What to choose?
This is the third, and final, post in the series dedicated to life without cable television. Check out the first post here and the second here.
Unless you're willing to go cold turkey, you need to look at all the media options out there before you call and cancel. We'll start with what works on your television set, and then we'll move into internet-based options.
TV Without Cable
Even without cable, your TV can still be a pretty powerful media watching device. A digital antenna lets you pick up all the major networks, and chances are you have a DVD player. Many people are content with watching mainstream media televisions shows through a service like Netflix or Blockbuster. For a fraction of the cost, you can choose what shows or movies you want to have at home. And, if you're a PC user, Netflix has invented a "Watch Instantly" service to satisfy your instant gratification bug. We've come a long way from that Friday night at the video store, and for some, this type of media watching alone satisfies their entertainment needs.
Ready to break away from the television entirely? Well, the internet offers a wide variety of options from mainstream media, as well. While there are many free options, the best quality and selection lies in services that allow you to download shows for a fee. iTunes is a great option for many of the network shows (although it seems NBC might be pulling the plug.) You can download one episode, or get a season's pass, and the quality is acceptable (although we haven't tried it on a large display.) Another similar service is Amazon's Unbox, offering movies, TV shows, and other forms of media. However, it's limited to Windows operating systems. Both of these solutions allow you to keep up with current seasons of your favorite shows, like Top Chef and Weeds.
We love freebies, and all of the major US networks offer some sort of free versions of their popular shows, with limited commercials. The offerings vary; some have great video quality, ABC works well and even offers HD feeds, while others have quality and technical issues (we've never gotten NBC's player to work well). The networks are quickly expanding on these options, and it's inevitable that we will soon have high quality internet versions of all our favorite shows. The cable channels are in on this too, with MTV being one notable pioneer in the field. The catalyst that is bringing a lot of this momentum together is Joost, a free internet TV application that has just been released from beta. We can't say enough good things about this product, and with many different shows available, from mainstream to obscure, it could easily fill a lot of voids in a cable-free home.
This series has only begun to scratch the surface on what's available on the internet. We've found a bunch of sites that we haven't had time to test, such as AmericaFree, Squid TV, and wwiTV. The sports community is also starting to come online and offer streaming feeds of live games. If you have a service, or channel that you love, that is available online, please share in the comments.
We also realize that we've probably generated as many questions as we've found answers. If you have an idea you want more information on, a tip to share, or a question for other ATers, please drop us an e-mail and lets see if we can live without cable TV.
Thanks for the photo, fennopolpot.