In this report
Keep an older TV working
Get a coupon
Best digital converters
Antennas and setup
If at first you don’t succeed...
Digital dead zones
Beware of marketing ploys
Cut cable costs
Also in This Issue
This article was featured in the March 2009 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.

5 ways to cut cable costs

Illustration of scissors cutting a TV cable
Illustration by Koichi Fujii

Though the DTV transition does not affect cable service, you might want to trim your bill. Here are a few ideas:

1. Ask for deals

The cable company might match or beat a deal for satellite or phone-company TV, especially for an Internet/phone/TV-service bundle. After the promotional period expires, see if the company will extend it or offer an incentive to keep you as a customer.

2. Dump the cable box

Each can tack $6 or so onto your monthly bill. If your TV has a QAM tuner (as most newer HDTVs do), connect the cable to the antenna input and run a channel scan. Chances are you'll get most major networks in HD, plus a few extra channels. You will lose cable channels that require a box, though.

3. Consider a basic cable plan

They're $10 to $20 per month. Comcast, the biggest cable company, offers basic cable (20 to 30 channels) for $10 per month for a year. (There might be an installation fee.) New customers who sign up for Internet or phone service can get free basic cable for 12 months.

4. Look for special offers

See whether your cable company is offering a free set-top box or other deals as it converts channels from analog to digital.

5. Eliminate cable

Instead get free over-the-air broadcasts (including HD if you have an HDTV set) supplemented by a video-rental service such as Netflix. You won't get cable channels such as CNBC, ESPN, or HBO, but you can rent movies and many cable series (such as "The Sopranos" and "Entourage") without paying for premium channels every month. Netflix plans cost $5 to $48 per month, and some plans let you stream video to devices such as TiVo recorders and Blu-ray players. There are other options, such as Vudu, a Web-based movie service that delivers standard and HD movies to your TV. The box costs $300 (less during promotions); movies rent for $1 to $6.

Posted: February 2009 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: March 2009