Tag Archives: Netflix

Traditional Cable is Dead: Long Live The New Order

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The numbers are increasing: more and more are cutting the cord and getting away from cable / Fios.  As for me, it’s been several months that I’ve functioned without traditional cable television – and I wouldn’t want to go back.

When I first undertook this approach – dumping cable services – I did so with the intent to save money while ensuring a decent means of cheap entertainment we’ve come to expect from our TV set. Would my kids be able to enjoy the show(s) they like to watch? Would they miss out on new shows? Would I do likewise – enjoy the old, experience the new – and importantly, what potential could come of cutting the cord?

I’m happy to report that all of the above – and more – has been achieved.

First of all, my costs have dramatically dropped. I now pay half of what I was paying for earlier, and yet not only enjoy the shows that I usually indulge in, but now have even greater access to more shows that I didn’t before.

My kids also enjoy their regular shows, but now have access to new shows they weren’t aware of.

We can enjoy anything we like at any time regardless of scheduling as there is no schedule: it’s all on demand.

We now gain greater access to more educational shows, shows of interest and more importantly, tap into previously unexplored realms – such as YouTube – that previously were not readily noted.

So let’s talk about the details.

1. Costs

Traditional plans – whether you’re using cable or FIOS – cost anywhere from $90 to $170 per month, depending on what you’re using. What many folk do is get a ‘cheaper’ package in an effort to save money – limit the number of channels they can watch so as to lower monthly costs. But the providers are ready for that: I noted that whenever I shopped for traditional cable/Fios, the fees would shift about. Generally speaking and as an example, what the providers will do is charge you more fees – such as ‘set box’ monthly rental’ – whenever you try lowering your monthly costs. In my case, when I tried to negotiate for a lower monthly fee, I saved some $40 for monthly channel access, but wound up paying more – from $3 per month to $12 per month – for the set box rental! In fact, I was looking at paying $144 per year ($12 per month) for set box rental. Right,…

Also, ask for the lowest speed possible. You’d be surprised what you can do with 10/10 + upload/download speeds: don’t fall for the hype of faster being better (unless you’re a serious gamer addict and your life revolves are playing the latest and greatest online games).

And beware: sometimes what happens is the providers will play with you, offering you speeds but in the end, you can find that (by testing and logging your results over a period of time) that you’re either just reaching those speeds or are just hovering below them. In such instances, you consider keeping a log, doing regular speed tests and print out screen shots of your test results so as to bring these results to the attention of your provider and, if need be, filing a formal complaint with the FCC and the BBB (Better Business Bureau).

2. Platform

Congratulations, you’ve dumped traditional cable. So now what?

For some folk, it’s the Apple TV while for others, it’s Roku.

With Apple TV, you get access to a number of steaming services, but not nearly as varied or richly populated as Roku. Apple TV is great if you’re an Apple user (and if you are, I’d recommend it: the ability to readily link your iTunes and your MacBook / Desktop to your TV is rather cool) but Roku simply offers a whole lot more of freebies.

In that vein, it’s worthwhile to get Hulu and/or Netflix (which is available for both Apple TV and Roku). For $8 per month, Hulu is a bargain: there are literally hundreds of shows with their respective seasons that’ll entertain you and your family. Lots of choices and most of all, for the price, you simply can’t beat it. Consider comparing the cost of getting Hulu for $8 per month versus getting the same shows via traditional cable at $45 per month (just the cable / Fios service portion of your monthly bill) and do the math.

Also, you’ll find that this approach cuts back on ‘channel surfing’. No more hopping around looking for your show(s) on the multitude of channels. Log in, go to your show (you can set up Hulu to create your own programming of shows you like) and enjoy.

3. New Realms

YouTube is getting interesting. Try searching for movies or shows and chances are, they’re on YouTube. In addition, creators are getting wise to YouTube and increasingly, you can watch shows you’ll only find on YouTube (my personal favorite is “The Great War” where viewers can watch weekly updates about World War I as they happened on the week you’ve watching a hundred years ago. And this from a group of ‘amateurs’!).

It’s all changing,…

Let’s understand something: traditional channel viewing is geared to carry the shows you enjoy. Take the shows into a different medium – say, via ‘streaming’ services – and you’ll find there is little reason to remain with traditional cable / FIOS channel lineups. The providers know this. When asked as to why I was dropping my regular cable service, the cable rep asked me, “are you intending to stream?”

“Yes, I already do.”

Sigh. “Yeah, a lot of people are saying that.”

The results are getting interesting. Large entities (such as NFL and Disney to name two of the bigger ones) are already playing hard ball with such folk as Comcast. And rightfully so: for years, the providers held the upper hand, offering the only primary means of delivering quality entertainment to people’s homes and business, changing more to the studios / commercial entities and passing the costs on to you in the form of increased monthly bills while they pocketed the difference. Now that’s changing.

