Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cutting the Cable - but still love TV? Here's what I'm doing.

I have been spending TOO MUCH money on my cable bill. Too much! For too long! But, I kept paying the bill because it was SO HANDY having DVR set up. I loved, LOVED having my favorite shows just 'appear' in my Recordings menu without me having to pay attention to what channel they are on, when they come on, when the season starts, or anything. Once I have set up a series recording, my work is done and I just get pleasant news when a new episode appears in my list to watch.

BUT. I was paying an ungodly amount of money for the convenience. $120 a month x 12 months = $2,400. Because I liked the convenience.

I had purchased a Roku device last winter as a Christmas gift to myself, my son and also gave one to my other son.

One of the benefits of Roku is that it's REALLY easy to add Netflix and watch movies/old shows on the TV very conveniently. Streaming online on a laptop isn't family television - it's watching a computer monitor. Streaming to the TV though? Nice. Convenient.

But, Netflix doesn't have recent television episodes. And, while I'm also sort-of thinking about Amazon Prime - they don't have recent television episodes either.

Hulu Plus though? Does. Some. Some are limited to PC only. Still not 'quite' as convenient as my previous DVR experience with cable... you have to know to go check for the most recent episode. But, better. Plus they have a lot of shows not found on Netflix nor Amazon Prime. I just wish that the studios wouldn't put the "web only" (i.e., pc not Roku) limitation on their deals with Hulu Plus.

Vudu - Vudu is a pay-per-view or purchase option for movies and/or tv series. I just popped down a $20 charge to purchase the First Season of Defiance (otherwise only available via PC on Hulu Plus or SyFy.com). That means I can pop-up and view any episode in the season at any time on any PC with a roku device (which are all of our TV's)... and get to watch it as often as I want. What I'm thinking is that there are probably two or three shows that I would want to do this with. Falling Skies is one that I'm debating buying the latest season of... because I will rewatch it repeatedly. In my opinion, this is handier than buying a DVD season collection, because I don't have to store the DVD's find them - figure out where the case is, etc. AND I don't have to store the data on any hardware - it's all stored on Vudu - you are just buying the 'rights' to stream it when you want to.

And the last piece of the puzzle? I haven't done it yet. But here's how I plan on catching new shows on the network and/or series that might not be free on the other services, but also not worth owning the season as I won't watch them a dozen times.

1. Purchase an HD-tuner for my son's desktop PC
2. Install free-ware DVR software on son's desktop PC
3. Configure his DVR software to utilize his existing PLEX Server which already can stream from his PC to any Roku box

This will get us the ability to record from the free HD networks in our area. I don't have an HD box now (as I was using a cable box, I didn't need one)... so I'm not entirely sure which networks are free these days. Obviously, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS... but maybe FOX and some other networks as well...

As it is, all of our DVD movies (well, almost all, still working through the pile) have been converted to digital format and/or downloaded the digital copy and are available via PLEX. This lets us all enjoy any DVD from our collection on any Roku on our TV's without dealing with the DVD itself. This is especially useful now that my last DVD player has died. I'm debating about buying a Blue Ray player - and may still - maybe. But the digital copy is easier and preferred. So, let's say that Son #1 is watching movie XYZ. And I get to watch the first hour of it before I have to go somewhere. And Son #2 gets to see 5 minutes of it, and decides he wants to watch it from the beginning. Son #1 can keep watching from where he is. Son #2 can go into the other room and start the movie over again from the start. And I can come home in 15 minutes and start the movie in a third room over from the 1 hour mark where I had to step out. You cannot beat that for convenience. Seriously.

Now, some of these are monthly charges. Some of these are one-time expenses. But I'm saving a LOT of money.

Here's a one year comparison on expenses (including the purchase of all devices):

CABLE - $2400 - year 1
ROKU & services - year 1:
 - 3 Roku devices = $200
 - HD Digital Tuner = $100 (probably less, but I haven't finished deciding which device is best)
 - 12 months Netflix = $100
 - 12 months Hulu Plus = $100
 - Vudu purchases - (doubling, plus extra over what I think I'll spend in case I end up buying more than planned)  = $100
Total = $600

So, in the first year, alone - I should expect to save around $1800. But the savings next year?

CABLE - $2400 - year 2
ROKU & Services - year 2
- 12 months Netflix + 12 months Hulu Plus + Vudu purchases = $300

Second year and later savings??? $2100 per year.

Is it as convenient? Nope. It's not. But it's pretty darn nice.

Now, some folks will wonder why I'm not including WiFi and Interenet expenses into my calculations - after all - you don't need to pay for Internet with Cable to watch tv; but do if your streaming. The reason I didn't include it is because I WAS ALREADY paying for high-speed Internet BEFORE I cut the CABLE. Lots of folks do. So, in my calculations, it's a wash. For everyone else - it's probably a $40 to $60/ month additional expense. So the savings wouldn't be quite as dramatic... but if, like me, you arleady have a highly networked/internet life .... then maybe it's time to consider swtiching over to other options.

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