Monday, March 19, 2012

Cutting the (Cable) Cord

*Updated post and info graphic 12/24/15

Ohhh yes, they do pinch quite a bit, don't they? Those pricey bills from Comcast, Dish, RCN and Verizon. Internet, phone, and television – especially television. This series of posts will chronicle my attempt to cut the cable cord – and finally find freedom of television – without those awful commercials! And how many times will you find two instances of alliteration in one sentence? Huh? Tell me. Anyway, thanks to my wife for instilling in me a sense of being “thorough” and researching something until it kills me, I will present an info graphic designed to show the current options available. But first, on to the bill...

My lovely Verizon FiOS bill comes to me every month, thoughtfully detailed:

Fios Local TV Service and Internet 50/50 Bundle $72.99
HD Set-top Box $11.99
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Total/Month: $91.02 (with taxes and fees)
Total/Year: $1,092.24 ($948.36 without STB)

Ok, so is anyone else gasping for breath right now? Honey, where are my pills, I need them! Here’s the kicker – I still need to pay almost $1,000/year for this service regardless of my alternative video sourcing, because I need to be able to connect to the internet. And since the cost for the internet alone is more than the bundle cost which includes local TV, I am stuck with getting TV as well. So what am I really saving at this point? The cost of the STB rental and the Preferrred HD channel package (which would cover the channels I would want), which would be an additional $52/mo. along with the STB at $11.99/mo., so $767.88/year.

Take a look at this chart and all will become clear. Don’t forget we are using my current costs as a guideline, you may be actually paying less (or maybe you’re paying more). Your mileage as I am known to say, will vary.

Start from the top and review your current hardware. Have a HDTV, Blu-Ray player, digital stereo? Are any of the devices internet-ready? Read the manual to see if you can’t tell right off. Most recent purchases will probably be internet-ready already.

If they are, review what options they provide for streaming services. For example, my Blu-ray player can link to Pandora, Netflix and YouTube. If I stay within those options, I am all set and just need to sign up for the services I prefer, most of the popular ones are listed on the left, but you can only access the ones your hardware links to. If your hardware isn’t internet ready or you are looking for other/additional services, you need a hardware “bridge” like the items on the right. These are internet devices that bring services to your TV and Blu-ray player they doesn't have. Most are in the $100-$150 range, a pittance considering what you’ll end up saving in the first year.

Looking at my situation, I have two services my Blu-ray player can access, Netflix and YouTube. Netflix provides HD streaming content for $9.99 a month. If I wanted a larger range of service options, including free ones, I would look perhaps to the $99 Roku 3 or the new $149 Roku 4 to provide additional support for Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, your own video files, and many television sources. Some of these services do have advertising, so you’ll still need to weigh the benefits. You could even use a Roku or the other device to access your Netflix content as well. There’s a one-stop solution for you. And these devices are software-upgradeable as well, so they can keep up with changes to the services available online. Nice.

More people are also watching TV on their phones and tablets. And while I prefer the benefits of the big screen, if you are television sharing at home or want to sneak a quick episode in during lunch, work, or while cooking, there are advantages to accessing it on the device you’re on. In fact, with the use of an ad blocker, watching video on your laptop or desktop often allows you to bypass the commercials you would be forced to watch on other devices.

Have you cut the cord? What was your solution? How is it working for you? Do you feel you’re missing anything? Let me and the readers know. The next post deals with over-the-air HDTV known as ATSC.