Cutting the cable

Friday, February 25th 2011

We moved recently, and didn’t like any of the cable options in our new neighborhood (we’d go back to Uverse in a cold second if they’d only expand to Durham!). Frustrated and not willing to go with satellite, we took the opportunity to cut the cable as an experiment. We only ever watched a small subset of the cable lineup before, and the rise of video streaming services serve as a decent alternative to a DVR. Here’s how we piece things together, and how it’s going so far:

Hulu Plus. $7.99/month. The vast majority of the shows we watch are on the major networks, and so are part of Hulu. I’m still annoyed that the Plus service actually has less content than the free web version, but our TV has Plus support built-in, no extra box needed. The streaming quality is rock-solid in HD, and I don’t even mind watching the occasional commercial. Hulu Plus isn’t perfect, but is the clear leader in cost per episode of current-season shows.

Amazon Instant Video. $2-$3/episode. Our TV has Amazon Instant Video support built-in too, which serves as a nice supplement to Hulu. It would be too expensive to purchase all our TV this way, but it works well to fill in the blanks of what Hulu Plus is missing. AMC shows, BBC stuff, Community, etc. Their new free movie streaming for Prime customers is a nice bonus, but the catalog isn’t amazing yet.

Netflix. $8/month. We admittedly don’t use Netflix streaming as much as we used to, but it’s still king of movies and seasons of older tv shows. We currently have three different ways to play Netflix videos on our TV – Xbox, Blu-Ray player, and the TV itself has the service built in. They’re certainly king of device integration as well.

Broadcast. Free. Ah, the ‘ol rabbit ears! We pick up a surprising number of local stations, given that we’re just using an indoor antenna. We have some trouble getting our local ABC station, but somehow pick up the Greensboro ABC option just fine (it’s at least 50 miles away!). I’ve also discovered an odd gem – The Cool TV. They’re broadcast only, and show music videos 24 hours a day. Exactly what I’ve always wanted MTV to be!

We picked up a Roku box to handle streaming these services to our second smaller TV, and I’m really impressed with it. The realm of channels is amazing; Hulu, Netflix and Amazon are there of course. But there’s even live streams of BBC News’ UK channel and Al Jazeera English, which fascinate me to no end.

I think we save about $40 or $50 per month when all’s said & done. The future is now!

25. February 2011 by Chad Haefele
Categories: HowTo, Ramblings, Tech | 5 comments

Comments (5)

  1. Dont’ forget Amazon just announced free steaming for Amazon Prime members, that’s just $79 a year (or 6.59 a month)

    Congrats on making the cut! I did it just over a year ago – canceled Tivo and cable. I was driven by similar issues – the cost to upgrade my Tivo to HD was expensive, the cost of HD cable was expensive. I was really worried I’d miss it. I don’t not even a little.
    I have a Roku box for streaming Netflix and renting Amazon movies (and now streaming). I also have a laptop with an HDMI out for watching Hulu shows on the TV. I explored Hulu Plus since I could use that on the Roku too, but it wasn’t worth it since I can already connect the laptop to the TV. I also purchased an indoor HD antenna and it works great.

  2. Your TV supports some cool stuff. What kind of TV is it? What are the features you were searching for when you got it and what are the pros and cons? Anything you wish you’d opted for?

    I have cancelled my cable but my TV is old and was a cheap-o model to begin with. I’d appreciate tips as I begin a search for a replacement.

  3. Yeah Bobbi! The free streaming is a nice bonus for my Prime membership. And the HDMI laptop thing is nice, I think my new one will do that, looking forward to it.

    Pat, We got this one when it was on sale at Amazon last month:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sony-BRAVIA-KDL46EX710-46-Inch-1080p/dp/B0040WJ91K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1298651787&sr=8-1

    It’s a 46″ Sony Bravia. I think the entire Bravia line of TVs has the same internet connectivity stuff (Netflix, Hulu, etc) built-in, though I’m not 100% sure on that.

    Those were actually the primary features for us when making a choice, since it was the most streamlined way to get access to the web stuff. A Roku box would have worked, but less boxes on the entertainment center is always a good thing in my book.

    We also wanted plenty of HDMI inputs for future-proofing. The old TV had just one, and I was constantly wishing I had more. We’ve got 4 on this TV now. Sony’s a very reliable/high quality brand name when it comes to TVs too. I ordinarily would have thought they were priced out of our range, but the sale kicked in and that was the tipping point.

    Mostly we just wandered around Sam’s and looked at the pretty pictures on the screens :)

    I think we’d have gone with a Vizio without the sale – they’re a bit cheaper and have similar web options, and still have a good reputation. Something similar to this: http://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-M470NV-47-Inch-Internet-Application/dp/B003GDKP30/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1298652112&sr=8-7

    One thing we DIDN’T want was a 3DTV. They’re way more expensive for a feature I think is going nowhere.

    We’re really really happy with the Sony. Only one con I can think of – it does so much that there’s actually a bit of a boot time when I turn it on. The picture shows up promptly, but changing the channel or volume sometimes lags for the first 30 seconds or so.

    Sam’s is a great place to buy a TV in general (BJ’s, Costco, etc too). Good prices with no pushy salespeople!

  4. Thanks, Chad!

  5. I can’t say enough good things about the Roku and I was very happy when they made Al Jazeera English available on it. We haven’t cut the cable yet at home, but that will probably happen soon.

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