Cord cutting: 18 months later, I don't miss cable TV

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It's more than a little strange to try to explain cable TV to my kids. To them, images on a screen are just the result of whatever app you picked. Those of us of a certain age, however, can remember a time when televisions weren't flat, when pictures weren't color, and when antennas and tinfoil were constantly adjusted. To them, there's no difference between network and cable channels, premium or otherwise. It's all #content, and it's all available, all the time.

It's also easier than ever — easier, but not painless — to mix and match and, ultimately, save some cash in the process.

That was the goal back in the fall of 2016. My wife and I looked at our $245-a-month cable bill and figured there had to be a better way to spend that money. Or, even better, to save some of that $3,000 a year to be spent somewhere else.

So we started researching on what we needed to do to get rid of cable TV. Was our internet connection fast enough? What hardware would we use. (OK, that part was easy, thanks to my chosen profession.) Which streaming services were we already paying for, which new ones did we want to check out?

And most important — what was it all going to cost?

You have to do your homework

It's important to remember the purpose of all this. It's not just to cut cable TV for sake of cutting cable TV. Because there's nothing inherently bad about cable TV. It's all the things you want to watch, in a single set-top box. It's easy, and it's fast.

The problem, at least in my case, was the cost.

This part isn't optional. If you don't do the math, you can't save money.

My monthly breakdown until the day we flipped the switch was something like $75 for internet, and something like $170 for the cable TV part. A good part of that was the basic package, of course, plus whatever premium channels we had. But it was the nickel-and-dime stuff that really added up. Rental fees on each set-top box, and taxes and fees to go along with it. That's essentially throwing money away. And there wasn't a damned thing we could do about it.

So our working number was $245 a month. If we were going to switch to an all-streaming scheme, we'd have to come in under that. And, frankly, we'd want to see a pretty decent margin given that we were giving up the simplicity of cable TV.

Out came the spreadsheet. What were we spending every month? What would we be spending? The math isn't optional. But neither is it difficult. It's also important to do an audit once a year or so. Because as we've found out, prices and plans can and do change.

Your internet connection still matters

Funny thing about TV these days. "Cable TV" is digital. It gets fed into your home as these bits and bytes of data, and the box connected to your TV translate them into visible pictures. "Streaming TV" is also digital. It gets fed into your home as bigs and bytes of data, and translated by other boxes into visible pictures.

Technologically speaking, there really isn't a difference. (Yes, the devil's in the details, but that's another thing for another time.)

Linksys EA9500 Max

The Linksys EA9500 Max is our pick for the best router of 2018. ($363 at Amazon.)

But that also means that your internet connection is more important than ever. Don't depend on a 5 Mbps DSL connection to get things done here. More speed means more headroom. But you also don't necessarily need a 100 Mbps connection, either. I remember one cable company rep trying to upsell me from our 30 Mbps (downstream) and 5 Mbps (upstream) connection, asking about how many people I had in the house, and how many connected devices we had (heh), and that we'd definitely need something faster and more expensive.

Your situation may well vary, but we've been doing just fine, thank you very much.

Your network situation also will make a big difference. If you're plodding along with an 802.11 b/g connection for years, it's time to update your router. And the other rule of thumb is if you can use a hardwired ethernet connection with your streaming box, do it.

Our current cable bill for internet-only: $80 a month.

The hardware you'll need

I didn't really worry too much about the cost of hardware, or what it was we'd be using. That's mostly because hardware should be a one-time cost.

There's a world of hardware out there when it comes to watching streaming video. I haven't used it all, but I've definitely used a lot. Here's what I've learned over the past 18 months or so.

A good display is important

If you're going to splurge on one thing, make it the display. And the good news is that $1,000 can go a really long way these days, giving you something bigger than you'd ever had before, with a greater resolution than you ever though you'd need.

If it fits your budget, go ahead and get a set that's got the "UHD" resolution. (That's also known as 4K.) Same goes for HDR (that's the cool "colors look awesome" feature), though definitely look for something that does Dolby Vision and not just the open-source HDR10. Better yet: Find a set that does both.

A display should be a long-term purchase. So make it a good one.

