Getting rid of my cable package is one of the best things that I’ve done in the last five years, and since cutting the cord, I haven’t regretted it even once. Living without cable TV is easy and efficient, and it usually translates into seeing even more of the content that you want to watch–not less.
Back in the 90’s and early 2000s, cable TV was pretty much a necessity if you wanted to zone out and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls each week. But cable isn’t the only way we can access visual media anymore, and options like video streaming and antennae (yes, those little old-style bunny ears) come at a fraction of the cost of a premium cable TV subscription.
Over-the-air TV for live coverage
“Stealing cable” is a phrase that gets tossed around pretty frequently when you talk about ditching your monthly cable subscription, but pulling from TV signals that are floating around in the air isn’t actually illegal in the least. Over-the-air signals work just like AM and FM radio, and can be pulled “from the air” by anyone with a TV antenna–it’s just that most people don’t have the antenna to do so.
(I almost want to say “unlike how everyone has a radio,” but even radios are getting less and less prevalent nowadays. I can’t even remember the last time I intentionally listened to the radio while sitting in front of a radio, as opposed to listening to a broadcast on my laptop or phone!)
Antenna like the ClearStream 4V TV antenna receive broadcast signals from up to 112 km away, and many of today’s antenna even receive clear HD programs. And, while the ClearStream 4V looks like the modern rendition of a very iconic TV antenna (you know; something big and bulky that hangs on a rack), there are plenty of options that look very discreet, too.
The Antennas Direct ClearStream Eclipse Indoor TV Antenna sticks to the window or wall like an abstract art piece, for instance, and the simple Philips Digital TV Antenna looks so nondescript that it could be anything–a hard drive, a drawing tablet, or even a really fancy serving tray that you picked up at a tech convention.
Smaller indoor TV antenna don’t have as wide of a range in reception as larger racks do, but if you live in a metropolitan area and have a well-located window or outer wall to hang them to, you don’t necessarily need anything bigger. Just make sure to select one with your location and living situation in mind (if you’re living in a basement, for instance, you might want something that gets set up outside)!
Setting up video streaming
I’ll be discussing Android boxes later in this article, but first, let’s talk about the simple stuff. Streaming video services like Netflix allow users to view a select set of TV shows and movies for a set monthly rate (which is, in my experience, always drastically lower than even the most basic cable package).
You won’t be able to set up video streaming directly off of a TV monitor, but there are a number of ways to enjoy streaming media on your television. One easy option is to run Netflix off of your laptop or computer and have your TV set up as a display; another is to run Netflix off of your gaming console. I’ve done both, and am happy to report that they are both equally as easy!
Searching for shows is a little easier on a laptop or computer because you have the benefit of a keyboard, but my partner and I frequently find ourselves streaming an episode of Archer or Planet Earth through the PS4. It’s really handy to be able to be able to just switch inputs to a device that’s always hooked up to your television anyways, and unlike with cable, it’s nice to know what’s going to be available for viewing no matter the time of day.
Okay, but what IS an Android box??
If you’ve been reading the news recently, you may have heard about Android boxes. They were featured on CBC News earlier this year and have been running rampant through social media ever since, and they’re touted as a way to legally watch content without having to pay for a subscription or each individual show.
If you get into the details of it all, an Android box is simply any TV box that’s set up with Android, an open-source operating system used in everything from these TV boxes to many phones–even smartphones like the ever-popular (and quite literally exploding) Samsung Note 7 are built on an Android operating system. When you use an Android box with your TV, you have the ability to turn your TV into a smart TV that connects to the internet, views your home media content, and can access a variety of apps.
The “free TV” part of the equation typically comes in on the app end of things, so be careful when selecting an Android box, because they don’t all come with the same content and apps downloaded onto them. Some will require a little more work to get them functioning; others will come pre-loaded with everything you need.
The MyGica Streaming Digital Android TV Box that’s carried at Best Buy, for instance, isn’t just a box that could stream TV that happens to be powered by Android 4.4 KitKat. (Some TV boxes are powered by Windows, which is why the operating system is always clearly noted). It’s MyGica’s ATV 586 model, which contains both an ATSC digital TV tuner and a streaming media player–so you can switch from high-definition over-the-air live TV coverage to internet-based streaming and back, all with the same box.
To set up an Android box like the MyGica ATV 586, start by simply setting the box up by your TV, connecting the HDMI cable, and hooking up the device to the internet. The over-the-air TV waves will automatically be detected when your antenna is plugged into the device, and you can set up things like scheduled program recording in the device’s PVR option. (Other devices may not contain the same functions, which is why it’s important to research the exact model that you’ll be buying!)
What’s universal about Android box setup, however, is that you’ll need to use an app like KODI to stream media. To set it up, make sure you have the app installed; then, search for channels in the add-on section to find your favourite shows and movies.
The setup for an Android box, Netflix, or TV antennae may be difficult the first time around, but it’s a hassle that usually only needs to happen once. After 20 minutes of setup and troubleshooting, you can enjoy your cable-free TV at your leisure for as long as you’d like!