Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 New Years Resolution - Get My Mom to Give Up Cable TV

My mom holding me as a baby (1968)

If your mom is anything like my mom, any technology change is a big event. My mom pays a ridiculous amount of money ($152) for a Phone / Internet / TV cable package. She barely uses her home phone, and watches very little TV because she's never home. I've been telling her to give up 2/3's of her package and save herself about $100 a month. Unfortunately... she resists change and continues to refuse to cut the cord.

I've given up just asking her to make the change. It's time for Plan B... show her a better way. Here's the plan:

  1. Give a Gift - I gave my mother a Roku box and an antenna for Christmas.  The Roku box was installed on Christmas day, but the antenna is still in the box.  
  2. Wait - Mom is loving the Roku box and Netflix.  I'm going to wait a month to let her realize that she is watching very little cable tv.
  3. Antenna - after the month is up, I'm going to hook up her antenna and show her how many channels she can get for free.
  4. Have "the talk" - I will sit her down, ask her how much cable tv she's watching, and ask if the limited amount of cable she's watching is worth $1,000 a year.  After all... that money could be going towards my inheritance!!!

If I can't convince my mother to cut the cord, I really have no business blogging about it. The fate of this blog rests on my ability to convince my mom to make the change. If I can't get my mom to cut the cord by the end of 2011, I'm going to have to turn the lights out on this blog. Wish me luck!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cheaper TV QR Code

I just created a QR code for www.cheaper-tv.com.  If you're a geek like me, and you're too lazy to type  www.cheaper-tv.com on your android phone browser, you can simply scan the image below to jump directly to the site.


For those of you not familiar with QR codes, they're bar codes that have become more popular with the growth of Android phones.  It's an easy way to lead people to websites, or apps.  You're going to see more and more of them printed in catalogs, business cards, and advertisements.  I wouldn't be surprised to see this technology show up on advanced remote controls.  You may be able to scan QR codes to add a movie to Netflix, or set your DVR.  For now, you can use it to visit www.cheaper-tv.com on your phone.

Cheaper TV presents... The Top 5 Last Minute Shopping Ideas

I've always thought that the best gifts are the ones that keep on giving.  The following 5 gifts will help the recipient kick the Cable TV addiction and make it easier to cut the cord:

1. TV Antenna - the recipient may think you're crazy, but they'll be amazed by the number of channels available for free through broadcast TV and the quality of those HD broadcast signals.










2. Roku - I've written about Roku a number of times on this blog.  It's simply the best and most affordable way to get TV entertainment from the internet to your TV set.  The lucky person that receives this gift will think of you every day when they turn on their TV and watch a movie or show through their Roku box.  I bought one for my mom this Christmas (don't tell her, it's a surprise)








3. Google TV - This is a bit pricier than Roku, but if the person to whom you're giving the gift wants the full internet experience on their TV, this might be the best option.  Google has indexed the web for available video content and makes it easy to search and view the content from your living room couch.  If you don't need it right away, I suspect there will be a lot more Google TV options in 2011, so you may want to take a wait and see approach before you drop $299 on this product.







4. Boxee Box - Another great way to get internet video content on your TV is the Boxee Box.  I love Boxee, and  use it all the time on my MacOS X computer.  The Boxee Box just looks cool, and has one of the best designed remote controls I've seen.  This will set you back about $170, which puts it somewhere between Roku and GoogleTV in price.








5. Vizio LED TV - this falls into the category of gifts I would like the most.  LED TV's are extremely sharp, energy efficient, and just plain awesome.  I have 2 older Vizio TV's in my house and have been extremely satisfied with their performance.  I have one older TV left to replace in my home... Santa are you listening?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Death of PBS?

The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility has recommended cutting the funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting financing to zero, saving the nation approximately $450 million a year.  This funding cut would have a devastating affect on PBS and the programs they produce.


Cheaper-TV take: PBS provides a valuable public service, but I also understand the need to reduce the deficit.  The fact of the matter is, there isn't a huge audience for thoughtful tv.  If given the choice between watching a Nova show about Unlocking the Mysteries of the Stonehenge or watching MTV's the Jersey Shore, most people will watch the latter.  Advertisers will spend their money on the program that gets the most eyeballs.  This will leave very little funding for educational shows.


Here's a thought... fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with the proceeds of government spectrum auctions.  In 2006, the government took in 13.9 billion dollars in spectrum auctions.  Some greedy politicians are trying to help fund elections with some of this money (10% or 1.3 billion).   I would rather these funds be used to fund PBS and it's educational programming instead of funding more political ads that serve no public good.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Following Election Results Without Cable TV

I am a news and political junkie, so election night is a big deal for me. So how did I do without cable this election season... not bad!!!  Polls closed at 8 PM in my home state of Pennsylvania, but national coverage on the networks didn't begin until 9 PM.  During the hour between the polls closing and the national news coverage kicking in, I watched a local news station. The production quality wasn't as good as the major networks, but they were covering the local elections in which I was most interested.  So by the time I went to sleep at 11 PM, I watched one hour of local news and two hours of national news... more than sufficient "free" news coverage.

This morning I woke up, hit twitter on my smartphone and saw the election results for the west coast.  I watched a half an hour of "Good Morning America", and now I'm ready to head to work... fully and freely informed!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm Back!!!


