How do I save money on television?
February 28, 2006 3:42 PM   Subscribe

At risk of seeming picky, how can i reasonably reduce my cost of television?

Cable and DirecTV have the same base cost for "extended basic" or "Total Choice" and then both nickel and dime up to $60-65 dollars per month to support 3 household viewing stations and a DVR. That seems like highway robbery since I want my local broadcast only and ultimately if I could get the NBC news channels (MSNBC and CNBC) could be happy. Additional stuff like Discovery and SciFi would be nice but are not worth $30/mo to me. Is there some way to get the news channels streaming off the net that I have missed?
posted by shagoth to Technology (24 answers total)
CNN Pipeline is used by a buddy of mine who lives in Shanghai. I think it is just a couple dollars a month and includes several channels. Today they are offering free Mardi Gras coverage.
posted by geekyguy at 3:46 PM on February 28, 2006

Most cable companies have a basic service where you get your local stations only and that runs about $10/Month. No box needed either.
posted by Ferrari328 at 3:52 PM on February 28, 2006

Maybe I'm missing something, but if all you want is local broadcast channels, just get an antenna. Even if you live in an area with poor reception, there are ways to get it to come in better, usually.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:55 PM on February 28, 2006

Yeah, have you tried a $10 pair of bunny ear antennas at radio shack?
posted by delmoi at 4:11 PM on February 28, 2006

Have you read "How to subscribe to tv shows using the Democracy player"?
posted by Hildago at 4:12 PM on February 28, 2006

Uh... we're looking for MSNBC and CNBC here, neither of which are available with rabbit ears or limited cable.
posted by stefanie at 4:41 PM on February 28, 2006

I dumped my cable over 1 1/2 years ago and I feel more informed now than ever. It forced me to search the internet for my news and what is really interesting is that what I consider the most important news of the day is rarely what the so-called politically aware bloggers are discussing that day. Cable news is full of he said/she said gotcha gossip mongering masquerading as news. When was the last time that fat bastard Chris Matthews got off his ass and actually expended some shoe leather to research a story he reported on? Break the addiction. You will be much better - and wiser - for it.
posted by any major dude at 5:04 PM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: any major dude: the problem with being sans cnbc is that there is no coverage of the stock market in a live streaming way. I want that. Seriously.
posted by shagoth at 5:17 PM on February 28, 2006

I think you're pretty much screwed, unless cable companies ever get around to doing a la carte plans. For my current plan (Comcast cable), I have two choices. Pay $10 for basic cable, which includes ALMOST what I want, except that it doesn't have Comedy Central. The next level up, which includes Comedy Central is $50 a month. I am currently debating rather Comedy central is worth $40 a month, and so far it isn't :)

Lobby to the FCC to force companies to offer a la carte programming? I remember a post about it awhile ago on MeFi.
posted by JZig at 5:25 PM on February 28, 2006

My technique with comcast has always been to be very patient, and basically ask the phone salesperson about *every* possible package and special they are running. It goes something like this:
Me: What's your best price on cable / internet?
Them: $100 / month with 24 HBOs!
Me: Ok, that's too much, how about just internet?
Them: That's $60 / month, but if you sign up for basic cable, 
it's only $75 / total!
Me: So does that mean I can get basic cable for $15?
Them: No, basic cable by itself is $50 per month, but if you add digital classic, it goes down to $40 a month for the first 6 months.
Me: Then what?
Them: Then it goes to the regular price, which is $70 / month.
Me: Ok, well do you have any packages with digital classic and internet?
Them: Yes, we have one that is $50 / month for the first 9 months and then goes up to $100 a month after that.
Me: Yeah, I'll take that one.
Wait 9 months, threaten to cancel service, get offer extended for 6 months. Cancel service, re-sign up in my girlfriend's name, repeat. The hard part is getting them down to that $50 / month (or whatever) offer in the first place. I always expect them to not cave in, but they usually hook me up after about 10 or 15 minutes of "playing dumb." And it's *always* lower than the "best price" they quote me at the beginning. Another fun fact, I have never had an "internet only" install that failed to deliver basic cable over the same hookup. Except in Chicago when they moved *all* their basic service to digital. I'm sure they're planning that for the entire country at some point, but if you're in a non-digital market, the coax splitter is your friend. =)
posted by idontlikewords at 5:42 PM on February 28, 2006

i've cut monthly costs down some by not paying for additional boxes; instead, i'm using a set of ir repeaters and a cable splitter to run a second tv upstairs using just one DTV box... this works fine for us; we always watch tv together when we watch. but, if you need each tv to be able to run a separate signal, my solve won't solve a thing.
posted by RockyChrysler at 5:45 PM on February 28, 2006

