Today I made a call to my TV service provider that was long overdue. “Hi there! I’m good, thanks. I’d like to cancel my TV subscription all together.” The bottom line, is that I am paying far too much for the amount of television being watched in my house. And when you dwindle it down to the shows that my family really want to watch, it hardly seems justified. When my bill jumped from $135/month to $165/month, I knew it was time. While I still have another 30 days of service, I already feel better knowing I won’t be shelling out a huge sum of money every month for a service that we can really do without.
So, What Now?
While Canada is still behind the times when it comes to internet based media consumption, we at least have some options now. Netflix finally jumped the border, the iTunes catalog has greatly improved, and many of the top broadcasters have at least the most recent episodes of their primetime shows available online. Not to mention, there’s always BitTorrent and Usenet (my preferred method of acquiring media).
But What About Those Pesky Bandwidth Caps?
Bah, don’t get me started! Since I’m ridding myself of a $165 monthly expense, I decided to suck-up the bandwidth overage fee and download/stream to my heart’s content. The plan I’m on gives me 125GB/month, which can go quickly when you’re viewing HD content. Netflix estimates an hour of HD viewing at 2.3GB, which works out to about 54 hours per month. That’s not a lot, considering I have a family of four, and that’s not counting any other internet usage from browsing, phone (VoIP), work, video games, etc. The overage fees are ridiculous, but my ISP caps it at $50. An extra $50/month as opposed to $165 is fine by me.
Viewing Downloaded Media
As I mentioned, many of the popular network shows are available to stream online. The quality isn’t HD (or even SD, for that matter), and not every show is available. There will always be shows we have to download. Getting episodes from Usenet to a watchable format on the living room TV used to be a hassle. My lovely wife gave me a Boxee Box for Christmas, and I can’t express how much I love that ugly little device! I have a networked hard drive attached to it via CAT-6, and it streams 720p/1080p MKV files beautifully. I recently beefed up my internet service to 25MB/s down, and since I no longer have to convert videos for the Boxee Box, I can have an hour long HD episode ready to watch in about 10 minutes.
Hopping the Border
While Canada is in better shape now than ever in terms of availability of online content, the US is still totally kicking our asses. There are even shows available via cable/satellite in Canada that we can’t view online, which throws a bit of a wrench in my plan. But all is not lost – enter VPN. I signed up for an inexpensive VPN service to give it a test run, and am quite pleased with the result. I can now watch videos on Hulu, and other sites that are typically blocked in Canada. Boxee Box even has a VPN setting, so I can easily hop onto some of those US sites from there. Hulu is the big exception at the moment, as they target and block Boxee Box all together. There is still promise of an official Hulu Plus app, but we’re yet to see it materialize. This is where a HTPC would surpass Boxee Box, which I’ve definitely considered.
Let’s Not Forget About the Kids
Perhaps surprising to some, my daughters were the hold up when it came to making this decision. Children’s programming isn’t exactly in abundance when it comes to online services. Netflix has a good amount, but it’s lacking many of the pre-teen shows my eldest watches. Thankfully, the American networks are doing a great job of putting and keeping children’s shows online. When I mentioned to my eldest daughter that we could access US sites now, she was ecstatic! I didn’t realize it, but she had actually tried to watch many shows online, only to be hit with regional disclaimers. Meanwhile, my youngest has been enjoying episodes of the new Peter Pan spin-off on the Disney Junior website, which hasn’t even started airing in Canada yet.
The Grand Total
Once the final cable bill is paid, here’s what I’m looking at each month…
- Internet Service – $69.99
- Maximum Bandwidth Overage Fee – $50
- Netflix – $7.99
- Usenet – $9.99
- VPN – $6.99
Total: $144.96 (plus tax)
Previously, I was paying for everything minus the bandwidth overage fee and VPN. That’s an extra $57 each month, but once again, I’m no longer paying $165 for TV service. I’m chalking this up as a win, possibly prematurely. But I’ll be sure to report back once I have a few months under my belt.