How to Get Your Favourite Shows Without Paying for Cable

I got rid of my television nearly 18 months ago and thought I’d miss it. Turns out I don’t, thanks to a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

No, not illegal tip and tricks. Let’s acknowledge that yes, there are illicit ways to find your favourite shows online, and move on to discuss the many legal ways of watching your favourite shows.

Remember bunny ears antenna or, if you were born after 1990, remember your parents talking about bunny ears antenna? If you were lucky, you got most of the Canadian channels. These days the antennae are fancier and receive high definition signals, but the concept is the same.I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law recently and noticed the rather big antenna sitting outside on their balcony. When I asked about the antenna, I found out how to use an antenna to get shows.

The nice thing is that you can get at least one local station over the air and while most stations show their local programming in standard definition, when it comes to prime time, they usually switch over to high definition programming. That’s because most prime time shows are now filmed in high definition.

Accessing HD Signals
First thing is to ensure your television has a ‘HDTV tuner’ integrated into its system. If not, you can get a separate tuner that will link your antenna to your television. On the plus side, if you bought a television in the last couple of years, the HDTV tuner is more than likely built in.

Next, get a high definition antenna from your local Future Shop, Best Buy or other electronics store. Connect the two and be prepared to spend a little time pointing the antenna in the right direction. Do it right and you’ll soon see the familiar channels and even some new ones.

My brother and his wife, who are based in Toronto, get all the Canadian stations – CBC, CityTV and CTV. What’s interesting is that they also get some U.S. stations that aren’t offered in the basic cable package, like RetroTV, which features some of the best shows from the ’80s including Knight Rider and the A-Team.

Dana Bentley and her husband Drew decided to give up cable and go the antenna route. Even better, they built their antenna themselves. Bentley said, “We got rid of cable when I was laid off. We had been debating it for a while because of the cost, but that cinched it. I found directions for the antenna on the Internet. It involved coat hangers, screws, washers, and a cheap part from the Source. We had great fun making it.”

The handmade antenna works well for the couple, “On a good day in the right position we can get about 10 channels, some of them HD. I need to build an amp, which hasn’t happened with everything else going on in my life, but that should boost strength and hopefully bring in even more stations. We get all the shows we used to watch except ‘How I Met Your Mother’. With the antenna and streaming we watch more TV than we used to. Add in Netflix and DVDs and the fact I am home more because of recent personal changes, it has not been dull.”

As Bentley mentioned, going the antenna route does mean that you’re at the mercy of the elements and the signal. I’ve found that sometimes the signal is not strong enough to pick up a regular channel. Also, if it’s windy or rainy, you may lose a few channels.

Streaming Video
Another way to supplement your television viewing without paying for cable is to head online. CTV, CBC and CityTV all stream most of their popular shows just hours or the day after airing. For example, did you know you can find these shows online?

CTV

  • The Vampire Diaries
  • No Ordinary Family
  • Gossip Girl

CityTV

  • Fringe
  • Parenthood
  • The Event

CBC

  • Being Erica
  • The Passionate Eye
  • The Tudors

The shows are broken up into five to six segments but apart from that, (which really isn’t a big deal), the quality is very clear. If you’re willing to wait a few hours, then streaming video is a good option. All you need to do is invest in a few cables to hook your computer up to your television to enjoy the shows on a bigger screen. 

Netflix
For the introductory offer of $7.99 a month, Canadians can watch ‘unlimited TV episodes and movies online’ thanks to Netflix. According to Netflix, you will need either an XBox 360, a PS3, a Wii or certain Blu-Ray players. Once you sign up, your choices are streamed via these devices. Checking through the selection, there’s Mad Men seasons one through three and Justified, but no True Blood

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