Sunday, September 27, 2015

FREEEEEE....of those crushing cable bills!!!

Hi, my name is Sahara Kelly and I have been clean and cable free since April. [The crowd says "Hi Sahara" and applauds politely.]

I do believe there should probably be some meetings scheduled someplace for those of us who have been cable-tv addicts for so long. Those of us who have been brainwashed into thinking the ONLY way we can ever watch television is via that magic cable and that magic cable box.

Some of us actually remember a time when there was NO cable tv at all. [The crowd gasps] But since that was a couple of generations ago, we won't go into it. Today, I am proud to say that I have cut my cable ties and have not only survived, but thrived. Here's how I did it.

Last April I finally realized that my cable bill was creeping ever upward. I won't name the company, but they're big, powerful and have a shitty reputation. I looked at my channel lineup. There were what seemed like a million or so channels available. Half were sports, which I don't watch. If the Pats are on, it's going to be network tv, and the Red Sox...well. Enough said there. Then I discovered a large number of "music" channels. Seriously? When I actually went through them, channel by channel, the number I watched on any kind of a regular basis (including surfing at odd times)? About 20. And for those twenty channels I was paying through the eyeballs. I could NOT order a la carte.

So the decision was made. Obviously I had to maintain an internet connection, so I shopped around and ended up with the service I'd enjoyed in Massachusetts before I moved. Verizon FIOS was available here in Virginia, so I called them, expecting to have to battle a bit to explain I ONLY wanted internet. Surprisingly? No issues at all. I did have to take voice along with Internet...I guess the landline concept has refused to die just yet. But the bottom line was LESS THAN HALF of what I was paying the other guys. And, to my extreme joy, I tripled my upload/download speeds. God bless fiber optics.

So, you're saying that's all well and good, but what about those tv shows you DO watch? What about Gibbs getting shot and OMG JON SNOW!!!!!  Here's where I had to do a little work. I was already a Netflix subscriber (streaming only. DVD's? How adorable, but no.)

HBO offers a subscription so I was on that like white on rice. Hello Jon, I KNOW you won't die on me.  Showtime, ditto. Three subscriptions, less than $30.00, give or take. All good so far.

Then I started checking out what the networks themselves offered online. NBC and CBS are really good about airing their content the DAY AFTER it debuts. So all I had to do was bump my regular schedule a day and bingo. Regular viewing. Ditto FOX. Gotham and Minority Report (jury is out on the latter) and of course Sleepy Hollow.  ABC needs a good spanking, though. They make you wait a week. They are offering a paid subscription for live streaming, but only in five major markets and DC ain't one of them. Sigh.  I have to wait a WHOLE week to catch the season premiere of Castle.  Grrr.

Pretty good coverage, yes? I like to think so. I will add that I'm lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area, so I actually added some home antennas to the pot. Not the old fashioned roof ones, the flat ones that stick in the window or on the wall. It's called DTV now, and the higher you are from ground level, the better the reception. Damn things actually work and the picture is even better than some of the ones I got on cable. So NBC and CBS I can catch live over the air. For FREE, people. LOL I can watch Tom Selleck on Friday nights or Chuck Todd on Sunday mornings, secure that neither dude is costing me a dime. It's a good feeling.

So if you're saving pennies - and aren't we all? - here's a few tips.  I recommend Apple TV. Yeah, I'm an Apple fan, but this system is simple and REALLY useful. I can watch all my subscriptions through it on my big screen tv. Not Amazon (prime members, you have video privileges!!!), but I can pull those shows up on my iPad and "share" it with the Apple TV, which then shoves it over to my big screen. I understand that Roku and Chrome do much the same thing and I'll bet there will be more units like these on the way soon for every smartphone/tablet out there. So you don't have to lose the capability of watching anything on your 72" pride-and-joy just because you're streaming it from the Internet.

Home antennas? These TOTALLY depend on your location relative to your nearest broadcast stations. If you're interested in knowing more, you can check this FCC Site on TV station broadcast information.  It should tell you what stations are in your area and also the reception relative to where you are. It takes a bit of fiddling and research on-line, but it's worth it in the end.

My results? Now that the new season has begun, I have NO complaints at all. This summer I binge- watched a whole bunch of stuff (Netflix...thanks for LONGMIRE - Where the HELL is the next season? LOL) and got caught up with Mr. Selfridge, Penny Dreadful (scared the shit out of me), and the Paradise, to name just a few. I just finished Hand of God on Amazon. Mixed feelings about that one, but I still LOVE Ron Perlman.

And even with my monthly subscriptions to Showtime, HBO and Netflix, along with my current Verizon bill, I'm at LESS THAN HALF of what I was paying before. So I can finally afford that Jon Snow bobblehead toy and enjoy some TV shows I might otherwise have missed. If you're thinking of taking this step, I say do your due diligence in relation to the stations in your area, do a thorough review on what you actually WATCH, and go for it. I did. I'm a survivor.

And Jon Snow had damn well better be, too. The only problem? I have to wait until next freakin' APRIL to find out!!!!!!!

Happy reading, 

[NO selling intended here, but if you're interested... I'm using the Mohu Leaf antenna, which costs about $60.00 from Amazon. The first month we were cable tv-free, the antennas (2) and the subscriptions brought the cost back up to close to one month's previous cable charge. Now? I'm back to less than half and VERY happy about it. :) ]