Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fox / Time Warner Cable Dispute

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fox wants Time Warner Cable to pay them $1 a user for the rights to carry FOX on their cable service.  Time Warner appears unwilling to pay such a high price.  Negotiations are ongoing, however, it's very possible that Time Warner Cable will not be carrying Fox as of the New Year.

Cheaper-TV take:  Once again, this is a case of greed in which the big loser is the consumer.  Here's my recommendation to Time Warner Cable subscribers... buy a $4 pair of rabbit ears and connect it to your TV.  If you want to watch Fox, simply catch the broadcast channel.  Who knows, you may come to the realization that you can live without cable TV.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Broadcasters Respond to Cheaper-TV

As I start planning on how to pay less for TV, the broadcasters are trying to figure out ways to make more money.

See Story

Cheaper-TV take:  They're full of it.  I'm no TV exec, but I think the broadcast TV business model is pretty simple, create programming, and charge more for advertising than it costs you to broadcast the shows.   If the networks pull away from free broadcast TV, I hope some other company that knows how to make an advertising business model work steps in.  Come to think of it, I know just the company that could pull it off...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rumor Mill: Apple TV to get a Subscription Model

Word on the street is that Apple is in negotiations with major broadcast TV content providers including ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX to provide a subscription model for Apple TV.  Apple would like to provide commercial free content on demand.  Boy Genius Report has a full description of this rumored service.

Cheaper-TV take: This is not something which would be of interest, as we are trying to bring our pay TV costs down.  Of course this is all rumor now, and I'm sure the Apple implementation will be very well done.  There seem to be 2 big benefits with a service like this... content on demand, and uninterrupted TV viewing.  Using a DVR, I should be able to provide the broadcast TV content on demand, and the fast forward button on the remote should do the trick for skipping commercials.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Planning the conversion project

Moving away from cable takes some serious planning.  I always find it easiest to list out the tasks before jumping into a project.  Below are my remaining tasks:
  1. Buy and install an Antenna - I have my eye on DB4 Multi Directional Antenna.
  2. Test Reception - before I cut the cable, I have to ensure I get good reception.  Bad TV reception might put the whammy on my cable cutting plans.
  3. Subscribe to a Movie Service - Hello NetFlix and Roku
  4. Break the news - Let the kids know about my plans.  I think it's best that they don't get much time to mourn the loss of Nickelodeon. 
  5. Move the Phone - subscribe to a VOIP service and move my current home phone number.
  6. Call The Cable Company - break the bad news to Comcast.
  7. Live Cable Free!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Replacing the Home Phone

In order to cut the cable, I have to find a new service provider for my home phone.  Considering that I plan to keep my high speed internet connection, the cheapest option appears to be finding a reliable VOIP provider.  I eventually would like to move my home phone number to Google Voice, so I'd like to have no contract, or keep the commitment to under one year. has ton's of information on making the move to VOIP, including service provider reviews and an up-to-date grid on service providers and their fees.  Currently I'm leaning towards ViaTalk or PhonePower.

One other option I have is to go with T-Mobile@Home.  I'm currently planning to update my cell phone plan when the new Google Nexus One is released.  If I go with the Even More Plus plan, I can add the @ Home service for $10 a month, with no contract.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Current State of TV in My Home

I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  My family owns 4 TV's, 3 of which are connected to cable TV.  I have the Comcast Triple Play package, and currently pay $141 for Cable TV, Home Phone, and High Speed Internet.  In addition to basic cable, I also subscribe to HBO, Showtime, Encore, and Starz.  So for my family home entertainment, I pay $1,692 dollars a year.

There are two parts of the triple play package that my family can't live without; the home phone and a high speed internet connection.  I think we could do without the home phone considering my wife, my oldest son, and I each have cell phones. However, my wife believes it would be too big of an inconvenience to give up the home phone because too many people, schools, doctors, etc. have our home phone number.  I'll give in for now, but once Google Voice allows you to migrate numbers, my home phone will be a thing of the past.

The high speed internet connection has to stay because at times I work from home, and it's also part of the Cable TV transition plan.  We have 2 options for high speed internet in my area... Comcast and Verizon Fios.  There is a new 4G service from Clear that is in the area but hasn't made it to my address yet.

I have experimented with broadcast TV, and I get a very good signal from my home.  I used  AntennaWeb to confirm the signal strength in my area.  Using cheap 4 dollar rabbit ears and an analog TV with a digital converter, I was able to get a little over 30 free broadcast channels.

Our TV hardware consists of two 32" Vizio HDTV's (both located in bedrooms) connected directly to the cable, a standard definition 32" Sony Trinitron Flat Screen TV (located in the family room) that is connected to a Comcast cable box, and a small standard definition 10" TV that is located on my deck and connected to the rabbit ear antenna.

Now that we know where we're starting from, we can now start planning our transition away from Cable TV.

Why I Want Cheaper TV

A couple of years ago I heard a news story about a woman that made about $25k a year. She had no debt, and actually managed to save some money every year. When asked how she did it, she said she didn't spend money unless it was absolutely necessary. She gave the example of paying for cable TV. "Why pay for TV, when you can get it for free?"

At first, I thought... how can you live without cable TV? I remember not having cable as a kid and how I would have to constantly adjust the antenna to get a decent signal. I thought about the channels she doesn't get... CNN, ESPN, TNT, History, MTV, VH1, HBO!!!... No HBO!!! Think of everything this woman is missing out on... the Sopranos... Weeds... Sunday Night Football... Flavor of Love!!!

Then I thought some more...

When I was a kid back in the 1970's... kids played outside. They weren't home all day watching SpongeBob marathons, Hanna Montana, or MTV. Cartoons were on Saturday mornings for about 3 hours, or about an hour or two after school during the week. I would watch Scooby-Doo or Magilla Gorilla for an hour, then I would go outside and play. At night we would watch an hour or two with the family, because all of the shows were family friendly.

and I thought some more...

I make a decent living, and I'm providing my kids with everything a good American family should have... 24 hour access to cartoons from Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel. My wife and I enjoy rated R content and terrific shows from HBO, Showtime, Starz, and Encore. Yet, how many times have my kids spent way too much time watching TV? I'm not talking an hour or two... I'm talking 6 - 8 hours a day on a weekend. How many times have I told my kids to go entertain themselves because my wife and I were watching something that was not appropriate for them? And how much money have I spent to bring my family all of this entertainment?

Then I realized, I shouldn't have felt bad for this woman that was living without cable TV... she should have felt bad for me!

Well, the time for change has come. I believe my family can be entertained, without paying for cable TV. My initial inclination was to quit paying for TV cold turkey, but I think that would be a little harsh. We have become addicted to TV, and there needs to be some sort of 12 step program to get over this addiction. Luckily, there are new technologies like internet TV and subscription services like NetFlix to help us bridge the entertainment void left by cutting the cable.

In this blog I plan to document my family's journey transitioning away from Cable TV. I welcome you to join me on my quest for CHEAPER TV. Here I will be discovering new TV entertainment technology, giving tips and suggestions on alternate entertainment sources, and documenting how my family adapts to life without Cable TV.