Well, it seems that this loyal reader called my cutting of cable in my post, “My Break Up with XM Radio“. I have indeed severed my pay TV service with the local cable company. However, unlike most who do this, I have opted completely (or at least almost) out of the pay TV service model. I’ll get into the specifics, but first let’s take a look at the situation that lead to this life changing (for some) decision.
A few months ago, I realized one of my dreams of being a Nealson Family. Finally, I would be part of the few, proud whom determine what the rest of the world gets to watch on TV. While filling out the the infamous logs, I quickly realized a couple things. First, Neilson’s measurement methodology is incredibly flawed. (look for a future posting on this topic alone). Second, the vast majority of what I was watching was readily available free, over the air OR online. Something is going to have to change and change it did.
Like many pay TV subscribers, I had become accustomed to DVR service. Before I cut pay TV altogether, about 2 years ago I transitioned to TiVo when I became frustrated with the local cable company’s dvr offering. This transition allowed me to subscribe to a “basic” package, but could still digitally recorded. This allowed me to time shift programming, skip commercials, pause live TV and more. The TiVo platform was even smarter that the cable company dvr, automatically recording programs that it thought matched my interests or matched a preset search or “wishlist” that I created. I could even export programs to my laptop or iPod to watch when away from home. If that was not enough, I actually saved money as I did not have to subscribe to the “advanced” TV service. However, there is a small up front cost for equipment and a monthly fee for TiVo service, but in my case it was less than what I was paying to “rent” from the cable company.
The next epiphany came with my increased use of online video services like iTunes, Amazon OnDemand, Netflix, ESPN 360, Hulu and even YouTube. For quite a while we have supplemented our “normal” TV viewing with streaming Netflix, archives of sporting events on ESPN 360 and even short, funny video clip on YouTube. Since having TiVo service, we have rented and/or purchased movies and TV shows (including many popular cable networks) from Amazon all downloaded/streamed directly to my TV. Additionally, most of the major pro sports leagues have gone online offering online editions of the packages that were once only available with an expensive pay TV subscription. This year, I subscribed to an entire season of hockey with NHL Game Center. For about the cost of upgrading to digital or “advance” cable alone, I could get access to all live games (subject to blackout of course) PLUS replays of all the games from the current season AND the previous two. All games are available within 48 hours of the game’s original air date. All in all, it seemed that Internet based programming would supplement my need for content above and beyond what the big four networks would provide.
Which brings us to the most mystical part of my journey, transitioning to over the air (OTA) television. When I purchased my house, there had not been cable service for many years. All that time the residents of this house tied their TV(s) to an antenna in the attic. However, now that OTA is digital, what am I to do? In short, nothing new. One of the biggest misnomers in the “digital transition” is that you would need a digital antenna. While it is true that you need either a digital converter or a TV with a digital tuner, you DO NOT need a new antenna.
So what exactly can I watch with just an antenna? Think about your favorite programs and then think about what networks they are on. If you are like me, the vast majority of your “must see” list is on NBC, ABC, CBS or FOX. Also, I found some channels that were not available from my local cable company that played syndicated reruns of classic TV shows (think cable networks when not in prime time) as well as a Universal Sports, a network that airs “Olympic Style” sports programming most of the day. During the recent Winter Olympics it was like ESPN Sports Center for the Olympics.
So, tying it all together now. In order to make my own personal digital transition, I purchased a TiVo HD DVR. It is capable of recording two OTA programs at a time PLUS it can download an ever growing list of news and entertainment programming from the Internet. I can rent just about everything on the shelf at either the movie rental store or even Red Box, but not have to leave my house to do so or worry about returning a movie or paying for extra days rental. For prime time, cable network programs (such as Burn Notice, Mad Men or even Jersey Shore) I can purchase each episode or the entire season which can then be viewed at my leisure on TiVo. Lastly, I can even watch YouTube programming. On a side note, you have NEVER experience the full potential time suck of YouTube until you have it available on your living room TV.