Now, I don't mean pulling up a browser and watching TV shows on my computer. That's watching TV shows on the computer. I mean watching TV via the Internet. On the TV. That big ol' expensive TV we bought a couple of years ago to watch stuff on.
I figured up the cost of cable per year, and how much we could get the same shows during the same year. Some months, it was more expensive to do it via the Internet. But most months, it was cheaper. And, over the course of a year, it was a lot cheaper to drop cable. So, we did.
Here's what we ended up with:
- Apple TV - For watching stuff bought or rented through iTunes. It also works for music. Now, Wife can play her stuff through the nice sound system, rather than those tiny little speakers on her computer, or through her headphones. And Netflix.
- Roku - For watching stuff bought through Amazon (Amazon Instant Video, nee Amazon Video On Demand/Unbox). And Netflix. Hulu Plus. And other stuff.
- Windows Media Center running on a Dell Zino 410 with 2 TV tuners - For recording shows over the air, as well as watching CBS shows via the Internet (CBS doesn't let its shows air on Hulu). I added plugins for Boxee and Hulu. And it comes with the ability to stream Netflix.
There's also the loss of certain shows. Red Eye, for instance. Although there are ways to get this and other shows through what we shall call "unofficial sources." That's the biggest drawback.
Another drawback, but of lesser concern, is the bandwidth restrictions that Internet service providers are starting to put on users. AT&T has dropped restrictions (150 GB) on us, for instance. And, we went over those restrictions in January and March, but not by much. They won't start billing for overages until next month. But, we might encounter that down the road.
Rather than watching, say, Fringe on Hulu, we record it over the air and watch that. And, we're doing that for all broadcast programs. So, we get commercials, but cut down on Internet bandwidth usage.
So, was doing this a good thing? Well, it works for me. I like it.
But, is it for you? It depends. If you don't mind having to juggle remotes, then you're able to get a good deal of content by using Internet-based content, plus over-the-air programming.
Everything carried on broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, NBC) is available on the Internet. Everything I watch, anyway; there may be something that's not available via iTunes, Hulu, or some other source, but, really, just about everything is.
Cable-only programming might be an issue for you. The only show I watch regularly that isn't available is Red Eye. Official excerpts are available (usually 1/4 to 1/2 of the total show) via iTunes. Unofficial sources are available for the full programs, usually within hours of broadcast.
If you want to use just one source for Internet TV, the cheapest way is Roku. It's pretty east to set up, too.
Another way, though more expensive, is Windows Media Center running something like a Dell Zino 410 with TV tuners -- but, like I said, that runs up some money, having a dedicated computer. Plus, the setup is a little more involved.
Apple TV isn't the best choice for a single source of Internet TV, but it's actually pretty good. And the easiest of all to set up.
It might not be for you. But, if you want to expand your current TV options, you can add either a Roku or Apple TV device.
You might not drop cable or satellite TV. But, you might find that one of those devices make your TV options a little more enjoyable.