This is the first in a short series about alternatives to TV service. More coming on Friday.
DITCHING CABLE: Jeremy Baker gave up cable after he lost his job. But he still watches the latest shows thanks to services like PlayOn, Netflix and others. Photo by CINDY YAMANAKA
Everything changed when Jeremy Baker lost his job in November 2008 — including how he watched TV.
The Seal Beach resident didn’t watch a ton of TV but his cable bill had crept up to $130 a month. Scrambling to cut costs, he canceled cable and bought a Microsoft Xbox 360 game console.
“I know it doesn’t make sense but I did the math. After 6 months, the Xbox was paid for,” Baker said.
It’s what he did with the Xbox that helped him save money. By changing the source of his TV service, Baker was able to watch most of his favorite shows on his TV for half of what he had paid the cable company.
He purchased PlayOn software for $30 and got a subscription to Netflix. For $8.99/month, Netflix offers unlimited access to its online video library, which includes thousands of movies and TV shows, plus one DVD rental at a time. PlayOn gave him access to several TV shows plucked from sites like the popular Hulu.com, ComedyCentral.com (including ”The Daily Show with Jon Stewart“) plus an assortment of on-demand shows from MTV, Food Networks, HGTV, SyFy and Discovery Channel.
The best part? He can still watch it all on his regular TV, thanks to the Xbox.
“I got really into watching the old ‘Law & Orders’ and every ‘SVU’ and ‘Criminal Intent,’” Baker said. “I’m probably paying $60 a month.”
Of that, about $50 is still going to Time Warner Cable for high-speed Internet, the rest to Netflix. PlayOn was a one-time investment. Occasionally, he’ll visit a RedBox vending machine if he can’t find a new movie online or on Netflix. He also pays $35/year for Xbox Live, which allows him to stream Netflix videos. (PlayOn also works with the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii for no additional cost.)
“About a year ago, a Time Warner guy was going door to door and asking, ‘What can I do to get you to pay for TV?’ I was like, ‘Wow, you’re desperate,’” Baker said.
Of course, he doesn’t get the same access to TV shows he used to when he paid $130 a month. He misses live news, but not sports. He was never a big sports fan. And his girlfriend is a big fan of “Project Runway,” which can’t be found without a paid-TV subscription. She has her mother TiVo the series.
“There are some HBO shows that we miss, but if it comes around on demand, like Dexter on Showtime, we can get all that for free. We just have to kind of wait,” he said.
Other than that, he has few regrets about canceling cable.
“We have more free time. Before I got laid off, I was commuting 3 hours a day. We’d get home and sit on the couch and watch TV. Now, it’s off most of the day because I work from home now,” he said, estimating that he now spends about 8 to 10 hours in front of the TV a week.
“We go to other peoples houses and it’s like wow, commercials! What are those? And everyone’s like maybe we should just get cable. But do we really want to spend that extra $1,000 a year or do we want to do something fun?”
For more on TV services, see the following links:
|* Time Warner Cable
* Cox Cable
* Verizon FiOS
* AT&T U-verse
* Dish Network
* Web TV
* All TV