Sunday, February 13, 2011

Internet TV

We're dropping cable.

And we're not going satellite.

We're going Internet.

For the last couple of months, I've played with some new toys: Apple TV, Roku, and the associated services those devices use.

I ran the numbers. That is, I looked at every show we regularly watch, how much it would have cost to have rented or purchased it via iTunes or, or obtained it through a Hulu Plus subscription, and figured out that we can, right now, save money if we watched what we watch already (with one exception) without paying for cable. Or for satellite.

And, I'm not done yet. I've got one more project to finish, and we'll be able to save even more money.

Now, I want you to know up front that all the local experts I've spoken with have talked about going to satellite. They don't understand that all I'm after is to watch TV cheaper. I don't want to spend the same amount of money to get a better picture, or more choices. I want to spend less money and get the same thing, and do it easily. More programs or better picture is a bonus, not a requirement.

I say that so you'll know that what I'm doing might not be for you. But it works for us.

Again, I'm not done. I've got three other pieces of equipment coming. One hasn't shipped yet; it's the final big piece, but I don't need it to drop cable. Another piece has shipped and is being held hostage by the incompetents at UPS in Montgomery. And the final piece I won't worry about until football season. I may not need it, depending on how well the other stuff works.

When the rest of the stuff comes in, and everything is set up and working, I'll give another update. But, for now, if you want to drop cable and watch the same stuff as now, here's pretty much what you need to do.

What You Watch

Make a list of the shows you watch. I made a spreadsheet that listed all the shows on the TiVo Season Pass. However you do it, write down everything you watch on a regular basis.

Alternative Sources

Next, you need to find out other ways to get the programming. Try iTunes. Or Amazon Video On Demand. Look at how much it would have cost to have rented or purchased the most recent season of the show. You pay by the show, and will often get a discount for the whole season.

My experience showed that iTunes was cheaper than for the TV shows I watch. This could be important for an unexpected reason, as you'll see later.

Also look at Hulu Plus. That's a subscription service that runs $7.99/month, totaling $95.88/year. Depending on what they offer and what you watch, it may be cheaper to use Hulu Plus, or it may be cheaper to rent/buy from iTunes or

Oh, and when checking Hulu Plus, ignore all the programs that are Hulu standard; that is, they don't have the little Hulu Plus icon next to them. You can't watch those on your TV. That's the problem with Hulu and Hulu Plus. Only Hulu Plus stuff can be watched on your TV. For now, anyway.

Getting the Content to the TV

One you have your content picked out, and an alternate source for the content, you still need to get the content to your TV.

If you do not have an HDTV, you can rule out iTunes. The best way to get iTunes content to the TV is by using an Apple TV device. And those little boxes only hook up with an HDMI connection. Apple TV will also let you watch Netflix streaming content.

Roku will let you watch Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video On Demand,, and lots of other stuff, some free, some premium (that means you gotta pay extra for it).

Local Channels

What about local channels? You need an antenna to watch those.

If you already have a TiVo or other DVR, you can hook an antenna to it and record local programming, as well as network shows. Those, you won't have to buy from iTunes or Amazon. Although you can watch Amazon Video On Demand and Netflix content from the TiVo device. But not iTunes.

If you don't have a TiVo (or other DVR), then you'll do like you do now and watch the program when it comes on. And, if your cable service is like mine, you'll watch it on a clearer picture with an antenna.

(Almost) Final Setup

I have the antenna plugged into the TiVo and the TiVo plugged into a component input on the TV set. That gets me the local channels and network TV.

I have the Apple TV plugged into an HDMI input on the TV.

I have the Roku plugged into an HDMI input on the TV.

If I had to pick just one, I'd pick the Roku, because, other than iTunes content, it gives me everything the Apple TV give me ... and more. But, if you can see yourself getting both, get both.

I'm calling this the (almost) final setup. That's because I mentioned some other stuff that's been ordered but hasn't arrived. Once those are in, I'll see how they go, and how this setup changes. I suspect it won't really change a lot.

The only that that has changed is that we're dropping the cable bill.

I will miss one program, Red Eye on Fox News. I'll miss it a lot. But not over $50/month miss it.


  1. Wow, you have enough hardware to launch the space shuttle just to watch television. Somehow technology is simply not outpacing the old rabbit ears, huh?

  2. Yep, the old rabbit ears are sitting on a shelf behind the TV. The Roku and Apple TV don't take up much space, though.

    The only thing I don't like is the remote control. Actually, remote controls. I can't find a cheap (keyword is cheap) universal remote that runs the Roku. If I did, that'd be great.

  3. Isn't Redeye on Hulu? For some reason I thought Greg Gutfeld had mentioned that one time.

  4. Well, yeah, kinda sorta.

    Red Eye is on Hulu (not Hulu Plus), which means I can watch it via the browser, but not on the TV. But the shows don't show up on Hulu until two weeks later. For example, today's now the 15th. And the most recent episode of Red Eye is from the 1st.

    So, yeah, kinda sorta.


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