Is a Cable Box Necessary For Cable Subscribers?

3 min


Cable Box

If you’re a basic cable TV consumer, you may very well be aware of the fact that the time of cable reception without requiring an additional box is long gone. Even if your subscription does not include premium channels, you may still need a cable box. This is because the cable service has completely transitioned to all-digital. Moreover, above all, it may now enforce copy protection on everything including the signals being transmitted into your house.

In the face of rising rates, bad customer support, and growing blackouts in conjunction with market wars, many viewers try to escape from their cable television subscription. Though companies such as Charter, Cox, and Xfinity are all working towards improving cable TV services, trying to stop current customers from cutting the cord, and attract new consumers. An example of such a tactic has been adopted by Charter Communications that offers Spectrum cable packages, starting at very economical prices that offer HD services along with premium channels. Let us look closely at the prospects of getting a cable box:

Extra Costs

This move does not only impact your cable television programming; it also applies some extra charges to the cable bill every month. Each TV in your house would need a box to access local cable networks, therefore if you own more than 1 TV you’d be required to get a box on rental basis for each TV in order to watch your favorite shows on them. The box has all, a standard definition analog RF cable to connect the analog TV, and has an Output for HDMI for connection to the HD or 4 K Ultra HD TV. You may also link the output of RF of your unit to an Ultra HD TV or simple HD but that will only provide an analog cable signal that is down-converted, however, you have to utilize the output of HDMI to enjoy the HD quality. As TV signals of digital cable are typically shielded from duplication, cable TV users utilizing a VCR or a DVD for recording purposes will find it even more complicated to capture the shows. This requires an extra fee to use or purchase a TIVO or DVR device for recording TV shows easily. However, unfortunately, you still won’t be able to transfer the recording to your VHS or DVD.

The Background

While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ordered almost all television stations in June 2009, to switch to digital from conventional analog broadcasting, the deadline for this did not include cable providers. However, cable providers have made a timetable on their own to remove non-scrambled and analog cable services since about 2012. This will render this functionality no longer available when you own an old “cable-ready” set. As virtually everything now is free from copying, you require an additional box that is provided from the cable provider to transmit simple cable signals from the channel. Tuners incorporated without digital TVs are not compatible anymore, especially with over-the-air television broadcasting signals. On the flip side, analog TVs are still compliant with analog cable signals. An external box is required if cable services no longer offer this option.

Alternative to Cable box

With higher monthly cable rates, because of box rentals or other rises in monthly bill prices, you may reduce the expenses in some respects.

  • You can continue to carry the cord on your main TV instead of getting boxes on all TVs, so you may try an antenna to get programming on any one of the other TVs – that would enable you to at least have exposure to local networks. This should be remembered, though, that you would have to buy the DTV adapter to watch programming by utilizing this feature on an analog older TV.
  • If you have an Internet-enabled TV, you can use the internet service to watch videos and TV shows. Though doing so you may have to sacrifice exposure to the various local television networks, and you may even not be able to watch all of the popular shows in time. Furthermore, even though there are many channels for free on the internet, the most popular ones (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Sling TV, YouTube) will need their separate subscription fees. To enjoy some of the cable or satellite channels (NBC, FOX, ABC, CW, DisneyNow, ABC) for free, you may also require subscribing to another service.

Wrapping Up

With cable providers trying to switch to the all-digital and encrypted operation, you will now need to have an external box to access simple cable channels, whether you hold an old analog TV, a new HD, 4K Ultra TV, that you have been utilizing to get cable television without a box. If the additional DVR or cable box cost is troublesome, you may think of cutting the cord by using options for streaming on-air or internet.


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