It's been a while since my last post... my apologies.  Work, family, and life have gotten in the way.  Even though I haven't been writing full blog posts, I have been keeping up with my twitter feed.  If you haven't already done so, please follow http://www.twitter.com/cheapertv

Here's a quick catch-up on news and events:
  • Verizon - I switched my internet and phone service to Verizon.  So far I'm happy with the speed and reliability of Fios.  I wasn't too satisfied with the buying experience.  Note to Comcast and Verizon... people don't like introductory pricing.  Tell us the price, and stick to it.
  • Apple TV - this was announced during my hiatus.  Looks like an interesting piece of equipment that will help people walk away from cable by offering various forms of media.  Currently I'm not in the market for another box to view NetFlix, but if I were, I would consdier it. 
  • Boxee Box - It's available for pre-order on Amazon.com for $199.  It's shipping in early November. Would make a nice Christmas gift.
  • Roku - They dropped their price with the entry level model coming in at $59.99.  As I've written a number of times... I love my Roku box.  It's small, easy to use, and delivers a great picture quality.
  • Hulu Plus - There are rumors that hulu plus is going to drop their price to $4.99 a month.  At that price, it might be worth it.  For now I'm holding off.
  • Netflix - This is still the best entertainment value... bar none!  You get so many great shows for less than $10 a month.  I've been using lately to catch up on shows I never watched on broadcast TV.  My wife and I went through all 6 seasons of The Office.  GREAT SHOW!!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Google TV is getting national attention

Even though it is not yet released... Google is already doing more for promoting non-cable TV options than www.cheaper-tv.com has done in a year as evidenced by this ABC News story.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Top 5 Reasons Why Cable Companies Have Us By The Balls!

Thinking about leaving cable?  Good luck... it's not as easy as it seems.  Don't get me wrong, I've made the switch and I'm loving it, but it ain't easy.  So without further ado... below are the top 5 reasons why it's tough to leave cable (aka.. why cable companies have us by the balls!)

  1. Sports - If you're a sports fan, your choices are limited without cable.  You can get mlb.tv if you're a baseball fan, but only if you follow teams that are outside of your local market.  For example, in the Philadelphia area, most Phillies games are only available on Comcast Sports Net. If I were to subscribe to MLB.tv, I wouldn't be able to see the Phillies games because of local blackout rules.  Football is better because they are mostly on network TV... but Monday Night Football is only on ESPN, and Sunday Night football is only on the NFL Network.  There are some free options but not enough for the average to hard core sports fan.
  2. HBO - they have great content like "True Blood" and "Entourage".  Unfortunately they don't allow you to stream on Netflix or any other method outside of cable.
  3. Broadcast TV Reception - free digital broadcasting is awesome.  The picture is crystal clear, and the sound quality is amazing.  Unfortunately, it suffers from the same fate as satellite, you need to have a clear line of sight between your antenna and the broadcasting towers.  If there are buildings, or trees in the way it will affect the strength of your signal and may prevent people from receiving certain channels.  So depending on where you are located, you may not get a major channel like ABC, NBC, or CBS.
  4. Ease of Implementation - People generally go with what they know.  Cable and Satellite companies make it easy to subscribe to their service.  Once you purchase, they will send a technician to your house to install the cable box, teach you how to use the remote control, and you're done.  Once they're in, it's done.  Most people don't want to be bothered with changing services... they're happy to pay their monthly fee as long as the TV just works.   Cable companies know this, which is why their introductory rate plans are so effective.
  5. Marketing Budget - in 2009, Comcast and its competitors have spent over 6 billion dollars in advertising their products.  I don't know how much the US Government spent in 2009 on marketing broadcast TV, but I suspect it was far less!  There's a reason why these companies spend so much money... it works!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Netflix without DVD's?

Photo by gbaku

Things change quickly, and successful businesses adapt very quickly to the changing times.  Netflix recently announced expansion into Canada, but with one caveat... they will only be providing a streaming service.  DVD delivery will not be available in Canada.

Cheaper TV Take: The DVD delivery service is just a distraction.  I don't want to ship or receive physical media.  Although it may sound ridiculous, I hate using my DVD player.  Online delivery is the far better option.  I'm sure Netflix would like to move away from DVD delivery, but it will difficult to get away from it in the US.  If they had to do it all again starting today, I'm sure Netflix would have been an online only streaming service.  Their move in Canada proves that point.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

NetFlix is Making Big Moves... Joins with Relativity Media

Netflix and Relativity Media announced they will be streaming first run theatrical releases to Netflix subscribers. What makes this deal different than other Netflix streaming deals is that it will happen during the "pay TV window", which means that NetFlix will deliver movies at the same time or before Pay TV companies like HBO and Showtime will be broadcasting the film.

Cheaper-TV take: This is a huge coup for Netflix. They are now directly taking on the big boys like HBO and Showtime. I consider this another nail in the coffin in the old way of broadcasting and delivering content.  It's time for Netflix users to celebrate!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Harry Potter Fans Rejoice

The last chapter of the Harry Potter saga is coming soon. The official movie trailer has been released!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Comcast COO and Apple CEO talk about Google TV

This was from a recent conference sponsored by AllThingsDigital.

Comcast COO - Steve Burke


Apple CEO - Steve Jobs

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Business 101: The Comcast Way

Comcast recently gave me a lesson on how they do business.  After I cancelled my TV subscription, Comcast told me the cost for high speed internet and phone was about $60 + taxes and fees.  I chose to keep both services with Comcast because changing to Verizon would require me to take on a two year contract and run me about the same price.  Switching phone carriers would have saved me a little, but not enough for the inconvenience.  I was so happy about how easy Comcast made it to turn off cable TV, that I did a blog entry complimenting them for good customer service.

Just when I started to have good feelings about Comcast... they decided to shoot themselves in the foot.  Last month I received a Comcast Ecobill for $91.  I thought for sure there must have been a mistake, so I called up Comcast customer service.  I was told by customer service that my bill was correct, and that the previous price I was quoted was an introductory rate.  I said to the customer service representative that I was never told it was an introductory rate.  She told me it that information appears on the bill.  I checked the bill, and guess what... it wasn't there.  I told her that I was shocked they would charge so much for internet and phone and that Verizon offers both internet and phone, plus TV for only $99.  Once I mentioned Verizon, the representative told me she was connecting me to another department that could help lower my price.

