Tag Archives: tv

Cutting the Cable – How I Canceled My Cable, Saved $1000/yr and Still Get TV!

Image representing Boxee as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Just about two weeks ago I completely severed my Time Warner Cable TV service that was costing me right about $80/month.

This was not because I was tired of TV.  In fact, TV is part of my job and keeping up on what’s on is pretty darn important.  Also, I sort of like TV sometimes, so I was not trying to get rid of the content.

So, what have I replaced my cable with?  Here’s the rundown:

1) Boxee – Boxee is still in alpha but I love it.  It is an app that pulls all the major networks web portals into a convenient central location and is completely controlable by my tiny little Mac remote.  Boxee currently gets me access to Hulu, CBS, WB, CNN, Comedy Central and a bunch of other stuff.  Plus, with my Netflix account, the somewhat disappointing but still cool list of “watch now” films and TV shows are also a click away.

2) EyeTV – This is a TV converter that lets me run an over-the-air HD antenna right into my MacBook Pro.  Since I live in NYC this gets me access to HD versions of NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CW, whatever UPN is called now and a few random things from Ion.

I also got a 20″ external LCD monitor for $99 at Staples and have a set of inexpensive speakers that go into the headphone jack.

This gets me a vast amount of programming for a very low cost.

The few drawbacks: Still some sports I will have to go to a bar to see – but fewer every day and more networks live-stream.  I bought a super-cheap HD antenna and think I will need to upgrade.  To get a really constant signal means a bit of moving the antenna if I change channels.  Still, the picture is great.

There are also a few shows I love that I just can’t get through any network-approved method.  In these rare instances I take advantage of BitTorrent.  While it might fall into the not-quite-legal category it seems pretty obvious how they can stop me – offer the programs online with limited commercials and I am there!

Overall, while it takes a bit more work to get up and running than just flipping on the TV, I find I am more thoughtful about what and when I watch and I also get a huge satisfaction out of the knowledge that Time Warner Cable, a crappy monopoly, is only getting my $40/month for RoadRunner.  If anyone knows a comparable service available in Manahattan please let me know.

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Top 5 My Media Musings for Tuesday

Cinema 4 at HOYTS, Forest Hill Shopping Centre.

Image via Wikipedia

Every day I probably scan a few thousand bits of information via email, RSS, surfing, chatting and even the occasional tweet.  Here are the top five things that caught my eye:

1) MGM putting up movies on YouTube – This is really only big news because YouTube is the biggest provider of video on the web.  I like the point made by TechDirt:

“You don’t see movie studios today looking to do exclusive deals with one chain of movie theater to distribute their movies. No, the idea is to get the movie seen in as many places as possible to make it as convenient as possible for whoever to watch it. The same should be true of studios who realize that they want their movies available for free online.”

2) Project Playlist vs. Labels – Project Playlist is another music site hoping to help people discover new music and are in the news because they just hired Owen Van Natta (formerly #2 at a little site called Facebook).  Question is whether or not they can survive on ad revenue and whether their linking to music is yet another form of music copyright violations.  As the NYT points out:

“The record labels have indeed proven themselves quite willing to settle lawsuits and license their catalogs to up-and-coming Web sites, so long as the sites pay a nine-figure upfront fee, a penny or so for every song played, and often a big chunk of stock as well.”

And we wonder why the music business is suffering…

3) OceanSpray to Replace Charlie Brown – It is becoming more and more common for brands to fully sponsor shows so I guess OceanSpray’s upcoming ABCFamily special “Cranberry Christmas” shouldn’t be so upsetting…but it is. Via MediaPost:

The story is about an antagonist, Cyrus Grape, who won’t let kids ice skate over the local cranberry bog near his home. The hero, a young girl, saves Christmas Day for the children by reclaiming their favorite ice skating spot and discovering the land’s rightful owner.”

Yeah, that’s much more in the Christmas spirit than some red-nosed reindeer.

4) Bond Breaks Free – The weirdly named “Quantum of Solace” has been released first in the UK meaning the larger US market has to wait to see the newer, darker, James Bond, unless they know how to use BitTorrent:

“…despite searching the bags of paying customers, monitoring movie audiences with Bond-style night vision goggles and proffering misinformation, the industry has failed to stop the movie leaking to the Internet.”

Gotta wonder how much people are willing to put up with after paying $12 for a ticket and another $10 for soda and popcorn – Would you rather be treated like a criminal at the theater or actually just be one from the comfort of your couch?

5) Women are Pirates, Too – I love looking at the top “pirated” TV shows downloaded via BitTorrent.  Not only is it constantly surprising to see “Prison Break” at the top of the list (who watches this show?) but I am also fascinated that both “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” are always in the top 10.  I doubt lots of men are downloading Housewives and that means women are very much in the pirate game.

