Make Your Own "Must-See TV" List: Which shows do you watch regularly? Do you need to see them live? Do you stick your nose up at non-HD content? These are all good questions you should ask yourself while filling out your TV entertainment needs list. Write down all the shows you watch, which network they're on, and circle all the ones you don't want to miss. If you have trouble remembering them all at once, keep a journal by the television, and jot down what you watch for a few days.
Do some Research: Now that you know which TV shows you most enjoy, do some research and see if there are streaming or online options available. If a majority of the shows you like are on network television (ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, PBS) — like Modern Family, Sunday Night Football, Downton Abbey, etc. — you're in luck. Those shows are broadcast for free and can be received in uncompressed HD quality with an antenna (even better than your cable or satellite). You can even record them and watch later with a Tivo DVR (not the XL4 model though) or similar set top box. For shows not available over-the-air (OTA), see if you can get them through: Mac Life that'll get you started.
Make your own with your needs list and you might be surprised that most of your shows are available in some manner with the options above. Be careful with some offerings like HBO Go, TNT, and TBS that offer full-length episodes of shows through their apps, but only to subscribers of specific cable or satellite services — Boo! Not the person we want to be anymore. Narrow Your Choices and Do Some Math: Now that you have your needs list, find the least amount of services you'll need to keep up with your shows. Price each of them, add things up, and see what the damage is. Take that number and subtract it against the yearly cost of your cable or satellite bill (which can easily be in the $1000 range yearly). Is it a big savings?
Now's also the time to look at any shows you can't get through an online or streaming service and decide if seeing that is really worth the extra cost. Make your Decision: If you're still following along after this exercise, you're almost there. You just need to decide what equipment you'll need to get the streaming media services you want in the manner(s) you want to view them. If you have an iPad and Apple TV already, then getting the streaming content to your TV (or wherever else you may be) is a cinch. Or perhaps you already have an Xbox 360 or PS3? Those gaming boxes offer apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon, etc. Other hardware to consider are set top boxes by Roku or Boxee, which also can give you some online gaming and internet content. Live sports even have several season pass options. Here are a few of note. • Football - NFL Sunday Ticket through PS3 - $339.95 • Basketball - NBA League Pass Broadband - $109 - $169 (last year) • Baseball - MLB.TV Premium - $79.99 • Hockey - NHL GameCenter Live - $159 (last year) For me the big hangup has always been sports on ESPN — one of the things I like to see live and in glorious HD. This exercise allowed me to put a price tag on that convenience and help me decide if it's worth it. Depending on how things turned out for you, perhaps that savings could afford you a couple tickets to go see the game live a time or two instead — maybe the ones that'll be on Monday Night Football and you wouldn't be able to get through an online or streaming service. Have you ditched your cable or satellite provider for streaming media? Are you happy with your decision and savings? (Images: Chris Perez)