A Life Without Broadcast Television?

I’m experimenting with a life of no broadcast television. All I will watch in my home will come thru the internet, over my wi-fi, into my PS3 and up to my TV.

Living With On-Demand TV

Decades ago, with the advent of cable television in homes and whispers of digital satellite systems soon to come, we were promised a world of complete on-demand viewing. It was all just a matter of time (and bandwidth) before we could plop in front of the TV and just watch whatever we want, whenever we want.

This of course never really came to be.

Sure cable, satellite and fiber-optic systems have all gotten more sophisticated. Channels are constantly multiplying like rabbits in springtime. But what good is having say a dozen HBOs that simply rotate thru the same limited catalog? Like when they recently broadcast ‘Boardwalk Empire’ simultaneously on three channels, and then again immediately after on three other channels. And don’t get me started on how often they still play ‘Australia’.

The idea of being able to truly pick and choose from an à la carte viewing menu has yet to be a part of the corporate picture. Yes, you can order On Demand items—for more money (the free selection is usually pretty light). You already pay too much for the service, now to fulfill their decades-old promise, they expect you to pay even more?

Then there’s the cost of adding premium channels to try and get some choices. Doing that can tack on another $15 to $25 per month or more per set of channels once whatever the “special offer” they gave you has expired. And the choices are still limited (see above).

You can go the DVR route. Record whatever you want so you can watch it later. Again the corporations have the upper hand. When I had Optimum TV thru Cablevision, I paid $10 per month for a DVR. When I moved to Time Warner country, they wanted $22! There’s simply not enough difference to justify the cost or competition to force fair pricing.

Flipping thru over a hundred channels with nothing to watch, paying extra for On-Demand, and getting robbed for the task of recording programs had inspired me to seek out change. And, like many things in this world, the internet came to the rescue.

Well, the internet, mail-order video rentals, and video game systems. The unlikely grouping that is proving to be the answer to what was prophesied low those many years ago.

Living With On-Demand TV

Internet: Verizon FiOS
Why? Simply, speed. At just under $60/month, FiOS comes in at 15 Mbps down/5 Mbps up vs. Cable at 10 Mbps down/512 kbps up for the same price. A pretty big difference and for someone like me, the upload speeds are even more crucial than the download.

You can upgrade cable to 15 Mbps down/768 kbps up, but that’s it for home service. FiOS has upgrades to 25 Mbps down/25 Mbps up and 50 Mbps down/20 Mbps up.

Movies/TV Shows: Netflix
Why? The scope of Netflix’s mail-order catalog of movies and TV shows is well known, of course. The pain in the ass was having to plan in advance what you wanted to watch and then wait for it to arrive. That all changed in 2007 when Netflix began to stream content to your computer and—not long after—your television.

Since this is a fairly new feature in the grand scheme of Netflix’s history, not everything in their catalog is available for streaming (and not all of that is in HD, yet). There’s still a lot to watch and it’s growing rapidly. All for under $10 a month to boot. If you’re hellbent on seeing first-run network shows, you could always subscribe to the new Hulu Premium for the same price. I haven’t found a need for that yet, myself.

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2 Responses to “A Life Without Broadcast Television?”

  1. Chris W
    10/04/10 at 12:10 pm #

    That’s cool, although I don’t think I could do it. I’d miss my afternoon soaps.

  2. Richard E
    10/05/10 at 7:53 pm #

    As you say, everything is almost there now with Netflix and Hulu Premium. The big kicker for a lot of people is the lack of real time sports coverage. Sure you can watch it online in a lot of cases but who wants to watch that in a browser window.

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