Response by poster: RockyChrysler- The additional box issue is a relatively small part of the bill. The beef I have is noted above as the difference between screaming cheap locals only basic and massive hose to get "extended basic" just for the 2 channels that I want.
posted by shagoth at 5:50 PM on February 28, 2006

Hmm, maybe stop watching and do something productive with your time, like investing your family, books, a side-business, a new hobby, music, whatever. The word value and television related to our existence don't appear in the same sentence.

For stress relief arguments, try yoga, painting, model building, etc.

For news, try the internet.

For sports, well, go and play some

But basically, you're gonna get ripped off on paid television not matter how you cut it. The reason? Because they can, and you will, so try a different approach and just say no. You could quite possibly be happier, less stressed, and possibly richer (you may also make some money with your time).
posted by omidius at 6:18 PM on February 28, 2006

You may not have to wait long for a la carte. You could then just select whatever channels you want. The cable companies are fighting against it saying it would actually lower choice of channels. (Which is BS - the market would adjust is all.) There was a story about this just today from the Associated Press.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 6:24 PM on February 28, 2006

posted by JamesMessick at 7:36 PM on February 28, 2006

anything worth watching, always ends up on the net anyway.
posted by Hanover Phist at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2006

I got some remarkable discounts on my bills by threatening to cancel. Where it helped me was that I actually wanted to cancel (and did, in the end). The guy on the phone kept dropping the price down and down and down.

I had also planned to cancel my phone service ($40.00 line rental, $8.00 in calls for a month), and they did the same thing - line rental down to $5 or $10, I forget. Negotiating is really easy if you don't care if you lose.
posted by tomble at 9:06 PM on February 28, 2006

I am in a similar dilemna.. thing is, I've found myself watching a LOT of great stuff on TLC, The History Channel, Discovery Channel, Discovery Health, CMT, Spike TV... I'd lose all of that if I went back to basic cable.

Too bad I can't dump the mexican stations (6) and the home shopping channels (5) or the other crap I don't need or want, like childrens programming or korean news.
posted by drstein at 9:50 PM on February 28, 2006

I agree it seems a shame to have to pay lots of money for just one channel, CNBC in your case. So a site like this or this or this won't give you stock information you need? (I apologize if these are dumb suggestions; I know squat about stocks.) If that is so, then I think idontlikewords's negotiation strategy is your best bet.

Me, I just decided to pay for the television by dumping my internet connection, since I'm online most of the day at work anyway.
posted by JanetLand at 6:12 AM on March 1, 2006

A few years back I worked for a company that did trading and had a cable subscription which gave them news/business channels only. I think you might have to fish around, but maybe your local cable system has something like this, more geared toward business.

Also, have you checked into Dishnetwork? The big hangup there seems to be MSNBC, which is only available on their America's Top 120 package, for $40/month. To get the locals, you have to add another $6/month. Alternately, if you're looking for stock quotes, their DishFAMILY package offers Bloomberg, though no NBC, for $20/month. And free hardware deals are usually pretty easy to come by.

If you feel really adventurous, you can get pretty much anything you want with a C-Band satellite system. I notice that this place offers a la carte programming. The NBC cable channels are $1.99/month, though you have to have at least 5 or more other services to order it. In addition, theres a higher initial cost for hardware. More generic info here.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:16 AM on March 1, 2006

Steve, that $6 for local channels is not on my Dish bill. Maybe it's only in Maine.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:22 AM on March 1, 2006

Kirth Gerson, I don't subscribe to the locals. I got that information from this page.
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:41 AM on March 1, 2006
posted by skEwb at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2006

Oops posted before I was done. at you can purchase free to air receivers that get channels legitimately for free, or choose the other routes they have there :)
posted by skEwb at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2006

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