FTPH: Cutting the Cord

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Dear Cheddar,

I’m moving into a new place and finally want to live without cable but still be able to watch TV. Help! What are my options?

Real Reader Who May or May Not Be Your Sister

Dear Sister,

How exciting! Congratulations on your move. As you know, I consider myself something of an expert in living without cable while still successfully maintaining a robust couch potato lifestyle. I haven’t had cable since 2005 (take that, Worst Company in America!). Here are some options, in no particular order:

Hulu is my go-to for current TV. It offers a selection of non-premium (i.e., not HBO/Showtime) TV shows and some less-than-awesome movies. You can watch the most recent handful of episodes for free without and account. An account gives you full access to past episodes and costs $8/month. There are ad breaks that can get annoyingly repetitive, but I find them a good opportunity to get up and get some exercise by refilling the popcorn bowl.

Netflix is a good choice for a better selection of movies and original programming (like House of Cards). They seem to have separated their streaming and DVD-by-mail services now, which is an annoying because DVDs would still be a good option for saving some of your literal bandwidth (magical internet streaming power). Plans for either DVDs or streaming are about $9/month with the first month free.

Amazon Prime is also a good choice for movies and they are starting to break into original programming (like the excellent show Transparent). It is $99/year (so cheaper than Netflix and slightly more than Hulu), and includes free two-day shipping from Amazon.com, unlimited Prime Instant Video, and books from the Kindle lending library. The Prime video selection is okay, not great, but they have a fantastic selection of shows and movies that you can pay ($2-$10) to rent. When you buy items on Amazon, you can select to NOT receive expedited two-day shipping and get a $1 credit that you can then use to rent digital content. If you shop on Amazon a lot, this is a great deal — they also offer a free 30-day trial if you want to try it on for size before committing.

HBO Now (or what I like to call the Game of Thrones channel) is the recently launched a la carte sister service to HBO Go (which has been available to Comcast subscribers for a while now). Currently it’s only available if you have an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV but they say it’s coming soon to Android and Chromecast. It’s $15/month and provides full access to HBO programming. I don’t have an i-anything (I do have a MacBook Pro, but for whatever reason that’s not good enough?) so I haven’t been able to test drive this yet, but I am so happy to see companies like HBO realizing that there are many customers like me who will pay a premium to be able to watch their shows without having to deal with the annoyances of cable.

What do I do? I have Amazon Prime and Hulu for a total of about $175/year (my Prime subscription is at the earlier rate of $79/year). My internet cost is about $60/month (split four ways), so all together it works out to $895/year or about $75/month (for me it’s about $30 a month including the Roommate Discount). I usually suspend my Hulu for the summer months, so the total ends up being a bit cheaper — it’s still a lot, but a far cry from cable! I’d be paying for internet service anyway and the benefits of Amazon Prime extend well beyond digital content.

So how do you actually WATCH these?

With the exception of HBO Now, you can watch any of these on your laptop or desktop computer by visiting the relevant website. The free version of Hulu does not require logging in.

There are a variety of other dongles and doohickies you can get to stream straight to your TV rather than a computer. I avoid acquiring extra unnecessary electronics like the plague, but will admit that I have the Amazon Fire Stick and really love it. You pay for the stick (about $35), but then there is no ongoing cost. Similar devices that I haven’t tried are the Fire TV ($99), Apple TV ($69), and Chromecast ($35). There are also ways to stream through gaming devices (xbox, PS4 thingies?), but how that works is beyond my free blogger pay grade.

All of these devices will run off your home WiFi, so if you are making the switch from cable to streaming for the first time, you may want to upgrade your Internet service to a faster speed so that they will actually work seamlessly without stutters. Depending on what area of the country you live in, this may mean you can’t completely escape the cable demons. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Loves,

Cheddar

P.S., dear Readers, if you have more options to add to this list, please add them in the comments or email me and I’ll update this post accordingly. 

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