The fight over Internet ‘freedom’ that’s been taking place at the FCC is not so much about freedom per se, but it’s really about the providers’ bread and butter. Providers seek (among other things) to control access and charge people more money for Internet access and speed in an effort to recoup losses incurred from folk abandoning traditional channel delivery. But it’s too late: as much as they are pushing for this, the more the entertainment ‘houses – NFL and Disney to name a few – are pushing back, gradually cornering Comcast, Time/Warner, Verizon, etc. – into difficult negotiating positions. Simply put: aside from Internet access, what’s there for the providers to offer? And if they insist upon pressing home the need to limit and/or charge more for Internet access, the more they’re going to undermine themselves. After all, all it takes is one provider to buck the pack and offer more competitive fees for their customers leaving the others to scramble.

The writing’s on the wall; it’s a brave new world. The company valuation of provider’s companies are in flux and with that, unless they move fast and adjust to the changing market realities, cable / Fios TV providers going to find things challenging.

Change is good, especially if you’re the consumer. All it takes is a little research, planning and a willingness to save money to get better quality home entertainment.

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Microsoft Versus Apple: You’re Missing The Bigger Picture

Author’s Disclaimer: For the record, I have a Dell desktop and a Gateway laptop (both running Windows XP), along with a MacBook Pro (Mountain Lion), iPad and an iPod along with an iPhone (older version; doing quite fine, thank you) that just replaced my old and trusty Samsung (RIP, sadly).

Nowadays, you have to be ambidextrous: you need the ability to work within the realm of Microsoft as well as Apple IOS because if you can’t, chances are you’re going to lose out on a lot of opportunities. That said, I’m not about to grace any discussion about which is better – Microsoft or Apple – because frankly, it’s all pointless: you might as well argue about vanilla versus chocolate ice cream. There are far more (and overlooked) important things afoot to consider that brings a whole new context to this discussion.

First hand, the traditional notion of ‘everything on one box’ is pretty much gone; it’s now all about distributed computing. During the past decade, we’ve moved away from stuffing everything on one box, starting with the notion of conducting back-ups owing to data loss, moving to plug-on hard drives, and then moving into remote back-ups. As technology advanced, so too did prices drop offering greater availability for services that heretofore were not financially feasible for many. And with all of this came (in part) the notion of ‘cloud computing’. It’s no longer just about how big your or strong your PC / box is; it’s more about where and how you access you data in relationship to your box / PC.

Secondly, connectivity has dramatically improved. We’ve moved away from traditional cabling and into wireless connectivity – with a vengeance. Wireless is everywhere and it’s only going to increase (little known factoid: did you know that chances are, you are – at most – only about 20 miles away from the nearest Starbucks? Of course, this does not apply in remote areas such as Montana, Wyoming or the Dakotas, but don’t worry; that’ll change). This development strongly underlies the growth of the tablet market: so long as I have a good connection, I can read and process my files without having to carry a bulky 8 pound laptop as was so common back some years ago.

Thirdly, it’s no longer just about ‘software suites’; it’s about ecology. Ecology is a big new concept – while at the same time, it’s as old as the hills. When you went with a specific approach – MS / Windows box, Apple or Linux – you became ‘married’ to that concept. To be sure, there was some ‘bleed-through’ – i.e., Linux can work (to a certain extent) with either Apple or Windows boxes, but overall, for the average consumer or business entity, it was an all or nothing approach. Fast forward to the present time, now you’re finding yourself making choices that went far beyond just which PC / Box you’re buying: it’s now what format are you going to listen to your music? What phone service are you committing yourself to? What television / cable / subscription service are you committing yourself to – FIOs, traditional cable, Apple TV or just winging it on your own via Netflix or other open Internet options (i.e., YouTube)?

And lastly, the nature of data management also has changed: sound, graphic and print files are merged together in ways and means underscoring tremendous creativity, raising the bar for competitive services and advertisements; consumer and political outreach programs as well as new notions for political activism and creative / artistic endeavors. It’s now more about what offers you the easier means to grasp your data, exchange your endeavors and advertise / distribute? It’s a lot easier to do all of this if you’re sharing / existing within the same ecology.

This is the new Ecology paradigm: what ‘system’ offers you the most convenience, less cost and unifies everything in a manner that’ll make your life easier to manage? To be certain, for some, this notion of ‘unification’ is not a desirable aspect (note Wozniak’s comments earlier this year about how he doesn’t have cable service and prefers to use his data / cellular service for his own Internet surfing) but for the average consumer market, this is the new bonanza: getting everybody to sign up for as much as they are willing to do so. Some companies – such as Verizon – got this early on: witness their various ‘bundling’ packages (Verizon doesn’t sell as comprehensive a solution as does Apple or Windows as Verizon doesn’t quite have a complete ecology developed as of yet).

The battleground is not just about which flavor do you prefer – Vanilla or Chocolate – it’s now all about the bowl and how that bowl works best for you; everything else is simply a matter of taste.