So I moved on to the next customer service rep, and true to their word, they lowered my price to the originally quoted price.  This time I was told that it was an introductory rate and the next time it changes I would have to call again.

Cheaper TV take: This is a cruddy way to do business.  It's very simple to see the path Comcast has chosen... lure customers in with a low introductory rate, raise the price, and make their customers call to continue receiving a lower price.    I suspect about 10% of the customers don't call to question the bill, so Comcast just pockets the additional funds.  Most of the customers that call to check on the price increase think Comcast is doing them a favor by lowering their bill.  Trust me... they're not doing you any favors.  Their accountants and business development people have analyzed this strategy and concluded it is the best path to get as much money from their customers as possible.  I refuse to reward companies that deceive customers.  Verizon or Clear, here I come!

P.S. - I hope congress takes these types of business practices into consideration when deciding on the Comcast / NBC Universal merger.  I can't say I trust Comcast with additional power in the market.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Say Hello to Google TV... Say Goodbye to Apple TV, Boxee, and others


Yesterday, Google announced their latest product.... Google TV.  Google has mastered organizing the web through their search engine... now they are doing the same thing to video content found on the web, on your DVR, on broadcast TV, and on internet and satellite services.  They have partnered with companies like SONY, Linksys, Best Buy, and Direct TV to bring these services to your living room.

Cheaper TV take: It seems like has finished what Apple, Boxee, and others have started.  They will become the directory for TV content on the web.  Apple was first, but they were a closed system, only using content you purchase from iTunes for their Apple TV.  Boxee was next and was on the right path, they just ran out of time.  Now they're up against Google with their deep pockets, talented developers, and powerful partners.  I wish Boxee luck... but it seems like the writing is on the wall.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Replacing Cable Channels with ION


Some of the most popular "extended basic" channels on cable TV are Nickelodeon, HGTV, and channels like TBS and TNT.  ION Media Networks was decided to fill this void in broadcast television by offering similar, if not better programming for free.  If you like watching cooking shows or home shows on HGTV, you might find better options on ION like "the Emeril Lagasse show", or "DesignU".  If your kids like watching cartoons on Nick, they might find better options on Qubo like "Jane and the Dragon", or "Barbar".  If you like watching 2nd run shows or movies on TNT, or TBS, you should consider shows available on ION like "The Ghost Whisperer", or movies like "The Godfather".

Thank you ION for giving us a free alternative to cable tv!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Has Netflix Lost Nickelodeon Shows?


A strange thing showed up in my Netflix instant queue today... "Available Until May 1, 2010".  I was immediately concerned that Netflix is losing streaming content.  Upon further inspection, it seemed that all of the expiring content was owned by Nickelodeon.  I called Netflix support to find out what's up.  I was told by the support engineer that Netflix has limited time contracts, and when the contracts run out, it gets removed from the instant queue.  I was also told that the content usually gets replaced by newer content.  I'll be sure to keep an eye on things come may first.  I hope Netflix did not lose the Nickelodeon contract!




Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: MLB.TV Beta on Roku

At midnight I was notified that the MLB.TV beta on Roku has begun.  I immediately signed up and turned it on just in time to see David Eckstein's game winning homerun over San Francisco.  I was immediately blown away by the High Definition quality of the stream. Before I get too caught up in the details, let me back up a bit.

MLB.TV has had a Roku app in development for some time.  A $99 subscription to MLB.TV and a Roku box will give you access to all out of market games, excluding blackouts for national broadcasts.  Being a big baseball fan, and a Mets fan living in the Philadelphia area, this is the perfect solution for me.  Now on to the details...

Once you open the app, you choose the game you'd like to watch.  You can watch live games, or games that have already been played.


If the games have already been played it will appear as "Final." If the game has not been played, it will show the scheduled pitchers.


You can choose which broadcast you would like to watch...


...or show the game status.



If the games already been played, you can watch it from the beginning...


... or jump to a specific inning.


Once you make your selection, the game plays in HD



From what I've seen thus far, this is close to being ready to ship to the general public.  Hopefully the quality won't suffer once the number of streams multiply.  I've only had it a day and I plan to do a follow-up after I've used the service for awhile.  My initial thoughts... the MLB and Roku have hit a homerun!!!  (corny pun intended)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Starz Play - The Future of Pay TV


The season finale of "Spartacus Blood and Sand" was just broadcast this past Friday.  What a great show.  It got me thinking... how was I able to get it?  Starz Play... that's how!

Starz has taken a lead in making their content available outside of cable and satellite distribution.  You can get Starz Play a number of different ways, and the cost seems to vary.  Starz Play is part of my $8.99 a month NetFlix subscription.  Verizon offers Starz Play for $5.99 a month ($9.99 a month for non FIOS subscribers) and Quest offers it for $7.99 a month.

Cheaper TV Take: HBO, Showtime, and other premium service providers can learn a thing or two from Starz.  People love their content... they shouldn't limit distribution of their content to cable and satellite providers.  Kudos to Starz... keep up the good work!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Free TV revolution has begun... 800,000 people cut cable

The following news story was posted on Yahoo today...


Nearly 800,000 U.S. TV households 'cut the cord,' report says


It became the most popular news story of the day and received 8,000 comments from Yahoo readers.  By comparison... a news article about Iran building a nuclear bomb generated 190 comments.  It's obvious that replacing pay TV with broadcast TV or other entertainment options is no longer outside of the norm... you are not alone!!!  Many people are considering it, or have already replaced cable TV.  Welcome to the free TV revolution!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cousin Jenn - Sticking it to the man!!!

I just found out tonight that my cousin Jenn has decided to join me in cutting cable, using a combination of broadcast TV and streaming internet content to her apartment in Brooklyn.  She went to Best Buy to buy an antenna, but the salesman couldn't understand what she was trying to do.  When he finally got it, he said... "Oh, you're trying to stick it to the man."  I love that quote!

