Awhile back, I’d posted about my decision to eject cable television (and, by extension, all television reception) from my life. Now, almost six months later, I realize that not only have I saved myself some real money by not paying for programming I never even watched, but that cable television (yes, Comcast, this one’s for you) is fading into obsolescence.
If wanting to take the plunge yourself, here are the ways in which your cable television service can be completely replaced…
Hulu: Plenty of network television programming and movies here, right on your computer screen. Membership is free and selection is decent. Video frame rate is on par with standard Internet video and you can even go full screen. If you’re not much for television from the last 20-25 years (like me), the movie offerings will no doubt be your reason for joining up. (Once in a movie category, use the “Filter By Title” dropdown for a more manageable list.) RSS category feeds are also available. And, although I haven’t checked them out extensively, plenty of buzz is going around about Hulu competitors, Joost and Veoh. Cost: Free.
Podcasts: You’d be surprised just how many programs are available as downloadable podcasts, and you don’t even need an iPod to view them. Visit the iTunes Store via the iTunes software and browse through their Video Podcasts subcategory found by clicking their Podcasts link on the main page. Then subscribe to all of your favorites. This route completely replaces your need for cable television to view, for instance, newscasts (but is certainly not limited to that). ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN… they’re all there. Full screen video is a bit pixelated sometimes, but if you don’t mind that, or viewing it at half-sized or less, then you’re all set. And it looks marvelous on an iPod, in case you’re ever heard of one of those. Cost: Free.
Netflix “Watch Instantly” / Roku: A bit of a caveat here — Since I’m a Roku owner, I have no real need to use the Watch Instantly version unless somewhere other than home, so I can’t speak of it knowledgeably — although Mr. Simmon made some observations on it. However, if you don’t own a Roku box (or an XBox 360, or an approved Internet-connected Blu-Ray player), you don’t get to use your TV set. But with the rise of high-quality flat-panel computer monitors, the line between what’s a monitor and what’s a TV set are blurring. You could also use a TiVo HD player, but that implies you’re using cable TV, which defeats the purpose a bit. In any case, Netflix has a growing number of movies and classic TV shows for instant viewing. In my experience, this service pretty much nullifies the need for any of the premium cable movie channels and any of the cable networks that play vintage TV shows. And, of course, no commercials. Netflix is a paid service but if you get their lowest possible membership which allows unlimited use, you really come out on top in the end. Of course, renting the DVDs is also an option and their selection of old TV shows and movies on disc is considerably larger. If interested, Roku also has a bit of a competitor in Apple TV. Cost: $8.99 (+tax) monthly membership for entire Netflix service.
Shows on DVD: If you really enjoy certain television programs and you want an easy way to avoid commercials, actually buying the box-sets of your favorite shows can be an option. Not all shows are available but many are, and old ones are often cheap. Start your own library of shows. Be your own programmer. Cost: Varies.
Even if you bought one TV show DVD box-set a month, had a minimum membership with Netflix, and of course, used the free options of podcasts and Hulu, you’d generally come out spending about $25-40 every month. Contrast that with Comcast, who would charge at least $82 a month for regular cable plus only one premium movie channel. If you didn’t buy DVDs at all, that’s around $9 a month (not including your monthly Internet costs, which you’d be paying in any case) and no cable television service provider can even come close to undercutting that. Plus, the cable companies cannot give you such full time-shifting options or the portability that my suggested substitutes can. And, just doing a Google search now, I discover that I’m not exactly alone in my chosen replacements.
Given that many countries are experiencing the crunch of a bad economy and that most modern television is crap, why not jettison a service that is expensive, largely unused, and outdated in favor of some viable alternatives? Much like land lines are being dropped in favor of cellphones, so too might cable television service bend (or break!) to the will of its successors. At the very least, why give them money when you simply don’t need to?