Our entertainment plans for this year

The Problem

We’re tired of paying $90 per month to Comcast for cable TV we don’t actually watch much (this whole Summer we had the cable box out of power completely — nothing interesting to watch on it)! This price does not include sports, HBO and other premium channels! Just the basic cable stuff, but with HDTV and a DVR rental box. In my opinion, that’s just too expensive. We never watch more than about 15 channels for example (e.g. FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, CW, SyFy, Food Channel, Discovery, PBS, Science, NatGeo, History, Fuse, CNN, Travel), but Comcast insists on adding more useless TV channels that no one is really watching, just to compete “in numbers” with other providers. It’s ridiculous really.

The Idea

So we’ve decided with JBQ to go with the following, when these are ready for prime-time:

1. Use our existing $10 Netflix account (2 discs at any time, unlimited streaming), and stream movies via our PS3.

2. Go with Hulu Plus for $10, when it’s out for the PS3 too.

3. When our current AppleTV dies, we will go with streaming RDIO or MOG for our music listening, for $10.

Overall, that’s $20 per month instead of $90 for TV, and only $10 for music instead of $100-$150 (I currently spend way too much money buying music).

The following idea does it for us, even if we lose “live” TV and basic sports. In fact, we believe that if more people go the way we will, “live” TV will eventually reach Hulu Plus anyway, at least the big TV networks will follow (Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC, and possibly CW). Live TV for these basic channels will just be a matter of demand, and it might happen within a single year.

Shortcomings

However, not everything is full of roses at the moment. We’ll be early adopters, so there’s things missing from a full TV/music experience for us. For example:

– Netflix only has about 1000 titles for streaming. The Hollywood studios don’t allow Netflix to add a lot more. But Netflix definitely has its eyes fixated towards movie/show streaming. It knows it’s the future. So it’ll happen. The studios will eventually succumb on the demand.

– Hulu Plus doesn’t have everything found on TV yet. Not live TV either. But that will come too if it proves to be a success.

– No subtitles yet on either Hulu Plus or Netflix. Sometimes I do need it, late at night, when everyone’s sleeping and I must lower the volume.

– As I explained the other day on my blog post about how much I hate the new second generation AppleTV, we like local music playback. We like the appliance experience, not having to turn ON PCs on a different room of the house in order to listen to music in our living room. But we know, there will be a time that our first generation AppleTV (which currently does it the way we want it to regarding music) will die. And that would be the time when we will have to move to something else. RDIO or MOG fit that bill. We will lose our iTunes smart playlists and all our song ratings, but at least we will gain unlimited music streaming, without having to separately own the music pieces — and that’s an acceptable compromise. All we now require from RDIO or MOG, is a GoogleTV application. We can then hook-up our future GoogleTV device to our amplifier/speakers, and use the Android’s or Apple iOS’ RDIO/MOG client to control the GoogleTV’s RDIO/MOG client. And that would be an excellent living room experience.

– RDIO/MOG don’t have as much music yet as iTunes/Amazon do. Hopefully this will change soon, and they will also allow “true” indies without distribution to upload their music too (e.g. the Bandcamp crowd).

– Sure, there will be a few times that internet will be down, so we won’t be able to stream shit. For these times, we already have some DVDs and CDs in our local library to enjoy. Not a biggie for a few hours, since everything would be On-Demand, so we won’t really “miss” a show. We’d just have to watch it a bit later on. We can live with that.

Obstacles

The only TRUE obstacle I see in the whole idea is Comcast. See, without Netflix, we were using about 50 GB of bandwidth per month. With my July’s and August’s Netflix streaming, I’ve observed this number going to 100 GB. I expect that with Hulu Plus and RDIO/MOG that number will go to 200 GB, no doubt. Comcast’s internet bandwidth consumption limit is 250 GB per month. Our entertainment habits will result to be too close to that number. There might be a month that we will be dangerously close. I’m not comfortable with that.

Not to mention that if Comcast notices that a lot of people are leaving their cable TV service and are going with Netflix/Hulu Plus, they might decide to beat us where it hurts: limiting the monthly internet bandwidth for “Home” accounts even more, at maybe, around 100 GB. That number would be too small to fit entertainment. It’s enough for heavy, but “normal”, internet usage, but not for streaming HD content.

So Comcast still holds a card in its hands. How it will play that card, in conjunction to any new net neutrality laws that might happen in the meantime, it can define a lot of things for the future of home entertainment. So I personally see a major war between cable TV and streaming companies in the next 2 years or so. In fact, the cable TV companies might find an ally in that war: their nemesis, the satellite TV companies!

10 Comments »

Ralfoide wrote on September 12th, 2010 at 3:06 PM PST:

Regarding the watching TV quietly at night, just get some BT headphones and a BT emitter that you can plug on a 3.5 jack.

