via Cutting the Cord: Replacing Cable/Satellite with Streaming | Consumer Watch, clarionledger.com, 1/20/2013
Last year, as I was teaching a class, I was discussing the idea of communication as requiring some way to send and receive messages (the medium). To illustrate my point, I mentioned the term, “TV antenna”. One of my students (in her early 20′s) raised her hand and and asked, innocently, “what’s a TV antenna?” Other members of the class (most of them in their 30′s and 40′s), nearly fell out of their chairs laughing. But, yes, boys and girls, back in the dark ages of growing up in the 70′s, our choices were limited to whatever you could pull off the air with your rooftop antenna or “rabbit ears”. For us in the Jackson area, that meant Channels 3, 12, 16 and 29. One day, in the distant science-fiction future, we dreamed, we could have as many channels as we wanted.
Fast forward to 2013. Now, there are so many channels that we don’t know what to do with them all. In fact, there are so many channels that most people can’t — wouldn’t care to — possibly watch all of them.
However, as the rates for programming through cable and satellite keep growing, many people are saying “enough”. For the first time in history, last year saw major indications that people are leaving cable and satellite for “streaming”, which is receiving TV programming through a service like Netflix or Hulu, using your existing broadband Internet connection. And, as options get better and technology catches up, millions are finding that “cutting the cord” is the way to slash their entertainment costs while satisfying their hunger for programming. Apple’s iTunes is also offering content through their own AppleTV service.
One increasingly-popular option is Roku, featuring a small box smaller than a sandwich, which allows users to stream movies, sports, TV programs and special content using services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. In addition, owners of the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft’s X-Box 360 and Sony’s PS3 are finding that their devices come complete with the ability to stream content. Roku has no fees other than purchasing the device, and it provides an easy interface with the subscription channels. There is a lot of free content, but it consists largely of B-movies and video clips.
Recently, we decided to give it a try. We cancelled our DirecTV subscription and signed up for basic Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime trial subscriptions, turned on the Wii (It requires a wireless connection, which we already had), and found that I could log in from the Wii.
For now, our family is satisfied with the content, but it is changing our viewing habits. I have found that recent episodes of many of the shows we like to watch (including virtually all of CBS’ lineup such as NCIS and The Mentalist) are not available for free, although you can watch it free on the computer directly from the CBS website. Some of these shows are available from Amazon Prime for a per-episode charge, but that would perhaps defeat the purpose. (Amazon Prime, by the way, has a $79 annual fee that must be paid up front, and you still won’t get everything for no additional cost afterwards.)For the next several weeks, our family became movie junkies, watching dozens of movies and old TV programs like MacGyver , Miami Vice and Top Gear. Later, I added the Roku (about $80) and invested in a $20 antenna to pull in local channels.
The signal quality is excellent, but that depends on your broadband connection. We found that we can watch two programs simultaneously on the wired computer, and in HD on the Roku in the other room, with excellent picture quality and few interruptions. Some shows make you watch commercials, but the breaks are blissfully short.
The verdict? While we have watched lots and lots of programs, the convenience factor for cable/satellite can’t be overlooked. We are continuing the Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and watching shows on the computer. And come the next football season, we may have to do something else. At some point, we may switch back totally; however, for now, we are going to stay “off the cord”. I’d appreciate your opinions on whether you have tried cutting the cord for your own household. Happy streaming!
For more information on “cutting the cord”, a good article is here.
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