That doesn't mean that all your new streaming shows are going to look magical. So much depends on the streaming source — if it's not being streamed in 4K, you won't be getting that magical picture you were hoping for. (And upscaling only goes so far.) That actually hasn't been a deal-breaker for me, though. 1080p content looks just fine at a proper viewing distance. It's just that 4K looks that much better.

Also: You don't necessarily need one with a smart operating system built in. I've got one display that uses Android TV as its built-in OS. It's deliciously simple to use that way, without needing any other streaming boxes. But it's also been abandoned by the manufacturer. So it'll never get updates. And running a separate box into now definitely clunks up the works a bit.

Me? I prefer a display that's more dumb than smart. Just give me a great picture and get out of the way. The Vizio M50-D1 set I reviewed a way back $648 at Walmart (opens in new tab) has performed admirably in that regard, without forcing its own smart features down my throat.

OK, so which streaming box to get?

This part is actually a little easier to navigate than you might expect. Android TV and Apple TV are the best. Period. If you're in an Android household, get the former. If you'er in an Apple household, get the latter. If, like me, you're in a mixed household, I'd lean toward Android TV, because it's easier to use Chromecast features from an iPhone than it is to attempt to use AirPlay from an Android phone.

Amazon Fire TV and Roku are good alternatives. Full boxes are better than HDMI dongles, because you'll never wish you the had less-powerful hardware.

Here's my breakdown:

A couple other hardware notes for things I'm using:

  • Again, I can't recommend the Logitech Harmony Companion ($129 at Amazon (opens in new tab) enough. It's a great universal remote, and handles other connected gear like lights and switches.
  • If you need a TV but just can't do an external streaming box for some reason, get something with a smart OS built in. Android TV is best. But for a less-expensive secondary screen, you can get away with one with Roku or Amazon built in. We've got some entertaining space outside now, and we're using a 40-inch TCL model with Roku as the OS ($249 at Amazon (opens in new tab)), and it works just fine.
  • Home theater audio is a pretty personal decision. I've been pretty happy with an inexpensive Vizio 5.1 sound bar ($229 at Amazon (opens in new tab)). It's also a Chromecast target (so it's great for wireless music without turning on the TV), and the rear speakers and subwoofer are wireless, so I didn't have to drag cables through the living room.

Don't forget an antenna and OTA content

Yeah, it's not the 1980s anymore. But there's still a place for a good antenna. All the major networks still broadcast over the air (and in 1080i, no less), and you'll often get a picture with less compression than you will streaming. Plus, the content is 100 percent free.

HD Homerun Quatro

HDHomerun Quatro streams OTA content over your local network. ($150 at Best Buy.)

This also is how you can often solve the "What about my regional sports?" question.

You've got a couple options when it comes to mounting your antenna. Inside, or outside. Outdoors is always better than indoors. Higher is better than lower. But most important is to make sure it's facing the best direction for where you live. (For that, hit up

I'll leave it up to you as to which antenna to get, but I'm using a ClearStream 2MAX ($56 on Amazon (opens in new tab)) with great results.

Now that you've got an antenna, you've got to plug it in to something. You can go straight into your display, if it happens to have a TV tuner. (Not all do these days.)

But better is to get something like HDHomerun. Your OTA antenna plugs in, the HDHomerun box plugs into your router, and it then spits out the over-the-air content to multiple devices at once. The new HD Homerun Quatro ($150 at Best Buy (opens in new tab) will serve up to 4 streams at once. The HDHomerun Duo ($99 at Amazon (opens in new tab)) does two streams at once.

Streaming services

So you've got your hardware picked out. Now it's time for the software. The services, actually. And there's something important to note here:

You're not actually tied into anything. Virtually every streaming service you'll consider has a free trial period. Use it. Don't be married to one particular service. When pricing and channels fluctuate (and they will), try a different one to see if it works for you.

Don't be married to a single service. Mix and match. Use free trials. And change things up if you need to.

And there's not actually once streaming service to rule them all. You'll most likely end up using several. But as I mentioned at the top of this piece, it's still important to audit them once a year or so and see if you're still getting your money's worth.

You'll also want to spend some time perusing the various plans to make sure you'll be getting all the channels you actually want to watch — and also to minimize paying for the ones you don't want to watch. Just like with cable TV, the packages often give you more than you'll actually watch.

You'll have to do the math.

Amazon Prime Video on Xbox

Amazon Prime Video on Xbox. (Click here to join.)

