Cut the Cable: How To Use Your MacBook as a Media Center

Cut the Cable

Here’s a fun exercise: close your eyes and picture the worst customer service experience you’ve ever had. Chances are, sitting on hold for hours with a cable or satellite TV provider popped into most people’s minds—at least, if research by 24/7 Wall St. and Zogby Analytics is to be believed.

Each year, 24/7 Wall St. produces the Customer Service Hall of Shame, a bottom-of-the-barrel list of major companies ranked by the lack of quality in their customer care. The not-so-surprising common thread? Year after year, at least half of the top (or bottom?) 10 companies on the list are either cable or satellite TV providers.

This is likely one of the major factors driving the “cord-cutting” trend, where former cable customers rid themselves of the expensive amenity in favor of Internet streaming services. According to market research firm eMarketer, there are more than 4.9 million U.S. households that once paid for TV services but no longer do. The movement is only gaining steam, with eMarketer predicting that by 2018, one in five households will not subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

Poor customer service is hardly the only factor pushing customers to cut their cords—price and a desire for flexibility also influences people's decisions. But how do so many millions of Americans still enjoy TV programming without the hassle of subscribing to cable or satellite TV? We’ll show you how to set up the perfect cable- and satellite-free home media center, and all you’ll need to start is your trusty MacBook.


Design your Media Center

Turning your MacBook into the centerpiece of your home media center is quite simple. There are a number of ways to connect your laptop to your TV with a cable and an adapter, depending on the type of MacBook you own and the year it was made. For comprehensive instructions on how to set up your TV as a laptop display, check out Apple’s support page here. Henge Docks sells a number of cables and adapters that allow you to stream video from your MacBook onto your TV. You can find them all here.


External cables are easy and affordable, but utilizing a MacBook docking station is a better way to take your home media center to the next level. Docks enhance the power and connectivity of your laptop, all the while reducing cord clutter and creating a more stylish setup for your media center.  

The Vertical Dock from Henge Docks is the ideal tool for streaming video content from your MacBook to your TV.  The sturdy metal construction and pre-installed extension cables allow for quick, easy connection to your media center. Together with a Henge Docks Mini DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter, you can connect any Henge Dock docking station to an HDMI-equipped TV. Check out this post to learn how to!


Now you can stream online video through your MacBook onto your TV, more conveniently and at a lower cost than cable or satellite TV.


Find the Right Internet Streaming Services

Once all of your hardware is properly built and connected, there’s one more step on the road to enjoying quality programming without the likes of Comcast or DirecTV--choosing the right combination of online streaming services. Fortunately, there are plenty of cord-cutting services that can be mixed and matched together to enhance the offering of content, while still remaining more affordable than traditional TV services.

HBO Now, access the hottest HBO shows from Game of Thrones to Silicon Valley. Subscriptions to HBO Now are $14.99 a month and allow you to stream all HBO content on any of your devices.

Netflix, the venerable grandfather of online streaming, offers various packages ranging from $7.99 - $11.99 per month. Originally a DVD-by-mail rental service, Netflix now produces award-winning original series such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Hulu, which is owned by ABC, NBC and FOX, is the best place to go for new episodes of shows from these networks—the day after they air. The company’s also added movies and, more recently with the Golden Globe-nominated Casual, its own original content. Hulu goes for $7.99 per month, while the ad-free HuluPlus runs at $11.99 per month. Customers can also add on Showtime for a total of $20.98 per month.

Can’t wait until the next day for new episodes of your favorite shows? Try Sling TV, an online streaming service owned by Dish Network that gives you access to live programming on 20+ channels, such as AMC, Cartoon Network, CNN and others. Sling TV isn’t available on the Web, but offers apps for both Mac OS and Windows as well as a number of other devices, and costs only $20 per month.

Together with a custom-built media center stand and a first-rate Blu-ray player, you’re all set to impress guests or simply enjoy your favorite TV shows and movies without the hassle and cost of subscribing to cable or satellite TV.