Want to Cut the Cable (Bill)?

Maybe HD televisions aren’t as expensive as they used to be, but paying a cable company or dish service certainly is pricey, especially when you add on premium options. In the era of Hulu and iTunes, it’s easier than ever to cut costs and still see the shows you love. Think you can’t live without cable? Consider this:

Virtually every show you could watch on cable or a dish can be downloaded on iTunes for roughly $2 or $3. If you purchase an Apple TV, a $99 box that connects to your television, you can watch the shows, commercial-free, on your TV in hi-def, without ever setting a DVR or dealing with your computer.

Many of these same shows can be streamed on-demand via Hulu for free if you simply endure a few commercials. The free shows are often only the most recent episodes from a series. You’ll need a Hulu Plus paid subscription ($7.99 per month) to access an entire series’ catalog.

Some hi-res, larger computer displays are now outfitted with HDMI ports. Connect an Apple TV or Roku to them, as well as a Blu-ray player, and replace your television as well as your cable box.

Netflix ($7.99 per month) and Hulu are sometimes built into newer televisions, but they’re also loaded into set-top boxes such as the Roku 2 XD and Apple TV. Between these two relatively inexpensive boxes, you can access just about all the cable programming you would ever want, with the exception of popular sporting events and high-profile HBO shows, which are currently unattainable for non-cable subscribers.

But there are so few football games in a season that it’s still probably cheaper to find a restaurant, pub or friend’s house to watch your favorite team. Digital season passes are available for other sports, though games in your local market could be blacked out.

As for HBO hits, it can take a year before they’re available via iTunes and on DVDs. That’s a long time to dodge spoilers—and maybe you just have to know what’s going on with Nucky and Chalky ASAP—so, cable might not yet be 100 percent replaceable for everyone. But it’s getting closer.

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