So I am about 10 days into my cord-cutting adventure, and I’ve discovered a few things along the way.
For starters, while a desktop PC running Windows Media Center connected to an antenna is a solid DVR for broadcast television, it is shockingly incapable of working as an all-in-one device. Neither Windows Media Center nor XBMC offers access to services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and the YouTube add-on for XBMC refuses to allow many users to log in to their accounts and look at their favorites and playlists. What’s more, only Hulu Plus offers a decent desktop app for PCs. Everything else has to be done through a browser window — great if you’re on a PC, extremely clunky and at times unwatchable in a living room environment.
In response to failing to make the PC everything I wanted it to be in a set-top box, I purchased this new Samsung Smart Blu ray player. Unlike Roku and Apple TV, the Samsung Smart Hub has all four major streaming services — Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, and YouTube — plus plenty of other interesting apps for watching video content. The interface isn’t perfect, but it does its job well enough. In fact, if this Blu ray player had a digital TV tuner and a built-in DVR for recording broadcast TV, it would be the perfect set-top box for cord cutters. (Samsung’s recent acquisition of Boxee might leave some wondering whether such a DVR might be built into future Samsung devices.)
After setting up the Blu ray player with all the apps I wanted, I stumbled across something very interested — I suddenly had a lot more stuff that I actually wanted to watch.
Netflix’s collection of original series have some people calling it the new HBO, and its back catalog is filled with interesting stuff. On top of that, Amazon Prime Video is starting to amass a very impressive catalog of films and TV shows — one that I find more impressive than Hulu Plus, and at a lower price. I found myself adding hours upon hours worth of content to my play queue without even thinking much about it.
This could be dangerous, of course, as I don’t want to find myself dumping cable only to become a couch potato again. That said, the options available in online streaming video should make cable much less viable to anyone who isn’t interested in sports. With the exception of certain shows on HBO and Showtime, most everything that anyone would want to watch is available online. You might have to pay individually for some shows and seasons, such as with AMC shows like Mad Men and The Walking Dead, but the rest is out there to subscribers of the big online services.
Then compare the prices. The average cable bill costs between $70 and $80 a month, and often gets up to $100. Netflix streaming, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime cost less than $23/month combined. That’s roughly $47 to $57 per month you could spend on something else more important to you. Even if you buy half a dozen individual seasons of popular cable shows, you’re still coming out way ahead. More importantly, you’re paying for the TV shows you actually want to watch, rather than financing a hundred channels you ignore.
The only thing you’ll miss out on, of course, is sports. Aside from what gets shown on broadcast TV and really small things like the North American Soccer League on UStream, you’ll have to leave the house to get your sports fix.
Yesterday, I walked into a bar that had a number of TVs on the wall tuned to a couple of ESPN channels. They were showing men’s slow-pitch softball and an AAU basketball game filled with high school players.
So far, I’m not regretting my decision at all.