As for Comcast, get the business internet service rather than the home one — much better SLA, just ask around. Worth the extra and you can get a good deal via JBQ & El Goog.


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Eugenia wrote on September 12th, 2010 at 3:11 PM PST:

I already use headphones, but the idea is to not have to use them. If someone is knocking at the door, I’m not able to hear it.

As for the Comcast Business internet service, I’d prefer to not pay more than we currently pay. We don’t need “faster”. We just *might* need a bit more bandwidth. Maybe not even more than 300 GB, that’s only 50 GB above the current 250 GB threshold. So I’d prefer to not pay a lot more money for something we don’t need all of its features. We will see.

Besides, we might be able to get a good deal via Google, but others who would like to use the same streaming services to save money, won’t be able to. So the problem remains.


William Eggington wrote on September 13th, 2010 at 10:24 AM PST:

I did much the same thing a few years back. I think one thing your missing is how amazing video quality is over the air. Our Tivo has antenna inputs and so all the major networks broadcast in beautiful, crisp HD. So all the “epic” shows are free. The cable shows we don’t get over the air we purchase through Amazon’s Video on Demand.


Michael C. wrote on September 13th, 2010 at 10:42 AM PST:

I unsubsribed from cable TV about a year ago. And before that I only had the basic limited package with only local channels. It included both SD and HD versions, but then HD channels magically disappeared. I called Cox, and they told me that I had to pay for HD simulcast and to get a box. I told that according to the law they must broadcast HD simulcast of local channels in Clear QAM. They did not care, so I unsubscribed. I don’t miss TV. American TV is mostly crap anyway, there are only a couple of channels/programs worth watching, like something on PBS, something on Travel, something on History (History Channel really went into the crapper in the last five years), something on NatGeo, something on BBC. I can watch and read news online, I prefer reading anyway. I can watch movies on Netflix, their free streaming account rules. On another hand, I still have two Netflix DVDs unwatched, sitting for at least a month. Lately I watch mostly documentaries and news from YouTube. Anything else worth watching, which is mostly BBC shows, can only be found on torrents. Well, two of my 500GB drives are already full. Gotta get a couple of 2TB ones.


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Eugenia wrote on September 13th, 2010 at 11:52 AM PST:

>amazing video quality is over the air.

We are not allowed to place antennas outdoors, and the indoor ones are not as powerful (they usually go up to 22 miles when in line of sight, while we need 30 miles and out of sight support). So that’s not much of a solution for us. But for others, sure!


don wrote on September 13th, 2010 at 5:30 PM PST:

I live in the south bay, and we just got U-Verse cable/internet. Finally got rid of comcast (yay)! Very happy with the new U-Verse service, and receiving around 22MB speed for internet downloads.

I had been warned on 2 occasions by comcast’s extremely RUDE and AGGRESSIVE “security” department for exceeding the 250 GB monthly limit. They were very, very nasty and threatened to disconnect and ban us for a year. Not a problem now. Goodbye, comcast!

I checked in advance, and was assured that U-Verse has NO CAPS on bandwidth. You might want to check them out if you can get it where you live (also, some areas cannot receive all of their speed options).

You might consider getting the excellent ROKU player to pair with your netflix…it’s great…and it supports a ton of other channels and with more added all the time.


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Eugenia wrote on September 13th, 2010 at 5:36 PM PST:

We might move to something else other than Comcast for internet, yeah. It all depends how they will go about the new world order.

As for the Roku, we don’t need it. The PS3 does a great job with Netflix. It’s full-featured, and we have a remote control for it.


Marc MERLIN wrote on September 15th, 2010 at 9:26 AM PST:

2 things
1) don’t pay $90/month for TV, call comcast, tell them their prices are ridiculous and you’re looking at cancelling unless they give you a better bundle. You do need to repeat this every 6 to 12 months though.
I’m currently only paying $42 month for service including an HD receiver.
(see my blog for sample chat session with comcast)

2) do not use comcast residential, just don’t. JB can get 25Mbit/s comcast business (no bandwidth cap) re-imbursed by work. That’s what I have had for over a year (that was on my blog too :) ).

http://marc.merlins.org/perso/public/post_2009-11-04_Comcast-Bill-and-Customer-Support-Today.html


Mateusz Szczurek wrote on September 17th, 2010 at 7:08 AM PST:

Re media appliance after your appleTV dies; I use PS3 + PSP as a “video remote”, so I can start PS3 up, play music (via hi-fi, not PSP). It works from another room (or another part of the world if you set Remote Play ports right). Similar idea as the ipod/AppleTV, the music interface is much, much worse.
But then in DVB-T countries you can use PlayTV PS3 tuner and watch terrestial TV on the PSP.


Mateusz Szczurek wrote on September 17th, 2010 at 7:31 AM PST:

Ah, plus you lose all iTunes ratings, syncing. No amount of hard disk space of the PS3 can help you there. Not good enough for music then.


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