Comcast has been ratcheting up our monthly cable bill for a long time now, pushing the bill for our cable up to over $100 a month! We only have 1 cable box with HD programming, but we have 3 others doing standard def. We have no extended packages such as HBO, ESPN or otherwise, just regular, HD cable. We found out that there was some strange clause that allowed them to enable or continue features we weren't using or even interested in. In any case we have had it with their shinanigans and outrageous prices.
We looked at other options, including satellite and otherwise, but that's essentially out of the frying pan in to the fire.
A friend of ours recommended we check out XBMC.
XBMC originally started out as a way for Xbox's to stream content from other sources, but has evolved significantly to the point of allowing extensions and other 3rd party enhancements. Other add-ons significantly enhance its functionality by adding the ability to download TV and Movie content from Usenet in an automated fashion.
Before we cut the cord, I configured and set up XBMC so we could test it out. The actual installation was simple, I used the XBMC Live distribution which can install itself. I connected the PC to the TV with an DVI to HDMI adapter. Unlike the good old days of X windows, there was no need to modify an X config file, it worked right out of the box at 1080p!
The next step was to install "sabnzb+" which is the tool that does the actual downloading of the files from Usenet. NZB files are like meta files of usenet content. They contain all of the information a client needs to download and reassemble all of the usenet posts that contain the encoded binary information. This requires a subscription to an NZB "index" site and a monthly subscription to a Usenet feed aggregator site.
We opted to go with nzbmatrix.com, which charges a one-time fee and Astraweb for our usenet aggregator, as they had the best rate. When shopping for a Usenet feed you need to estimate how many gigabytes per month you will be downloading. Astraweb had unlimited.
Once we had sabnzbd+ configured, it started downloading and cataloging the TV shows and movies. The neat thing is that it pulls artwork and information from tvweb.com and imdb.com to add artwork as you view the show in the interface. We were pretty excited with the prospect. Astraweb has 1500 days of retention so we were able to pull back episodes of shows as well.
We also discovered the "Free Cable" add on which allows you to watch various networks' online streams within XBMC. Not all feeds work, but a large number do.
Another indispensible add on was called "sickbeard" which works with sabnzbd+ to download and catalog shows, and allows you to point and click your way to selecting shows rather than edit a crude text field in a form.
So, the magical combination for us has been:
The one remaining issue was my need for realtime news. With no cable, there wouldn't be local or national news. We decided to try an HD antenna.
Unfortunately we don't have line-of-site to any local antennas, and the actual signal we were getting with the antenna we tried was poor. We warned our HOA that we might be installing an exterior antenna. We found out later that we didn't need to use an antenna at all.
One incredibly nice side effect of dumping cable was the massive elimination of cables that occured when we did:
4 power cables - mythtv, 3 cable boxes
3 cable boxes - on-demand and 2 SD boxes
1 HDMI - cable tv to TV
1 RGB - mythtv to TV
1 Ethernet - mythtv
2 serial IR cables - change channels on SD cable boxes
6 coax cables - cable box connections/splitters/etc
1 set of RCA audio - mythtv to receiver
1 TOSLink - cable box to receiver
1 IR receiver - remote sensor for mythtv
1 MythTV PC
1 power strip
The DVR required an independent cable tuner for each input (dual tuner recording) which was a bulk of this mess.
The replacement being only 4 cables and a Dell PC.
So far, we've been very happy with the cutoff. I was very apprehensive, I like to channel surf, but I've adapted. The $11/month usenet fee is 10% of our former cable bill!