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The Simple Reason Discovery’s New Green Channel Will FAIL

The NYT has a long look at Discover Channel’s soon-to-be-launched cable network Planet Green.  According to Discovery:

“Discovery’s research, conducted last year, identified 40 percent to 50 percent of the United States population as “armchair environmentalists.” Mr. Carr calls the channel’s target audience “bright greens,” people who are motivated by the idea that they can help the planet.”

Well, that’s nice.  The thing is, nobody wants to watch “green” TV.

You know what the viewing public wants to watch?  They want to watch someone screaming at beautiful women holding briefcases while a formerly washed up, glossy-headed comedian stands by grinning like a loon.

Also, as I happen to work at a company that produces TV shows I can  tell you that every single network has told us, in no uncertain terms, that they do NOT want anymore environmental show pitches.  Why?  Because the ones they’ve put on the last two seasons have been ratings disappointments.

Sorry, America, the ratings don’t lie. You like screaming at briefcases.  So be it.

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As Screens Converge Will We Become Platform Agnostic?

There is word in the NYT (ok, I’m sure it’s elsewhere too but I just don’t have the energy to dig up the links) that Time Warner Cable (my monopoly-tastic super-over-priced NYC cable company) is planning to bring the internet onto the television.  So says Chief Executive Glenn Brit:

“Within a relatively short time … it’s going to be very easy to get Internet TV on your big screen TV,” he said, estimating it would take between one to two years to popularize such technology already sold by the likes of Apple Inc.

I’m not totally clear on the difference between having the internet on my TV and “Internet TV.”  Sounds like some sort of proprietary browser with limited access will be in play… still, for everyone claiming cable is going to lose to the internet might want to reconsider.  Instead of a winner and a loser we’re just going to have more media in one place.

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Who Wants to See a Movie Heavily Edited w/Commercial Interruptions? Everyone!

Here is the list for the top 10 cable programs of last week:

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (USA)
2. NBA Playoffs – Hornets/Spurs (ESPN)
3. NBA Playoffs – Cavaliers/Celtics (TNT)
4. Monday Night RAW (USA)
5. Monday Night RAW (USA)
6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (USA)
7. NBA Playoffs – Jazz/Lakers (TNT)
8. NBA Playoffs – Hornets/Spurs (ESPN)
9. SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon)
10. NBA Playoffs – Jazz/Lakers (ESPN)

If this is the first time you are looking at this list let me first let you know that, believe it or not, wrestling (“Monday Night RAW”) and SpongeBob are almost always in the top 10, so that’s not interesting, just vaguely sad.

What I find completely weird is that the first two Indiana Jones movies did so well.  Sure, Indiana Jones 4 is due out shortly and there have been a lot of ads for it but why would so many people want to watch a movie they’ve almost certainly seen before but this time with endless commercials and all the “good stuff” taken out?

This is the strange power of TV and passive viewing.  It’s the one thing the internet just doesn’t offer.  You can’t channel surf the web like you can with cable.  With the internet all of your viewing is choice-based and lots of times that’s dandy. But sometimes we don’t want to make a firm decision.  We want to flip around until something hold our interest.

I would venture that many of the viewers of the Indiana Jones movies on USA last week stumbled upon it and didn’t turn on the TV with the intent of watching that movie.  It was just on.  And sometimes that’s enough.

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Adobe Video – Department of Redundancy Department?

Although there is nothing surprising about the release of the Adobe’s video player I’m still not sure why it’s meaningful.

It is basically the same thing as Joost and that hasn’t exactly been a grand prize winner.  Sure, it’s Adobe so they have great market recognition but you still have to offer something really special today if you want to stand out.

Really, what is Adobe Video other than a stepping-stone to the eventuality of it all being, well, TV?  Like cable but with a lot more options.  Nobody cares what the software is that delivers the cable to their DTV and I don’t think the fact that it’s web-based makes a difference.

Were the people crying out for another way to watch video?  If so, they were crying softly.  In truth, people want better content.  How it gets their doesn’t really matter…

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Did AdWeek Just Wake Up From a Coma?

There is a somewhat amusing post in one of the supposed titans of the advertising trade, AdWeek, in which the author breaks the news that digital media might threaten traditional TV!  No way!

“Who would have believed that consumers would move away from listening to music on home and car stereos and toward personal music devices and computers? The same conventional wisdom about needing television to watch video content could be equally wrong. If you believe that watching TV is inherently social, or something that we are willing to do only in our living rooms instead of on our PCs or mobile phones, watch out! The music analogy proves that old habits can die fast, and consumers will likely embrace multiple screen sizes and formats for watching movies and television.”

It’s not that anything in this article is wrong but making it seem like new information honestly makes me worried for the industry as a whole.

If AdWeek, an industry leader, is just waking up to these issues maybe the industry really and truly is screwed.


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