“Cutting the cable” – an expression used by people who drop cable or satellite TV service in favor of online video sources. Cable companies charge fees for “basic” services and more fees for specialty channels until you are paying a Kings ransom for the particular mix of content you do want. Online services offer an excellent alternative.
Here are my top 5 picks (with an extra from Steve) for “Cutting the Cable” and going fully to Internet TV. These are in no particular order – but represent great options for inexpensive TV in your home. My pick of the pack is #5 – XBMC/KODI/Android TV. Check it out.
1 – Netflix – This popular $7.99 a month service offers a huge range of TV shows and movies on demand. Even better, many (if not all) of the modern home entertainment electronics have a version of Netflix built in. Sign on, add your Credit Card and be watching in minutes. You can even switch between your smart phone and your TV and it remembers your place in the show. In Canada you are limited to “Canadian Netflix” which seems to be missing many of the US favorites, however you can try the service free for a month to get a sense of what is available.
2 – US Netflix – Although a touch controversial, accessing the US Netflix is relatively easy and also inexpensive. Still $7.99 a month USD for the Netflix service, you also need a US Netflix VPN service. Make some minor changes to your device network settings and “Yo, Partner!” you are a virtual US Citizen. Now you have access to the entire Netflix catalog of TV shows and Movies on demand. A VPN service to try is UnblockUS for US Netflix.
3 – Apple TV – Apple’s highly successful pay per view model requires you to purchase the $110 device. After that you can pay by the movie ($4.99), episode(Varies, $2.50) or season($35-$45) for your content. For casual users this is an excellent option for accessing the latest in on-demand content at a reasonable price. Typically shows are available on Apple TV a bit sooner then Netflix. The charges for Apple TV can sometimes exceed a cable bill for a month – but over the year you may find significant savings over the regular monthly cable bill.
4– Amazon Prime – At $99 a year Amazon Prime is in the same price range as Netflix, and has other Amazon related benefits. I don’t have any personal experience with Amazon Prime – they seem like a direct competitor to Netflix, while throwing in some retail benefits at the same time, like upgraded shipping options. Unlimited movie and TV show viewing!
5 – XBMC/KODI/Android TV – My personal favorite – XBMC or KODI. This started out as a media player for the Xbox platform (XBMC stands for Xbox Media Center) and expanded out from there. Its claim to fame is that it has an open development model so people can write “Add-ons” for it. And they have! Most TV shows and Movies are available as a “Stream” on XBMC/KODI minutes after the original show airs. There are many ways to set up XBMC – your laptop, smartphone, a raspberry pie or purchasing a small specialized electronic box ($200). Once installed there are no charges at all for shows watched, and most content from pre-school to xxx is available. These units are available at GroundControlTV. Install the Genesis Add-on if its not pre-installed – Genesis will not only stream most shows but provide an episode tracker for you too.
Is streaming content for free legal in Canada? I am not an internet lawyer, however the man who wrote the book on Canadian Internet law – Michael Geist – suggests that under Canadian law, streaming is not an illegal activity. This makes the XBMC/KODI/Internet TV option the best of the bunch – $200 for the box and no additional charges. Read Michael Geist’s article here.
6 – Chromecast – Another option for streaming content is a Google Chromecast. This device plugs into an HDMI port of your TV or computer monitor and connects to your WiFi point. Then a PC, Mac, Android, iPhone device etc can stream content to it. So if you are watching a youtube video on you PC (in the Google Chrome browser) you can direct the audio/video stream to the Chromecast device. Some DVD players also appear on your network as a Chromecast device, so check first before spending $40.00 for the device. – Update by Steve.