Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 1: Streaming

Times are tough. We’re all looking for ways to cut spending. After looking at my cable bill, I decided (with zero research and zero preparation) to see if my wife and I could live without television for 52 weeks, relying solely on the internet.

Two TV Junkies under one roof can consume a remarkable amount of programming content. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is no silver bullet one-size-fits-all solution to replacing television with the internet. We watch a mixture of streamed shows and downloads.

After a bit of a learning curve we’re up to speed and have not missed a single show. Election night was a bit tense, but I didn’t miss a beat. Plus, we’ve saved $250 in five months. Best of all, my setup has passed The Wife Test (your milage may vary).

Streaming


Streaming gets me in that instant-gratification way that video-on-demand should. It’s perfect for when I sit down and I don’t know what I’m in the mood to watch. In the old days I would have flipped channels or consulted The Guide to see what was on. Now I browse for what’s available and the selection just keeps getting bigger.

There’s a ton of services out there that want you to download and install their software. DON’T DO IT!! If it’s not crawling with spyware, it’s big and bloated and unnecessary. All you need is a Mac or PC built in the last half-decade and a web browser.

Free Streams:
Five months ago I felt that I needed to make a page of links for each show I wanted to watch; because I never knew what there was to find, where to find it, or how long it would be there after I found it. (It’s still mostly true, but it’s gotten a lot better.)

In the last few months, the networks have wised up quite a bit and most of them are offering at least some streaming (and it’s usually their biggest shows). All the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW, and PBS) are doing it, and several of the Cable Networks are dipping their toes in as well. USA Network, HGTV, A&E, CNN, The Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, Lifetime, ABC Family, MTV, and even TBS and The Weather Channel.

UPDATE: (March 2009) A much longer List of Links is on the right column of every page. —> –> —> –> —> –> —> –> —> –> —> –>

YouTube, the big kahuna of online streaming, will be offering MGM Movies and CBS Television soon, but the big dog in a post-television television world may just be Hulu.com.

Hulu is my first stop when looking for a show. Hulu even lists things they DON’T show, but only if they’re available through official distribution channels. They don’t link to JustinTV, TVLinks.cc, SurftheChannel, ChannelChooser, TV-Video.Net, WatchTVSitcoms, or other grey-market sites.

For those things, Google is your friend. If you have little ones, you will find The Disney Channel & Disney Channel 2 by any means necessary.

Sometimes you don’t feel like searching for things. Sometimes you just want to “turn it on and let it go”. For those times, I go to Joost. Just last night, I was watching a collection of Christmas Episodes from random TV Shows.

For mindless music in the background there’s Pandora, for music videos there’s MTV Music and Songza.

Paid Streams:
Netflix. Technically it’s a paid stream but because my bill didn’t change it feels free. All-you-can-watch streaming is part of most Netflix plans (including mine) and I use it.

I don’t have a Windows PC or an Intel Mac so I can’t see it in my browser (like most people); however, there are an increasing number of gadgets that allow you to watch Netflix streaming, most of them more likely to be attached to your TV than your computer is. If you have a new Samsung BluRay Player, a TiVo HD, The Netflix Player by Roku, or an XBox 360 you can get Netflix Streaming on your TV. Me? I’m buying a Mac mini.

Fancast is a some-free, some-paid browser-based streaming site. It had a very interesting beta period this summer, but now that the networks are waking up, it seems a bit redundant. It’s a great bookmark for those hard-to-find episodes.

If you live in Wisconsin, and have RoadRunner / Time Warner, and have a PC running XP or Vista then you are in the test market for HBO on Broadband.

Downloads


Streaming isn’t perfect. If my wife is streaming Hart to Hart from Hulu, I’d better not be surfing YouTube on the laptop. If she was watching Fringe (which we download) I’d be fine.

Also, if the weather’s bad, the internet gets slow. That means lots of paused streams and filling buffers. (Continued in How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 2: Downloads.)

@ http://digg.com/television/Replace_Cable_TV_with_The_Internet_Part_1_Streaming