Like most American’s, our family had cable TV, Comcast in our area. And it was good, just expensive. Having 2 TVs, HD service, and a DVR really adds up. Throw in the sports package to be able to watch NFL Network in the fall and we’re talking a healthy sum of money each month. Now we’re doing fine financially, but we have a house, a toddler, and are planning for another one in the future. The more we can save, the better, right?
Channels, Channels, Channels
Our most common complaint is one you can read about whenever someone talks about cable (or U-verse, or satellite). We had more channels than anyone can watch. We had just about each channel twice, one in standard def, and one in HD. I never did count them, but I would guess we had about 250 HD channels. Of which, I think we watched about 15 on a regular basis. And most of those weren’t watched live, but through the DVR after we recorded the show.
When you compare the total number of channels available per your monthly bill, you’re probably close to $0.25 a channel. Not too bad. But when you compare that bill to our actual usage… Now it’s more like $10 a channel. Throw in that 4 of those channels are the major networks, and that makes you think if there is a better way.
I know that the “À La Carte” channel model will never happen even though that is the trend most technologies are headed. If that were an option on Comcast, we would have stayed a cable TV customer. We are still an Internet customer, but on the business side.
To the Cloud! – Kind of
So what’s the alternative? We do like to watch some TV. Just not as much any more.
Netflix – Of course! Hulu Plus also helps fill in the gaps. But we have a nice HD TV which is a monster compared to our laptop screens!
Roku to the rescue!
IPTV – The future is here
I don’t remember exactly where I first heard about Roku boxes. I think it was a podcast or maybe Slashdot. Either way, this device is pretty slick. You can connect it to your Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant accounts to get started. Then there are a bunch of free and premium channels available as well. Roku also has an SDK which allows developers to create their own channels from content they may already have available in the web. You can even connect into your Pandora account to listen to music through it. A little Googling, and you can even find a channel to watch YouTube.
Roku has 3 different models available ranging from $60 to $100. This is a one time fee. You just have to pay for the other services you use, like Netflix or the premium channels. Honestly, there is no reason not to just get the XD|S version and call it a day. Full HD, wireless N, optical output, AND a USB port which can be used to view pictures or play movies. All of that is worth the extra $40 in my opinion.
Overall, the quality is really good. Granted, having a 20MB downstream internet connection sure helps that, but overall, we haven’t had any issues with the Roku box itself. It holds the wireless connection well and picture quality is really good for streaming. We even picked up a second Roku for the other TV.
Just about perfect
Overall, Netflix & Hulu Plus cover about 80% of everything I want to watch. We don’t have Amazon Instant right now. Hulu Plus is good, but the commercials have to go. I’d pay another $5 a month to be totally commercial free. Saturday Night Live is pretty much skit, commercial, skit, commercial. Plus, I like Big Bang Theory, so no CBS on Hulu also hurts a bit. The CBS website does cover that though.
The transition was pretty smooth. Our TV bill is now about 1/10th what it was before. We miss the DVR and select shows that aren't on Hulu Plus, but everything else is on demand anyways. There’s also plenty of children’s programming for our little guy. I have thought of getting an antenna and seeing what local channels get can get in HD. We haven’t quite gotten to that point yet, but maybe someday.