Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cutting Cables and Breaking Dishes

Each month, I shell out $65 to Direct TV. I don't get HD, and I don't even get the movie channels anymore. There are some programs to which I am pretty devoted, but for the most part I don't care about 98% of what's on TV.

I am going to make it my mission to find a way to get the content I really want without going through satellite or cable, for less than either would charge. Here are my basic requirements:

Must be able to watch:
  • Cardinals Baseball
  • LOST
  • 30 Rock
  • The Office
  • Whatever the kids watch
Would be nice to watch:
  • ESPN
  • HBO content (not every show, but being able to watch content a la carte)
I know there are various ways that I can get all of this content. Some of it for free, some of it not for free. LOST, The Office and 30 Rock should be available in HD over-the-air. Most of the kids stuff we can probably get at the library. Cardinals Baseball may be a little tougher. I may have to buy it from, download it to the computer and watch it on our TV. Oh, and whatever the setup, I'll need to have something serving the purpose of a DVR. And to be able to watch it in the bedroom, basement, or living room would be ideal, although we may have to compromise on that.

I'm going to take a look at Hulu, Roku, YouTube, iTunes (and AppleTV), NetFlix, Amazon Unbox, etc. I may have to cobble this together somewhat, but if I can make a dent in that $65 / month, perhaps I can justify getting a nice HD TV.

Blogging this project gives me a chance to share it with you all, and hopefully learn some tips from you guys if you have already looked into these options. Anyone have anything to start off?


Coovo said...

The only thing I like about Comcast are the commercials with the turtles. They crack me up. I'll have to find a link to them for those of you don't experience them.

My friend turned me onto a site called sidereel. Has links to movies and tv shows. A lot of them have subtitles which look like CHinese or Japanes. Pretty sure its skating on the thin ice of legality but I've been able to keep with Jon and Kate plus 8 through it.

I've watched practically the whole season of burn notice on hulu. Same with ncis, but that is hulu linking it up with Doesn't look like you have any CBS shows on your list.

kevin said...

I made the move several years ago. No cable/HD/dish subscriptions anymore. I paid 10 dollars on Craigslist and picked up a really nice tube TV. Hooked it up to a DVD player. I like movies a lot more than TV, so I pay Netflix 20 a month. I pay like 4 dollar more than the minimum or something like that, and get 3 movies at a time for some variety.

I also have watched several TV shows/series through Netflix. I also watch Hulu for 30 rock/office/always sunny/etc. I believe Lost is on there. It's a great site and there are far fewer ads on there than regular TV.

There is sacrifice though. Sports is the biggest. MLB.TV is the only one I know of for the Redbirds. Great deal last I checked, but I've never done it. You can get your sports news on the web, but nothing is as good as Sportscenter. You also lose out on certain pop culture news. Granted that's not very important, but it's surprising how often it comes up in random social situations.
The other sacrifice is random stuff you like on TV that you forget you like - This Old House, or Big Machines - stuff like that.

And there are sites that stream TV for free from Japan and Russia and stuff. Never know if those links are gonna work though. They're broken half the time.

I also am not a stickler on HD quality, but others are. Streaming is just not as good a quality as normal TV. I believe it's all been compressed so that's the bottleneck if you play it on a nice TV. I also end up watching all Hulu on my laptop, which I know others would never do.

Netflix also has a bunch of stuff available to stream, so you know.

But great effort. I love that some competition is being introduced to the Comcasts of the world. It's definitely doable. You'll end up spending less money, become more efficient with your TV watching (spend less time watching TV), and take those fatcat network guys down a peg or two.

Ryan said...

This is a great post and a great experiment.

I'd think you'd have to include internet access as part of your cable package, or bill, right?

I know my parents just got a new service from AT&T that runs over the phone lines and is a ton cheaper. They get full cable and my dad says the internet is now faster on his computer.

I think watching TV series over Netflix is great. We watch Fringe on Hulu when we miss it on TV, but the quality is just too low. It's not something I would like to count on. The only other problem is that Netflix is very delayed, so you don't get the shows for a long time.

Keep us posted Roller.

Roller said...

Thanks for the comments and advice guys.

Kev, good point on the HD quality when streamed. I believe AppleTV can get you close to HD quality, but the content is obviously limited to iTunes, and not free.

