Denting the Cable – Part I

No… it’s a mule, jackass!

We don’t really mind paying what we think is fair, but considering how little television we watch these days (damn kids! damn jobs! damn time wasted on exercise and the outdoors!), it bothers us to pay upwards of $170 a month for cable television, internet, and a phone line from Comcast.

We like Comcast. They’re friendly on the phone. They give us new remotes if/when our dog eats (or more likely sits on and crushes) our clicker. Their services almost never go down for us, and when they do go down, they seem to come back up quickly. FIOS is not available where we are, so there’s no real competitor offering a comparable suite of services.

The real hurdles to us ditching television programming from the cable company boil down to 1.) the need to lean on television programming to keep the kids sedated for a few minutes, 2.) the need to watch NFL Football and 3.) the need to keep up with an endless list of craptastic, reality-themed, or so-you-think-you-can-do-something television shows my wife watches. These problems require different levels of gadget enthusiasm and tenaciousness.

Tech tastes good!

The child challenge is easily solved by a combination of the Roku and a subscription to Netflix and/or Amazon Prime. The whims of little people are admittedly unpredictable, but right now Dora the Annoyer, Dinosaur-themed toons like the odd Dinosaur Train, and Curious George are getting the job done.

I’m under the impression that the NFL challenge requires little more than an inside antenna. An antenna candidate is on its way this moment (more details on its effectiveness to come upon its arrival and setup). It also requires a small bar tab allowance for watching any necessary NFL network games at a local dive, but hey… that’s just like an away game once in a while. Done.

The “I want to watch the crappiest crap on television” issue is more difficult, because it brings crap channels like Bravo! into play. Can many of these be watched online? Yep. Is this as good as watching them easily on the biggest screen in our house? Nope. Netflix, Amazon, and even iTunes cover part of this problem, but too much of the pay per view route and we’re back where we started, but without the convenience of cable. Hulu? Maybe, but Hulu has some real programming holes, and what’s with the commercials? Antenna-powered Tivo to pick up the recording of over-the-air, and to provide access to Web content? Maybe, but apparently Tivo can’t stream Amazon Prime (as opposed to Amazon for pay), so that means the Roku has to remain as well. Clearly the solution is some sort of combination of these and maybe a few as yet unnamed services, with perhaps a way to easily sling a browser on to the big screen, but this is not sorted yet.

A quick look suggests that this is possible: $20 per month for 20MB down Internet from Comcast, $20 per month for digital phone line, $7 per month (broken down by month) for Amazon Prime, and $15 per month for Tivo subscription. This totals up to $62 for month… down from $170… not too shabby.