Friday, February 17, 2012

The Point V2. - Vol. 6 - "Cutting the Cord"

Recently, my wife and I decided to turn in our DVR to release us from the contracts of cable (and those expensive bills). I've had a relationship with cable for most of my adult life. I've had a digital cable and a DVR since I first heard about them. Full disclosure, I did do some experimenting with DishNetwork's DVR service for a year or so, but it didn't work out. I broke up with DishNetwork after we bought our house surrounded by a handful of tall trees. Growing up, my family either had an antenna or satellite television because we lived outside of the city limits, but the minute I moved out on my own, I had cable. With this all being said, we aren't giving up on televison. That would be crazy. No, we're moving on in this age of technology and only streaming our shows on-line.

Not exactly what "cutting the cord" means
A wise man once told me that this process is called "cutting the cord" (okay, my cousin told me, and he may have "special needs" after his recent Facebook status stated, "i think i need to go to a doctor. my earwax tastes funny"). My cousin's mental capacity aside, he was right. I googled "cutting the cord" and found quite a few articles regarding advanced television viewing. With these websites, I also found out about a plethora of devices available besides your gaming systems. We have a Roku LT and subscriptions to Hulu Plus and Netflix (both services - $7.99). We also use our Wii for Netflix on our basement TV. I would use the Xbox360 to stream shows, but Microsoft expects us to pay for a Gold membership, and I'm not an on-line gamer. I'm just a gamer. I gots game. No really, I'm not going to spend money every month on a service that "gaming-wise" I'd only get to use one to four hours per week. Also, we had a short-lived free preview of Amazon Prime when we bought our Kindle Fire. Most of the free videos on Amazon Prime were available on Netflix or Hulu, so we opted not to renew our subscription ($79/year). I've also heard Verizon and Redbox will be combining forces to wipe out compete with Netflix and Blockbuster (I would also like to point out that I still have Netflix even after I blasted them in The Point V2. - Vol. 1 for raising their prices and the whole Quikster debacle). The most recent development for streaming television is happening with a company called Aereo. Aereo's service kicks off in New York City during the ides of March. For $12 a month, you can get any show that is broadcast over-the-air.  That means FREE television shows on broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and so on would be available to stream on your TV with their ($12 a month) service. They are doing it by setting up special antennas that record the free broadcasts their "cloud" drive. Basically, you are paying to not have an antenna and be able to stream live-TV, but it will act as a DVR, too. If this service was available in my area, I would most likely get it and save me the hassle of mounting an antenna to our house. I believe this service won't be around long. I'm sure that the networks will find some sort of illegal licensing lawsuit before this company gets to expand, but as far as I read, it is all legal. However, the NFL will probably end up suing the pants off of them unless they get the "expressed written consent of the NFL" to stream the NFL games that are broadcast from local affiliates.

