In these challenging economic times, everyone is looking for some ways to save money. Well, I have an idea that will save a ton: Fire your cable company!
Here’s the deal. I have not had cable TV for at least 7 or 8 years now, and I don’t miss it at all. I have never missed an episode of Lost or Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I know Battlestar Galactica was on the Sci Fi channel. But I saw every episode without paying the cable company $50+ per month for the privilege of watching their content.
So, how do you fire your cable company and yet still get to watch high quality content for all of your favorite TV shows? There are a number of options.
Online Streaming is going to be your cheapest option. If you have a computer and have broadband internet, you can stream almost every television show for free. Hulu is the best place to find content, but all networks are not represented there, so you can go direction to the network’s website as well. Normally shows are posted online the day after they air, but sometimes you have to wait a week (as in the case of the final couple of Battlestar Galactica episodes). ABC’s streaming player is particularly good, for all of my fellow Lost fans out there. You do have to wait through commercials with this option, but there are normally one 3 or 4 and they are very short.
If you can’t find a show available for online streaming, you don’t want to wait, or you want to be able to watch the show disconnected from the internet, iTunes is a good option. Using iTunes, you can download standard definition episodes for $1.99 and HD for $2.99. You can also buy season passes for shows that will save you some money. This is a great solution if you want to watch while on an airplane, on an iPhone, or other portable device. There are no commercials to watch if you use this solution.
The above solutions all have you watching television shows on your computer. But, you can also watch this content on your TV. That’s where a Home Theater PC, or HTPC, comes in to play. I wrote a post a while ago about my HTPC. I took an old Dell laptop and plugged it into my HD TV. This is great for most content, but sometimes I run into problems with that older PC not having enough horsepower for rendering the video. I’m hoping to upgrade this soon with a new Mac Mini or Dell Studio Hybrid. If you use a system like this you have the freedom of watching online streaming content on your TV. Adding a TV tuner to the computer will give you a DVR that you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for.
NetFlix or Blockbuster.com
TV show come out on DVD normally a couple of months at the conclusion of a season. You can buy the DVDs, but normally I don’t watch a given season of a show enough to justify buying it. Using a service like Netflix or Blockbuster.com is a great solution. Jenny and I have watched several seasons this way and it worked great. Each disc normally has 4 episodes on it, so we’d watch a disc over the course of a week. When we were done, we’d put it in the mail and get the next one a day or 2 later. We could watch an entire season of a show in 6 weeks this way. We watched all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls in the course of a summer a couple years ago doing this.
None of the solutions I have outlined above will work for sporting events, local news and weather, or my daughter’s morning cartoons. When we moved into our new house I installed an HD antenna in the attic. I took the output from this antenna and tied it into the coax running throughout the house by finding where the cable company’s line comes in, unplugging it, and attaching the cable from the antenna. I now have HD content coming to the entire house without having to pay a cable company for it. This is only going to be local broadcast stations, but that’s more than we normally watch. Plug this into the TV tuner built into your HTPC (above) and you have an HD DVR.
So, as you can tell, there are a lot of alternatives to play a ton of money to a cable company to receive television content. I use all of the options above from time to time with great success. I never miss a show that I want to watch and I don’t have to play a huge monthly fee for it.