amazon VOD is selection and devices. (I won't comment on selection as I don't really use either or watch recent TV.) notably, for devices, the Apple TV is the only supported device - besides an iPod/iPhone or a computer running iTunes - that you can use to watch videos from the iTunes Music Store. Amazon Video-on-Demand works on other stuff, including the Roku Netflix box and TiVo.

Hulu is another site that allows you to stream video to your system. the main draw to Hulu is that it's free - you do watch ads, but they're shorter and (IMHO) less obnoxious than the ones on actual TV. it's also the hardest to get on your TV; you'll have to actually have a computer to do it right now. (Boxee can sometimes be used but not always.) they do produce Hulu Desktop, which makes it easier to browse and use Hulu from your TV, but it's just a program you'll need to install on your system.

speaking of computers, lots of people go out and buy or build HTPCs (home theater PCs) and just use those. Macs include Front Row, which makes it fairly easy to watch media on your system, and Windows Vista/7 users (with the appropriate version - AFAIK, you have to have a Premium or Ultimate flavor to get this) can use the Windows Media Center stuff built in to have a nice interface on your TV. Boxee also makes a nice frontend for this as well. you get the most flexibility out of an HTPC setup, as it's at its core just a normal computer, but it can be the hardest to work with. HTPCs are great if you have a lot of your own media, as you can go through it pretty easily.

there's a bunch of other stuff out there - XBox 360s and PS3s can stream media from your computers, there's stuff like TVersity out there, and other devices that stream media - but these are the "biggest", so to speak. what you actually need depends on what you want from media - personally, I tend to get TV shows and drop 'em into iTunes and let my Apple TV run it, but if you want to watch Lost the day after it comes out, something that does Hulu or can deal with the iTunes store would be your best bet.
posted by mrg at 12:58 PM on December 23, 2009

I'm afraid I can't help with the cable aspects of TV and the like as i don't live in America. But I do use torrents a fair amount. When downloading a torrent, on some of the torrent websites you can access a forum on the page of which your downloading it from... you can ask people on there for recommendations for different TV series and films etc.

Also, if you go onto certain torrent websites, you can download a TV series and get several other random films and series with it, which you can watch at your leisure.
posted by sockpim at 1:07 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Roku has a forum.

I got rid of cable this year and watch TV using DVDs, Roku (for Netflix and Amazon on demand), and iTunes plus torrents for shows that aren't available any other way. The only thing I miss is baseball.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:15 PM on December 23, 2009

Clearing up a couple things here...

Roku (which I have and love) does have the first four (?) seasons of Lost, so it's great for catching up (you can check the titles on Netflix), and it has for baseball, as well as Amazon and a bunch of other recently-added channels...
posted by dyerfr at 1:19 PM on December 23, 2009

Roku has MLB for baseball so long as you don't have any interest in watching your home team. Grrrr.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:27 PM on December 23, 2009

Cable and satellite don't want you to know that you can get the highest quality HD free, over the air, with a modern flat screen TV and an antenna. Better yet, hook up a Tivo and be in time-shifted HD heaven. Bonus: YouTube and Netflix HD streaming and other bells and whistles, right there on your TV.

AVSforum is the right place to go for chat on these topics. Note that there are a LOT of guys with too much time on their hands there, with opinions ready to go but sometimes little facts.

Go find the AVSforum thread for your local market (the OTA thread) and dive in.
posted by intermod at 9:38 PM on December 23, 2009

Thank you all for the great info! I got what I wanted and more.
posted by Rad_Boy at 12:01 PM on December 24, 2009

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