Freshly Squeezed OpEd: I Wanna Be Free

Jan 7, 2014 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

When I first moved into my studio apartment three years ago, I had made up my mind that I was going to do my best to ‘cut the cord.’ After some trial and error, I was able to successfully meet my viewing needs 99% of the time without hearing a gigantic sucking sound emanating from my wallet each month.
Now, I’m about to move again and I may have to change my approach some. 

Or a lot. But my mantra is still the same – ‘Cut the Cord.’Let’s review what works, what I have learned and what adaptations may be necessary for my new digs.

Make note of the programs that you actually WATCH, not stuff that you keep running in the background just to keep you company. Once you list what shows you follow, then check Hulu PLUS, Netflix and networks apps. You may be able to get all your programs online or OTA (over the air) free!
Let’s start with the most basic requirement. Now, I don’t watch a lot of network TV. Luckily, the shows that I do follow regularly can be found elsewhere (see below). And because the U.S. Government passed a law that stipulates that stations must send out a digital signal over the air, you can pick up broadcast stations for free.
There are indoor and outdoor antennas. There are expensive antennas. There are basic, simple antennas. I’ve heard and read arguments each way. A good place to learn all about antennas is AntennaWeb <>.
The quality of your reception will depend on numerous factors: signal strength, obstacles obstructing your signals, the positioning of the antenna and so on. But it’s not as daunting as it sounds. If you’re old enough to remember adjusting ‘rabbit ears,’ then you’re up to the task. (It’s that easy. Ask your grandfather.)
Remember. these are broadcast channels only. You won’t get any of your cable channels (A&E, TBS, ESPN, et al.).  And depending on several factors, you may not get every network. In my case, I can’t get ABC. But I only watch one or two shows on that network. And I can get these shows through both Hulu PLUS and ABC’s iOS app, so I never miss an episode.
For me, the greatest need for network reception is live sports. Baseball I can get through MLB.TV. I can watch those games on my AppleTV, iPad and iPhone. That’s worth approximately $130+ per year to me.
But I can get my football fix satisfied through CBS, FOX and NBC, all of which I do receive. Worst case scenario, if I can’t get a game that I want to see, I go to a family member’s house or a bar. Great excuse, don’t you agree?
Many cable channels have their own apps. Some will ask you upon launch which cable company you’re signed up with. But don’t worry. Bypass that screen and drill down into the site. You’ll find some full episodes of your favorite shows. (i.e., I use HGTV. Food Network and the Conan apps.) Dig through the app store and see if your favorite cable station has an app.
AppleTV is just one of the cards that I hold in my hand, but it’s not the most important – yet! It does deliver Hulu PLUS (as does my mobile devices), MLB.TV, Apple Trailers  MSL and lots more. And Hulu PLUS has an added bonus; I can watch my beloved British Comedies! Gone are my inferior VHS copies of Black Adder, Fry and Laurie, Absolutely Fabulous  Fawlty Towers, … And as I have a degree in film, HuluPLUS has the entire remastered Criterion collection at the ready (film buffs will REALLY appreciate this).
Of course, there’s always Netflix for new movies and older TV series. And you can rent or purchase yet more content from the iTunes store.
Local news you can pull off your local network feeds. And your local stations invariably have weather apps, Breaking News apps, etc. For world news, I watch Sky News on Apple TV. I can also follow national news with NBC’s Nightly News app. Or Fox’s app, if you prefer.

Finally, I have new shows that I follow regularly. I’m speaking of podcasts. Video from AppleTV or via mobile device withAirPlay (ScreenCastsOnline is a perfect example – wink, wink, nudge, nudge!

Yes, I may miss a show here and there. But as I write this, I’m about three hundred hours behind in my viewing. So, I guess that I can pretty much consider my efforts a success.
All it takes is a little planning, some research, under $100 ($30 if you’re really good) and you can save up enough for your next MacBook. Or iDevice. Or Apple TV …

… and then came the move …
I’ve moved into my new digs and an initial overview looks like I have no choice but to reconnect to the cable. Aaaargh!
The premiere reason is that my new apartment is located in a valley, a geographical Tupperware bowl. Ergo, my antenna is rendered useless. And as I want to get the cable for some of my shows (I NEED the NFL and Barclay Premier league)  I may as well bundle internet service into the package, as well. (Ironically, I’ll be saving money on the internet. With my old set-up, I was averaging 3-4Mbps from a 4G modem. From the cable, I’m downloading 20Mbps for ten dollars less a month! A no brainer.)
But I still have all of my podcasts that I will be watching through my AppleTV. Plus, then some. With a broader pipeline, I’ll be renting a few films from the iTunes Store. And Hulu PLUS still has the remastered Criterion film collection and my beloved BBC comedies.
So, in the end I can take satisfaction in knowing that I did save thousands over a period of three years. Now, I’m going to have a bit of think as to how I can prune back my newfound reliance on cable.
©2014 Framk Petrie


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