Help Figure Out How to Cut the Cable Options
Everyone talks about cutting the cable, but no one ever really does it. I say, let’s start an initiative and pool our resources on the best way to sever our ties with the cable companies, maybe not totally, but drastically. With the developments in technology getting better every day and the increase in online content, there has to be a way to ditch the cable box and still be satisfied with our insatiable need for content consumption. Mostly due to the economy, cable and satellite subscriptions fell in 2010 for the first time ever in the history of pay TV.
This won’t be a painless operation and there will need to be sacrifices and trade-offs, but if we get together and pool our knowledge and resources then I think we can do it and show these cable companies that raising prices without giving better service is not a sustainable business model. I’ll lay out the basics, but I need you to go out and find better alternatives, new technology, the best online options, etc. so that we can come up with the definitive direction for cutting the cable.
1. Over the Air HDTV
Did you know that you can get FREE HDTV over the air using nothing but those old rabbit ear antennas? Well, you can’t really use the “old” rabbit ear antennas, but there is a ton of new digital HD over the air antennas on the market. The signal you get though the air on these antennas is actually better quality than the signal you get through your cable box, in most cases. Most cable providers broadcast in 720p or 1080i; most over the air signals are now sent out at 1080P. You got that new 55 inch 1080p TV, but typically the only 1080p content you are able to watch is on bluray. Why not get full 1080p for FREE with an antenna?
Using an antenna is not without its disadvantages. Depending on your area, you may not get every channel that others get due to high buildings, trees, etc., but in most cases you will get the major channels such as NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. To check what channels you are most likely to get with an over the air antenna you can visit AntennaWeb and enter in your address. The site has a huge database of TV transmitters and will tell you what channels you are most likely to receive and where you should position your antenna for best results. Over the air channels are limited to the major stations, so you can forget about cable only channels like Comedy Central, AMC, and HBO. In order to get those channels we will have to look into alternatives like streaming video.
2. Choose Streaming Video Services
There are tons of streaming movie and TV companies out there like Netflix and HULU so we need to catalog all the sources we can find. Netflix is great, offering streaming video and DVD by mail services relatively cheap, but their streaming content is very limited. Until these cable companies realize that we will not continue to pay them exorbitant amounts of money for their service, Netflix and the like will have a hard time getting better content. The television and movie producers still believe in the cable way of life and continue to support the cable companies and keep content away from the streaming options.
Hulu Plus is another great option, but like Netflix has its limitations. Because Hulu, owned by NBC, News Corp, and Disney, has the same pressures from the movie and TV industry to limit their streaming options, their streaming service is limited to mostly computers and mobile devices. They block their service from options like the Google TV and Roku box. There are ways around it, so I want to hear from you so we can list them all so we can easily follow instructions on how to circumvent it.
3. Buy Ala Cart Cable
You can’t get current episodes of shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, but you can usually find them soon after their airing on services like iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, usually just days after they air on TV. An episode is going to cost you around $2-$3 and just like buying the DVD in the store, once you buy it you can watch it anytime you want. Device like the Apple TV make it really easy to get fresh content onto your TV and most of the new “smart” TV’s have apps for Amazon Instant.
4. Streaming Boxes Galore
Many bluray players and recently released HDTV’s have built in support for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Hulu, but if you don’t have one of these there are plenty other options. Most game consoles like the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the Wii have Netflix streaming capability. The PS3 and Xbox have been receiving OS updates adding new services. The Roku, Boxee, and Google TV are plug and play devices that offer a lot of streaming services as well as added benefits like a web browser and other applications. Most of these boxes are relatively cheap, hovering around that $99 pricepoint. The Boxee box recently has offered a HD antenna upgrade so you can get over air channels as well.
If you are like me, then you have gotten in the habit of recording all your shows and watching them when you have time, not when they air live. If you want to continue to do that you will need a box with DVR functionality. TiVo is the first one of these DVR’s that come to mind, but there are a bunch of other alternatives. Help me put together a list so we can weigh the differences and list them in order of their offerings and quality.
5. What About Live Sports
My biggest concern with cutting cable is live sports, specifically the sports packages I’ve become accustomed to like the NFL Sunday Ticket. There are some options out there, but I still find it pretty lacking at the moment. Many sports like MLB, NHL, and the NBA offer streaming services, but my main concern is the NFL which as of yet doesn’t have such a service unless you also have the ticket via cable. Since the whole purpose of this is to cut cable, then that isn’t an option.
With over the air HDTV using an antenna you can get local showings of most sports airings, but it is limited to the game that is scheduled to show in your area. If you are a fan of an out of state team, like my Falcons, then you don’t get to see them every week There has to be a way around this. Go out there and find something so we can cut cable!
6. Our Plan Must Be Cheaper Than Cable
If we can’t make this cheaper then there is no purpose in cutting the cable umbilical cord. Find as many free services as you can. Let’s try to use as little extra equipment as we can. Keep track of what you are actually paying for streaming services you sign up for and episodes you buy from Amazon Instant. Together we CAN find the best alternative to cable in order to preserve most of what we are accustomed to and show the cable companies that we won’t be forced into their monopoly. Use the contact form to send us your findings so we can find a better way for TV.