Like most people, Jenn ran into a few roadblocks when making the switch.  She installed the antenna and scanned her TV, unfortunately, she was missing ABC, PBS, and a few other stations.  I checked antennaweb.org, and it turns out that the stations she wasn't receiving were being broadcast over VHF.  I advised her to purchase a cheap set of rabbit ears for $10, and merge the signal using a combiner.

She then hooked up her laptop to her TV so she could stream Hulu.  Everything seems to be working well.  Good luck Jenn and welcome to the Free TV team!!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

NetFlix for the Wii has arrived


The NetFlix disk for the Wii has arrived!!!  We now have two tv's connected to NetFlix, one in my bedroom, the other in the living room.  Now that Netflix is available in the living room, my wife and I will get our room back.  I love my kids but there are times we need our space.

Setup for adding NetFlix to theWii is a piece of cake.  Simply insert the disk, and follow the instructions on the screen.  The Wii only streams in standard definition, which works for us, because our living room TV is not HD. The difference in quality between the Roku on a HD TV and the Wii on a standard def TV is noticeable.  One day, when I replace this TV with a HDTV, I may not want to use this solution. For now it's fine.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

3 Easy Steps to Free TV

Since starting this blog, I've often talked with friends and family members about moving away from cable TV.  It seems a lot of people want to give up cable, or have tried to take some steps in that direction, but have failed to fully move away from paying for TV.  So for those of you that have thought about moving to free TV, here are three easy steps to follow:

Step 1 - Buy a cheap antenna - Buy a Basic Indoor Antenna for less than $10.  Remove your existing cable and connect the antenna to your TV, and re-scan the channels on your TV.  If you have a newer TV that accepts digital signals, it should just work without any further adjustments (skip to step 3).  If you have an older TV, you may need a converter box... move on to Step 2.  If you receive some channels but not others, you may need a better antenna.  You should visit www.antennaweb.org to determine your antenna needs.






Step 2 - Buy a converter box or HDTV (optional) - If you have an older TV set, one that only accepts analog signals, you can buy a digital to analog TV converter box to use an antenna to get TV broadcasts.  These boxes cost about $40 and are very easy to install.  If you  have a much older TV, and think you're going to be in the market for a new TV soon, it may make sense to buy a new TV instead of buying a converter box for your old TV.  You can buy a new 19" or 20" HDTV for less than $200.  For example the Vizio VA19LHDTV10T costs only $178.






Step 3 - Call your cable company - Pick up the phone and tell your cable or satellite provider that you are cancelling your cable tv subscription.  If you have second thoughts and think that you can't live without all of the channels cable has to offer, consider buying a Roku box and subscribing to NetFlix.  With over 17,000 movies and TV shows available for $9 a month, you'll have more than enough TV to watch.  Don't worry, any decision you make is not final.  Believe me, cable companies are always willing to take your money, so you would be able to re-subscribe at anytime.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bringing Netflix on Vacation



The beautiful thing about Netflix is it allows you to bring your subscription with you on vacation.  I'm hooked on a show called "Spartacus, Blood and Sand" and was bummed that I was going to miss it while on vacation.  Then I remembered that I have Netflix, and with it I can use their "Watch Instantly" streaming technology on my laptop computer to view the show.  This feature is included with my $9 monthly subscription. 

Some cable systems are allowing you to do this now, like Comcast FanCast, but I don't think they have a $9 subscription option.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Boxee Video Review

A couple of weeks back, I blogged about Boxee.  I finally got around to making a video of the Boxee user interface.  Unfortunately, the quality of my video is not great, but take my word for it, the quality of Boxee video is fantastic.  Take a look:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Family Reward


As I posted earlier, I plan to use the money we save from cutting cable to benefit the whole family.  With the first two months savings, I was able to purchase Mets tickets.  I'm sure we'll have a day full of fond memories... the kind of memories that last a lifetime.  I don't think those types of memories can be created in front of a TV screen... even if you pay for it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Top 10 Dream TV Appliance Features

With a plethora of devices to choose from... how does one decide which internet TV solution best suits ones needs?  There are so many choices!!!  For instance an X-box is great for gaming, and you can also watch Netflix, and play DVD's, but you don't have the same TV choices as Boxee and it costs so much more than Roku.  Roku is great for streaming Netflix and other internet content, but you can't play games or record live TV.  So what would make me happy???  Here's what I want in a TV internet appliance:

1. Netflix / Amazon On Demand
2. TV show directory (think Boxee)  that lists shows that are available on the internet and that can be downloaded for free.
3. YouTube
4. Podcast directory
5. A web browser
6. Email / social networking / SMS / IM
7. DVR
8. Games
9. DVD Player
10. Sports Integration - MLB.TV, NFL, ESPN

Honorable Mention - It would be cool to integrate Phone Calls or Video Chat.  If someone calls, you can answer the call on the TV.

What I have no use for is cable tv integration, or subscription services like Tivo, or the forthcoming Apple TV.

So what do you think... Boxee, Roku, x-Box 360, Apple TV, Google TV, TiVo, or some other solution?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The FCC Broadband Plan


Today the FCC is releasing their  plan on the future of broadband internet access.  You can go to www.fcc.gov to read the full 300+ page, detailed plan, or you can do what most congressmen will be doing, and read the executive summary.  Bottom line... the goal of the plan is:

  • Deliver broadband access to as many Americans as possible, especially to those living in rural and poor areas
  • Foster competition to bring down the cost of broadband internet access and improve service
  • Improve broadband infrastructure by reallocating bandwidth away from TV broadcasters and towards companies that provide wireless internet access
  • Maximize the benefits of broadband in sectors influenced by the government including
    • Education
    • Healthcare
    • Military
    • Government Operations
Cheaper TV take:  I like what I'm seeing.  My family pays about $200 a month for broadband access for the home and our mobile phones.  This is a high barrier of entry for a lot of families and we're lucky we can afford it.  High speed internet access has many benefits for the family and plays a major role in how children are now educated. Those that cannot afford it, or don't have access to it are not playing on a level playing field.