Why does Aereo interest me? I'm glad you asked. Two words (three if you count the word AND). News and Sports. Right now, sports doesn't bother me very much because the Minnesota Timberwolves are starting their downward spiral, and I've found the Twins to be more fun to listen to on the radio. When football starts up, I have to find a way to watch the Huskers on the Big10 network and the Vikings some way on NFL programming.  I have two options. One, go to my in-laws to watch the games OR two, start up a drinking problem and visit the local sport's pub for games. "Marge, I'm going to Moe's. Send the kids to the neighbors', I'm coming back loaded!" So, that explains my stance on the loss of live-sports. I have a feeling that streaming live-sports on your television will be happening soon enough. I heard about the BBC planning on broadcasting parts of London's Olympics this year in 3D. So, television executives do know that technology is advancing. In fact, we do have an NBC news and Fox news channel/app available on our Roku LT for nightly news clips and Today Show clips too. So, I do have ways to get national news on the TV, but Aereo would allow local news to live-stream (again, an antenna would work just as well). Not being able to view national news doesn't bother me right now. Why? Because it is an election year. Every morning I hear about Newt Gingrich debating Mitt Romney about which Huey Lewis song is better "the Power of Love" (Gingrich's attempt at an open marriage) against "I Want a New Drug" (Romney dodging questions about medical marijuana), then Rick Santorum breaks out with "never gonna give you up" (talking about all his stance on gay marriage). Santorum looks at the other candidates and tells them that they've been "Rick-Rolled!" and then laughs hysterically while running off into the shadows of the night. This whole time Ron Paul quietly played paddy-cake in the corner by himself. If this was actually how the debates were handled, I might start paying attention, but it doesn't go down like that so I don't care about election season news. After debate number 723 of the 58 potential GOP candidates (you know the debate from the basement of a HuHot Mongolian Grill in Bismark, ND), I gave up.  Plus, news from the White House lately sounds like campaigning strategies for reelection. Honestly, I can hear about the important news through Facebook. 14 status updates about Whitney Houston...maybe I should Google Whitney Houston to find out what happened. Guess what though...we were one of the six households who didn't watch the Grammy's tribute to Whitney. Aereo's streaming of live television might have changed that for our family (or if I'd just go buy an antenna and mount it). If either of those two scenarios played out, I'm sure the wife would have made me watch the Grammys. I may purchase and install an antenna soon...after the Oscars of course. Shhh....don't tell her, it's my Valentine's Day gift for myself. Also, I've read about DVR devices that you can hook up to your antenna. The downfall is that they are outrageously priced.

Entertainment-wise..."cutting the cord" makes perfect sense. I'll live without viewing live feeds of news and sports for now. I prefer reading my news on-line so I can filter out the over-abundance of political coverage and those tear-jerking human interest stories. Hulu Plus provides a lot of my favorite shows and those that aren't available through Hulu Plus are usually available on Hulu. CBS shows are only available on the network's website so I have to stream Person of Interest, Hawaii Five-O, and How I met Your Mother by hooking up our laptop to the television on a weekly basis because who knows when CBS will pull the episodes. Also, using Hulu has filtered out the over-whelming spectrum of reality television.
Larry "The On-line Streaming" Guy?
Netflix has a lot of great shows that I somehow missed over the years like Firefly, Weeds, Breaking Bad, or Archer. You can also revisit fan-favorite shows like Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development, Better Off Ted, The Walking Dead, Scrubs, and How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. Netflix has produced its own programming too. A show called Lilyhammer starring Steven Van Zandt of the E. Street Band (he was also Silvio Dante on HBO's The Soprano's). Hulu has some shows like this. The one that caught my eye is called Misfits.  However, I have not watched either of these shows from either on-line network, yet.
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that Misfits is not a Hulu Plus produced show. It is a British show that is labeled as a Hulu Exclusive. The only show produced by Hulu is called Battleground. My apologies for the misinformation.
So far, I'm getting used to not having all my favorite shows available in the same place (of course hooking up the laptop takes about 25 I shouldn't complain), but I also like that I get to see un-aired episodes of cancelled shows like the last 5 or 6 episodes of ABC's absolutely hilarious sitcom that's why it is necessary to cancel it, Man Up.  Also, I like that I can us my Kindle Fire to watch Hulu Plus or Netflix wherever I have wi-fi access. I won't be able to fully assess the consequences of "cutting the cord" until a year or so passes, and I see the full effect of not having cable.

My question for my readers is "how do watch your favorite shows?" I have a poll posted on the Point and you can select multiple answers. I'm sure that I do not have every possible way to watch included on this poll, so tell me in the comments. I'd like to create an honest discussion about television viewing habits and figure out the best way for me to move forward without cable. I've only just begun this cable-less journey. And you all are invited for the ride.
Thanks once again for using the internet for something other than porn or Facebook and taking your time to read my blog. Be sure to tune in next time for the zany adventures of the one and only self-proclaimed semi-professional procrastinator that doubles as an entertainment guru...or as my mom called me...that damn lazy couch potato.
Google "cutting the cord" or "cutting the cable cord"
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