Bye-Bye Bundle! Cable is So Last Year

What are you paying these days to stay well-connected? If you subscribe to an AT&T bundle, you’re probably paying between $100 and $150 a month, depending on whether you’ve passed the 12 month “intro” price. Time Warner also starts their intro price right around $125. Satellite rates are about the same ($40 - $86/mo; 12 month intro), but as “a la carte,” where you pay just for channel packages – sans internet connection. 

Plus, during 2009, all providers (cable and satellite) showed more than a 4 percent increase in their fees, or nearly twice the inflation rate last year. 

Nobody likes their outrageous communications bill, but there is precious little wiggle room in reducing the bill without cutting something out. And forget calling customer service to work out a deal – they’re not as generous as cell phone providers with negotiations.

But technology, as always, is the motivating factor in change. We are in the upswing to successfully combining TV and the internet. After the mediocre response to Web TV and Apple TV (it’s been over a decade since their premiere!) we might finally see technology come to full  bloom this fall with the highly integrated Google TV.

In the mean time, if you really want to save some change with your communications bill, start with less. How much TV do you really need to watch? If you’re looking for just the bare essentials such as news, sports and American Idol – then consider going online. After all, most public TV stations are now online (ABC, NBC, FOX, ESPN, CNN). And do you really need to watch any of the hundreds of reality shows? There’s enough on YouTube, Hulu Plus™ and Justin.TV to keep you entertained for weeks on end.

Kill the cable. Keep the internet. Save money and avoid being a couch potato!

Harness Your Hardware

By now you probably have some sort of device hooked to your LCD or plasma screen TV that can bring movies and TV shows straight from your internet connection. Game consoles such as Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 are all now connected online straight to TV. For example, Netflix is now available for all three consoles. You can load your favorites into the instant que via your account online, and live happily starting at $8.99 a month (sans the $200 you put down for the console). 

Granted, you won’t see any live streaming action this way, but that’s ok, there are some freebie options such as JustinTV, Blip.tv, and Mediafly. These online content aggregators allow you to access a wide variety of audio and video broadcasts from pros and amateurs – you know, REAL reality TV! But if you’re feeling like avoiding drama, and are still craving your cable, check out PlayOn ($39.99/annual subscription) which includes other streaming stations such as CBS, CNN, ESPN, Food Network, Adult Swim, to name a few.

Set-Top Options

There are probably many members of the Gen Y group who may not already have a console (maybe like three people?).  Perhaps they have figured out the fun task of connecting to their PC or Mac to their TV, and have invested in a 50-foot cables to watch "The Office" on Hulu Plus™. That works, but if you haven’t purchased that cable yet, there are a few inexpensive options for premium viewing, without tripping over that long cable:

  • Roku ($80-$130) offers the advantage of built-in Wi-Fi. The $130 model (Roku HD XR Player) adds state-of-the-art dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and a USB port for future expansion.
  • Boxee is a software (free) that can be used to watch any online streaming video on your TV (PC, Mac or Linux based operating system required). Boxee enables its users to view, rate and recommend content to their friends through many social network services and interactive media related features.
  • Boxee Box (tentative release date fall 2010) will be sold by D-Link for under $200, and it'll support a wide range of formats, including DivX, VC-1, WMV, H.264 MKV, and Flash 10.1 (unlike Apple TV).
  • Apple TV ($229) can display YouTube videos, images from iPhoto and Flickr, and gets its video content from iTunes, in SD and HD quality. The current model has a 160GB HDD, but does not allow native support of Adobe Flash, the standard used by most of the Internet.
  • Google TV will be available fall 2010. Sony TVs will have Google TV integrated in them, as will Sony Playstations in the future. Other TVs will use an external box. Google plans on making the external boxes available exclusively through Best Buy (Price TBD).

Subscriptions

There is no such thing as a free lunch. We especially need to remember this when it comes to the web. While sites such as JustinTV, Hulu Plus™, and Mediafly give us great freebie viewing, there is still much more out there to watch.

So lay down a little dough and get exactly what you want for a fraction of the price of satellite or cable. The great thing about the following subscriptions is that you cancel and start up whenever you want – unlike an annual commitment to the communication giants.

The following subscriptions can be used through the computer, game consoles and set-top units:

  • Netflix (starting at $8.99/mo.): Access approximately 12,000 movies and TV shows on-demand.
  • Amazon Video-on-Demand (pay-per-view): Amazon offers 40,000-plus movies and TV shows for sale or rent a la carte, for anywhere from $2 to $4 (rentals) to $6 to $15 (purchases).
  • MLB TV (starting at $19.99/mo., $79.99/yr): MLB TV enables access to live and prerecorded Major League Baseball games
  • PlayOn ($39.99/annual subscription), includes many major streaming stations such as CBS, CNN, ESPN, Food Network, Adult Swim.

Cut the Cord

The average TV viewing time for Americans is 151 hours a month. If you crunch the numbers and commit to lifestyle change, you could save yourself up to $75 on your communications bill - and have time to leave your couch!  Since internet connection is a must, you will continue to pay around $50 monthly. But by cutting the bundle packages, and adding small monthly subscriptions, you will cry tears of joy as you open tear open your menial bill. 

Cutting out cable or satellite will also cut down on your viewing time, and most likely increase your dating time!

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About the Author: Sunny Shakula

Sunny Shakula is a copywriter, seasoned freelance journalist, and marketing professional with 10 years of industry experience under her belt. She holds B.A.s in Journalism and English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as well as training in graphic and interior design. Today, Sunny focuses on eco-friendly life and money management advice; her passion for design and eco-commerce extends to her own business, inside, whose motto is "Re-Purpose with a Purpose." Her forthcoming book, Cheap.Fun.Delicious, dishes on everything from eco-friendly cocktails to DIY interior design.

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