Comcast vs. Over-The-Air Television

TV compare 5

This week I stopped into my local Comcast office to try to negotiate a better price for our family internet service. For the past four years, I have been quite successful, talking the customer service rep into a much better deal (usually about half the price). This year’s negotiation did not go as well. I have apparently used up every advertised deal, as well as every individualized special deal. I was only able to bring our internet bill down by 25%. But we’ll have the same internet speed for the next 12 months, and we now have a small package of TV channels.

I have resisting their sales pitch for TV service for the past four years. We don’t need TV, I always told them. We just watch Netflix online. Who needs cable TV? But now we have it, about 40 channels, mostly channels that we were already getting OTA (over-the-air) with our wonderful outdoor Clearstream 4 roof antenna.

After my son set up the Comcast TV box, we fired up the TV. Hmm, not impressed. I hauled out the spare TV and set it next to the Comcast TV for comparison. We noticed three things:

1.Comcast TV lagged behind the OTA TV signal by about five seconds. That made it hard to compare the exact picture quality since the scene was always changing.

2.The Comcast TV channels were broadcasting in a lower resolution. High definition was now standard definition, and even standard definition was degraded.  In the picture above, Robert DeNiro is seen on the low-resolution channel Bounce, and he definitely looks sharper on the TV using the roof antenna.

3.The color on the Comcast channels was off, veering into red and purplish tones. The OTA TV needed no picture adjustment, as every color was perfect.

So there you have it. The free over-the-air TV looks way better than Comcast’s watered-down TV service. I imagine if we coughed up money for a high-definition TV box, the picture would look better, but we’re not doing that. We’ll just keep enjoying our high-speed internet and Netflix, watch over-the-air tv with our roof antenna, and occasionally turn on the Comcast TV. Oh well…



A Budget You Can Live With: TV (2017)


Yesterday I wrote about a necessity in everyone’s budget – food. Today I’m focusing on a non-necessity: entertainment. That covers tons of things, depending on your tastes – concerts, golf, amusement parks, etc. But the entertainment almost everyone has is TV. According to an NBC News story, Americans shelled out an average of $99 a month in 2016.’s website listed the average at $103 a month. That comes out to about $1,200 a year!

Last year, I really dug into the cost of all the TV options in our area:

This year’s options are pretty much the same, albeit with higher prices. Last year I really put in a good plug for using OTA (over-the-air) television, and mentioned the indoor style antenna (mohu leaf for as little as $40, winegard for a little more). They work well if you don’t have a lot of trees or buildings to block the tv station signals, and have tv stations fairly close. This summer we decided to go one better, and bolted a Clearstream-4 antenna with a 70-mile range to our roof. We were astonished to see that we could get 37 channels on a clear day, up from 20 channels on our indoor antenna. Obviously, some of them are what I call “junk channels”, so I blocked those on our TV settings. The antenna costs $123 online at Amazon as of today’s date:
(Note: don’t get the one that is only $99, as it doesn’t have the parts to bolt it to your roof.)

Every network has a main channel that is broadcast in 1080 high resolution:
plus two sub-channels in standard definition that air older tv shows and movies. Here are some examples:
Comet (classic sci-fi)
Laff (comedy)
Justice (crime shows)
Cozi (family shows from the ’70s)
Escape (forensics, FBI)
Antenna tv (60’s shows)
Worldview (news from around the world)
Grit (westerns)

So my recommendations for home entertainment are about the same as last year:

Get rid of cable/satellite tv!
Subscription tv will just keep bleeding your wallet. Try an outdoor antenna or maybe even no tv at all.

Check out DVDs from your local library.
Most libraries have at least some movies and tv shows on DVD available to check out free. Just don’t bring them back late.

Re-watch the DVDs that you already own.
Most people have them stashed about the house, watched once and then forgotten.

Swap DVDs with family and friends.
Just remember to return them as soon as possible and in good condition.

Branch out into other forms of entertainment that are free.
Writing, board games, listening to free podcasts, walking/jogging, etc.

A Budget You Can Live With – Television, part 3

Tv Icons by digitalart

(Photo courtesy of digitalart at

How much you’re willing to spend on television depends on how important it is to you. If you love watching it and can easily afford it, no problem. But if your household budget is really stressed, consider these ideas:


HD indoor antenna


Buy an antenna for your TV, and watch the over-the-air broadcast channels.
You don’t even have to get up on the roof. Just stop at Walmart and pick up an indoor multi-directional antenna for $50.00 – $80.00. Screw the cord into the antenna plug on the back of your tv, then tape the flat square panel at the other end of the cord onto your window. You may want to try different windows in your house to see which gives you the best reception and the most local channels, or at least the channels that you want most. I have an indoor antenna, and can get about 20 channels. A few of them are high-definition, and they look so good it’s almost unbelievable. If the weather’s very overcast though, sometimes it blocks the signal. But hey, now that I’ve got the antenna, it doesn’t cost me a penny!

Check out DVDs from your local library.
Most libraries now carry at least some movies and tv shows on DVD, with no rental fee. Just make sure you return them on time, though, to avoid costly fines.

