Free TV: Stop Paying for Television


Today’s post, “Free TV: Stop Paying for Television” is courtesy of me, trying to sound like Nelson Smith from FinancialUproar.

I don’t know how many articles need to be written about how you can get free TV before everybody clues in and stops paying for it.

Apparently 8 in 10 of you live in a house that pays for TV. I guess that’s the 80% of Canadians that I called money-stupid.

Worse, the average TV bill is $60 a freaking month.

Quiz: what technology product increases in price 5% per year, but doesn’t improve?

Yup, the average TV bill has gone up 5% a year. Cheap credit ruins everything. I should throw all my money into Rogers, BCE, and Telus stock.

One pastime for Canadians (besides endlessly discussing how we’re different from and superior to Americans) is complaining about the telecomm oligopolists that I just mentioned. Guess what? YOU’RE the one stuffing their pockets, TV subscriber. If you don’t understand the term “sub”, read Fifty Shades of Grey.

When I got dinged for a $2 rate hike on my internet — when Rogers thought they could change my binding contract with them midterm — I fought. I got my ten bucks back, even though it was my ten bucks in the first place and it wasn’t worth my time. Most of you schlubs did nothing to fight the power. You opened that letter, shrugged, and proceeded to bend over for Rogers, like the obsequious Canadians that you are. Oh, don’t worry about Roger’s CEO, Nadir Mohammed. He still got his $8.5 million and a raise this year.

If you’re paying for television, and are desperately trying to reconcile this with your belief that you’re not a loser, do something. Don’t waste your time on excuses (“I need TV for sports!”, “I won’t be able to catch my fave series” — I can actually hear a whiny loser voice saying these things in my head right now, should I get that checked out?). Just stop paying for television. Cancel it. Maybe it won’t take effect for one billing cycle, but get rid of it ASAP.

Here’s my guide for living free of cable bills and getting free TV:

Free TV Tip #1 – Get a VHF/UHF Antenna

Thanks to the digital transition (brought to us by America and copied by the CRTC), you can get absolutely FREE, HIGH-DEFINITION television. No need to pay an extra $20 a month for a stupid “high def” package. I live in the country, so I get one channel, CTV (yuck, I’ll take the crab juice). If I bothered to put up an antenna, I’d definitely get a few more, e.g. CBC, TVO, and possibly Global, but I don’t watch enough TV anymore to bother.

Free TV Tip #2 – Call Up Your Internet Service Provider

Negotiate a lower rate or switch to a competitor’s cheaper offer.

Notice I’m not telling you to call up your TV provider and negotiate a lower rate. Because you should cancel your TV service. You don’t need it. Your internet is the king of all connections — it is your portal to free TV (see the rest of this list).

Trust me, your TV provider will grovel when you cancel. In fact, your internet provider might even grovel. When I refused to take TV with my cheap internet, Rogers pulled out all the stops. I got offered cable TV for $15 a month, all in, for my entire contract. You haven’t seen desperation until you refuse the Rogers bundle. Unless you’ve seen my ex-girlfriends (this is an homage to Nelson, remember?).

Never forget: it costs RoBellUs NOTHING to let you watch TV because their infrastructure is already in place. Don’t accept their stalkerish attempts to get into your home.

Free TV Tip #3 – Focus on good shows…

…and watch them for free. Don’t just sit down and watch three hours of reruns. Focus on getting the maximum possible value from the time you waste on television. Paradoxical, I know.

I’ve chuckled at The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, but the greatest TV comedy of all time was Arrested Development. And it was cancelled in 2006. How does anything top that? Mercifully, it’s returning for a fourth season in 2013 (apparently only on Netflix, which may convince me to finally use the “free trial”).

Shows that are worth watching, in your opinion, should be limited (otherwise, you have no taste). Focus on those.

Here’s my personal list of shows worth watching:

- Sons of Anarchy
- Breaking Bad – although I haven’t watched past the third season so it may have gone downhill. If you post any spoilers I’ll ban your IP.
- The Walking Dead
- South Park
- The Simpsons
- Dexter – it jumped the shark a few seasons ago but I’ll keep watching it.
- Til Debt Do Us Part
- Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule

A lot of these can be watched LEGALLY and for FREE on the Internet. Don’t want to watch them on your dinky laptop? Do you have a nice big flatscreen like me? Refer to #4.

