Cable companies suck

I’m pretty specific in my television habits – there’s a few mainstream shows I watch from the big networks, some stuff on A&E and Bravo and the Space network (Canada’s science fiction station). I could probably easily get by with 20 or 25 channels, but in order to get that combination of channels through Rogers I need to get their VIP package. That package includes 227 standard digital channels and 52 HD channels that I’ll never see because I don’t want to buy/rent a HD receiver. Forget about getting the Movie Network so I can watch HBO shows – that would run me an extra $20 a month to get their movie theme package. Even without the Movie Network it’ll cost $65 to get all that. Gah…

To the internet!

Yep many networks have their stuff up for streaming from their homepage, if you don’t want to go the questionable torrent route.

There are a few key questions to answer:

  1. How much television do you watch, and do you have anything you watch live as it airs? If you watch live stuff that’s on the cable channels, can you live with not seeing that stuff as it happens and potentially being spoiled or missing the conversation.

  2. Do you operate a DVR? Bought or custom? If it’s custom, you’re getting cable. The end. I’ve heard of one card-based tuner released so far and I don’t know if Robert Heron has managed to get it working, but it’s the only format where you can record cable content in the clear. If you only want a receiver or two you can go a more expensive route through the analog loophole with HD-PVRs and receiver boxes, but I’ve found that solution to be exquisitely annoying for as long as I’ve done it.

  3. How much of the content that you watch now could be replaced with superior content online? For instance, if you’re getting your video game news from G4, is there a show on Revision3 or another online broadcaster that is as good or superior?

For me, I’m stuck. I have to go with cable. If you don’t watch much television, however, the internet can be a viable source, particularly if you get something like the Boxee Box to act as a frontend for you and find all the content.

I know that a lot of what I want can be found online, but I still want that “sit down in front of the TV” thing. I work and play on computers all day, but sometimes I just want to veg on the couch with a remote in my hand. The key word is “sometimes” - I don’t need hundreds of channels for an activity that might take up 20 hours in a month, tops.

Well there’s On Demand, not sure what level of cable you need for that though. Also you can somehow connect a browser to your TV (laptop, console, whatever) you can then access the stuff from the network sites. Or you could download them via bittorrent and somehow get the files to play on the TV or a device connected to it (I do this with my PS3 for shows I can’t get any other way).

Usually, to get On Demand from a cable company, you have to have the tier of service that includes the channel you want in order to access the content of that channel On Demand. It’s a bonus service, not a replacement.

Yeah, Rogers is basically the worst too – like yourself, I only want a handful of channels. In fact, I would be fine with 5. But I end up paying $200 month (includes internet) to Rogers because to get those 5 channels I need to get everything else - get a few UFC events or movies, and it hit $3000/year? it’s ridiculous.

If didn’t love PVRing things, I would probably just download the shows I want and cancel cable. But HD cable is also better than downloaded content. In Canada, cable is only option for PVRs.

Even more annoying, more than half the shows I watch aren’t even available on Rogers:

  • Sons of Anarchy (only available if you also get the Superchannel package, which has all the same channels you already get with the HBO/TMN package - and they are months behind the US broadcasts and haven’t even started this season)
  • Justice (ditto)
  • Doctor Who (not available at all, or perhaps mmonths later in low res format).
  • World Poker Tour - this year we did get ESPN’s WSOP coverage, at least, although a few days stale).
  • don’t get ESPN, don’t get Sci-fi, don’t get History channel

Doctor Who is available on the Space channel if you have it. Both new and older episodes, though as far as I know, not in HD since the Space Channel has never been in HD. And yeah, what’s up with that? One of the biggest channels available and it’s not in HD.