Celebrating independence from pay TV

We are now home for the summer and celebrating Independence Day by celebrating our independence from pay TV, which will save us $900 per year!  A 12% increase in our cable bill this winter motivated us to take stock of our TV viewing habits, preferences, and the costs for pay TV, which led to an exploration of alternatives.

We are happy with the high-speed internet service provided by our cable company, but we were not happy to pay $75/month for cable TV and TV fees for the 75 or so channels that we mostly don’t watch, except for a few such as PBS, CBS, and MSNBC.  We first explored the possibility of selecting a more economical package, a lower tier of channels that included our favorites.  I was surprised that our cable company told us that to go to the next lower tier, we would need their cable TV box that would filter out channels that we would not be paying for.  But we did not want to rent a cable box, especially after recent reports that they are high energy users.*

We then explored the over-the-air (OTA) TV option by using TV Fool’s TV Signal Locator tool to determine what broadcast TV signals are available in our area. Once we realized that we could watch PBS via KPBS-HD, CBS via KFMB-DT, and other high-definition channels for free (and our favorite MSNBC shows, such as The Rachel Maddow Show could be viewed the next day on the internet), we used AntennaWeb’s tool to determine the proper antenna type for our viewing preferences, which turned out to be a small multidirectional antenna.  We chose the Mohu Leaf 50™ Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna.*

DSC_0414 Mohu Leaf 50 amp

The test was to see if we could actually wean ourselves from cable TV, so we disconnected our cable TV coax and connected our Mohu Leaf antenna that was hung high on our living room window.  We were thrilled that this antenna picked up OTA high-definition broadcasts that often had better quality images than seen via our cable TV service, such as SpongeBob SquarePants broadcast by XHGC-HD.

DSC_0378 SpongeBob via XHGC-HD

Of course, it helps that we are on a hill and not far from one of three local TV broadcast towers.  We kept the antenna connected to our now cable-free TV for a month to prove to ourselves that we were not addicted to cable TV before actually discontinuing our cable TV service.  It was easier for us since we are not avid sports fans and can be satisfied by content provided by PBS, CBS, and other local TV stations.

DSC_0395 KPBS-HD OTA (Over the air)

DSC_0408_2 CBS, OTA, via KFMB-DT

We then discontinued our cable TV service and bought another Mohu Leaf antenna and a Mediasonic HW180STB Homeworx HDTV Digital Converter Box for our older, analog TV in the bedroom.  (The converter box is turned off when not in use to keep it cool and to save on energy costs.  It can also be brought into the trailer to enable our older TV to receive digital broadcasts.)

DSC_0386 Mediasonic HomeWorx converter

We now enjoy TV for free as it was meant to be when I was growing up and watching The Howdy Doody Show.*  Howdy Doody is always on (or nearby) the TV in our Airstream Safari trailer!

DSC_0371-2 Howdy Doody on TV

Declaring independence from pay TV is a liberating experience!

And, as Whispering Jack Smith sings,

The best things in life are free“!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.




  1. Bill D. says

    Author’s notes and updates:

    1. My objective in presenting this article is to share with viewers my experience and what works for us. It is not a specific product or media endorsement and I receive no monetary benefits for anything written or posted in this or any other article seen on this History Safari Express blog.

    2. I needed to move the Mohu antenna to various places on the window to find the best place to receive our preferred stations.

    3. I replaced Mohu’s 16-foot cable with 25 feet of triple shielded coaxial cable, which seemed to help with reception while making it easier to conceal the cable around and behind furniture in the living room.

    4. On some occasions we experienced a brief (1-2 seconds) interruption of signal, which seemed to be remedied by shielding the Mohu USB-powered amplifier by wrapping it and its cable connection with aluminum foil.

    5. When it was time to stop our cable TV service, I did so quickly, easily and pleasantly in person at our local cable store and avoided a potentially long, tedious, and frustrating telephone call experience such as recently heard nationally:
    Comcast Customer Service Call“* (Note: Comcast is not our cable internet provider.)

    6. For three months now, we have enjoyed free over-the-air high definition TV, and our only regret is that we didn’t stop pay TV sooner!

    * This is a link to a YouTube video.

  2. Bill D. says

    Author’s update, 9/27/14:

    1. I replaced the triple shielded cable (that I had tried in the above update) with the original high performance cable that came with the Mohu antenna, because there was no decrease in the occasional signal disruption and I could get more channels with Mohu’s cable.

    2. I learned that many factors can affect digital TV signals, such as weather, moving nearby people and vehicles (such as a UPS truck), and other nearby electronic signals.

    3. Our Mohu Leaf 50 is an amplified antenna powered by plugging it into the USB port of the TV. I found that some channels come in better when power is supplied to the antenna and that other channels come in better, with less disrupted signals, when the antenna is not powered!

    4. To make it easier to turn the power on and off to the Mohu Leaf 50 antenna, I bought the USB Cable with Switch by Adafruit Industries* (currently $2.95). It works great!

    5. For over four months now, we have been happily enjoying free over-the-air digital TV broadcasts, and there’s no going back!

    *This is a link to a YouTube video.