I haven't necessarily used everything out there, but I've at least taken a look at a lot of them. Here are some quick notes on what I've found.

  • Netflix: (opens in new tab) I mean, how do you not have Netflix, right? What it maybe lacks in good movies it's started more than making up for in original content. Available on Xbox.
  • Sling: (opens in new tab) This was the first service I trialed. But I found the Orange/Blue plan thing to be confusing, and I just can't stand Sling's on-screen menu system. Available on Xbox.
  • PlayStation Vue: Never mind the name — you don't need a PlayStation to use this. It's what we use for probably 90 percent of our streaming content. It's easy to see which plan has which channels. And while the pricing has gone up a tad over the 18 months I've been using it, it's still the least worst of the services I've tried.
  • DirectTV: (opens in new tab) Seems like a decent option for some — especially if you're an AT&T Wireless subscriber. I'm not, though, and so we stayed with PS Vue.
  • Amazon Prime Video: (opens in new tab) I tend to not even count this in our monthly expenditures because I've always had Amazon Prime for better shipping options. But it's an excellent addition for free streaming content. And like Netflix, Amazon now has some incredible original content. Highly recommended. Available on Xbox.
  • Hulu: We subscribe to Hulu. (My kids have things there they like to watch.) But the Hulu Live service just doesn't have all the channels we want. So we've not done that. Available on Xbox.
  • YouTube TV: Fewer channels, but also a lower price. It also streams in local channels from your market. (With varying degrees of success.) Available on Xbox.
  • Movies Anywhere: A cool service for cross-platform families. Buy a movie one place (say, on iTunes) and watch it somewhere else, like on Android TV.

Again: Take advantage of free trials. Shop around. And don't be afraid to change things up if the math no longer makes sense.

Everything else

I haven't quite touched on everything here. There are holes in my streaming scheme. There are plenty of things I don't use.

What about DVR and local recordings?

"But how do you record things?" is a question I get a lot.

The answer: I don't, really. So much of what we watch is available on demand. Or if it's that good and that important, I might just go ahead and buy it. Nothing kills the mood in Mr. Robot like commercials, and I like paying for good content. So that's $30 or so once a year that I don't mind spending.

But that doesn't mean you can't record things at all, or play back local content.

Services like Kodi and Plex work great on pretty much any hardware you might have. You can roll your own entertainment server on a decent networked-attached-storage box. A lot of folks do this. For what I watch and the way I want to watch it, I just don't need local storage anymore, though. (Same goes for music, too.) Streaming fits all my needs.

The bottom line

I'm saving close to $1,000 a year, even though streaming isn't quite as easy as using cable TV.

Let's wrap this up: There are there three things you'll want to do here.

  1. Do the math. See how much you're spending every month. I went from spending upwards of $3,000 a year on cable TV and internet to spending about $2,200 for internet and streaming content. (And unlike before, we're not throwing a good chunk of that money away on taxes and fees.) And once a year or so, do the math again and make sure you're not wasting money on things you're not actually watching.
  2. Figure out your hardware. Is your router up to the job? What streaming boxes do you need?
  3. Pick your streaming services, but don't be married to them. You can mix and match. You can try new ones. Take advantage of free trials.

After that, just sit back and relax and watch a show. And figure out what you'll want to do with all the money you're saving.

