Trade Cable for a New HDTV Media Center

In December 2009, I did some analysis and I found that it was possible to cancel cable and purchase a new TV and media center equipment every 3 years (assuming OTA and internet TV stays free)... so I did. This idea was driven mainly by frustration with the ever-changing Time Warner Cable bill and the fact that we had paid over $480.00 over 5 years for a rented HD DVR box (how much do you think TWC is making renting these boxes?).


  • HD TV with DVR
  • Major networks for live events and prime time programming (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX)
  • Additional programming (like Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Food Network, etc...)
  • High speed internet
  • No installation or equipment rental fees


  • $100/month (average Time Warner Cable bill)

I decided to go with over-the-air HD for network television (41 channels in Raleigh, NC).  I went through a couple different antennas, but found a good one with Terk.

I went with an amplified Terk for our main TV and a cheaper RCA for the bedroom.  Tivo HD (now Tivo Premiere) with the service plan got us the local guide for OTA programming and DVR.

Samsung 50" 720p Series 4 Plasma (PN50C450) $799.99

Tivo HD +Antenna (Now Tivo Premiere) $299.99

Tivo Service plan $10.75/month ($129.00 annual payment)

Over-the-air high definition "Free" - does anyone know how to calculate how much per taxpayer goes to support free OTA programming?

Terk Omni-directional amplified flat digital antenna $59.99

RCA Basic flat antenna $29.99

Additional Programming

To get traditional "cable" shows like "Dirty Jobs" or "Man vs. Food", I decided to get a Mac Mini.  The Mac Mini consumes low energy, has a very small footprint for our single tier entertainment center and has additional functionality (beyond just internet TV) like iPhoto for slideshows, iTunes for music and DVD.  We also subscribed to Netflix for movies which is available on Tivo and Mac Mini.  We have found that internet TV content is updated and allows us to watch stuff that we would have missed anyway.

Mac Mini $599.99

Monoprice Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter $8.55

Monoprice 3.5mm to RCA $3.40

Netflix (streaming, DVD delivery and Tivo integration) $8.99/month with Hulu Desktop,, Boxee Free

High Speed Internet

I tried for high speed internet; but it didn't work for me (after a 2 week trial).  I'll save this for a separate post.  Ended up going with Earthlink for cable internet (this is actually served by Time Warner Cable, but I felt better ordering online with Earthlink.)

Earthlink Cable Internet $29.95/month


Total equipment costs:  $1,801.90

Equipment over 36 months:  $50.05 Total monthly recurring:  $49.69

Approximate total monthly:  $99.74

We watch mostly network TV (CBS, NBC, etc...) so this works well for us.  OTA HDTV is very reliable with a good antenna, but does fall apart some on very windy days.  We've been using this setup for 6 months and OTA HDTV has ~98% availability.