Yes I realize that the title of today’s post is a bit confusing but I figured that I would look to the alternatives to shelling out a kings ransom to the Cable and Satellite TV companies that seem to think that they still have control over our ability to watch and consume content on the Boob Tube!
The master of Parody Weird Al was a bit of an inspiration for today’s post. I got a bit nostalgic and queued up his 1985 Song “Cable TV” this morning but then came across the video linked above. In 2011 in Canada there are some real alternative to shelling out $50 – $100 per month on Cable or Satellite TV (read on and maybe, just maybe put some $$$ back into your budget!)
New TVs, Media Boxes and even BluRay Players are coming enabled with the ability to connect to the wonderful world of IPTV even if there is not a real credible provider here in Canada to compete with the incumbents of Bell and Rogers for dominance. Depending on the device you are using the world is your oyster but remember that if you are paying for Bandwidth…you may run over on this!
NetFlix: In an earlier post I had mentioned that NetFlix now accounts for more traffic on the internet than any other source! This is because of two key things: simple interface and tons of content! Now is it the most up to date and all encompassing…no but in our initial FREE Trial with them the quality was rock solid, did not use any storage space and filled the gap for kids shows that we have not had available for years since we cut the cable wire in our house! The monthly subscription fee is only $7.99 which is a pretty good deal if only the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) would release its ugly hand in the “Canadian Content Rule” and let us see the full breadth of the service that our American neighbors have access to.
Hulu: Not generally available in Canada and not as “plugin friendly” as Netflix I have experimented with this great service and found it to be a very solid alternative to using Cable. To be used in Canada you must create a VPN to alter your IP Address to a non Canadian Connection so it makes it hard to use your Xbox, PS3 or Wii to make the connection but if you are considering building a Home Theatre PC this is a solid option!
Streaming Content: Most major networks allow you to stream their newest content directly to a device now. On My iPad I am able to get content from CTV, CityTV, CBC and Global and from my Computer I can get just about anything from anywhere but while appealing as it is to have on demand content anywhere I am…I still can not get this to work if I just want to sit down and watch the Tube…what ever can I do???
AppleTV: Yes Mac again tries to muscle its way into your living room with the connection of a mini pc that can stream all your iTunes content, rent movies and TV shows but alas…there is no Monthly Subscription Option just pay as you go and this…could get VERY…VERY Expensive but…it does allow for a connection to…yes you guessed it…NetFlix!
From the world of OpenSource comes the Dlink BoxeeBox. Lots of different plugins available and completely hackable so that you can connect to content anywhere you like, when every you like. With options for NetFlix, Pandora and VUDU right out of the box…not a bad alternative.
Build Your Own:
Take a repurposed PC, download one of the hundreds of FREE Media Center Alternatives onto it and Voila…you have your own Set Top Box. This is what I have done at my house for the last 8 years and in reality do not miss having cable at all. Boxee has a download for Mac, Linux or Windows, there is also MediaPortal, MythTV, XBMC (Xbox Media Center) and many more…check out this great list @ http://alternativeto.net/ simply do a search for Media Center and off you go to the races. One Caveat about building your own…be prepared to get your GEEK on for many of them as there are some fine tunings that need to happen to get everything to work the way you want it.
NOTE: I did not include the use of BitTorrent as an alternative to these services because there is some question to the legality of the downloading of copyrighted material that is for all effects and purposes distributed over the air waves. I do not condone nor support the use of any file sharing services legal or otherwise…wink wink…nudge nudge.
Cheers and thanks for visiting.
Chris J Powell