Today I finally brought the two cable set-top boxes back to TimeWarnerCable. My bill is now lower by about hundred dollar to around $60/month. I’ve been playing to do this since the summer so my laziness donated some $400 extra to Twc. Oh well, but now it is done.
The first steps were taken almost a year ago by first canceling the phone. I was hardly using the home phone anymore. Previously it was useful because phone calls to The Netherlands were a lot cheaper than via my iPhone. When AT&T greatly improved its pricing, that advantage went away and I was basically paying $75/month for no particular reason.
I already had an AppleTV connected to the living room and bedroom televisions. Via iTunes and Netflix I watch tv-series and movies. I added a Roku in each room which gave me BBC World News, CNN International, NOS Journaal and Politiek24 to provide for a selection of news. These four stations come courtesy of the NowhereTV private channel. Streamfree.tv is an excellent source for Roku private channels.
Between iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.com I have plenty of choice in tv-series and movies. Netflix and Amazon may not have the most recent season yet of say Breaking Bad but that doesn’t matter much. The Roku box does a good job in covering the need for news. What remains then is sports.
Cable TV (and satellite) currently still beats the internet in availability of live sports. While much is streamed on-line too, in most cases you need a cable-tv subscription in order to watch the stream: NBC and the winter/summer Olympics to name one example. However, most of the sports on American television doesn’t interest me: baseball, football. I have a passing interest in basketball and hockey but not enough that I stay home to watch. The sports that do interest me – cycling, Dutch soccer, speed skating – I am either not able to see it anyways due to international copyright issues or there are on-line options. Steephill.tv has pointers to live streaming of most/all of the cycling spring classics. The Tour de France is provided through an excellent iPad app. And on my iPad I can see the NOS’s live stream of the speed skating events. I can see this stream on my iPad but not on my MacBook. This is a big secret, you must promise not to tell anyone.
Via Airplay I can then stream this from my iPad or my MacBook to an AppleTV and watch it full-screen on the tv.
The main casualty of ending the cable subscription then is the ability to watch Dutch soccer. ESPN’s iPad app, ESPNWatch, streams a few of the Eredivisie games each weekend. This requires a cable-tv subscription (you log in to the app via your service provider account) so that will go away. But then, seeing how Ajax is playing this season…
I did get an HD-antenna (AntennaDirect CMS1 from BetsBuy) so I have access to over-the-air tv-stations. What with a north-facing apartment and Lake Ontario straight ahead I am pleased with what I receive. Eight stations which include the local affiliates of ABC, CBS and CW, and a couple of PBS stations. And all of them in HD.
An article in the New York Times a little while back introduced the terms “lean back tv” and “lean forward tv”. The first referring to cable-tv, the second to on-line watching. These are very accurate characterizations. Watching cable-tv you just zap around the channels pushing the button on your remote or by scrolling through the guide. After cutting the cable, you can still get much of the same content but their sources are separate (different web sites etc) and are accessed through separate devices (AppleTV, Roku, computer) and so requires more activity.