Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Cutting The Cable"...or how I ditched my satellite company.

Let me say this up front:  I have been a DirecTV customer since 1993 and I have loved their product for all of those years.  I had always felt that I have been on the "cutting edge" of technology, and when I purchased the dish (yes, back then you had to purchase the dish) I was proving just that.  My friends and family were amazed at the clarity of the image and the massive amount of channels available.

Fast forward to 2011.  I still feel I am on the cutting edge of technology and read various RSS feeds daily on my iPad as I work out on my treadmill.  Articles about Internet TV kept popping up in my daily news feed.  I know there is much content out there to view online, but how easy is it to stream to my television?  I had purchased a DVI to HDMI converter cable for my MacBook Pro last year to use to stream movies from Netflix as we were monthly subscribers, so I knew it could be done and the quality was very good.  How easy is that, though?  What I had been doing is just leaving the converter cable hooked up to my 50" plasma and hooking up a stereo audio cable from my MBP headphone jack to my surround sound system.  This had been working very nicely to view content, but could this setup actually replace my beloved satellite system that I was so accustomed to?

I really do not want to admit this, but my DirecTV bill has slowly balooned to over $100.00 per month the past few years with the advent of an HD DVR, HD channel subscriptions, 1080i pay-per-view movie rentals, etc.  I love the HD quality of the picture and the ease of use of the DVR-honestly, I am not sure how I ever survived before without it.

The terms, "Boxee and Roku" kept appearing in my daily technology news readings about Internet television devices, so my geekiness took over and I had to research this much more.  So, actually, what are these devices?  

What is a Roku player?  This is straight from their web site:

"Roku is a little box that allows you to instantly stream tons of entertainment on your TV. Watch movies and TV shows from Netflix,Hulu Plus or Amazon VOD, listen to music on Pandora, catch the latest ballgame, and more — it's all available whenever you want it."

The prices on the Roku player range from $59.99 to $99.99.
This intrigued me but I was not ready to actually purchase one of these quite yet, so I kept researching.  The next big player in the Internet TV devices was Boxee.  As I initially visited their site, I discovered that you could actually DOWNLOAD their software and make your OWN "Boxee Box."  Now THIS is more my  I proceeded to install the software on my MacBook and hook it up to my big screen.  Wow, I was initially amazed at the interface.  It was very clean and easy to use.

The Boxee interface is very easy to use and can actually be navigated by my MacBook Pro remote, so no additional hardware is needed.  As Christmas break approached, I felt this would be the perfect time to do some testing on the Boxee.  There are many "apps" available for the Boxee and these include, Pandora, Netflix, YouTube, Justin.TV, CNN, just to name a few, with more added daily.  The apps are easy to install and find.  A big concern of mine was being unable to watch "live" events, but with the Justin.TV app, there is plenty of live content to view at any time.  
I actually watched many NFL and college football games and found many in near HD quality.  I was totally surprised how much content was available through the apps available.  

Boxee actually does sell their player and it is a pretty cool little device:
The current cost for their box is $199.99.  Pretty sleek design and very cool remote that has a full QWERTY on the back of it.

A really cool feature of the Boxee is a "Bookmarklet" browser button that can be added to your bookmarks bar on your individual browser that will actually allow you to add whatever video you are viewing on your personal computer to your "Queue" on your Boxee.  It is a simply awesome feature:

Now, this feature, I have discovered, does not work on ALL sites, so it is a little hit-and-miss, but for the sites it does work on it is a great way to get the content to your Boxee queue.

O.K., now I think it is time to set this plan into action, so I asked my family what TV shows they actually watched on our satellite system, and I was shocked with the fact that is was not actually that many....and the channels they watched were all channels we could access online.  This just made my decision that much easier, so it was time...cut the cable...or dish in our case.  We were paying for a bunch of channels that nobody seems to watch.

My main concern was not being able to get the networks and watch live sporting events, so my compromise was to get "basic" cable from our local provider, Three River Digital, which gives me all of the major networks, plus ESPN, all for $14.95/month.  I am probably going to install a roof-top antenna so that I can actually get these channels in HD, but for now, this is what I have done.

So, now, the BIG step, canceling the DirecTV.  It has become a real comfort to just come home and fire up the satellite box, peruse the massive amount of channels available (that apparently nobody watches) and check out what has recorded on the DVR, so I knew this would be the hardest part.  We called DirecTV and told them we were canceling.  They asked, "May we ask why?"  So-we proceeded to tell them what we were doing.  Shockingly they said, "Here is what we are going to do, cut your monthly bill by $30.00 for 12 months and give you a $100.00 credit to your account immediately."  WOW...this was an unexpected turn of events.  What to do?  My feelings went from shock to anger as I thought, why don't they just do this in the first place?  They are just making WAY TOO much money off of me and to give me this deal actually just made me want to cancel even more.

So, it is done.  Three days into our new life without satellite television, I think we are going to survive.  No visible signs of withdrawal...yet.  Kids are watching a lot of Netflix ($7.99/mo) and the various content available on the Boxee.  

The next step in this is to order my Roku box that will fully replace my homemade Boxee.  Not that I am dissatisfied with the Boxee, but the Roku seems more user friends at this point and allows content from Hulu Plus and Amazon Video on Demand.

Stay tuned.....


Anonymous said...

Very cool! I have had a love/hate relationship with Direct TV and TWC for years. I love Netflix and could quite easily forgo cable, however, the rest of the family might not be as like-minded. Roku sounds like a great way to watch what we want without the $100+ to the cable company.

Anonymous said...

Very cool! I have had a love/hate relationship with Direct TV and TWC for years. I love Netflix and could quite easily forgo cable, however, the rest of the family might not be as like-minded. Roku sounds like a great way to watch what we want without the $100+ to the cable company.


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