It’s been almost 10 months since I fired my cable company. I’ll be honest, I’ve only missed having cable on a few occasions. Instead, I’ve been able to configure my home in a way that lets me pay less and still receive almost all of the benefits that I took advantage of while a cable television subscriber.
We didn’t cancel our cable because we didn’t watch TV or because we didn’t like what shows were on. We got rid of cable because it didn’t make sense for us to pay for 150 channels when we only watched 5 or 6.
Cable companies make their money off of selling you packages of channels even though you probably will never watch a single show on most of them. Verizon Fios, Comcast, Time Warner Television, and many other cable companies do everything they can to convince you that more channels, more DVRs, and more packaged services will save you money. In reality, they just cost you more. But, don’t believe you have no other option. You can cut your cable, keep DVR functionality, and enjoy most live sporting events.
Digital Broadcast Television
You may remember a couple years ago the federal government had television broadcasters shut down their analog and replaced them with Digital Television Signals. It turns out, that the digital television that is now streamed over the air for local channels comes through in HD quality. If you live within 15 miles of where your local stations broadcast their TV shows you can likely pickup all of the local channels with a simple HD Television Antenna. This one is available for just $29.95. ‘
Unfortunately, my home sits about 22 miles outside of where the local TV stations broadcast. We were able to pick up Fox, and NBC, but CBS and ABC didn’t come in clearly. We considered buying a larger antenna to help us pickup the free signals but decided against it since we’re renting our home.
Instead, I did some research and discovered that with Verizon Fios, you can purchase just your local TV stations (Fox, NBC, CBS, CW, ABC, PBS, and a few others) for just $10 a month. I signed up for this service and was sure not to order any Set-Top Boxes from Verizon. Their customer service representative did their best to convince me I had to have one, but they were wrong. Fios streams their local TV channels un-encrypted, so any TV includes a digital tuner can see local stations without a Set-Top box. The quality has been perfect and I’ve been able to watch all of the local stations that I previously watched while a full cable subscriber.
What About DVR? HDHomeRun To The Rescue
After we started receiving local channels again my wife quickly requested the ability to record her shows. I did some research and discovered an amazing solution that wouldn’t include a $19 a month rental fee from Fios for a DVR or a $10 month subscription to TIVO.
Elgato, the company that has created the award winning EyeTV software, offers a device that turns every Mac in your home into a DVR. Their HDHomeRun is a device that you connect to your TV Coaxial Cable line. It then converts the TV signal coming into your home into a digital stream that computers on your network can access. After picking up the HDHomeRun, setting it up in our home and installing EyeTV on our Computers, I installed had 5 more devices that I could watch television on.
HDHomeRun works great with the EyeTV software that once installed on your Mac lets you schedule and record any shows that are available to you. The shows are recorded as they air on your Mac. The software allows you to watch the recording on your Mac or convert it to an AppleTV format to watch on your normal television. It also allows for conversion to iPad or iPhone friendly formats for mobile viewing.
In addition, I’ve found that I’ve been able to keep a significantly larger library of TV shows that I’ve recorded on the Macs in my home than I ever did while using a DVR and it’s limited HardDrive space.
Since installing HDHomeRun we haven’t missed a single show. It’s been a great solution to our DVR needs and lets us record more than one show at a time. A can’t say more in this HDHomeRun review about how great the functionality has been.
I will note that the computer we record on is wired directly to the router that is connected to the HDHomeRun device. We found that at times the signal sent over the wireless network is not as stable given the high bandwidth requirements for HD video.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and iTunes Store Replace OnDemand Video
Another service that many cable companies promote is their OnDemand video capabilities. Unfortunately for them almost all of the shows they offer are available through Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu+, or the iTunes Store. We leverage a combination of service to watch the shows and movies we’re interested in checking out that we haven’t recorded on our HDHomeRun.
In addition to the sports broadcast on NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC, you can also watch a live sports through services like ESPN3 if your internet provider is partnered with ESPN for this service. I’ve found this year that almost every sporting event I was interested in was available through my local channels or ESPN3 on my Xbox360. Even the Super Bowl was streamed live over the internet. The NBA has been the one exception given it’s contract with TNT but it does offer a League Pass streaming video service you can access over the internet and pay for the teams you’re most interested in watching. I support the “pay for what you watch” model the NBA has adopted even if it’s a bit over priced.
The future of television is not in combining 150 channels people don’t watch. Instead, it will be allowing people to subscribe to and pay for the content they’re interested in. Digital TV signals, HDHomeRun, and Streaming Video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and iTunes make all of this possible.
I can only imagine how much easier this all will be when Apple announces their own iTV.