The End of Television

August 25, 2010

My household officially went cable-free this month. We said goodbye to a pricey bill for “bundled service” from our cable provider, which had crept up to $175 a month for phone, basic cable television, and high-speed Internet. With an increasing number of content options available, cable television is getting to be a pretty bad value.

For my family, the choice was pretty easy to make.

For one thing, we found that we simply weren’t watching cable TV anymore. We’re not a big TV-watching family in the first place. But over three-quarters of the time my wife and I and our three kids were spending in front of a screen was spent NOT watching cable television. We were reading on the Internet, or watching movies, or watching streaming video online.

For another, my cable company was charging WAY TOO MUCH for phone AND Internet service. This bothered me, big time. How could voice-over-IP (VoIP) service cost as much as the Internet service itself (roughly $45 each)? I thought voice over internet was supposed to leverage the data technology I was already paying for with broadband Internet. So where were the voice savings? Vonage, the VoIP service provider, manages to deliver phone service over Internet for $10 a month.

Finally, we realized that the future of home entertainment is web video streamed to really big TV’s.

So, Cable TV, your services are no longer required. Goodbye.

Our total household savings are over $100 a month. This is without losing much, and getting better variety, more customized to our own tastes.

Here’s my new set-up:

Broadband Internet: OK, I still pay the cable company for this. Total Cost: $45 per month.

Hulu.com: Hulu might end up being the tipping point for a mass exodus away from broadcast cable service. It is so easy to time-shift your viewing habits in order to watch online for free the next day on Hulu. In addition, Hulu now comes built-in to some network-ready HDTV’s, like Samsung. My next TV will likely be a Samsung, for this reason. Total Cost: FREE.

Netflix: Online DVD and BlueRay rentals, plus I can stream movies and shows to the TV from the Netflix-hosted online catalogue through my Nintendo Wii. Total Cost: $10 per month.

ESPN3.com: This new video streaming site, still in beta, offers a few live events each day, and several replay events, all in High-Def. I watch this while working in the kitchen, where my home PC is hooked to a 26” HDTV monitor. This site offers a lot of promise and I’m hoping the programming schedule expands soon. Total Cost: FREE.

HD Digital Antenna: This little high-value gadget picks up my 4 local networks, plus PBS, in High-Def, all for free. Remember that since June 2009, all over-the-air broadcasts are digital. So I get prime-time network shows, golf and football on Fox, CBS, and NBC, plus Antiques Roadshow, all in High-Def, all for free. Total Cost: $15.00.

Vonage: While I was at it, I dropped my pricey Cable-provider phone service too. With basic internet access only, I switched to Vonage, for the more-than-enough 200 minute per month plan. Total Cost: $13 per month.

Do you find yourself increasingly getting content from somewhere besides Cable TV?

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3 Responses to “The End of Television”

  1. evologynow Says:

    You can get everything on the internet these days! Especially now that google allows phone calls!

    • mikebernard Says:

      Good point – Google Talk and Skype are additional options for “free” voice that I could’ve taken. I went with Vonage for now, a paid service on top of broadband.

      I’m interested to see the impacts of the recently released Google TV, which is built in to new devices and tv’s. I think we are just at the beginning of internet-ready software being built in to television sets, and once that becomes common, all of the intermediary set top and home network devices go away, and so will cable programming.

      I like your evology blog, and the topics you write about are great! I am adding it to my reader. Keep up the good writing.


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