Modern Dad


Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

  • Cable TV is f***ing expensive at least in Germany. Zattoo and DAZN are going the job well for less.
  • Ja, ich nutz nur noch Netflix bzw Prime Video.
  • Seit nun 7 Jahren komme ich ohne ÖR und Private aus. Wenn ich mal im Hotel durchs programm zappe, bereue ich meine Entscheidung.
  • I feel sorry for my American cousins. Here in the UK I pay the equivalent of $42 a month for unlimited 20mbps internet and then top that up with Netflix ($8) and Sky’s NowTV ($10) which offers premium programming like Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Arrowverse. $250 a month for TV and internet?!? No wonder you cut the cord! Even a top-end TV/Net package here is at most $100/m with multi room, landline and sports.
  • Yes, the laws are from the turn of thw previous century that basically allow them to limit speeds and back up the prices as they wish. The laws that also are supposed to protect customers, doesn't because of lobbism and good ole' boy practices. I personally pay (after dropping the TV) $90 a month for 150Mbs with a 1TB monthly data cap thar I can easliy blow through if not careful with gaming and TV streaming.
  • That's a horrendous con. I have UK cable, but only phone and internet (200Mb/s down, 12Mb/s up, unlimited), no TV. If I took a TV cable box from them it would cost, but over $200?! Good grief, I wouldn't pay that for TV from them even if my net and phone were added into the cost. Over $200 for TV? Wow. All I can say is, firstly that must be some freaking AMAZING, life changing TV they're offering. Secondly, I'd look for any way out I could. Is there no satellite TV competing with cable? If not, just go for online and OTA stuff. Frankly, if I were you I'd refuse to buy any other services from the cable company as well. They are clearly well dodgy charging like that, not the kind of company I would deal with given the choice.
  • Sweden here. I have 1000/1000Mbit and I currently pay about $24 a month...
  • 35€ incl. a good Router / AP with 100/12  in Germany. 5€ incl. a ****** Router / AP with 500/100 in Romania
  • Agreed :) 100%. Cord-cutting was the best thing I could do for myself and my budget.
  • Same
  • Another service to consider is Philo. It's roku only, but at $16 a month, between that and Hulu I have almost everything I need. I wish it had turner networks, but it does have AMC, Comedy Central, and, amazingly, the Science channel, which I have not found on ANY other service.
  • 18 months? That's it? I cut the cord 7 YEARS ago 😂
  • 7 years? That's it? I never got cable TV even once, and I'm 43! That's 43 years cable TV free and loving it.
  • 43? That's it? I've been drawing my own cartoons and entertainment for 65 years.
  • Heh, my father can beat you at length of time (70, never had cable, remembers watching the first episode of Doctor Who live, loving having a Roku too now) but he can't draw for toffee. He's still regularly impressed that he has 'the pictures' in his own home as for most of his childhood it was radio and cinema only. Few people had a TV set at all in the UK back then. Even when I was young we only used to rent a black and white set. With 3 stations on it. 3. 2 of them were supplied by Auntie Beeb though so not too shabby. My grandfather got a set for his family when the second station came out because it seemed more worth it, so my dad started with only 2 stations.
  • I've been streaming for quite some time now and I've tried multiple services, DirecTV Now in my opinion is one of the worst! Horrible streaming experience, lagging, forever pixelating or sometimes... RIGHT in the middle of TWD... just dying. I switched to PlayStation Vue and couldn't be happier. Great video quality, great streaming quality and not one single hiccup in 6 months of use. I stream online on my PC or via a Roku Ultra 4K.
  • DTN certainly has its problems, but it's a lot better than a year ago. Some channels are a lot worse than others. It helps that I'm on the promo rate still.
  • Does BBC America offer a streaming service independently? Just wondering, because I hear from some US folks that Auntie USA can be hard to get from some cable providers.
  • I know this is a totally uncool argument to make here, but word from the wise, there is simply no way to conveniently watch all of your favorite local sports games without purchasing a cable package.  It really sucks but it's true.  I wish sports games were all broadcast on local OTA, or even on a channel you could get with youtube or amazon, but it's just not the case.  They have contracts that make it this way.  I can watch a small fraction of my team's games for free (OTA) and a few primetime games here and there with youtube or amazon, etc.  But I want to watch a lot of the games without going to my local tavern!  It's really all I want to watch on TV anyway.  I was using illegal streams from Kodi and firstrowsports, but it's choppy and the streams are never reliable.  And with 4 tvs around the house, it's just not worth the hassle.  I tried cord cutting for years, but in the end, my life is sooo much easier paying the monthly cable bill.  (if you can split it with roommates it's actually not that bad at all!)
