Help me cut the Cable

I’ve about had it with the price/quality of cable TV. I recently picked up a Roku box and am looking for help navigating the numerous channels in search of the programming my wife and I normally enjoy via cable. Here’s where I’m currently at:

Netflix. Got it for streaming some movies and many TV series.

Hulu Plus. I figure I should get a subscription as they stream lots of first run TV. Is it actually first run? Do they allow streaming at roughly the same time it’s broadcast? What are the big shows that are blacked out. My wife and I still enjoy the occasional reality show.

Amazon. Would use this to rent movies and shows? Those of you who buy subscriptions to shows, how is that working out for you? Are all episodes of the season available to you as they are broadcast? How long do you have them for?

HBO Go. This is a problem. I know you need to have a sub through cable or sat. That really sucks. Are there any alternatives?

Other good Roku channels? Seems like there’s a lot of crap.

Any other bits of advice? How do you organize all this junk? Netflix has a queue. What about Hulu Plus and Amazon?

If you’re going to cut the cable, my advice is to let go a little. You won’t get to see everything as it airs. Sometimes you’ll have to wait until the season is over, even. But, if you’re willing to do that, it’s totally doable. We’ve been off cable for about 5 months now and it’s been awesome. $140 a month back in my pocket.

If you’re someone who needs to be in the conversation right after a new episode of whatever airs, it might not work for you.

I’ve been fighting this, so:

OTA broadcast: Good for major sporting events. Not good for everyday sporting events.
Netflix: Much better than Amazon selection-wise, but still way behind DVDs
Amazon: For-pay rentals are compelling. Instant selection not so much.
HBO: Forget it. Stay a season behind and rent the DVDs. Some Showtime is on Netflix.
Hulu Plus: Not if you put a gun to my head. Most of it is still the day after and all of it is still with advertisements. You’re paying them to remove their arbitrary efforts to force you to pay them. Fuck that.

You really can’t do it right without piracy. If you pirate, it’s quite easy. Otherwise, you need to just accept that you’ll miss out on shows and generally suffer an inferior experience.

This is exactly how the content owners want it, because the studios, internet service providers, and cable TV companies are all one and the same.

Throw up an antenna for the network stuff and repurpose an old PC with a giant honking hard drive as Media Center DVR. Broadcast HD looks better than cable/satellite, and you can then get all the network stuff without delays or wondering if a specific show’s on Hulu Plus. (That said, we do have Hulu Plus too, for some of the USA Network and other cable shows we used to watch.) Also, a PC hooked to your TV, alas, is going to give you the best Hulu Plus experience, since they annoyingly have contract exclusions on some shows that make them web-only and not available on Roku/PS3/Xbox/etc.

Also, you’ll probably find that the major TV stations have broadcast-only subchannels that show lots of old, syndicated shows. Nice way to pick up some extra shows.

We’ve been satellite TV-free for over six months now and the only real loss has been the ability to throw HGTV on as “video wallpaper” for my wife.

And despite what Stusser says, we haven’t had to resort to piracy. The only shows we haven’t been able to purchase on Zune or Amazon have been HBO stuff – you have to wait for Game of Thrones to hit DVD/Blu-ray. All the other cable stuff, like Mad Men, has been available for sale or streaming. If you’re patient, you don’t have to steal. It’ll all hit Netflix (discs) eventually.

Just going to throw the idea of an AppleTV (now in 1080!) and iTunes rentals out there. Depending on how many shows you need to watch first-run each month, it could be cheaper than a premium cable subscription.

Yes, that is the inferior experience I was talking about.

I wish HBO would just let us pay the $12/month to get their damn channel on our Xbox/Roku/whatever. But I assume the cable/satellite companies would put the hurt on them if they did that.

But seriously… Waiting a few extra months to watch a show isn’t exactly a crisis. We’re so freaking spoiled in this century.

I use HuluPlus for my TV watching needs. Sure, you have to pay and they still show ads, but it is only $8 a month, so no big deal.

The waiting doesn’t bother me much, except that it makes it hard to discuss the show with other people. I think a big part of the reason I stopped watching Fringe part way through this season was because I was a week behind broadcast, which prevented me from participating in the qt3 discussion, so I just felt out of sync. But for most things, the delay is shorter. Waiting a day for the Daily show isn’t a big deal to me.

In terms of organization, you can follow shows you are interested in, and they’ll add new shows to a big personal list of episodes. You can manually add or remove things from it you don’t want to watch, get email about additions if you want, and so forth. It works well.

Thanks for all the info guys. It’s really helpful. I’m going to call comcast and shave down my service to something less expensive and see how much I can use alternative methods for content.

That’s a fairly broad brush. I don’t really care about seeing stuff the moment it comes out so, for me, it’s still the baseline experience I always had.

I just got a Boxxee Box so I’m increasingly tempted to try cutting the cable… it just seems so drastic!

We cut the cable almost a year ago and it’s been just fine.

Hulu Plus is a must as is Netflix. There is plenty of great content for me and the rest of the family just from those 2 services.

We also cut the cable a year or so ago (kept broadband Internet access, dumped cable TV and phone – which we replaced with Ooma). We kept Netflix, a Windows Media Center DVR, Hulu (not plus), and PlayOn. While we miss the occasional show, it’s well worth the almost $2,000 per year that we’re saving.

I’ve found we spend about $20/mo. on either Amazon, iTunes, or the occasional DVD rental. The experience isn’t quite what it was when we had Triple Play, but the cash in hand is pretty wonderful.

My friend just told me that he can get 24 channels, with good reception, using a digital antenna (in Raleigh). Don’t count that out as a way to access content if you life in an area with broadcast signals.

We cut the cable in December and I think we’ve watched more TV since then. Most of it is through Netflix and Hulu. We have a Mac Mini hooked up to the TV and also watch the Jon Stewart show, etc… through the browser on the Mini.

The only thing that makes me sad is that there’s no legit way to get HBO without cable and I would like to watch season 2 of Game of Thrones as it airs.

Yeah, HBO are real pricks about streaming. They can’t seem to come to terms with the new direction the world is moving.

I am cutting out the cable (TV) where I am living now since February. Just getting the internet and no phone, no TV.

I’m still on the fence with Hulu Plus but I could not do without Netflix.

I think I’m going to upgrade to at least a 1 DVD rental service with the Netflix streaming that I currently enjoy. I really enjoy being able to stream an entire season or series night after night and don’t feel I’m missing out by not being up to the moment watercooler-wise.

HBO is my bugaboo too. /sigh

What’s the advantage to Hulu Plus? Is it just normal Hulu without ads?

How’s Ooma working out for you? It looks tempting, but I’ve never heard any real feedback in the wild. When I was researching, for a while I was wondering why the hell everyone didn’t buy one and where the hell is the downside was.

Also deeper historical access to episodes and quicker access to current episodes.