Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting Rid of Cable TV

UPDATE 2016: I've been using roku's almost exclusively after getting rid of the Boxee Box and Xbox360 (I do still have a Playsation3 we use for these apps).

I recently realized I was paying $160.00 a month for cable TV and Internet, after a promotion I had expired. My bill was $110 before that, which was really still too much. I just had up to 18mbps downloads and 1.5 uploads, and my cable was rather basic and didn't include HBO, Cinemax or Showtime. If you were wondering if it's worth ditching cable or satellite TV, read on!

I just decided to ditch cable TV all together and just have internet (up to 18 mbps downloads for $53.00 a month). My provider, AT&T UVerse, didn't have any other promotions right now that sounded any good. The best they could do to lower my bill was jump me down to 70 channels (Family Plan) for $82 a month + taxes and surcharges (and those taxes and surcharges end up being $15-20 in California), so I'd be right back at ~$100 a month.

In the living room I already have an Xbox360 (which are capable of Netflix streaming. EDIT: XBox 360 is also capable of Hulu Plus!), a stand-alone Sony blu-ray player and Boxee Box. The Boxee Box is great because it streams any downloaded file such as .avi, .mkv, .mp3, etc, and can stream Netflix and comes with free streaming channels like Southpark, Youtube, NasaTV, Tech Podcasts, HGTV, News channels, and much more). What's also great about the Boxee Box its that it never has a problem finding my network. I just right-click a folder on any of my computers (be them Linux, Windows or Mac), share the folder, and bam, it shows up in Boxee Box instantly.

For the bedroom TV, since I would only have had a DVD player after getting rid of cable TV, I decided to get a "Roku 2 XS" player (capable of netflix, hulu, amazon prime, games like angry birds, etc). It was only ~$90 and I signed up for Hulu Plus. Note that they also make $59 versions of Roku boxes that are almost as good.

Even if that all that ends up not being enough content, and I decide to reactivate my Netflix account, that will still only be $53 (internet) + $8 (hulu plus) + $8 (netflix) = $69 a month. But since I don't have any plans to ever go back to Netflix, I expect my monthly internet/"pseudo TV" bill to only be about $61.00.

So I'm saving $90-100 a month by getting rid of Cable TV. The Roku will have paid for itself the first month alone. Plus with all that savings I can upgrade to Spotify Premium and maybe get a Squeeze Box and still be saving money; and I'm way better off than I ever was with cable TV that had a ton of channels I never watched. With a modern internet connection I have yet to even have the Roku or Boxee have any bothersome "buffering" problems even while streaming from three devices at once.

One other thing to consider is that when you give up cable, you have to give them back your cable boxes (set top boxes). Since they usually come with a universal remote control that you can no longer use, I recommend purchasing a good univeral remote, which you can get from almost any department or electronic store. I recommend at least a Logitech Harmony 650, which can control at least 5 devices at once and lets you set up macros to automatically turn on your tv, device(s), and switch to the appropriate HDMI port. The harmony line should even partially control your XBox 360, Boxee Box, etc, believe it or not. So look to spend at least $50-100 on a good universal remote.

For any other content I might be missing there's always iTunes (I'm always getting gift cards), RedBox, video streaming apps for iPhone/iPad, and so on. For HBO and Showtime shows that I love to watch, I mostly just wait until the season of the series completes so I can watch them all at once and without commercials.

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