Re-watch your own personal DVDs.
Most people have some movies at home, sitting forgotten on a shelf or in a cabinet. Dust them off and pick one to watch. If it’s a good movie and you enjoyed it once, chances are you’ll enjoy it again.

Swap DVDs with a relative or friend.
Just remember to return them quickly, and in good condition.

Find other things to do at home besides watching TV.
Reading, playing scrabble, listening to the radio, card games, writing someone a letter, running or taking a walk are all things that don’t cost any money.

The hundreds (or thousands) of dollars you spend on TV every year could be put into a savings account, or spent on paying off bills. It’s never easy to give up something enjoyable. But cutting your television expenses will leave you in better financial shape, which leads to peace of mind. Who knows – maybe after a while you’ll find that you don’t even miss it.

A Budget You Can Live With – Television, part 2

The Roku 3 television streaming player menu screen featuring Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Hulu, and Redbox Instant is shown on a television in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. Roku Inc. announced an all-new family of streaming players, Roku LT, Roku 1 and Roku 2, which are designed to provide a better TV experience. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

To see part 1, click link below:

In part 1, I wrote about traditional cable television. Although millions of people still subscribe to cable tv, millions are switching over to alternatives. These options require you to have an internet connection. But as long as you have high-speed internet and some kind of smart TV/computer/device to play it on, you should be able to use these streaming services:

Netflix: $9.00 a month for unlimited viewing of movies and TV shows. If you have one of the new 4K televisions, you can pay $12.00 a month for the platinum plan that will give you some 4K programming.

Amazon Instant Video: Instant Video is part of the Amazon Prime bundle, which gives free 2-day shipping. Amazon Prime costs $99.00 a year, or $8.25 a month. They have lots of movies and some tv shows.

I-Tunes: This is Apple’s pay-per-view online movie/TV show. Prices vary.

Hulu Plus: $7.99 a month for tons of TV shows that recently aired on broadcast channels, as well as Hulu original TV shows and many movies. There are commercials, however.

Sling TV: $20.00 a month for Best Of Live TV package, 65 cable channels

Vudu: Walmart’s pay-per-view movie service, $3.99 – $5.99 per movie

Google Play: Google’s pay-per-view movie/TV show service, $4.00 – $5.00 per movie

Crackle: Free online movies, with commercials. This site is limited to Sony movies and television series, so it’s a smaller collection.

Some of these options can end up being just as expensive as cable tv, especially the pay-per-view ones. But others, like Hulu Plus or Netflix, could save you money on your home budget.


A Budget You Can Live With – Television, part 1

Cable Tv by Stuart Miles

(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at

It’s a television kind of day here in Michigan. It’s cold outside, with snow and icy patches. It’s a Saturday, and I don’t have to work. I haven’t slept well for the past two nights, and my joints are killing me. The easiest thing to do is pop on the TV and huddle under an afghan. But how much is that TV viewing costing? Every year or two I go online and re-examine all the options for television. Here’s a summary of your basic options for traditional cable TV:

Comcast/Xfinity: The first year you can get good rates, such as the economy package with 45 channels for $19.99 per month. The problem come when you’re past that first 12 months. Take a look at their regular rates:
Economy – 45 channels, $39.99
Starter – 45 channels, $59.99
Preferred – 220 channels, $79.99
Preferred Plus – 220 channels, $99.99
Premier – 260 channels, $119.99

In addition, you’ll pay extra monthly fees for local channels, your receiver box, and federal, state, and local taxes. A 24-month contract commitment is required to get a lower price for the first 12 months. There is an early termination fee if you break your contract, and you will pay for the receiver box if you don’t return it promptly.

Here are their monthly rates for the first 12 months:
Select – 145 channels, $19.99
Entertainment – 150 channels, $24.99
Choice – 175 channels, $29.99
Extra – 220 channels, $39.99
Premiere – 315 channels, $89.99
A 24-month contract is required to get these prices, and after 12 months the price goes up, although I couldn’t find the prices for after 12 months. They also charge a monthly receiver box fee ($6.50) and federal, state, and local taxes. If you want to record shows to watch later, it’ll cost you $5.00 a month for Tivo, $15.00 a month for a high-definition DVR box. There is an early termination fee if you break your contract, and you will pay for the receiver box if you don’t return it promptly.

Dish Network:
Dish Network used to be the cheapest of the cable companies, with a few packages of $20.00 a month as their regular price. They are no longer inexpensive, with their prices looking like this:
America’s Top 120 – 190 channels, $34.99 for 12 mths, then $64.99
America’s Top Plus – 190 channels, $49.99 for 36 months
America’s Top 200 – 240 channels, $44.99 for 12 mths, then $79.99
America’s Top 200 – 240 channels, $64.99 for 36 months
America’s Top 250 – 290 channels, $49.99 for 12 mths, then $89.99
America’s Top 250 – 290 channels, $74.99 for 36 months
They also require a 24-month contract to get the initial lower rates, have an early termination fee, and will bill you for unreturned equipment.

So there you have it, your choices for traditional subscription television. If you live in an apartment complex and TV service is piped into every apartment, consider yourself lucky (although your rent is probably slightly higher to cover the cost). Not looking too good for your budget, is it? Part two will cover other options for television viewing.