Day 6 – My Romance with TV
When I was a kid, Sunday nights were spent with extended family around the TV.
Dinner, dessert and watching Lawrence Welk, Marlon Perkin’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney on TV, became the norm.
I fell in love with Tony Orlando – forgiving that he insisted on hanging around with Dawn, and discovered the allure of the bad boy in J.R. Ewing while watching Dallas, all thanks to TV.
Television wooed and won my heart, setting up the love of a lifetime, with only 4 channels via a rabbit ear antenna.
Then cable TV, VCRs, and HBO complicated the relationship.
After a week of over-air TV, I am reminded of why I fell in love in the first place: togetherness.
At least for me, it’s not about whether I have 4 channels or 400. It’s about connecting with my family while learning new things, being entertained, transported to another place, and enjoying what I watch when I choose to view it.
Last night I broke down and connected the cable to my TV.
I happily sunk into my sofa to watch Californication and Shameless. I’d missed them, but knew I could live without if I chose to do so.
Do I need to cut the cord to cable?
Will I dump my cable TV and go back to Lawrence Welk in HD on PBS instead of watching Dexter?
Probably not, but it’s nice to know I can if I want to, which is what I truly wanted – an option to say ‘no’ to cable.
Tomorrow I’ll go talk to someone at the local Charter Cable office, and see if we can’t come to a deal we both can live with before I hand them their cable box.
Is the romance gone?
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My mother lives in a town about 40 miles away, and has Charter Cable service. Like me, she has both TV and high-speed Internet service and would love to cut the cable, but knows it won’t happen as her husband would never allow such a tragedy to occur.
At any given time of the day, every day, my stepfather has 6 (no exageration here…) TVs all on, and taping either car or motorcycle races.
Stacks of VHS (again, no exageration here…) tapes from 10 years ago to present day, are piled in his garage, with the idea that ‘one day’ he’ll watch them.
I know he knows about DVRs and TiVo, and yet, he continues to buy and hoard VHS tapes. He’s never embraced the idea that he could streamline the whole operation electronically. View one program while he tapes another, or purchase subscriptions to online content that he could view on his laptop.
He would never consider giving up his cable subscription despite only watching about half a dozen channels and having over 250 at his viewing disposal.
That got me to thinking that the old adage ‘less is more’ really is true.
At least where TV choices is concerned.
By cutting cable TV out of our lives for a week, my family has narrowed down our TV viewing to what we really want to watch.
Even when offered up a plethora of choices at my mother’s house, my daughter and I knew that The Walking Dead marathon on AMC was our choice for the evening. Had we been at home and had the urge for Dead, iTunes, Amazon or Netflix has it, and we would be able to pick and choose episodes to watch, without commercial interuption.
In the past week we’ve had less in terms of cable channels, but seen more programs that we really enjoy.
Fewer channels may mean more of a hassle to find programing to some, but for us, less money spent on cable and more in our pockets still seems like a positive trade-off.
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Day 4 – Cutting the Cord Costs
The idea is ultimately to save money.
Bearing that in mind, I’m trying not to spend more money cutting the cord than staying tethered.
It’s not too tough, but what I’m finding to be true is that no matter how you slice it, I’ll be paying something each month for entertainment and news. The good news, it doesn’t have to cost as much as cable or give you lots of programming you don’t care to see.
One-Time & Reoccuring Costs
Some costs associated with cutting the cord are one-time costs like an antenna to receive over-air programming, and Roku or similar device to stream video content to your HDTV.
Other fees are monthly reoccuring ones like high-speed Internet service and subscription services like Netflix and HuluPlus.
The upside is that even with reoccuring charges, you’re still paying pennies a day by comparison to cable, and not missing out on entertainment and news.
A reoccuring cost that’s well within your control is instant video streaming from Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, iTunes and others. You pay for what you want to watch and generally have at least 30 days to start watching after your rental. If you purchase a movie or TV series, you own it and can watch it whenever you want, just as though you purchased the content on DVDs.
Amazon Instant Video Store
This is a great option for filling in the programming void left by cutting the cable.
Episodes or full seasons of shows that play on premium channels are available from both Amazon and iTunes, and easily upload to your HDTV with a streaming device like Roku or Apple TV.
Apple TV boxes stream 1080p video from the iTunes Store directly to your HDTV. I just bought a refurbished Apple TV box for $85 with Free Shipping and a 1 year Apple warranty to be able to stream iTunes purchases to my TV. As a perk I can also use it to stream via AirPlay, content from my iPad and iPod Touch to my HDTV.
I also have a Roku and will keep it too, as some channels on the Roku are not available with Apple TV.
Currently we pay $1776 a year to Charter Cable.
$148 each month for Digital Basic Expanded TV, one HD cable box, Showtime, The Movie Channel, Encore, HD tier (assorted channels), along with our high-speed Internet service.
If we drop our cable TV service, our bill will drop to $48 a month plus $8 for Netflix, $8 for HuluPlus – both of which we can watch on multiple devices.
I’ve not yet decided whether to extend Amazon Prime for a year for $79.
PlayOn is also an option at $25 for a year’s license, but after checking it out on my Roku, I’m not convinced it’s for us.
It streams online content to our TV, but much of what it has to offer we get via HuluPlus already. PlayOn is also somewhat cumbersome, and requires that my PC be on all the time I am watching the programming, to act as a server.
The recent purchases of a Mohu Leaf Ultimate Amplified Antenna ($89) and an Apple TV ($85) being one-time purchases seem reasonable for what they do.
