Tech Blog / Cassandra-like predictions
I received an HD Roku for Christmas. I love it. There are many and varied reasons, but the main one is cost. Let me tell you just how much I’m saving on entertainment right now… and why you should too.
I was paying $95 a month for satellite cable. That’s one DVR and one regular receiver and no premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc). I have an original x-box with the upstairs TV (which is so far beyond ancient… it only has a coax input). I have an HD TV downstairs, one of the old Sony CRTs… no one’s gonna steal my TV. That $95 a month did not include HD channels or an HD DVR.
Post Christmas December 2010, the setup is as follows. x-box on upstairs TV. X-Box 360 and Roku on downstairs TV. I pay $3.50 a month for X-Box live  (once a year). I pay $10 a month for Netflix and I buy the TV shows that I want on Amazon VoD for between $0.89 and $1.99 per episode.
Oh, the Roku box? Less than $50 for the standard definition one and about $100 for the HD one (which I have).
Now, if you watch a ton of TV, that might not be the best setup for you. I watch about 3 hours a week whether I need to or not. So, I pay $13.50 for subscriber services and about $20 a month in TV shows. Which isn’t really true, this is the max. Most TV shows don’t have a new episode every week (unfortunately), so that’s a maximum figure. So that has cut my bill by 66% roughly.
But, do I gain anything else? Sure, I gain zero commercials. I’ve seen more commercials on my computer screen than I have on my TV in the last month. I gain complete control of my shows and movies. I own those TV episodes, I can watch favorites any time I want. Netflix is streaming anyway.
I gain HD everything. Didn’t have it before, now I can choose to watch something in HD or not. Top Chef… nah. Dollhouse? Heck yeah!
Now, think back to your Saturday morning. When I was 8 (a long blasted time ago), I sat down and watched Bugs Bunny/Road Runner, GI Joe, Godzilla (remember that?), and a host of others. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon, my kid gets to see those too. They couldn’t have been too bad, I turned out mostly OK.
For the sports fans, ESPN3 plays all of the sports on streaming through their website and through X-Box Live (that $3.50 a month). My understanding is that they have soccer. UPDATE: Roku does not presently have ESPN3. They do have a an NHL Hockey Channel. You can also get most of the major news channels (CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox (even though it’s not really ‘news’).
There are a few issues. For some reason, you can get all ABC shows, except The Big Bang Theory. That bugs me, but I’ll take a hit for 30 minutes of comedy if I save $50 a month.
You can’t get Disney. Not that I care. Disney is evil. There are 300 advertisements on every DVD (it greatly saddens me that Disney will distribute the Marvel movies). I was slightly concerned for my son. He enjoys Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Special Agent Oso (He’s O-so special.) They also don’t put these series on DVD, except for 3 episodes for $25.
Surprisingly, my boy doesn’t miss it. Netflix has Thomas the Tank Engine. Problem solved.
Now for some predictions. Cable and Satellite will become niche products the way Roku is now. Just a few years. As soon as more people figure out that they can control everything that touches their TV. Only the truly hardcore TV-aholics will stick with satellite and cable.
Unfortunately, this also means that there will be fewer TV shows. To get a TV show, you have to have money. Where does the money come from? Advertisements. On the other hand, we’ll have a much better idea of what TV shows people want to watch. They will vote with their dollars. Would I pay for Big Bang Theory? You bet. Would I pay to watch Swamp People? Heck no.
Season 3 of Big Bang Theory hit almost 15 million people. That’s 23 episodes at $1.00 per. That’s 345 million dollars (in the US alone). Do you think that they could do 23 episodes of Big Bang for a third of a billion dollars? Screw advertising.
Unfortunately, it will be the death of high quality science fiction, with their notoriously high budgets… what am I saying? There’s no good science fiction on TV anyway. Moot point.
Six Month Update
Couldn’t be happier with the set-up. I think I watch more TV now than I ever have before. Of course, with Netflix and Amazon, once I find a show I like, I can watch 3-4 episodes a day.
A few concerns. Currently many internet service providers are putting bandwidth caps on you. So far this hasn’t impacted my level of watching. We watch a couple of shows a day (3-4 hours) and when we find something really good (Flashpoint, Community) we’ll watch up to 5-6 hours a day for several days in a row.
Our provider AT&T (may they be sliced into a billion companies) has a 150gigabyte cap on us and we haven’t even come close to that yet. Unless all you do is watch TV or you won’t watch anything that’s not high-def, then even a low bandwidth cap like 150Gb will be plenty.
Netflix is also raising it’s prices. A whopping $7 a month. Going from $10 a month for unlimited streaming and 1 DVD at a time to $17 for the same service. Still a heck of a lot cheaper than $75 or $120. Amazon is still pay per episode or buy the whole series at a discount, but they too have unlimited streaming (with a fairly low number of shows compared to netflix) if you are a Prime member. You can’t be a guest of someone else’s Prime membership, you have to pay for it. But that’s not that big a deal. Now days, I only use shipping for Christmas and birthdays. Everything else is digital.
Speaking of which, you should be using Amazon cloud for your music. It works very well for me (though I doubt I’ll ever even reach the storage max of the free service). Warning: If you upload your entire music collection IT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME!!! About 4 gigs of music took about 22 hours to upload on my crappy DSL line. Your mileage may vary.
 Keep an eye out for sales of the 12 month subscription card at Amazon. Don’t pay full price. Paying full price is for losers.