I am a major newshound. How do I get my news without cable?? I read. No Peter Mansbridge’s shiny forehead for me. But, if you want, The National airs on the CBC’s website, as does the excellent program Marketplace.

If you can’t watch your favourite shows on the net, then borrow the DVDs. From friends? Nah. I watched Weeds, up to and including season 5, courtesy of the Peterborough Public Library. Thanks for your tax dollars, I really learned a lot.

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Free TV Tip #4 – Buy an HDMI cable

An HDMI cable is awesome, so long as you have a laptop with an HDMI output. I bought an HDMI cable a couple years back on eBay for like 2 bucks. I’ve heard they have them at Dollarama now. Don’t be an idiot and buy Monster cables. Don’t even pay the Wal-Mart price. On a recent trip to a Canadian Wal-Mart, the cheapest HDMI cable they offered was $12, and it was out of stock. All of the other options were $20+. Ridiculous. So much for “low prices”.

Free TV -- HDMI cable

When I’m working around the house, I’ll hook up my laptop to the big screen with my HDMI cable and listen to Dave Ramsey for background noise.

Want to watch a DVD? Hook up your laptop to the TV. Playing Team Fortress 2? Hook up your laptop to the TV. Streaming a show (legally) from the internet? Hook up your laptop to the TV. Watching a (legally) downloaded movie? Even the average Canadian could see the pattern by now.

Free TV Tip #5 – Defy MoneyLifeandMore

OK, so you can’t figure out the subtext of Tips #3 and #4 and you want to pay for your entertainment.

Clearly you’re incapable of making decisions and planning ahead, so sign up for Netflix. It’s vastly cheaper than the “on demand” ridiculousness peddled by Rogers and Bell.

Another option is using RedBox — even though MoneyLifeandMore FIGURED OUT THE CONSPIRACY OF THE SUPER DANGEROUS HIDDEN COST OF REDBOX.

Finally, if you MUST, and I really mean MUST, you could always pay to download episodes of a show on Amazon or iTunes. It’s something like a buck an episode. If you only have a few favourite shows, that’s cheaper than cable; still too rich for my blood.

Free TV Tip #6 – don’t watch so much TV ya dinghus

I’ve been off work since the start of May and I watch vastly less TV than ever before in my life. I see now that TV was an opiate. Sure, it helped me de-stress after a long day. But, at the end of the night, I wasn’t any further ahead. I have not sat down and watched TV since the Olympics were on in July. Even then, I might have watched one hour of coverage when my brother visited. I got bored of it and went upstairs to argue on the internet.

Since leaving work, I’ve watched Sons of Anarchy, Til Debt Do Us Part, and a lot of great movies. That’s it.

Seriously, there are already so many time sucks in modern life —  reading books, spending time with your family, arguing with me on the internet — that TV just isn’t necessary anymore.

Liberate yourself, and your wallet. Stop paying for television. Comment if you want but I’m not asking a question to encourage it. </Nelson>

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21 Comments… Share your views

  1. Hmmm maybe I should get an antenna now for my TV.

    • I bought mine for like $15 bucks all-in at, of all places, The Bargain Shop. When I lived in Peterborough, I got free OTA CBC, TVO, and Global. And that was in a location with terrible reception. I’m incredulous that the residents in places like Charlotte Towers don’t get free TV.

  2. Hey, we’re making a first step in the right direction … my husband has voluntarily suggested we cancel “our” subscription to Setanta Sports. Twenty bucks a month for ONE channel. Sigh.

  3. I am a recently converted Over-The-Air TVer, and I love it, not going back. Before, I used to pay about $40/mth for basic cable (w/ HD). I got maybe 30 channels. Now, I get roughly 25 of those 30 channels (all the major Can and US networks, CTV, City, Global, CBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) in glorious HD, completely free from the air. It works great, my reception is perhaps 99%, and I have no issues whatsoever. I don’t think it’s for everyone, though. Some caveats:
    1) Highly dependant on where you live. I am lucky that where I live in the GTA, I can pick up the US stations from across the lake. If you live in Red Lake, you’re not likely to get much.
    2) Invest in some quality equipment. The $30 indoor antenna at Radio Shack ain’t gonna cut it, so save yourself the time. I bought an outdoor/roof-mounted antenna + amplifier. Larger one-time cost (maybe $300 or so), but the signal is next to flawless.

