Apps vs. Traditional Cable
When moving to a new home, you can opt to have your cable service moved to your new address, or you can cut the cord altogether and use inexpensive apps to meet your entertainment needs. A recent study shows the cost of paid TV subscriptions for basic and premium channels hit $86/month in 2011, and continue to rise at 6% per year, meaning the cost could hit $123/month by 2015, and $200/month by 2020. How do these numbers compare to using apps for your TV needs?
Alternatives to Traditional Cable
As the ability to stream a variety of movies and TV shows on the Internet continues to grow, consumers now have plenty of options to cover their needs at a fraction of the cost of traditional cable service.
Netflix® offers a streaming-only plan for $7.99/month (approximately $96/year.) For an additional $7.99/month, customers can opt to have DVDs and/or Blu-Ray™ discs sent to their home. The Netflix library size has not been formally announced, but it does offer the largest library of any online streaming service. Netflix does not offer next day viewing like other services on the market, but in exchange, customers do not have to view ads during shows. Some content is available for streaming in 1080p HD quality, though smooth video quality depends on a high-speed Internet connection. A month long free trial is available.
Hulu Plus ® offers a streaming-only plan for $7.99/month (approximately $96/year.) The Hulu Plus library size is kept under lock and key, but it is considerably smaller than the Netflix cache. Hulu Plus offers next day viewing for many shows, but requires paying subscribers to watch ads due to the licensing fees. Hulu offers a small selection of shows for free, streamed only to a computer. Content is available at 720p HD resolution. A one-week free trial is available.
YouTube® is entering the paid TV market with a selection of premium subscriptions . Subscription prices range from $0.99/month to $9.99/month, depending on channel. Some subscriptions include multiple channels. Channels come with a 14 day free trial, and display ad-free content.
Most TV shows and movies available for streaming online are encased in digital rights management (DRM), to help manage copyright protection and piracy issues. However, some content is available as DRM free, meaning people can watch it without restriction, and can even burn copies onto a disc, without piracy concern. Archive.org has a nice selection of DRM free material, and some stand-up comedians including Louis C.K. and Jim Gaffigan have started selling DRM free content.
Amazon® Instant Video comes as an added bonus to an Amazon Prime® subscription. For $79.99/year, consumers have access to a collection of 17,656 free movies and TV shows for streaming to a number of devices. Though this seems impressive, the library size still pales in comparison to Netflix and Hulu Plus. The full library includes the option to rent or buy and features 64,965 movies and 14,225 TV shows, with prices ranging from $1.99 for a standard definition episode to $34.99 for a full season, depending on whether the content is rented or purchased. Rentals last for 48 hours, and purchased content can be accessed at any time. Content is available in 720p HD resolution. Content is streamed without ads.
iTunes® offers more than 45,000 movies and 190,000 TV shows, many in 1080p HD quality. Buy individual episodes or full seasons, for anywhere from $1.99 for a standard definition episode to $34.99 for a full season. Customers can watch on a number of devices, or download a copy to take with them on-the-go.
Google Play™ offers an extensive library of movie and TV content, with individual TV episodes priced at $1.99 each, and full seasons at about $24.99. Some episodes are offered for free, and some season content may be more or less expensive, depending on the length of the season. Customers can watch their library online, or any Android™ device.
Watching on TV
Online and app based content can be streamed to TV using numerous devices, including gaming consoles, smartTVs, streaming boxes, and the new Google Chromecast device.
Gaming consoles such as the Microsoft XBox 360®, Sony Playstation® 3, Nintendo Wii™, and Nintendo Wii U™ allow users to stream content from: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, and a number of premium sports channels. Blu-Ray players and smartTVs are also designed to stream web content. Many major brands, including VIZIO®, LG®, and Samsung®, offer models with wireless connectivity to access a world of streaming possibilities.
Streaming boxes such as the Roku® and AppleTV® connect the TV to a wireless network much like a cable box. Roku offers a number of channels, including: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and a variety of other options. A Roku box costs $49.99 to $99, depending on model. AppleTV offers Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, your iTunes library, and more. An AppleTV device costs $99.
The Google Chromecast device allows streaming of Netflix, Google Play content, and YouTube channels. At $35, it is the cheapest device for streaming online content to a television. It works by connecting to the HDMI port in your TV, and sending content over the Internet from your computer or Android smartphone to the TV.
With an increasing number of options available, being dependent on cable TV is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Subscribing to the three major online content providers: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video will cost approximately $272/year, or just $22.66/month, and cover nearly all TV and movie entertainment needs, for an average savings of $63.33/month or $796/year.
1: Espen Sorvik
2: Twentyfour Students with Creative Commons license