Outside of the educational benefits, the combination of Digital Broadcast TV and Internet TV entertainment has made the transition away from cable a lot easier.  Keep up the good work FCC!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Top 5 TV Twitter Feeds

I've become a big fan of Twitter.  It's a great way to keep up with a topic of interest.  Of course at Cheaper-TV, our focus is free or low cost TV entertainment.  I'm currently following 27 TV tweeters.  Below is a list of my top 5:
  1. Gadgetress
  2. FCC
  3. Jaquelene Mccarthy
  4. TV Guide
  5. Vizio
Of course Cheaper-TV is also on twitter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Too Much TV

Picture by oddstock

Part of the reason we made the move away from Cable TV was to limit the amount of TV the family watched.  The kids are watching less TV, but I can't say the same for the adults in the house. The combination of Roku, Boxee, and Broadcast TV has left the wife and I with more shows than we can possibly watch.  We have about 8 movies in our Roku queue, and a few TV shows including Season 1 of the Office, Season 1 of Dr. Who, and Spartacus!!!  On Boxee I've been keeping up with Caprica.  On Thursdays, I've been hooked on watching Survivor, while the wife watches Vampire Diaries on broadcast TV.  I would need about a week to catch up on all the TV I want to watch.

I think we watched less TV when we had cable.  I remember the days where I would flip through the 100+ channels on cable and turn off the TV because I couldn't find anything I wanted to watch.  Maybe the solution is to return to cable so we'll watch less TV. ;-)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Google Gets Into the TV Search Business

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is getting into the TV search business in a deal with the Dish Network.  The service is being provided through a cable box that runs Google's Android OS (the same OS that powers mobile phones).

Cheaper-TV take:  This seems to be a natural fit for Google.  I hope Google extends beyond just paid TV boxes.  I'd love to see Google come out with a Boxee like interface that helps search and index TV content on the web.  Like Boxee, such a service could be integrated in Cable / Satellite Boxes, TV's, DVD Players, or Internet TV boxes like Roku.

I did a quick search and found this interesting video.  I'm gonna give it a try to see if it works:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Family and Friends React to Cheaper TV

A funny thing happens when you try something radical, like living without cable TV.  You find out that people have very strong opinions.  Here are some reactions I received from friends and family:

My mother talking to my kids:  "Don't worry kids, this won't last!!!  He'll crack in a week or two"

My little brother Richie:  "Don't tell people you're cutting cable, they'll think you're having money problems"

Uncle Tony: "Broadcast TV?  I don't think we have that service.
Me: "Everybody has it... just use an antenna."
Uncle Tony: {Shocked} "You mean like a coat hanger?  You're going in the wrong direction."

Cousin Daniel: "You could totally replace Cable with an antenna and NetFlix"

Sister Stephanie: "How can you live without News!"

Co-Worker Matt: "Comcast just raised my bill $40.  I'm gonna make the switch too."

Cousin Jenn: "I've been wanting to do that for years"

and last but not least...

Wife: "I don't care what you do, as long as I can see my novelas. {spanish soap operas}"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cable TV Economics 101: Greed is... BAD!!!

photo by muffet

Content providers like Fox, Scripps Networks (owner of the Food Network) and now Disney (owner of ABC) are demanding more money from cable companies.  Cable companies are trying to fight the rate increases but they will eventually cave to the content providers demand.  Where are cable companies going to get the extra revenue that is required to pay these fees?   Are they going to take the money from their profits and give it to the content providers?  I doubt it.  The more likely result is that the cable companies are going to end up charging the Cable TV consumer more.

Cheaper TV take:  Let's follow the logical path here.  Cable companies have to pay more so they have to charge more.  In a bad economy, people are looking to save money, not pay more for what they currently have, so I believe demand is going down.  With all of the entertainment options now available on broadcast TV and on the internet, one could say supply is going up.  Economics 101, if supply goes up, and demand goes down, the price for TV entertainment should be going down.  Broadcasters and cable companies are doing the exact opposite and raising prices.  I believe this will lead to more people defecting from Cable TV.

Let's throw out some numbers here.  If broadcasters like ABC and Fox raise rates 50%, but in doing so, cable end up losing 10% of their cable subscription base, the broadcasters still come out ahead.

Before rate increase:  100,000,000 cable subscribers x $1 cable fee = $100,000,000

After rate increase: 90,000,000 cable subscribers x $1.50 cable fee =  $135,000,000

So who are the losers in this equation?  Cable companies and consumers.  Cable companies will lose subscribers and won't be getting any additional revenue to make up for the loss.  Consumers that stay with cable will end up paying more for the same content.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

National Broadband Plan


The FCC has been tasked by Congress to deliver a plan to overhaul the nations broadband coverage.  This plan is scheduled to be delivered on March 17 and could potentially have wide ranging effects, including broadcast TV and access to broadband internet access in rural areas.  If you would like to learn more about the plan, please visit www.broadband.gov.

Cheaper TV take: By requiring TV broadcasters to broadcast digital TV instead of analog TV, the government has made it easier for me to make the transition away from cable.  There are still 93 million Americans that do not have access to high speed internet in the home.  Services like Roku and Boxee require a high speed internet connection, so if the government is able to encourage low cost, open, and more general access to broadband internet, it will be very good thing for others that want entertainment options outside of cable TV.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cable free for one month!!!




This is what my kids used to do with their free time.  Now, my family has been cable free for 1 month.  So far... so good.  My wife keeps telling me, "I don't miss cable at all."  My oldest son, hasn't complained, which for a teenager means that he's ok with it.  My 9 year old son has probably had the hardest time with the change, because kids in school talk about shows he used to watch.  Now he can't join in on the conversation.  My 5 year old daughter has made the transition without a problem.

