Economy, Money, Technology, Television

Cutting the Cords


Cryptic__45First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you out there who care to celebrate it. We do and there was plenty of celebrating around these parts as it is also my birthday – 45th to be exact. I used the photo you see here as my Facebook profile picture today in order to cryptically acknowledge my date of birth.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the meaty center of this post.

As you know, things are starting to turn around for us. We’ve figured out how to pay for the car and I’m going to be trained for my new job tomorrow morning then start work the following week. Even so, money will still continue to be tight around here so we’ve decided to do what we could to cut back on some of our expenses.

One of the biggest and essential expenses we have is our bundled Verizon FiOS bill, which at present is just over $100/month for phone, Internet, and TV. Our contract is up next month which means that our 2-year honeymoon price will soon be out the window and it could then be upped to $150 or maybe $200. That’s way too much especially when this guy can’t tell you the last time he sat down and watched a network show. Remember, I don’t even own a DVR. That’s how important TV is to me.

rokuWe were looking into a variety of options including cheaper TV and Internet service. We don’t care about the landline because of our unlimited everything plans we have on our mobile phones. Even so, if we did get a new TV provider, we’d have yet another honeymoon period before our rates would jump to some crazy amount. Not what we want.

So after much deliberation, we decided to do the following once the contact is up.

  • Ditch the landline. We just don’t use or need it.
  • Keep FiOS Internet. It’s just the opposite of the landline.
  • Cancel FiOS TV service. It’s back to terrestrial TV for us.

So what will we do for TV? Roku, the tiny little box that streams content via WiFi directly to your TV, will be our TV provider.

Yes, we figured that this would be the best way to go once we get rid of our TV service and while it doesn’t have everything, it’s a means of entertainment. I bought a Roku 2 box the other day and here’s what I really like about it.

  • Almost free TV. Roku has a bunch of different channels that you can add to your account, the main one being Hulu Plus which runs $7.99/mo. (Hint: download the app then sign up for a Plus account through the app and get 3 MONTHS free vs. the standard 7 DAYS when you register via your computer!) And “almost free” means just that. While a lot of the content is free, movie channels require you to register with a credit card should you want to rent or purchase content. In fact, Roku also requires credit card info as some channels are not free.
  • Setup. Probably the longest part of setting it up was entering my ridiculously long WiFi password via the on-screen keyboard. The rest was a breeze.
  • Download the app. It makes using the device much simpler.
  • More than TV. Pandora and Slacker channels are also available so you can rock out to your favorite tunes and when you sign in to your account, your stations will be there and ready to stream. Handy when you have it connected to a surround sound system like I do.
  • Headphone jack in the remote (Roku 2 and 3). Talk about privacy! I watched a bunch of stuff last night and didn’t disturb a soul.
  • Watching streaming content from my La-Z-Boy. There are some shows like Leo Laporte’s The Tech Guy that I’d rather watch on my 42” TV and not on my small monitor. This solves that problem.

So what’s not to like about it?

  • Limited programming. You would think that with the plethora of channels you get that content would be endless. Well, it is. Some shows on Hulu Plus may only have one random season available and that could be the first or the ninth. It’s really hit-and-miss, and a lot of the movies are not the best. Popcornflix, for example, is just horrid although I did watch a documentary about the Dalai Lama last night which was interesting.
  • Not another account! Some channels require you to register in order to view content. This was fine and well until I realized that I needed a notebook to jot down all of my info for these accounts I just created.
  • Useless channels. In addition to creating new accounts, many channels cannot be viewed unless you have a qualifying cable TV account. This is pretty useless when your goal is to ditch your provider for the sake of something cheaper. Why do I want to watch such a channel on Roku if I already have it on FiOS? Duh.
  • Some channels listed but cannot be viewed. One such channel is Travel Channel which shows up on the Hulu guide but whose content can only be viewed online and not via Roku.
  • Limited content. Some programs may show up but you’d be disappointed to learn that only short clips can be viewed. It looks like a lot but in reality they are mostly just a few minutes in length.

One of the things I will miss about FiOS is watching my Dodgers play. While I can still get selected games via standard TV, a majority of the games are broadcast on cable so I’ll miss out. This is my sacrifice as is Ann’s abandoning of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters.

The thing is that if you sit yourself down and search long enough, you will find something to watch on Roku and as of now, I’ve got around seven movies in my Hulu queue just waiting for me. If you’re one of those who absolutely must watch the next episode of that Kardashian reality show then Roku is most likely not going to be for you.

But if you’re someone just looking for some kind of entertainment whether music, movies or TV, this gadget will probably be worth the money you’ll invest. As a matter of fact, I bought two of them this weekend to plan for the impending doom of FiOS TV.

By doing things this way, we may end up spending around $60 for our TV service ($50 for Internet and $8 for Hulu Plus) vs. the over $100 for our new bill.

The cord cutting has indeed begun and while not 100% satisfactory, I’ll gladly pay the lower price.

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