Another month, another increase in our Comcast cable TV bill. One too far this time. Several months ago the bill had risen to a level where we thought it was too high for how much TV we watched & we trimmed a number of premium channel packages to reduce it to an acceptable level. Last month it was back up to that same amount even without those channels. It hadn’t jumped to that level though. Instead, it has been on a steady increase. Sometimes just a dollar or so, other times more. Always creeping up.
Meanwhile, we already had Roku boxes downstairs in the family room as well as in the master bedroom which provide us access to unlimited Netflix streaming for just $8 a month & Amazon Prime Video essentially for free since we have prime for the “Amazon Mom” program (if you never use the other elements of Prime, it would still work out at less than $8/month).
There was one wrinkle in the plan: the most common show we watched, when we had the chance to watch anything in the evenings, was House Hunters on HGTV. But we weren’t willing to pay that much for a few hours of TV each month. So, just before our trip to the UK, I called Comcast and canceled the TV service completely, and returned all the TV related hardware. But I kept the internet from them. Factoring in the increased price of “unbundled” Internet, that saves us about $110/month – over $1300/year.
The New Setup
I moved the cable modem to the wiring closet so it connects directly to the inbound Comcast cable now, and attached an amplified flat panel over the air TV antenna to the low loss splitter I already had in there to feed broadcast signals to each room in the house where we had a TV.
That gives us broadcast digital TV in 3 rooms, and Roku streaming video in two rooms. The missing piece right now is the DVR for downstairs, but since most of what we watch is on-demand content from the Roku, we might not need it.
A few nights ago I was skimming through the TV programs in the Amazon Prime app on the Roku when I noticed House Hunters was there now. A little searching dug up a number of seasons of both House Hunters, and my preferred House Hunters International, available for viewing. Some seasons are are free with Amazon Prime, others paid.
That for me makes the decision to cut the cable even better – we can essentially watch the only things we ever really watched from the cable service, in HD in both rooms (with Comcast we only had HD in one room as the second HD receiver would have cost more), for free each month.
And for seasons that are not free, we can buy the whole season (typically 13 episodes) for between $10 and $40 (depending on the season & SD or HD). All but the very latest have whole season packages with deep discounts. Even at $40, that is a fraction of the cost of Comcast. And we can see them all, rather than having to wait (even Comcast’s on demand only had a few episodes available and cycled through them).
In fact, even at half the cost of Comcast, I have more than enough to cover a whole season of House Hunters and perhaps even rent some movies, if we can’t watch them for free with the either the Netflix or Amazon subscriptions we have. (The other night I watched War Games, the hacking movie from the 80s, for free on Amazon Prime just because I saw it in a list of recent additions.)
Target Ticket, Hulu, Vudu, etc
It doesn’t end there though. In addition to Netflix and Amazon, the Roku has support for the new Target Ticket service, Hulu (for pay-per-view TV series, often available the day after they air on cable), Vudu for streaming movie rentals that Amazon and Netflix might not have and many other channels. Some free (ad supported like regular TV), some paid monthly or annually and some pay-per-view.
So, sorry Comcast, you’ve priced yourselves out of the content business and become just a dumb pipe. If AT&T can get their act together, or somebody else (Google) comes on the scene and runs fibre to our house, I will drop Comcast Internet in a heartbeat too. They’re not cheap, but they are sadly the only real option for high speed connectivity right now here.
Our toddler is growing up in a world where TV is not scheduled. You don’t need to wait for a program to start. You can watch it again and again if you like, and you can see as many episodes, back to back, as you can stand. You can also pause, rewind and fast-forward.
Contrast that with our childhood where you got to see one episode a week, and if you missed it you had to hope for & find the re-run time. Unless you were lucky enough to have a VCR. And you remembered to program it. And you got the programming correct. And there was space on the tape. And the broadcast time didn’t change for any reason. How different from today.