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March 9, 2014

Consumer Reports: Save money on your TV

Television is America's great guilty pleasure. We realize that we watch too much of it, and we think we pay more for it than we should. But we get a lot of enjoyment watching a movie or playoff game with family and friends, so most of us will keep on doing it.

Consumer Reports offers these ways to save money:

FOR FREE TV, CUT THE CORD

Does opening your bill for cable or satellite TV make your blood boil? You're not alone. Monthly pay-TV bills averaged around $86 in 2011 (the most recent data available), according to research firm NPD — and that doesn't include Internet or phone service, which can easily push the tab for a triple-play package to $150 or more. If you just can't take those bills anymore, here are a few options:

Look, up in the sky. With a UHF-VHF antenna, you can enjoy free — that's right, free — over-the-air HD broadcasts from local stations such as ABC, CBS, NBC and others. You may pull in a few dozen channels with news, movies and foreign-language programs.

Not free, but cheap. If the antenna offerings aren't enough, you can round out your viewing preferences with an online service such as Netflix.

... OR SHAVE IT A LITTLE

Even if you hate the price of your cable service, you might still love some of its programming. Pay-TV services are coming out with lower-priced plans to hang on to potential cord cutters who can't live without "Boardwalk Empire" and other HBO originals. Time Warner Cable, for example, offers a $30-per-month "Starter TV with HBO" package with about 20 mostly broadcast channels plus HBO and HBO GO; an HD box adds $10 per month.

Downsize. A bare-bones package might not suit you, but perhaps you don't need everything you're paying for. Consumer Reports suggests evaluating how many channels you actually watch. You might find that a lower, cheaper tier of service would satisfy you, especially if you supplement it with a streaming service.

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