Everybody has that friend that has an innate ability to cheer them up and make them laugh (and if you don’t, you really need to get one). My friend Karen is that for me.
Karen is an old friend of mine. We met many years ago when we worked for the same health company. She worked in marketing and I worked in the editorial department. At first we based our friendship on a mutual dislike for our bosses and workplace. Eventually we both moved on to other jobs, but still remained friends.
I was really sad several years ago when Karen moved back home to Syracuse to be closer to her aging parents. I was afraid our friendship wouldn’t be the same, but thanks to Karen’s highly social nature we have remained close.
Karen was cracking me up the other day over the phone when she was talking about her cable bill. She went on a five minute rant over how much she hates Time/Warner. They had just sent her notice that they were raising her bill (yet again) and it had a less than desirable effect on her. Spotty service, malfunctioning DVR devices, constant price increases and bad customer service had riled Karen up to the point where she could not contain her anger anymore.
I could easily relate. While I don’t have Time/Warner I have had similar issues with Comcast. It seems every year Comcast introduces a new fee or raises the price for one of their services. I’m sure you can relate, cable/Internet providers like these are known for their low customer satisfaction ratings. Everyone hates the lack of choice they have in cable providers in their area.
After I finished laughing at Karen’s choice words for her cable company and numerous threats to cut their service altogether I suggested that she do just that: cut the cord. I suggested she join the estimated 5 million Americans that have said Adios to their cable TV provider.
One of Karen’s biggest complaints is the cost. She pays $190 a month for her cable and internet bill. That’s a big chunk of her monthly budget. If she were to cut out the cable TV and just pay for internet she’d save herself about $100 a month. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Plus now-a-days almost everything that’s offered by cable TV is available online. You can watch TV shows, movies, documentaries, sporting events, even the nightly news for free online. She’s already paying for Internet, so it doesn’t make much sense to pay for both.
But when I mentioned this to her she was apprehensive about the idea. She was frightened that it wouldn’t be as good or that she would miss a program. I get it. Cable TV has become so important to American families that it doesn’t even feel like a luxury service anymore, rather it’s become a necessary utility like water and electricity.
Couple that with the fact that there haven’t been any good alternatives and it makes cutting the cable cord nearly impossible. That is until this month. Google just introduced they are jumping into the streaming content arena with their newest device called Chromecast.
Chromecast is a small piece of hardware that fits in the palm of your hand. Despite its small size, it makes big promises. Google says Chromecast plugs into the HDMI port on the back of your TV and allows you to stream content from your tablet, laptop or smartphone onto your TV.
I’m sure you’ve hear of other services that sound just like Chromecast. Apple TV is a similar service provider, as is the content streaming service Roku. But Google promises to best those devices and services in price, quality of service and unique features.
For one it’s always been a hassle for cord cutters in the past to stream content online to their TV. The process often involves a large amount of lag time booting up their device like an Xbox or computer and using TV remotes that weren’t ever intended to help shuffle through online video content before their intended program begins to play.
Google promises to cut all this hassle, frustration with remotes and time wasting with Chromecast. They promise that all you need to do is plug in Chromecast to your TV, go through the set up one time and then you can use your tablet, smartphone or laptop to open Netflix or YouTube or any online video you want to watch and press the “Cast” button to send the video to your television.
Your TV doesn’t even have to be on when you click the “Cast” button. Chromecast is supposed to do that and everything else for you. The plug-in will communicate with your tablet or smartphone over your Wi-Fi connection and make the necessary input adjustments and begin streaming the video you’ve chosen without you ever leaving the couch.
Google hopes it will draw customers who use other online content streaming devices and services to their service by making it easy to use. Apple TV customers use similar methods to stream content from their tablets or smartphones to their TV’s. The difference is Apple streams content directly from your iPad or iPhone and displays it on your TV. This uses up a lot of your device’s battery, not to mention that you can’t use it for anything else while its streaming content to your TV.
That’s another feature Chromecast has bested competitors on. It streams your content straight from the Internet page you found it on, instead of from your device. This allows you to save your battery life and frees up your device to do other things while you’re watching TV. Plus unlike Apple TV, Chromecast doesn’t require that you have an iPhone or an iPad, it will work with Android devices as well.
Even better is its cheap! Chromecast only costs $35 and includes three months of Netflix. After the free trial of Netflix is over, Netflix will run you $7.99 a month, which is still a lot cheaper than what you were paying your cable company. Netflix is a good option for movies. It has a huge selection of new and old films as well as past seasons of TV shows, all commercial free.
The only problem with Netflix is that you have to wait a long time to see full seasons of TV shows. If waiting up to a year to catch up on your favorite shows is too long get Hulu. Hulu will have most of the sitcoms, dramas and comedy TV shows you love available the day after they air on TV. The bonus is that Hulu is only $7.99 a month. So even if you have Hulu and Netflix your monthly bill will only be $16 as compared to $100 a month you are paying the cable company.
Of course there are some shows that aren’t available even on Hulu or Netflix, a la “Mad Men”. In this instance you can buy full seasons of shows directly from the channel or from iTunes.com. A full season of “Mad Men” costs $34.99. That’s not exactly cheap but you could still buy more than two full seasons of shows like it each month plus Hulu and Netflix and still not be spending as much as you did with your cable TV provider.
If you are worried about missing the nightly news if you give up cable, don’t be. Go to any electronics store like Best Buy or Radio Shack and get yourself a good antenna. This should get you all the major channels like NBC, CBS and ABC plus a few more for free!
This should also help you get free access to many live sports programs like Monday Night Football or NBA games. If there is a game that isn’t on a major station then most likely its online. More and more college and professional sports packages are being streamed online for your viewing pleasure. You can use Chromecast to broadcast your sports event to your TV, even in HD! If worse comes to worse you can always head over to your local sports bar or restaurant to catch a “can’t miss” game.
Websites like findmetv.com can help you find new shows to watch. It acts like a search engine for TV shows and new movies. You can search by category (drama, comedy, documentary, sports, etc.), channel name or go through shows A to Z. Findmetv also notifies you when new episodes of your favorite TV shows are available and then sends you recommendations for other shows you might like!
Of course all this assumes you have a smartphone or tablet already. Karen does so that isn’t a deal breaker for her. When we hung up I got the feeling she was still apprehensive about cutting off cable TV altogether. It’s scary because it’s new. I’m sure a few more over the top cable bills will show her that cutting the cable cord is a great way to save money while still being able to watch her favorite TV shows.
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,