    But at $40/mth, I’ve already paid back my $300 investment since I did this last year, and now I’m watching for free!

    • I use a regular indoor UHF antenna that I bought for $15 and I get high-def CTV. When I lived in Peterborough I got CBC, TVO, and Global (and the French TVO). In TO, I got Global and City, but I lived in a literal concrete valley. If I were on the top floor, I’m absolutely confident that I would have gotten an array of TV. If I owned a home/condo and was going to live there for a long time, I would definitely “invest” the money in an all-out OTA antenna system.

      It’s actually kind of stupid that Canada developed such an expensive television infrastructure in the 70s through 90s. We’d have been much further ahead if the CRTC required, as a term of broadcast licenses, more comprehensive wireless broadcasting. And, with hindsight, the TV networks would probably have been much better off, too.

  4. Awesome. I approve. I can’t remember the last time I watched something good that wasn’t on my laptop.

  5. What’s an illegal download?

    Why is it i can borrow a magazine or a book from a friend or in a waiting room somewhere and read it’s content, but not a movie? It’s all the same when you look at it. Really think about it.

    Good post….

    • The downloading = theft argument is certainly a convenient one, but it’s definitely a problematic comparison from an ethical perspective. The ads that compared downloading movies to stealing a car certainly didn’t help their case. It’s only like stealing a car if stealing a car is making a complete copy of a car, and the person’s car is still there in the morning. The music industry shouldn’t have spent the late 90s thru 2005 fighting against downloads. They should have implemented the 99 cent per song download model. But, of course, like any tyrannical oligopolists, they tried to protect their little scam of selling crap CDs with a good song or two for $10 – $20, and refusing to sell $1 or $2 singles. Same thing for movies — I mean, ever-more obscene amounts for movie tickets and $20 or $30 for a DVD?? Absolutely nuts. Well, their little game caught up with them.

  6. Clearly OTA doesn’t work for me… and as I head into the shorten’ days up north… with no fibre or highspeed net.. I’ll keep paying.. for now… :(

    • I definitely thought about including a disclaimer for people living in the Arctic Circle where (1) there’s no OTA TV and (2) there’s nothing to do cause you have to stay in your house all the time. I didn’t because it broke the flow, but it’s there in spirit lol.

  7. I think this post is the internet equivalent of when someone finally discovers what their voice really sounds like, much to their horror.

  8. Rural folks may benefit from a free satellite dish and a receiver that shows channels that were at one time available over-the-air, but whose antennae have been shut down (usually CBC). The program is offered by Shaw Direct as part of a deal they made with the CRTC when they took over Global. Such is my understanding, anyway. I did indeed recently get a free hookup. Here in Manitoba I’m able to get a bunch of Winnipeg stations that I never had access to before.

    There are some restrictions, but I’ll link to the blog I heard about this program from. It’s called LTSS – Local Television Satellite Solution.

    • OMG this house lost channels because of the digital transition and I haven’t subscribed to cable or satellite in the last 90 days. Could this mean I’m in line for a free satellite and installation? If not, that’s fine, but the word definitely needs to be spread about it.

      • You might qualify, but it could be a step down for you. I believe most of the channels I get are standard definition, though I can’t be sure, since I have a somewhat small SD television. Ontarians get more channels than I do in MB, I think, such as TVO, CHCH, etc.

  9. Another way to get free tv (not that I’m saying you should) is to ask your Rogers Internet cable dude to “hook it up “. It totally works! When my friend moved into an apartment 3 years ago he got Rogers to come in to set up Internet. He said quote unquote: ” yo bro, you do the hook ups for tv ?” buddy says yah man 100 bucks and you’ll get every channel. The guy even went on to say you won’t get caught cuz the control panel in appt buildings have a zillion buttons. Even roger employees hate Rogers! He transferred the lease 2 yrs ago to a friend and to this day they still get free cable.

    • $0 cost to flip the switch (the network was installed/paid-for years ago; there’s no cost to Rogers to give a unit TV). $720 average annual TV bill. No ability to actually enforce their monopoly. I can’t say I’d ever do this or endorse it (I believe in paying in full for a good/service, but no more than my contract and if I don’t want it then I won’t enter into the contract or I’ll end it), but no wonder people do.

  10. Joe,

    We live in Victoria and I rarely watch tv (also an Arrested Development fan), because I am tired of Dragon’s Den!

    I think more canadians should read this.

    These are some great tips!

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