Most major stations broadcast over the air in HD now, and most HD TVs have built in tuners. So I should be able to get LOST, 30 Rock etc. in HD over the air (i.e. for free), although I don't think I could DVR those shows. Having had Tivo for 5 years or so, I think it would be pretty hard to go back.

Netflix does offer a streaming option, in fact there were some rumors recently that they were considering going to an all streaming model (but decided against).

Rye, we connect to the net via DSL (over the phone line), so breaking the TV connection won't affect that. I don't think there's any way I could break my addiction to the wonderful internet...

G. Smith said...

I love the effort, and have some thoughts on the matter. I cut the Comcast chord some time ago, and now we run everything through our computer.

Hulu's great for most of those shows. And if the streaming doesn't work, check out a site called It's a peer to peer site. They seem to carry most every new show out there, usually available a couple hours after it originally airs. All network stuff is there, plus HBO & Showtime type shows. It's so good, in fact, I'm pretty sure it's also skating very close to some legal limitations. There is an additional piece of software that you have to run to use this site.

We Netflix too, and even use their Watch It Now feature - where we've been able to catch up on classics like Ghostbusters, and Mannequin (nothin's gonna stop us now!).

You could save even more money by bypassing Netflix, and checking out movies from the Library - the Seattle library has an online check-out system with the same library Netflix has, but it's all free.

I'd say that one of the things I like most about our system is that even though we still watch a good amount of T.V., it takes a moment of effort to find it, which cuts down on the chances I'll find myself watching the Golden Girls at 2am thinking Blanche was actually quite a looker...what I mean to say is that we can limit our T.V. to shows we want to watch, and cut down on the other stuff that rots your brain...

The big gaping hole our setup is all sports - I'm interested in hearing what works there...

Marty said...

I'm so happy that a Mannequin reference was made on this blog...and now, simply by mentioning that there was a Mannequin II, there has now been a Mannequin II reference made on this blog. Which once again enhances my google search when I am trying to think of random search terms with Fr. Hagan's name in it that will ultimately lead me back to this blog....

....oh, and I think this is a fantastic idea, because Comcast could be one of my most hated companies of all times. Not only are their prices insane, they're rude, one of their service people stole an ipod from a friend's apartment while I was there, and their commercials suck....except for the "Sorry tiger now..." one...

I went to Dish Network for pretty much the same service at a fraction of the cost, but they're still not great....and this roadblock of sports probably means that you should spend more of your time up at HotShots on Manchester watching your Redbirds...I'm sure they have great specials...

kevin said...

last year i watched every single KU game not at my house. which means i was either inviting myself over to friends' houses (it's harder when they're married), or going to bars. bars are fun, esp when you find a good one with a big TV (that doesn't mute!). however, i found that i'd have a few beers every time and maybe some food. i realized that every game was costing me like 20 bucks which doesn't pan out.

that said, last year was a great year to see every KU game...

Jim said...

Rollo: haven't had cable for a couple years. Combination of Netflix, hulu, and just not watching TV. Tonight, watched an awesome dvd of some Stax artists' tour (Live in Norway 1967) that was totally awesome. Hey, I have an idea: let's get Booker T and the MGs to go on tour, but we'll just make them the backing band, and bring out one legendary artist after the other. Sounds good. So I wanted that instead of Golden Girls tonight. Have watched a number of TV series off of Netflix. I find it is good to have one of those on hand if you don't feel like watching a movie for 2 hrs (or more likely, don't have 2 hrs to spare). Sports: you can do Cardinals baseball on and is works and is fairly reasonable. You do miss a lot of sports, but I find you don't really miss it so much. If I have to see a game, I go to a bar (and generally experience the problem described by Kevin).

Marty said...

Jim, I saw that Stax in Norway doc. w/ Sam and Dave and was pretty awesome...there's also a pretty good one called Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story if your interested. I thought it was pretty relevance to Roller's mission or post....just thought it was good as well.

Coovo said...

Seriously guys, it's Styx.

Marty, give the Comcast turtles a chance. The male turtle is hilarious.

For sports, has a lot more on it than just what is on ESPN. Also I noticed a link on Yahoo that brought me directly to a live broadcast of a Blackhawks game once. CBS college sports also has some live streams but mostly they are just one camera the whole game, unless you want to upgrade.