Sunday 26 January 2014

The Cable Free Life: Best tips for the new world of TV

by Courtney Lockhart


I haven’t had broadcast television in my home in over a year.  It wasn’t a philosophical decision, strictly financial.   In order to get the genre-friendly stations like Space and BBC Canada, digital or wireless television packages are around $70 a month not counting box rentals or taxes.   When I explain this to people they understand the math, but get a little fuzzy on the method.  So here are the basics of my cable free existence.

HARDWARE:   For the price of one month of traditional television, we invested in a digital media player for the living room.  Our device of choice was the Apple TV. We own several other Apple products and the ‘airplay’ function meant we could stream any video stored on any device to our TV.  Every brand has it’s pros and cons so o your research to find out which box will suit your needs.  If you have a newer game system you might be able to skip this step and simply download apps from your favorite content providers.

CONTENT:  There are more options every day for free or cheap television and movies online.  The gold standard still seems to be Netflix for its $8 a month all you can watch visual buffet.  Recently the website Crackle came to my attention.  It essentially picks up what Netflix chooses not to and supports itself with ad revenue.  If you love older movies and don’t mind commercials, I recommend checking it out.  Most of the major networks have mobile apps and online video libraries that allow people to keep up with their current programming. The major downsides to these apps are repetitive commercials and a limited time to view each episode before they are taken away.  In other words, not much different from the channels they spawn from.  In my home YouTube has become our number one source of content.  Our subscription list easily delivers an hour or two of completely original programming daily.  Cruising the related videos lists is our new version of channel surfing.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER:  When it comes to getting the shows you want, the key word is patience. If you absolutely must watch shows live with the rest of the world, this may not be the right decision for you.  Netflix usually likes to keep a one season buffer for shows meaning that if season six is currently on the air, they’ll only have to the end of season four available to stream. Even the most up to date TV network websites won’t post episodes until the show has aired in all time zones.  If you are a fan of your local morning show you most likely won’t have access to it or other regional programming.  Live sports also become a bit tricky.  Lastly, you will want to check you bandwidth cap if you have one, otherwise all your savings may be heading right back to the telecom company you cancelled your cable with in the first place.

Courtney Lockhart lives in the west end of Ottawa with her husband and step-cat.  She is polishing her skills to pursue one of her dream careers as either a costume drama character, Torchwood operative or executive assistant to a billionaire vigilante. You can follow her daily mission to DFTBA on Twitter @corastacy.

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