If you are a cable tv subscriber and are considering cutting the cord because of cost and moving to an antenna I have a word of advice before you do. One thing that most people never think of when they have cable is the idea that one day they might move to Antenna only or they might go to Antenna and a Streaming Service.
Streaming Services such as Hulu, Youtube, Amazon Prime and a few others are great if you want to simply watch what they have available for free but once you start paying for content you are quickly back to high cost bills to watch TV. Other options out there to watch premium content for free I strongly suggest you stay away from if they are not legal… strongly suggest that.
Your option is a pretty great one if you have the time and can afford it. Instead of paying to have access to tons of reruns and movies you can record them off of Cable and keep them as long as you want. It is completely legal to record content off of cable and watch it for as long as you want.. days, months, years. And that includes after you have canceled your contract with the cable company and installed an antenna.
CableCard Tuners for Recording Cable TV
Long ago companies like Tivo and others got regulators to require your cable company to provide a way for their devices to work on their networks. Because cable companies wanted to encrypt their signals the way they decided to comply with this is to build all of the decryption hardware into a credit card sized device that they would provide subscribers who wanted to buy a Tivo or other CableCard Tuner.
Most people use these devices to record a show for later viewing the same day or maybe on the weekend when they aren’t working. However with most homes now having really great home networks and with TV devices like Roku, Android Boxes and other devices you can watch your local videos too. You can watch video that you recorded on your phone or you can watch video you record off cable.
With a CableCard Tuner you can hook this device to your cable tv line and then access it either over USB or your Network. You can then use software to record the shows you want to watch later.
CableCards will allow you to have up to 6 recordings at a time or you can also choose to watch live shows and record on the leftover tuners.
In our case we will want to record on as many tuners as possible to create an archive of content.
This content then can be saved on a computer hard drive and for best bets you want to convert those videos into smaller files. I normally record in HD if it is available and then save in 720p. This will scale up very nicely on a computer or television while dropping the file size about 75% from the raw recording file.
So if you were to record on 4 tuners for 24 hours a day you would record 96 hours of Television. And that could be full hour shows, half hour shows or longer movies.
In an average month thats 2,880 hours of Television recorded which is probably more than most people watch in their homes but you are creating an archive not watching live TV.
If you do this for 6 months thats 17,280 hours of television…. yes it adds up pretty quick doesn’t it and you will need a NAS File Server with many drives to hold that much content.
The best thing is with Windows Media Center you can schedule TV Series to be recorded. So, if you wanted to record every episode of Friends and it is played on 4 different TV stations and played many times a day you won’t have to manually schedule all of those recordings. With very popular series you can normally record the entire 10 year span of shows in about three months because they are played so often.
Even shows that are not off the air you can record all of the old episodes and then once they run out you will record one show a week when a new episode airs.
It is really pretty amazing and you won’t have to buy DVDs or sign up for a streaming service or pay high internet bills. Everything will be recorded locally and you can watch it on your Computer, Phone or TV with a click or maybe a few clicks but its all right there.
For the past 5 years cable companies have seen subscribers move to lower end plans and quit their television subscriptions only. Many people retain their internet accounts and use it for a variety of reasons including online streaming services.
Some of these services are free and some are pay. If you are cutting the cord because of cost and availability the best thing you can do is create an archive of content you can pull from and then supplement that with an antenna. This won’t give you every show out there but it will provide you with more stuff than you can watch.
The cost is up to you. The price for a cablecard is normally about $5 a month for the first and $10 a month for additional ones. The cost for a cablecard tuner can be as low as $50 used on an auction website or much more. And the cost of hardware can be minimal such as a computer you already own with a few external hard drives or something better like $500 for a NAS Server that can store tens of thousands of shows and movies.
If you are in fear of cutting the cord because the kids won’t have their shows which are all in rerun anyway then record them first. If you like watching home shows or sitcoms then record them.
Then when you have enough cut the cord and get a good antenna. Many series originate on Antenna TV like Hells Kitchen, The Bachelor, Amazing Race, NCIS and so on so you won’t be missing new episodes and you will have all the old ones in case you want to watch them while the garbage like Jude Judy or Jerry Springer are on during the day.