  • Wow, no streaming sports service to subscribe to in the US? Sports fans get really shafted. It's costly in the UK but at least you can get BBC Sport without extra charge (licence fee), Sky Sport and BT Sport streamed. That covers the lot without having to buy a load of stuff you don't want. Have you considered satellite TV? Or, my favourite, go for the lower league stuff. Then you can actually afford to go the the games themselves rather than just watching them on TV. My mate is a big fan of football (soccer) but he doesn't go to Portsmouth or Southampton games (premiership clubs). Instead he watches the lower leagues each weekend. My brother-in-law pays a lot for footie but watches village cricket and rugby instead to keep the costs down. It's even more exciting really, because you can have a pint with the players afterwards.
  • That's hook cable uses. Especially with ESPN, they have wrapped up the sports market. It's how the ludicrous salaries and billion dollar stadiums are financed. 
  • In the Netherlands I ahve found that basic cable combined with youtube, on demand rentals and netflix is mor than enough. Netflix is getting more expensive every 6-12 months. I've seen prices increases 3 euros per month in the last two years. I haven't seen that price stagnating in time. Where does netflix draw the line. If it continues, subscriptions will double to baseline within 3 years. Although cable is expensive I'm also noticing streaming subscriptions are increasing their prices as well year over year. To me it just looks like TV costs are being shifted to internet subscription services in the long run. It looks like the problem is shifting to the internets. As I see it within a few years we will complain that cutting the cord within a few years will become "expensive" as well as streaming services will demand more cost incentives to offset higher purchase costs for high end "original content". We might reap the benefits now, but things won't change for the better in terms of cost in the long run.
  • Yea, but as soon as Netflix price themselves too high I'll dump it and just go with OTA. Unlikely though, as they have to compete with Amazon and Sky etc. They are too canny to price themselves out of the market. US cable is a strange beast that doesn't seem to have much competition for some reason.
  • Cutting the cable in Australia basically means giving up on Sport watching since Rupert Murdoch still has all this tied up. But I get by with $60 unlimited data, $12 netflix and $6 Amazon Prime.
  • I have an HTPC as my central hub.  It's running an AMD Ryzen 5 1400 CPU, an Nvidia 1030GT, on a $65 motherboard.  I have a 2TB drive for TV recordings, a 1TB drive for various home videos or downloaded video clips, and a 4TB drive for movies.  The minute I buy a movie and bring it home, it gets ripped to H.264 and put on the HTPC hard disk so that it can be streamed to any device in the house through the Plex server running on the HTPC.  We can stream all our movies, pics, and music to any device on our home network that can run a Plex client app.  Phones, computers, tablets, smart TVs. etc.
    I also have an antenna feeding two HDHomeRun dual-tuner boxes, and that content can be veiwed live on any device that can run the HDHomeRun app.  We use the HDHomeRun DVR software on the HTPC for recordings, and those recordings can also be streamed to any of those devices.
    We have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and now Philo.  I would be paying for Prime anyway becuase of the shipping, so our monthly TV and movie watching costs run about $42 for Netflix, Hulu, and Philo.  And everything free on the antenna.
    Ditching my older TP-Link Archer C7 AC router, and upgrading to a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter and a couple of Ubiquiti AC Access Points made a world of difference in streaming quality and simultaneous streaming capability.
  • I've been a chord cutter for a while now and the best thing I've found is PlayOn. It allows me to record videos from services and stream them to my Xbox. For example, want to watch a show from CBS, but there is no CBS app for your Xbox? Use PlayOn to cast the program to your Xbox. It's very easy to use and works great for me!
  • We cut the cable last year. It took a year of me cajoling my wife to make the move, but once we did it, she's been delighted with the savings and the simplicity of the set-up. I'm surprised that I am as OK as I am with my LG smart TV. WebOS is OK but the waiting for the apps to update before watching Hulu or whatever is annoying. Why no background updates LG? I highly recommend the Xbox One S as the streaming device. It plays our collection of DVDs and upscales them, it plays 4K Blu Rays and can be used for gaming when needed. I've also found the Netflix app on the Xbox works more reliably at 4K than the one on WebOS version. The biggest delight however of cutting the cord was the variety of programming available from the digital over the air broadcasts. All of the local channels have multiple digital signals. These .x channels usually are full of old reruns and lots of commercials, but one of our local ones picks up the QVC cable channel. This has made my wife very happy. Right now we are picking up 56 channels with the antenna mounted in the attic crawl space. I'd love to mount the antenna even higher on the top of our chimney, but there aren't many TV antenna installers around these days. At least not yet.