For me, it's been great.  I've been watching the olympics in high definition... for free.  My wife and I are hooked on a new Starz show called "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", that I subscribe to on Netflix.  We also subscribed to the first 3 seasons of "30 Rock".... hysterical show!!!

With less distractions, the house seems more peaceful.  We're communicating more.  We now watch TV as a family (with the exception of Spartacus), and we have conversations about the shows we're watching.  The kids also seem to be playing more with each other.

Overall, I'm thrilled we made the transition.  I can't ever see going back to paying for TV.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is Broadcast Quality Better Than Satellite and Cable?

So far I've been thrilled with the quality of my broadcast TV.  I have a very strong signal on most channels, and the High Definition is crystal clear.  According to Antennas Direct, the reason broadcast is better than satellite and cable is because the signal arrives at my house uncompressed.  I'm sure there are all kinds of mathematical formulas that will explain why this is the case, but a picture is worth a thousand words.  I scanned this from the Antennas Direct brochure that came with my antenna.


Click on the photo for the full view.

Cablevision to Launch Internet TV Service

photo by El Gran Dee

According to USA Today, Cablevision is testing a PC to TV system called "PC to TV Media Relay".  To use the system, a Cablevision subscriber will need to install a program to their PC.  This program will upload internet content and media content from your PC to Cablevision.  Cablevision will then rebroadcast the content to a dedicated TV channel.

Cheaper TV take:  Cablevision sees the writing is on the wall, that the future of TV entertainment will be provided through the internet.  It sounds like an interesting service, but there are privacy concerns. I haven't read the privacy statement, but it sounds like Cablevision will have access to all of the content on your computer. This content will be sent to Cablevision, stored on their servers, then rebroadcast to your TV. I would prefer hooking up a Roku or Boxee box to get internet content on my TV.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Walmart Buys Vudu





Walmart has entered the internet television business, by purchasing Vudu.  Click here to see the official press release.

Cheaper TV Take:  This takes internet TV to the mainstream.  Walmart realizes the future of TV entertainment is not in DVD's but in content delivered online.  Change has arrived!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Build Your Own TV Antenna

The thought of building my own TV antenna didn't cross my mind at the time I started the conversion.  After watching these videos, I probably would have given it a try.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Let it Snow!!! Antenna Survives Snow Storm of 2010

We had record snow this year in the Philadelphia area.  I remember seeing a number of commercials from cable companies talking about how poorly satellites performed in bad weather.  The assumption is that antennas will have a similar struggle in bad weather.

It turns out... the weight of the snow on a tree branch knocked the Comcast cable that carries internet and phone to my home.  It took a week for the cable to be reattached.  My antenna on the other hand didn't fail me... not for one minute.  We had free High Definition TV to entertain us while the Internet and Phone we pay for didn't work.  I took a video to show how well it performed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rumor MIll - Verizon Layoffs and Set to Exit Cable Business


I spoke with a couple of industry insiders and there are two persistent rumors... Verizon is starting to layoff their FIOS tech's and they plan to exit the "cable" business by 2014.

Cheaper TV Take: This is bad news for consumers.  For many, it was a blessing to have as a second option for high speed internet and Cable TV.  I'm sure those that have it will be able to keep it.  It will probably just  slow the pace of adoption to under-served areas.  Maybe they're prepping to sell that side of the business and focus on Verizon Wireless.  Hopefully Google will move quickly with their fiber plans.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Top Five "Non-Cable" News Programs

There are two types of people in this world, those that follow the news religiously, and those that don't.  I'm a news junkie... I can't get enough of it.  One reaction I received from friends and family when I told them that I was cutting cable was, "How are you going to watch the news?"  A strange thing has happened, something unexpected really...  I now watch more and better quality news, than I did when I had cable TV.

Wait a second... with cable TV, you have access to 24/7 news on stations like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News!!!  True, but I was getting tired of watching a bunch of political hacks providing 1% news and 99% opinion.  Now I'm watching loads of high quality, non-partisan news, using a combination of Broadcast TV and Internet Channels available through my Roku box.  With that in mind, here's my top 5 "Non-Cable" news sources.

5. White House Weekly Address - Ever since F.D.R. United States Presidents have given a weekly radio address.  When George W. Bush was in office, his administration made use of internet technology to broadcast the weekly radio address with an audio podcast.  President Obama, now delivers the weekly via a video podcast.  This podcast is carried on Roku through the Mediafly channel.  Instead of hearing pundits deliver the White House message, it's always best to get the information directly from the source.

4. Face the Nation - This news show is broadcast weekly on CBS.  I catch the video podcast on Mediafly and watch it on my on schedule.  Bob Schieffer has been doing this for a long time.  He gets respect, terrific guests, and discusses timely issues.

3. CNN - Yes... you can get CNN without cable TV.  Mediafly carries a few CNN channels including "CNN In Case You Missed It", and "CNN Daily".  Both shows give you a quick view of the days news.

2. PBS NEWSHOUR  - In my opinion, this is the best evening news show!  The  major networks have cut down their evening news programs to a half hour each night.  With all the events going on in the world, a half an hour is barely enough time to scratch the surface, so they give 1 minute or so to each news story.  What makes PBS NEWSHOUR great is that they choose about 4 topics and dig deep to give you a full reporting of each story.

1. Frontline - What's great about Frontline?  Everything!!!  It is the most thought provoking show on television.  Every show, Frontline chooses one topic and analyzes it from all angles.  If the topic is political the show addresses the facts and they film interviews that give opinions from the left and the right.  For a hot button topic like healthcare reform, they don't try to explain a 2,000 page proposal, they simply show how other countries handle healthcare and let you decide.  Most of all they deliver a wealth of information in an easily digestible format.  Some of my favorite Frontline shows include:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Old Jews Telling Jokes

I found a great channel on Blip.TV through my Roku box... Old Jews Telling Jokes.  The premise is simple, old Jewish guys are the best at telling jokes.  They've filmed a bunch of old Jewish guys telling jokes, and they're hysterical.  This channel wasn't available on cable.  Here's a sample:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Google Fiber Optic Internet Service

Google has done it again!  They are going to be offering Fiber Optic Internet Service to up to 500,000 homes in the United States.



