Let’s face it folks, we are all trying to trim up our spending during these tough times. The only problem is that there is only so many ways to cut the overhead, and with the economy in the tank, we’re all being asked to continue spending today despite the fact that we can’t get assurances that our jobs will still be in tact tomorrow.
So how do we choose where to do the trimming? For my family it was made abundantly clear. When our local cable provider started raising rates and cutting channels from their line-ups in order to move people over to the dedicated digital service, they practically raised their hands and volunteered. So rather than continue to pay more for less, and since satellite wasn’t a realistic option for our family, we did the next sensible thing; we moved our viewing to the internet.
Here’s what we did to make this a cost affective move for us:
Netflix is one of the easiest decisions you can make in your life. If you rent movies from your local video store, at say $4.00 a night, then you can afford Netflix. Our family chose the two-at-a-time plan, which gives us two movies out at the same time with an unlimited amount of rentals for a month, for the cost of $13.99 per month. So for the price of three rentals a month, we get the promise of at least eight if we only rent two a week. However, we typically rent three to four a week, as the turnaround time is sufficient to flip movies quickly.
Our plan also includes unlimited instant viewing, meaning we can stream instant programs from Netflix for no additional cost. Recent deals with Starz, CBS, NBC, and Disney have enabled them to increase their offerings in this field. Although they aren’t always the newest video releases, there are plenty of newer titles to find something to watch any time you want. Add to it a set-top box from Roku, which has a one time cost of $100.00, then you can stream shows and movies from Netflix directly to any TV with an audio visual connection. And since it streams the movies wirelessly, there is no hassle with having to run Cat-5 cable, meaning you can move the box around to any room with a television.
Perhaps the best kept secret is the fact that almost all of the major networks offer almost all of their new programs online, for free, just a day or so after their original broadcast. For example, say you don’t have cable, but you have high speed internet access. You can watch the newest episode of Grey’s Anatomy on ABC.com on Friday, instead of watching it during its normal Thursday broadcast. It’s like TiVo, for free.
Now, you can choose to watch these directly on your computer, or you can make upgrades to your computers in order to view them on your television. Most laptop computers come with an S-Video output on them, and most newer televisions have S-Video inputs as well, meaning your laptop basically becomes a cable box for the internet. If you don’t own a laptop, or don’t have the funds to shell out to get one, you can easily upgrade your Dell, Compaq, or what have you by spending $40 to $50 on a video card upgrade with an S-Video output. You’ll need to consult your computer’s owners manual to find out what your system can handle, but the upgrade it easy even for a novice user. From there, it is as simple as enabling the dual monitor function in your display settings and you’re good to go.
Aside from ABC, NBC, Fox, and the CW (CBS still hasn’t quite grasped the movement yet), there are a few legal sources of online streaming episodes. Hulu.com is a joint venture between NBC and News Corp (Fox) and offers a plethora of new and older programming. Similarly, Fancast.com is owned and operated by Comcast, funny as that may seem, and offers a mostly similar line-up of programs, although there are some differences. Both sites also have a limited number of older movies if that is the route you prefer.
Other Online Options
While the sites listed above are legally run, there are other sites that offer similar fare, but in a more, let’s say, questionable way. If you want to watch a certain program, let’s say Entourage for example, it is easy enough to run a Google search saying “Watch Entourage Episodes Online” and find sites that will either have episodes directly on their server or they can link you to a show on sites like MegaVideo. While I am not one to suggest you illegally stream a show that is infringing on someone’s copyright, it is nonetheless possible to find just about anything in that manner. Granted, I would suggest you turn on your phishing alert function on your virus scan program in order to keep from visiting any sites that may harm your computer.
So, suffice it to say, just because the digital conversion is going to make it more difficult to get television, we aren’t forced to be a victim of the cable companies any longer. My family upgraded our desktop and purchased the Roku box for Netflix. After three months of doing this, we can easily say that we don’t miss cable, and to be quite honest, we are quite happy with the $70 a month savings that have come with it.