  • I cut the sat dish sub 8 years ago. I pay £20 per month for internet and the licence fee for the BBC of whatever it is £12 a month.
  • Xiaomi Mi Box is the device to get in countries with no Amazon Firestick availability. I got it for less than 75$.
  • Nice article, however didn't address one issue. Maybe it isn't an issue in his area but here and in many other parts of the US there are some pretty draconian data limits. The lowest cost tier here is $50/mon for 100MBS/300GB and it increases dramatically from there. its pretty easy to blow through 300GB streaming HD and even easier with UHD.
    It's one reason why I have been searching for a OTA/DVR solution, especially one that would work with my Xbox One X. With that I would be able to save the data use streaming OTA programming.
  • SilconeDust has their HDHomeRun app available for XBox, and I believe Plex has that as well, at least in terms of client apps.  Either can have their server component and DVR features run on any PC in your house.  It's pretty easy if you use the HDHomeRun network tuner boxes.  Just plug one or more into your network, use the software on your PC to do the initial configuration, and you can then watch live OTA TV on any device that can run teh HDHomneRun client app.  For $36 a year, you can also subscribe to their DVR service and software, which will run on a PC.
  • JESUS ****! You American brothers have expensive internet and cable TV, in my country (Portugal) 100mbps Down/100mbps UP + basic cable TV costs 28.90€, the most expensive package with 1gbps Down/100mbps UP + almost everything in cable TV + 5gb internet for 1 phone (+20gb for specific apps like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. yes we don't have Net Neutrality) doesn't even cost 100€.
  • In Canada: If you want CFL or F1 like myself then you need a cable subscription. Full stop. Sports is what keeps me from cutting the cord.
  • There also is a trend where a particular content provider, like a single channel such as Bravo for example, have "apps" for platforms such as Ruku. Generally, these apps require you to register, and this process then requires proof of a cable service provider. This seems kind of dumb that they develop this app and then require proof of cable service. If you have cable, you will not need the app! Luckily though, it is more common now that Sling is being accepted as a "cable provider" in these registration process. This ends up making it even more complicated because your content gets spread out between even more services and apps. I've now been cable free for about a year and half and I've found that we use Netflix, Sling, NBC app, The CW app, PBS app, and Amazon Prime Video, all on Ruku device. Occasionally, the OTA antenna is used to watch something live like the Super Bowl. I've found though that with digital OTA, you either get a channel or you don't. And with the little indoor antenna I got, I don't get two major station. If OTA is important to you, I would consider getting a bigger, outdoor or attic installed antenna. Some of these antenna will say they have a 30 mile range. That would only be under perfect conditions. If you are about 30 miles from the broadcast, I would error on the safe side and get an antenna rated for at least 50 miles.
  • I have Uverse 450, and Amazon Prime. I just traded my cable TV creds(HBO go, Starz, Showtime, and other cable apps that need a cable subscription) to my brother for his Netflix and Hulu credentials. I have a Roku 4K tv connected to my Xbox one S, and a Firestick. I use the Fire Stick for terrarium TV and the Prime movie app show content much clearer that the Roku TV(I think Amazon do this on purpose)
  • Sounds all well and good but there is a way to go even cheaper with android live streaming tv and it's an add on called gears tv or Mayfair guide. Which runs about 16 bucks a month including all movie channels. I have a t95k pro box for all my tv. And a roku stick for nbcs gold to get my live rugby matches. I am in the northeast and I cut my cable bill down from 250 a month to 110. For all my services. That's internet top tier about 89/90 a month and gears tv for 16. My android tv box cost me 150 1 time payment and updates on its own. I highly recommend cutting the cord you get all you want plus a lot more for a lot cheaper.
  • I cord cut for a while until we got a house. Now I'm stuck to cable because I can't get unlimited internet for my house without bundling services. Thus I would cut the cable and end up paying overage charges monthly on home data between working from home, streaming, gaming, and watching videos.
  • I will cut the cord as soon as a service develops an app where we can easily change channels or go to one by way of a channel number. All these services are well and good but you still need to browse, hunt and peck to find what you want to watch. Older folks like my parents do not have the patience to do that.
  • Seems like a lot of work for little savings. As more content goes 4K the savings will get eaten up in the data  overages.  Also he is paying upfront for the  boxes, antennae installation, etc. verus a tested leased product with support.  Switching between providers also provides more chaos.  Local sports are still a challenge and most of the package offerings from the IPTV options generally are requiring a compromise.  That $1000 is worth my time not having to futz around.