Cheaper TV Take: This is great news for the consumer.  They will be offering up competition to Cable and Verizon Fios, potentially bringing down prices and improving service.  If you're like me and using internet TV to replace cable TV, the potential is even greater.  You can download more content at better resolutions.  Also the price of internet access will potentially dramatically decrease.  I now pay $70 for phone and internet.  I can see the day when I pay $20 a month for internet access, have Google Voice replace my phone, and get most of my TV entertainment over the internet.  The game is changing quickly... Comcast, Verizon, and others are going to have their work cut out for them to respond.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cheaper-TV is now on twitter

We have opened a twitter account and will be including "tweets" on this page.  If you'd like to follow us on twitter, please visit:


http://www.twitter.com/cheapertv

or click on the following button:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NetFlix Power User

If you're a NetFlix user and you stream movies, you know that not all movies on NetFlix are available for streaming.  If you want to be alerted every time Netflix adds a movie to the "Watch Instantly" streaming service, simply subscribe to their RSS feed.  You can do so by clicking the button below.


From what I've seen so far they add about 100 movies a week.  Each week I find about 3 movies that I plan to add to my queue.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Time Warner Cable TV Loses Subscribers

Time Warner TV lost 197,000 subscribers over the past 3 months.  I guess I'm not the only one making the move away from cable.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10156468-93.html

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Boxee... The Internet TV Revolution Has Officially Begun!!!

A couple of years ago I began watching TV on the internet. I would go to various sites to find content including Fox, Hulu, TV.com. At the time I thought, "wouldn't it be great if there was a directory online that would allow you to easily navigate all of this content." I also thought, "wouldn't it be great to have a product that would deliver this content on my TV."  Today, we have that directory, and in the 2nd quarter of 2010, we will have a product that will deliver it on our TV.   Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you...
 

Boxee is an open source software platform that manages TV entertainment, Movies, Music, Photos, Files, and Apps.  The software runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers, and on Apple TV.  In addition, companies like D-Link are creating hardware appliances that offer an easy way to watch content and manage Boxee on your TV.   Boxee could eventually be integrated with any number of appliances like DVD players, Game Consoles, and even TV's. So let's take a look at some of the features of Boxee:


Internet TV
Boxee offers a wide selection of internet TV, organized in an easy to use interface.






 

Once you drill down to the show you'd like to watch, Boxee gives you a choice of services from which you can stream the show.  In the example above, you can watch an episode of "The Office" streaming from NBC or from Hulu.  On my 22" computer monitor the quality of the show was outstanding.

Apps
Boxee gives you the ability to download apps written for the Boxee platform.  These apps will allow you to listen to streaming music, connect with your NetFlix subscription, view photos, watch baseball, podcasts, and YouTube, and much more.




Local Content
Boxee can search your local hard drive and index movies, music, photos, and files you have stored on your computer or on your local network, for easy viewing on your TV.

Social Networking
If you're into Social Networking (and who isn't these days), Boxee has features you would enjoy.  Share what you are viewing, track what your friends are watching, mark your favories, etc.

Boxee Box
D-Link has developed an appliance that can be attached to your home TV, and used to run Boxee.  Calling it an appliance is like calling the Empire State Building, just a building... it doesn't do it justice.  The Boxee box has a radical yet attractive and functional design.  It comes with a QWERTY remote control to make text entry a breeze.

 
 
Cost
Boxee is free to download and use.  There are no subscription fees for Internet TV content.  Some App providers (like NetFlix and MLB) will require subscriptions to their service to view content.  The Boxee Box will be available in the 2nd quarter of 2010 and will run you about $200.

Cheaper TV Take:  This technology is game changing and has the potential to disrupt a number of industries including DVR's, Cable TV, Premium Content Services, Apple TV, and Pay Per View.  I'm not the only one who thinks so; Boxee received a number of Best In Show accolades at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.  Once it's available, I fully expect to add the Boxee Box to my family TV.  The writing is on the wall cable companies, the internet is the future of home entertainment delivered to your TV.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Comcast through the years

Comcast and I have had a 9 year relationship.  Ever since I've moved to the area, Comcast has provided me with Cable TV.  Like every relationship we've had our ups and downs.  Early on, I wasn't very satisfied with Comcast.  They had spotty service, their customer support was terrible, and their high speed internet didn't seem so high speed. 

I have to say, Comcast got better with age... adding services like "On Demand" and business plans like "Triple Play", and cool features like showing caller ID on the TV when people called were all appreciated.  Their support has also improved with age.  Before I would call Comcast support, I expected to be on hold for about 15 minutes before I would be able to talk with a live person, and often times all they did was schedule a service call for some future date.  Today's Comcast support is entirely different, easy to navigate phone menu's that lead to calls being answered within a minute and quick automated resolutions to service issues.  Even my call to downgrade service was answered relatively fast and took about a minute to process.  I'm sure competition from Verizon had something to do with this change, but still, I do give Comcast credit for improving over the years.

Like most separations, we are still in each others life.  I have not given up on Comcast High Speed Internet, and I still use the phone service, however our Cable TV love affair is over.  Comcast, I'd like to dedicate this song to you:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Goodbye Cable TV


It's a week late, but I finally finished my Broadcast TV install.  I just got off the phone with Comcast and canceled my cable TV service.  Above is a picture of the box I no longer need to watch TV.  Previously my cable bill was $142 a month.  My new Comcast bill is $71 a month... a monthly savings of $71 or an annual savings of $852.  I'm going to celebrate by watching some broadcast TV in High Definition!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Effect of Supreme Court Ruling


The Supreme Court ruled that companies can spend unlimited amounts of money on advertisements for political campaigns.  Broadcast companies have ordered extra money bags.


