John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

Internet TV feels like the future is here

February 9th, 2011

Cable providers and television networks have been dreading this moment, but it seems like momentum has really built up among consumers in favor of internet-based television solutions.

I recently purchased a Roku box myself, and now that I’ve been using that instead of traditional cable for about a month, all I can say is that it is like getting paid $50 a month to improve my TV experience.

Cost and Benefit

So instead of paying $60 every month to Comcast for their declining selection of programs, I’m paying about $10 to Netflix so I can watch exactly what I want, when I want, without any kind of commercial interruptions.

Of course, in addition to Netflix there are a whole bunch of choices available. Hulu has a premium set-top service, and you can also access popular video sites like Youtube, Funny or Die, and CNN video. Still not enough? Amazon Video on Demand has all sorts of high definition new releases available for just a few bucks each. Instead of paying a huge monthly bill to the cable company, you can actually decide what is worth spending money on and what you can skip right over.

It turns out the Wii also plays Netflix and Youtube, so for two TVs we only had to shell out cash for the Roku box and a wireless router. All counted, the transition cost $200 up front and will start to save money after four months of skipping cable payments.

Beyond DVD

Now, one of my favorite features of the Roku box, and a big advantage it has over the Wii, is that you can plug a USB drive right in to the device and watch MP4 videos. Since these USB drives can hold more gigs than a blu-ray disc, I feel like I’m starting to see the end of the DVD era. Now the few DVDs I do have are being stored up on hard drives and converted for USB viewing. Who needs a boxed set of multiple discs per season when you can put a dozen seasons on one thumb-sized flash drive? Also, you can save up your favorite internet videos to make a custom play list or even to have some back up in case the web goes down for a while. Now, the Wii is theoretically capable of playing USB movies as well, but you’ll have to make some modifications to the software and there’s more risks & effort involved.

Upgrade the smart way

So if you’re thinking about making the switch from cable to internet TV, now is a great time to start researching and making plans. You probably don’t want to rush in because there are a lot of little details to pay attention to, but with the proper planning and analysis of your existing devices and televisions, you can probably maximize your TV entertainment at a really great price.

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