cutting the cable::day three

Paul and I have been working on ways to cut back on our bills. So far this year, this has meant eliminating the phone line we never use, and downgrading to DSL only. It also meant getting rid of our premium channels a month ago. After realizing that we didn’t miss HBO, Showtime and Starz, we took it to the next step, and cut off our DirectTV entirely. We decided to get a a Roku box and rely on what was available on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.com instead of paying for dozens of channels we don’t even watch.

So on Thursday, we hooked up the Roku box. It’s a little thing, about the size of two CD cases. It only streams from designated sources, unlike a Boxee, which has a hard drive. We chose the Roku because it has access to Amazon (free streaming with our existing Prime membership!), Netflix (free streaming with our one disc a month subscription!) and Hulu Plus. Boxee, as of January, didn’t have all those sources of content connected yet…and it was over twice as expensive. Google TV and Apple were also lacking in the content sources, and I had no interest in being tied to iTunes for content. It was this article in Search Engine Land , plus a little reading on blogs like Engadget (link goes to review) that convinced us to spend the $99 on a Roku box.

Paul and I had done our research before we bought the box. We could, indeed, get everything we wanted to watch through Roku content partners. What we can’t get for free – Top Chef, for example – we can just buy for $1.99 an episode as it comes out. Or we can wait for the whole season to come out on DVD. A season of True Blood, for example, at $27.99 for the DVDs, is still cheaper than the $29.99 we’d spend on just one month of premium channels. And as we surfed through the content, we realized that between the major sources, we had a ridiculous backlog of content that, while not fresh, was comprehensive. We may not be able to find a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Ben, but Amazon has twenty seasons of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood streaming for free. We get most of our news from the Daily Show anyways, and that’s updated daily – why should we pay for 24 hour news networks that we don’t watch? (We also get real news from NPR, Slate.com and the CBC.ca podcasts. We gave up on TV news years ago anyways)

Now we’re on Day Three. Ben is watching his beloved “Wodgers”. Paul and I are, so far, totally happy with the available content. We shut off the DirectTV on Friday, so we’re relying on the Roku now to bring all content into the house. I think all content is on-demand, in one way or another, these days. Channels are fragmented so people can consume specific categories of content. Consumers are used to using DVRs, too, to consume content at leisure. This is just the next step. The fractured TV channel universe is collapsing back down to just one multi-dimensional point: the point at which we access all content, everywhere…for a lot less than it costs to bring in hundreds of useless, non-interesting channels.

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