Saturday, March 28, 2009

With online video and free, over-the-air TV, why pay for cable or satellite?


Last Friday my Comcast DVR didn’t record Fox’s “Dollhouse” as planned. I had three shows programmed to record at the same time, but the DVR can only record two at once. But it was no problem. I was able to watch the episode on Hulu.com.
Using Hulu was a pleasant experience. The episode was free, with limited commercial interruptions, and the video quality was great.
Like many people, I’m starting to question the traditional methods of receiving and viewing television programming.
I pay $97.50 a month for Comcast service. That breaks down to $92.46 for Comcast cable television and $5.04 in taxes, surcharges and fees. My package includes standard cable channels for $57.99, a “digital classic package” of extra channels for $16.99, a dual-tuner digital video recorder rental for $15.99 a month, and $1.49 for so-called “cable guard” insurance (which I should have canceled long ago).
I’m paying $1,170 a year for cable television service. That works out to $3.21 a day. I could be paying even more if I got a package of high-definition television channels. So the big question is: Is it worth it?
Probably not. Especially during a recession.
The sad fact is that most of the television I watch is from the broadcast channels anyway, which I could be getting for free with an over-the-air antenna.
I regularly watch Fox’s “Dollhouse,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” and “House,” as well as NBC’s “30 Rock.” All are available on Hulu, which is co-owned by NBC Universal and Fox-parent News Corp.
I also watch ABC’s “Lost,” which is available on ABC’s Web site.
Plus, I watch BBC America’s “Ashes to Ashes,” the sequel to the original U.K. series “Life on Mars.” I just searched online and found full episodes of “Ashes to Ashes” running on TV.com, owned by CBS Interactive.
And finally, I watch “Reaper” and “Supernatural,” which run full episodes on the CW’s Web site.
If it were up to me alone, I’d eighty-six my cable. I neglected to mention that I also subscribe to Netflix and have a Netflix set-top box for streaming video from the Internet.
Unfortunately the decision to cancel cable isn’t mine alone to make. My wife would want cable just for the news channels: CNBC, MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel. Meanwhile, I could survive with broadcast network and online news.
My kids would want Noggin, Disney Channel and the like.
So on review it looks like we’re sticking with cable, for now. I’m outnumbered. But I’ll keep the subject open for debate.
Photos above: Eliza Dushku as Echo on "Dollhouse" and the title sequence from "Ashes to Ashes."

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