Get rid of satellite or cable TV for a Boxee Box and streaming subscriptions?
by, 02-09-2013 at 03:32 PM (10108 Views)
I found myself asking out loud recently how to eliminate cable and satellite TV costs without losing access to any of the TV shows, movies and other features that those in my household have grown accustom to, and of course without paying any extra, and perhaps even lowering the monthly bill. As I explore the answer, I thought I would do it in the form of a blog post here.
Watching TV over the Internet and getting free HD TV over the air with an antenna
I found that in order to eliminate TV feeds from satellite and/or a local cable provider I was looking at 1 or 2 alternative sources of TV input. The first, probably most obvious one is via the Internet. Naturally to pull video-sized bytes of data through the Internet requires high speed (broadband) Internet access. For some, this could mean an extra expense when no longer being part of a satellite or cable TV package deal, or there may be an extra expensive if having to pay for more or faster bandwidth. Fortunately for me I am not part of a combination discount package and I already have the fastest rate available with my Internet Service Provider, with unlimited monthly usage.
In an effort to continue to get "live TV" in HD, so as not to lose access to major broadcast networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, PBS, etc. I decided an antenna was in order. Some of the larger networks do offer limited streaming of their shows via a web browser but I don't want to watch TV in front of a small screen, nor do I want to dedicate a PC to attach to the TV, not yet at least. The PC, for us, is more like a backup, or extra, TV option.
Now, upon researching different antenna options, you'll find that any display labelled as an HDTV likely has an in-built ATSC tuner, which, with the right antenna, will give you access to daytime and primetime content.
Boxee TV for major TV channels, antenna included
I'm going at the feature set in reverse here, but the Boxee TV device comes with an antenna to pick up local over the air channels for live TV, and it does so in HD. This box allows us to pick up most major broadcast networks and it comes with an antenna so there is no need to climb the roof and attach one outside. The indoor antenna does the trick. This box, with included antenna is less than $100.
But that's not all...
Fee based Video on Demand (VOD) services
There are plenty of fee based services that allow unlimited streaming of TV shows and movies. The major service providers here include Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU and Hulu. Some of these allow one-time rentals or purchases for movies, TV shows and seasons and some also include DVD rental by mail. I'm more interested in on-demand services that I can stream to my TV or other "connected" device.
Now, most of these services are less than $10 per month. They all have different content available to them, some have exclusive material, but much will overlap. I think that if we were to sit down and create a "must watch" list to satisfy all of our TV needs, one or two of these services will provide exactly what we want. Sports aside, coupled with the antenna, we will likely have more TV than we ever need.
A lot of sports can still be accessed through local TV and to some extent, VOD, but this area might be the the clincher for many people. Many of the major sporting networks offer subscriptions for streaming to a browser (and many know that if it works on the PC, the TV can be used as a large PC monitor), but fortunately, for us, sports do not factor into the equation as much and we would be satisfied with what does come through via VOD and antenna.
A great plus with most VOD services, like Netflix, is that TV shows and movies can be watched commercial free. A drawback though is that unless leveraging the pay-per-use side of things, there might be a delay in terms of hours, days, weeks or months to gain access to certain content. Also, just because a service has a partnership with a certain content provider, not all shows from that network are necessarily going to be available. That is something that would have to be checked against the family's "must watch" list.
Most VOD services offer a free trial, that way you can see first hand what the selection is, and at the same time see if your bandwidth is cut out for the demand.
The Boxee for major streaming service support and DVR capability
Boxee has built in support for the major streaming providers so that is a simple plug and play setup once you have the subscriptions in place. What this means is that all top tier streaming apps are supported so you can stream Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, Vimeo, Pandora and more to your TV.
If you think that you will miss the rewind and fastforward features of a DVR, well Boxee has a monthly service, currently at $10, normally $15 that lets you store an unlimited amount of content "in the cloud". The keywords here are "unlimited" and "in the cloud". Since the content is in the cloud, playback can happen on any device from the local network or that has access to the online Boxee account from the Internet. In example terms that means "sit on the beach and watch a recorded show from your smart phone." Of course you can also stream from your Netflix account while you are there as well.
Another Boxee feature worth mentioning, although it may seem trivial and a feature that should be present by default, is the ability to plugin an external device to the Boxee box via USB. The multimedia content on the external device (thumb drive or external hard drive for example) is now available for playback on the HDMI-connected screen, likely the TV in most cases.
Crunching the numbers
There are many many combinations of hardware and service costs that could come into play in the before and after scenarios of eliminating satellite or cable TV, so I'll just add up a few numbers based on one "after" scenario.
Say we decided to subscribe to two of the VOD streaming providers, we are looking at a cost of around $20/month, granting us access to LOTS of TV. Now, let's say we want to capture the video coming across the air waves and have the ability to record it as well, so that it can be played back on any device. We are looking at another $10 or $15 per month for the service and $100 one time for the hardware. Now, that's not too bad at all.
Granted, we are not including the cost of broadband Internet and mobile phone fees, but just like the TV and PC, those were most likely already in place.
With all that said, I'm going to read a good old fashioned paperback book and remove myself from the "digital" realm as much as possible for the next couple of hours. I hope that something in these 1200 plus words allowed you to put in action something to save a buck or two, or much more, for you and your family.
Have you canceled cable or satellite TV?
If you have, please feel free to share your story in the comment area below this post.