Getting Rid Of Cable (Part 3)

Getting Rid Of Cable (Part 1) is here.
Getting Rid Of Cable (Part 2) is here.

I had two HD DVR’s. One in the living room and one in my bedroom. Today, we disconnected the one in the living room and returned it to their local office. Took 5 minutes and $30.00 off of my cable bill ($360.00 savings in a year).

We usually watch recorded shows on our DVR (or a Netflix DVD if we have one…sometimes a movie streamed from Xbox or Netflix) when we’re eating. Tonight at dinner, there was a big, empty space where the DVR used to be. Between Hulu, Netflix, and shows/movies on Xbox), we had more than plenty to watch and most was in HD. (For those wondering, we watched yesterday’s episode of the Colbert Report and a Tosh.0 episode we hadn’t seen yet.) So, there was (almost) nothing missing from our routine…except for one major thing….a clock! The DVR was our only living room clock and we don’t wear watches, so that was weird having no idea what time it was (we don’t like to grab/turn on our over-priced smartphones with food on our hands…and getting up out of the recliner was NOT an option 🙂 I bought a nifty little digital clock for that spot, so my money savings went down a bit, which brings me to more math to consider.

When I mentioned the $30/month savings (from removing one DVR and “extra digital TV” charge), I now have to consider that the Hulu Plus membership is $7.99/month and my Netflix is the 2/month @ $14.99. That’s a total of $22.98/month. Sounds like hardly any savings, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub. I’ve used Netflix since 2002 or 2003 and never planned on cancelling Netflix…so I don’t count that $14.99 in the math (this is “getting rid of cable” not “getting rid of everything I pay for entertainment” 🙂 Still though, I did add the HuluPlus for $7.99 and, of course, I can’t and won’t get rid of my internet, so it might be “fuzzy math” right now. Where my savings should really kick in is when I get rid of my DVR & digital TV charges from my bedroom. I won’t do that, however, until I live the life without cable in the living room and get used to what that feels like (jeez…sounds just like my quitting smoking posts 🙂 Also, Hulu is supposed to come to Xbox “soon” and, until then, I have no way to watch Hulu on my bedroom tv. Also, they will raise my internet bill when I remove my cable tv completely (it’s in a pricing bundle, currently)…so I’m taking baby steps in shaking the cable monkey off my back.

Another biggie I’ve noticed is that the freezing has been almost non-existent lately. Not sure if the Playstation 3 that we use Hulu on fixed the issue in their system update they just had or not. Could be coincidence or a bug fix. Loving no freezing though, no matter what the reason.

An interesting side note: I thought the cable guy would have to come out to the house, but all I had to do was go to their office and turn in my DVR. I called their 800# first to see what steps I needed to take and how much they were going to charge me for the guy to come out. When I explained to the customer service rep what I was doing, she offered me 3 free months of my HD-DVR. I considered taking the offer and waiting three months to turn it in, but decided to stop letting the drug dealer win. She was very enticing…appealing to my addiction and sensabilities…but I “just said no” 🙂

One more side note: For those who don’t know it, you can watch Hulu for free on your computer, but I think you get more clips and limited selections. I don’t watch tv/movies on my computer, so I don’t care about testing their free online version. You can try it and comment here…I’m sure the readers would like to hear of other’s experiences.

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Getting Rid of Cable (Part 2)

Getting Rid of Cable Part 1 is here.

Received the Roku XDS Streaming Player 1080p, but the same day we discovered that we could get Hulu on our Playstation 3, so it sat unopened while we tested Hulu Plus. We’ve used Netflix (I love Netflix) on our PS3, so we had a streaming comparison for both HD and SD. (On a side note, I’m anti-Sony and am looking fwd to Hulu arriving on the Xbox. Their site says it’s “coming soon to xbox”)

The Hulu Plus interface was very easy to figure out. They make it very user-friendly and you can find shows easily and watch immediately. We quickly found the “Colbert Report” and Hulu had the most recent show already available to watch! They also had episodes spanning at least a week (maybe more), in case you missed other episodes. This was also the case for tons of popular shows (Modern Family, The Office, Family Guy, etc.) Some shows had all episodes from all seasons, but some others only had the current season of episodes. It appeared as though they had some agreement with Fox and ABC, since those shows were so prominent…but that was a cursory glance/opinion and many other stations and popular shows were available as well.

