Robert Chesley

Is it Time to Ditch the Dish?

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From what used to be whispers have turned into loud voices. Using your internet connection as the main means of getting video content has never been easier. How to ditch your dish and go exclusively through the internet is surprisingly easy to do…as long as you’re willing to give up some luxuries.

I have gone TV bill free for about six months now. It wasn’t an easy transition, but  many people are now considering it because of how cheap broadband internet has become. There are many ways of getting media to stream exclusively to your computer or internet-connected TV and it may be appealing to you to ditch your traditional provider and go exclusively with “net” options. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you take the plunge into this brave new world of media consumption.

First, do you have a need to watch or follow sporting events? While there are ways of finding streaming live games for free, it isn’t necessarily the easiest or the most legal. If you have a provider that is compatible with ESPN3.com, you will be able to watch most college and NBA games they broadcast through that medium. What I’ve noticed is that it seems most of that content is tied up to providers that would offer you internet in addition to providing you with home TV as well. You can try a lot of different free options. But if you want to be legitimate about it, many of the professional leagues offer “Broadband only” subscriptions that you can pay an upfront fee and then be able to watch any game you want for the entire season. If all you are doing is using your TV to watch sporting events, for the NBA at least, you can follow 7 teams for 65 dollars a season. That isn’t too bad of a deal considering the savings you’d have by not having a huge Dish bill every month. The plans that are offered by specific leagues don’t include playoff or games that are on national TV (like ESPN or TNT). So, that option may become a little trickier in the post-season.

Second, do you watch the news? Like most people of my generation we get most of our news through internet sources already. Whether or not we actually watch a compiled news broadcast may be up to the individual user. Because of my RSS reader and smart phone, I generally get news faster then I ever would watching a news program nightly or even daily. I think it is a dying breed of media. If you must watch this kind of news broadcast, many of your local and national news outlets have online means of getting you that content. You may just have to watch brief news clips. I know NPR has their hourly radio news updates available to download every hour. Personally, I just read what I need to know and ditch that format all together.

Last, do you prefer to just turn something on or do you watch specific shows? This is a valid question you need to ask yourself. I’ve tried to get my parents to just go with Hulu. They generally just watch shows that are channels that are available on Hulu. They will not, however, give up the convenience of watching random shows on channels like HGTV or DIY network. Sometimes it isn’t about what you are watching just as long as you are watching something. If you are the kind of person who just likes to turn on the TV to something that is just playing regardless of what it is, going without cable or dish may not be for you. If you are the kind of person who likes to watch shows religiously every week or you don’t want to miss an episode then this may be a legitimate option for you.

Ok, so you’ve decided that you don’t want to pay for no stinking dish no more. I applaud you. Now, how do you get all that cool content to my awesome TV in my living room? First, your going to need some way of getting that media to your TV. With game consoles these days, you have more options then ever before. If you do not already own a game console and want to set up your tv to do more internet related video streaming, going with the PS3 or Xbox 360 wouldn’t be a bad choice. If I were to suggest only one of these two I would suggest the PS3. This is for the sole fact that the machine also doubles as a Blu-Ray player and allows you to have Netflix streaming without paying an additional monthly charge (Netflix on the 360 requires you to have an Xbox Live Gold Account). But to get Hulu Plus, you will have to pay another charge on top of that on the PS3. The PS3 also has wireless capabilities right out of the box. (The less wires we have to deal with the better and easier the set up is.) Any of these consoles would be the ideal choice to get streaming media to your TV easiest. Another benefit of these new game consoles is their ability to stream media you already have downloaded from your PC to your TV. This makes having a “media server” in the home a much better option. I mean who wouldn’t want to have their own personal “DVD store” with just a few clicks of a remote? Sure beats trying to find discs and fumbling around with packaging.

The other option you can go with is a PC. If you have an extra PC lying around and your TV has a “pc” port, you can easily just plug that sucker right into your TV and forgo having to buy any other additional device. Get a cost effective wireless keyboard and mouse and you can get TV directly through your TV with just a PC and a TV. This also benefits you from not needing to pay for Hulu Plus (you can’t get free Hulu on a console).

After you get set up you have to weigh the costs of streaming to your TV. You’ll probably want both a Netflix streaming account (the cheapest they run is 7.99 a month, and it goes up from there if you want DVDs or not) and a Hulu Plus account (this gives you the benefit of watching all the episodes from the season instead of usually the last 5 or so. It too runs about 7.99 a month). Those two options will probably run 85 percent of what most people want to watch on a weekly basis. Most ABC, FOX, and NBC shows are on Hulu. CBS doesn’t use Hulu, but most of their shows (sans The Big Bang Theory) can be streamed from their website. You can also do some creative Googling to find more illegitimate ways to get your media. I won’t list the sites that I use on here, but I have found most shows currently playing on ANY network fairly easily on a few websites.

Ok, so I got all that set up, how do I make it even more easy to use? To answer this question I have to give a little background. One of my favorite things about my old DVR was the ability to set records on shows for a weekly basis. That mean I only ever had to find the show I liked once and then my DVR would be smart enough to record it for me every week or whenever there was a new episode. I’ve found a way to do this on my internet TV set up as well. While Netflix and Hulu each have their options for a ‘queue’, I prefer a different method. I use my RSS feeder to track whenever Hulu (or any number of other sites that offer an RSS feed on their shows) updates that particular show with a new episode. I have a specific folder on my RSS feed reader that collects all my shows. It makes adding and deleting shows really easy and I can always see when immediately when I get a new show in.

Alright, thanks for reading and I hope I’ve given you a little insight on how to finally ditch that dish of yours and save you literally hundreds of dollars a year on entertainment costs. Think about it, even with a modest internet connection (Say you pay 50 dollars a month for DSL) and pay for both Hulu Plus and Netflix (roughly 17 dollars a month). You can pay for internet and TV for only about 70 dollars a month. Considering internet is already a cost most of us are living with, you can’t argue with the savings there.

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