Tech Stuff: I Cut The Cord!…Kind Of
I think we have all dealt with the cable company at some point or another. I also think we have all had horrendous experiences that leave us frustrated, annoyed, and wondering why we continue to pay them large sums of money every month. Amirite?
Well, the other week I finally called to tell Comcast that I wanted to cancel my phone and cable service. That’s right, I unbundled. It felt really good. Back in my day, you used to be able to call up, complain that your bill was too high, and be able to do something about it. After being told that there was nothing they could do for me, I took my own measures.
After doing lots and lots of research, Conor and I decided to buy a Roku box and sign up for an Amazon Prime membership. This allows me to stream movies and tv shows to my computer, tv, and a newly gifted Kindle Fire. Lots of titles are free but, you can also pay for individual episodes and movies. As an added bonus, Amazon Prime also gives you free 2 day shipping on most orders (really helpful with holiday shopping and random supplies for house projects), special prices on certain products, and access to free books on the Kindle. It’s quite a trifecta.
While you can also stream other services like Netflix and Hulu via the Roku, I decided to start small instead of signing up for a bunch of new monthly charges. Not only did I cut my bill by almost $100 a month (seriously, I’m a bit of a TV addict), Comcast also decided that it was 30 cents cheaper to give me a cable box with the local channels along with my current internet. Only at Comcast is 2 cheaper than 1.
So here are some observations after a couple weeks of reduced cable access in case any of you out there are thinking about cutting the cord too:
1. Initial Costs:
Total: $191.97 (I bought the roku after signing up for Prime so I got reduced prices and a holiday deal)
Overall, it is a bit of an expense to get set up. However, since I reduced my Comcast bill by $100 per month, it will pay for itself within two months and I’ll still have a 12-month savings of $1000 if I don’t buy any episodes (no promises). There are cheaper boxes available and there are handy charts on the roku website to compare the features too.
2. Video Quality and Reliability:
We bought the Roku that was the best reviewed for HD quality and reliability. I’ve been really happy with it. Most selections start playing within 30 seconds of selecting them. We also have the fastest internet that Comcast offers so there hasn’t been an issue with buffering or timing out.The Roku 2 XS also comes with an ethernet connection which can help with that if your WiFi isn’t so hot. I haven’t used it myself yet though.
From my research, the ethernet connection will also allow you to stream from your computer.
Also, I love the small footprint of the Roku. The mounting kit we bought clips onto the back of our tv so all of the wires are hidden. We haven’t had any issues with the signal from the remote reaching the box either.
I’ve been really happy with the shows and movies that come for free with the Prime membership. While I do miss my trashy Bravo and VH1 shows a little bit, I’m happier not to spend the money on them. Prime has a large selection of BBC shows which Conor really likes and, there are a bunch of shows that are new to us on our watchlist like 24, Parks and Recreation, and Luther.
Also, since I gave up on owning DVDs a long time ago, I’m revisiting some favorite movies like Waiting for Guffman, Coming to America, and Stir Crazy.
4. Things to Consider:
My husband is a big sports fan and that’s something that you can’t get for free via streaming services. He was all about saving the money though so he’s willing to take the Roku plunge with me for now. Comcast’s offer of giving us our local channels for 30 cents less a month than internet alone did give us more balance since he was able to watch the Super Bowl at home and can catch highlights on the local news. Also, if there’s a big hockey game on, we can always watch it with friends or head out to a local bar (socialization is important!). There are subscription services that cater to individual and general sports too so, there are options if he can’t stand it after a few months.
While there is a Newscaster channel on Roku, it’s mostly audio from what I’ve found. If you’re a news junkie, you should consider how you’ll access it if you decide to give cable the boot.
Amazon Prime has worked really well for us so far given our needs, what we watch, and other devices that we own. If you prefer iTunes, Apple TV may be a better option for you. Most of the reviews I read indicated that people used the Roku with some combination of Prime, Netflix, and/or Hulu Plus. There’s overlap with all three services so make some decisions about what is most important to you before signing up for a bunch of different things.
FYI, Amazon Prime just inked a deal to be the exclusive streaming service for Downton Abbey. If that doesn’t lock in your vote, I don’t know what will
5. Irrational Expectations:
I will admit that I probably watch too much TV. Besides saving money, I also wanted to restrict my options a bit so I didn’t feel like a slave to the TV anymore. Maybe if there really wasn’t anything on, I’d find better ways to spend my time. You know, by working on the hundreds of projects I have stored up in my head and on my pinterest boards.
If I have to wait until after the new season of Game of Thrones is over and available for streaming, maybe I won’t be such a nerd about watching it every Sunday (that remains to be seen). While it’s very new-agey and boring to expect technology (or the lack of) to revolutionize my life, make me more productive, more active in the gym, and less lazy, I’m interested to see where it all goes!
Have any of you guys done the same or are thinking about it? Let me know your experiences and if you have any questions.
Added Bonus: Check out this article that suggests TV binge-viewing by the season-full may lead to better programming overall.