Since we went to no cable TV, I do miss the channel surfing and having premium channels. Even if I wasn’t going to watch a thing, I knew it was there and that was enough.
Today, 4 days into the cord cutting experiment my family seems no worse for wear.
We still get all the major networks in HD, and that satsfies the grown-ups, with the teenager happy to watch Frasier and Supernatural via Roku in her bedroom.
We’ve watched a couple movies using Amazon Prime’s Instant Videos in HD.
We’ve been without cable for more than 72 hours and survived.
We’ve taken some time to consider what to watch, which did nothing to detract from the enjoyment of the viewing experience.
Cutting the cord isn’t free, but it feels a lot less burdensome than a huge cable bill each month and it’s worth seriously considering.
Assuming the Internet is here to stay and my modem, router and cable company keep allowing the wifi signal to flow, I’m set.
Ironic isn’t it?
I still need cable to escape it.
Dish’s Ergen: People Are Cutting the Cord
During an hour-long interview at All Things D’s “D: Dive into Media” conference, Dish chairman Charlie Ergen argued that consumers are in fact cutting the cord, threatening the foundations of the pay TV business, and that whole television industry …
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Cutting the cord with cable takes a bit of planning.
You have to figure out what over-air channels are available in your area, find an antenna (indoor or outdoor) set-up that can pull those channels to your TV, and then find ways to obtain the programming you’ll be missing from other sources.
These are 6 sources I’m using for programming that offer up the best bang for my buck.
(Note they may not work the same way for you depending upon your lifestyle, location, home network (wifi) set-up, and the equipment (HDTV, PC, streaming devices) in your home.)
Netflix: A monthly subscription service that I highly recommend to anyone who loves movies and documentaries. Streaming only; no DVD rental addition is needed, only $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming of great programming, and it works on multiple devices at the same time.
Start your Netflix FREE trial today!
You can also share it with your whole family. For example if you have a student in college, they can use the same Netflix account to stream content that you are using at home. It’s not IP address specific! The options for viewing Netflix on all kinds of devices are great too. I have apps on my iPad, Kindle, and smartphone, and two Roku boxes that stream it to my TVs. My Windows PC has it built into the Windows Media Player and I have it on my Nintendo Wii game console. The best picture comes through streaming via Roku.
HuluPlus: A monthly subscription fee of $7.99 after an initial free trial period, HuluPlus gives you network programs in addition to movie offerings.
There is a FREE option of Hulu, but with HuluPlus offering so much more, it’s a no-brainer to upgrade.
HuluPlus is excellent for watching network programming that you don’t have with your over-air channel set-up. They don’t have near the movie offering that Netflix does, but the two offer the best of both worlds and are easily streamed to compatible devices. The HuluPlus apps from iTunes and the Amazon AppStore are free and work well.
PlayOn: A subscription that you purchase monthly, yearly or a lifetime subscription license. I recommend that if you can you try this one out for free first, before you make your purchase. Why? It may or may not run smoothly on your PC depending upon the computer’s age, operating system, hardware and high-speed Internet connection speed.
PlayOn installs on your PC, and runs as a server, streaming content to a PlayOn enabled device. I have it on my Wii – directions available at the PlayOn site – and installed on my Roku as a channel. In order to use it, my PC has to be on for PlayOn to work, and it does use significant resources. My PC has an Intel Core i7 processor with Windows 7 64-bit OS running, and can handle it. Others may find it glitchy and frustrating.
On the upside, if it does work for you you can get a whole lot of channels (55 with free plugins for more available) for very little money!
PlayOn comes with a 30-Day money back guarantee and you can get channels like: DIY, Discovery, Disney, History, MTV, CNN, TBS, Science, Travel Channel, Fox News and NHL, just to name a few.
A site called PlayOnScripts offers scripts that are easily added to your PlayOn interface which open up even more programming options! They are free, and users rate them which helps as a guide for choosing ones that will work for you.
With PlayOn you can also download shows from Netflix (put in your Netflix subscription info into the PlayOn dashboard) and save them as MP4 video files. You can then share those files with others on your home network or to devices like iPads by using compression software such as Free Studio Manager (Google it…).
Be aware that a lifetime license may not be the best deal as when new channels are added, they aren’t covered on your lifetime license. Also, if you purchase a 1 year license at the current Winter Sale rate of $24.99, next year they’ll likely offer you a $19.99 a year rate.
Amazon Instant Video: For newly released movies and premium channel series (per episode or for a whole season), I choose Amazon. The prices are good, and they occasionally have sales that make stocking up on movies even cheaper. I just have to remember they are in my rentals and watch them before they expire!
Amazon Instant Video
The few times I’ve had issues with the quality of streaming from Amazon, they’ve given me a free movie credit, which is also why I continue to use them.
Vudu: Instant in 1080p with 7.1 Dolby Digital sound, get new releases to rent or purchase from Vudu.
Vudu plays on game systems, Roku, PC, iPad and Android devices.
You only pay for what you watch and there are no late fees or subscriptions.
The 1080P quality and 7.1 Dolby Digital sound is what sets Vudu appart.
Thousands of movies for only $2 for 2 nights.
Watch HD Movies Instantly with Vudu.com – Sign up for Free!
iTunes: An option for TV series and movies to be streamed to Apple TV, iPad, iPod Touch and other Apple devices. They rarely offer deals, but have a great selection of content.
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