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.