Cut the cord and free your TV

cut_cable_TV_smallCable TV costs too much, wastes time with commercials and fails to offer channel packages I want. Who needs cable when we have the Internet?

So I cut the cord this week, which will save me money and focus my viewing on the content that I want to see. Without cable, I’m left with MLB.tv for baseball, Netflix for movies and TV, and an antenna on my windowsill to pick up over-the-air HD broadcasts.

I had enough of steep monthly cable bills when I didn’t even watch it that often — mostly for live sporting events or DVR’d movies that are also available through Netflix.

I was paying a promotional rate of $95 a month for 6 megabit Internet and AT&T’s U-verse 200 cable package, which didn’t even include MLB Network. Without the discount, full price for this package would have been about $135 a month, which seemed crazy to me. Now with 12 megabit Internet alone, my monthly bill will be about $51 each month.

For Internet content (Netflix at $8/month and MLB.tv at $50 for the remainder of the season), I use a Roku media player so I can watch shows on my TV. I’m also considering Hulu Plus ($8/month), but I’m not sure I need it.

For network and local channels, the over-the-air antenna ($10-$20) might seem old-fashioned, but the picture is fantastic and I don’t have to pay for the content.

I’ll miss out on some college football games under this setup because I won’t get ESPN and other sports channels. But I can instead see games over the air, at friends’ houses or sports bars. Even if I pay for food and drink at a restaurant while watching a game, I’ll still be spending less money.

Saving money may have been the primary reason for getting rid of cable, but it wasn’t the only one. I now have the freedom to choose the channels I want and watch them on demand.

How to avoid MLB.tv blackouts

Unblock-UsBaseball blackouts, be gone!

A service called Unblock-Us allows customers to get around MLB.tv’s blackouts of local games, which have long been an obstacle for fans who want to pay for online or TV viewing of their home teams but can’t.

MLB.tv allows viewers to watch any baseball game, with the catch that you can’t watch your team within its coverage area. This restriction limits the promise of MLB.tv, rendering it useless to fans who live in the same cities as their favorite teams.

MLB.tv

Unblock-Us avoids blackouts by routing an MLB.tv subscriber’s Internet connection through remote servers, making it appear that the subscriber is located outside of the blackout area. It works on desktop computers as well as media players such as Roku and Apple TV.

Being able to watch baseball through the Internet instead of on cable TV is a major benefit to fans who want to avoid paying for cable, watch game replays, view games across the league or listen to broadcasters different from those in their home market. In the Atlanta area, being able to switch to the visiting team’s broadcast is a great relief from the Braves’ regular crew in the booth.

Setup of Unblock-Us should be easy for most users. I had a harder time setting it up because of how my Internet service provider wired my home. A previous post titled “Make AT&T Uverse i38HG access point behave” explains how to address the same technical problem I had.

Fortunately, Unblock-Us comes with a seven-day free trial, and it costs $4.99 per month afterward. Unlike some VPN or proxy services, Unblock-Us does have any monthly data usage limits or require additional software.

I was surprised I hadn’t heard of Unblock-Us before now. If more baseball fans knew about it, they’d swarm to this kind of solution and MLB.tv would profit from new subscriptions.