Some shows have commercials throughout. A 30-second one before the show started and then ones ranging from 15-30 seconds at each “station break”. We sometimes paused during a commercial and ran out for a drink or bathroom break. When we came back, it was sitting there waiting for us to hit “play” on our remote and continue. Some shows had no commercials at all (those seemed to be ABC, Fox, and Comedy Central, but we haven’t explored every network and show to see the commercial vs. non-commercial pattern).

The above are either pros or cons, depending on your personal tastes. But here is a major Con that was consistently and issue: The shows kept freezing! Some wouldn’t, but almost all did at some point. It was sporadic, so we’re fairly certain that it was nothing we did wrong. I spoke with two friends who watch Hulu via their Roku and they said they experience the exact same issue. Most freezes lasted exactly 8 seconds and then it fixed itself and continued. A few times, we had to hit the FF, Rewind, or Play button on our remote to unfreeze it…then it would either continue without issue or might freeze once more. It was so random, we couldn’t find a pattern. Our conclusion here was that Hulu has issues. Possibly because they’re growing too fast and need more servers. Don’t know, but I can only assume/hope that they are aware of this issue and are working on it. After all, we’re paid subscribers and they don’t want everyone to start cancelling. Some episodes never froze…even ones in HD…so I think I’m going to continue using them and chalk it up to “growing pains”.

And yes, I’m aware that Netflix streaming will do the little spinning circle once in a while, but that’s not Netflix’s fault but rather your wireless internet/network changing its network speed (so if you’re watching an HD movie and your internet speed slows down, Netflix will automatically change your stream from HD to SD…and when your internet speed goes back up, Netflix will switch you back again, hence the spinning circle of waiting. But I’ve found it rare and predictably fast).

So…I’m returning the Roku for a refund. I’m also going to call the cable company today and ask them to disconnect the cable and return the HD DVR (I think that will be a $30.00 drop in my cable bill). I’m keeping my cable and HD DVR in my bedroom, until I experience what it’s like with the new, no-cable, system in the living room. Rumor has it that if I remove all cable tv from my home (and keep only internet), that the cable company will severely jack up my internet pricing. A friend said they did that to her when she got rid of everything but internet. I assume this is true, since these are “bundle” packages and if there’s no bundle then you’re going to pay “A La Carte” pricing which offers no discounts. Regardless, I will still be paying substantially less and will post those amounts in another “Getting Rid of Cable” update.

Getting Rid Of Cable (Part 3) is here.

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Getting Rid Of Cable TV Project

Like everyone I’ve talked to, I’m sick of the horribly high cable tv bills. In my area, there’s only one cable option so they have the monopoly (they do for those like me who don’t want a satellite dish). I’m keeping my cable internet, but the plan here is to have the cable guy come out and take all their crap back, which will drastically lower my bill and save me money.

After much research (Google TV, Roku, Boxee, etc.), I decided on the simplicity, yet powerful features, of the Roku XDS Streaming Player 1080p, which is their $99.99 top of the line model. As of the date I write this, they also offer a $79.99 model and a $69.99 model (of course after the 30-day return time has passed all the prices will drop…or a new, better model will appear…so please don’t rub it in 🙂 You can see the differences between Roku models here.

Although I already stream Netflix videos from my xbox and PS3, that feature doesn’t matter. What does matter, however, is the ability to use Hulu Plus and Amazon streaming videos. I won’t be able to watch the tv shows I like at the time they show (I bet that will change with time!), but my shows will appear shortly after. Currently Hulu Plus is $7.99 for one of their subscriptions and my Netflix subscription is about $14.99 (I might downgrade my Netflix account), which are both exponentially cheaper than my cable bill. After all, I usually just record them on the rented DVR (more money to the cable company) and watch them a day or more later anyway…so no love lost there either. Not sure if I’ll get or need local news. I don’t have enough info yet, mostly just questions.

We already have a strong wireless N router, so streaming HD has never been an issue on our Xbox or PS3 (I also stream videos off my my pc onto my Xbox using their Windows Media Center feature). If you don’t have a wireless N network in your home, then the “weaker” model is probably best for you (but I strongly recommend it’s time to upgrade from your a/b/g to N, because it’s noticeably better and stronger).

Also, I’m ordering it from and not from Roku’s site. If something goes wrong, Amazon will make the return and refund quick and painless. Roku, from what I could see, requires stringent hoop-jumping, an RMA process, lots of time and waiting, etc.

It should arrive on Wednesday and I hope to get to it quickly to test everything out. Please come back for follow-up posts on this project. I’ll be letting you know my honest opinion and cost-savings after I (hopefully) get rid of my cable company.

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