Cheaper-TV Take: This is good news for broadcast TV because there will be tons of private money spent on commercials during elections.  This will make the current free broadcast model viable so broadcasters may decide that they don't need to go to a Cable TV only model.

Here's the bad news, companies will have an undue influence on making laws.  Because they have deep pockets, companies can influence elections which will result in politicians doing what's best for company profits, not consumers or the public good.  For example, let's say the major networks feel that they can have better ratings if Public Broadcasting didn't exist, they might tell politicians to do away with funding for PBS.  Or lets say that broadcasters want to increase profits, they might have their politicians pass laws that force every American to pay higher taxes so that the government can start paying broadcasters to provide free TV.  This is a sad day for American Government and for the American consumer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Where's the Money Going?


I expect to save about $60 a month by cutting cable TV.  Because we are all sacrificing, I think the whole family should benefit from the money we save.  I'm thinking we should put $60 in a jar every month for the next 18 months.  We'll save about $1,000 in that time.  So how should we reward ourselves?  Weekend trip to NYC?  New Family TV?  Hershey Park Season Passes?


Monday, January 18, 2010

Living Without HBO and Showtime



We've been HBO subscribers for over 10 years... HBO and Showtime are the best channels cable has going for it.  Early on, I subscribed to see movies and watch boxing.  Then I got hooked on their original programming.  Shows like "True Blood", "The Wire", "The Soprano's", "Weeds", and many more are can't miss TV.  Giving it all up is tough, however, there's a solution... be patient and get the full seasons on DVD.  Both NetFlix (as part of my subscription) and my local library ($1 for a 3 day rental) offer these DVD's.

I'm not as big of a boxing fan as I used to be, and now the best fights are Pay Per View.  Interest has waned since Mike Tyson and Don King have left the sport.
 
So let's recap, the big benefit of these premium channels is Movies, Boxing, and Original Programming.  Movies and Original Programming, I can get through NetFlix.  Boxing I could do without.

Goodbye HBO... it's been a nice 10 years.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Netflix and Roku

I just unpacked and installed the Roku box... signed up for an $8.99 Netflix subscription and "BAM!!!"  I started watching movies.  All I can say is WOW... why didn't I do this sooner?  The selection is large, the quality is amazing, and service is fantastic.  I tried viewing a movie, a TV show in HD, and an internet channel called iFanboy.  Each one started almost instantaneously and the quality was great.


Breaking News... Netflix just announced that it will start streaming movies through the Wii starting in the spring of 2010.  Luckily we have both an xbox and a Wii, so I will not need to purchase another box for my other TV's.

There is one drawback... you still have to queue up movies from your computer.  It would be great if you can browse the selection and just choose it from your TV without having to first select it on the computer.  Still, overall I would give it two thumbs up... way up!!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3D TV is Coming


The big news out of the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas is that 3D television is coming.  Most major TV manufacturers were showing off TV and the accompanying 3D glasses for this new technology.  In addition, a number of TV broadcasters have committed to delivering content in 3D.  Those that have seen the technology have been impressed.

Cheaper-TV Take:  Depending on the TV and manufacturer, this technology will cost about $200 more than a similarly equipped non-3D TV.  I really have no interest in a 3D TV, even if there were no cost differentiation between a 3D TV and a non-3D TV.  I have seen a few IMAX movies in 3D and I find it distracting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ABC Has Arrived!!!

Placing the antenna on the roof did the trick... I now have ABC and 3 additional channels.  The Roku box has shipped, so I plan to cut the cable on Sunday, January 17.  Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Phone Alternative - magicJack

Earlier I posted about switching my phone to a VOIP service... hold the presses... I think I found a more appealing option... magicJack!  magicJack is a VOIP service that costs $20 a year for unlimited local and long distance calls... that's right a $20 a YEAR!!!  The only up front cost is $40 for the hardware to connect to your PC or Mac, and with that $40 purchase you get the first year of service free.

There's only one problem, as of today you cannot switch your home phone number to this service.  The folks at magicJack say they are working on it and hope to allow you to switch your home phone number for a small fee.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Antenna Has Arrived

Yesterday, the antenna I purchased from Amazon arrived.



Suffice it to say, I was very excited and couldn't wait to hook it up.  It took me about 10 minutes to open the box, assemble the antenna, and place it in my attic.  I had pre-run coax cables to the attic so it was a simple matter of hooking up the existing cable to the antenna.  I pointed the antenna to in the direction of the closest broadcast towers based on the information provided by AntennaWeb, then proceeded to do a channel scan with my Vizio HDTV.  I was thrilled with the results:



On my first try without any adjustments, I received 34 crystal clear digital channels many of which are broadcast in HD.  The picture quality was amazing.  I received about twice as many channels as AntennaWeb said I would receive.  AntennaWeb doesn't take into account multiple broadcasts for each station.  For instance, I get 3 NBC channels (NBC, Weather, and Universal Sports).

The news wasn't all good... ABC was not one of the channels I received.  I tried multiple adjustments, but to no avail... it just wasn't coming through.  What really had me stumped was that ABC was being broadcast from the same distance and direction as the other channels.





So I did a search to see if I was the only one experiencing this problem, and I came across this interesting article.  It turns out, I'm not alone and that the local ABC station is under powered.  I tried again at night, and what do you know... ABC appeared.  According to the antenna documentation I should have up to a 40% better signal if I mount the antenna on the roof as opposed to in the attic.  Considering my issue with ABC and tiling on some other channels, I plan on mounting the Antenna on the roof.  That withstanding, I was happy enough with the results of my attic installation to move forward with step 3 of my plan... I ordered a Roku box.  Stay tuned for more...