It may be time to cut the cable

Apr 15 2012 - 7:17am

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Supply and demand? That old economics rule doesn't seem to apply to the cable industry. More people are cutting their cable services and prices for cable TV service are expected to keep rising.

Cable TV service is expected to rise from today's average of $86 a month to more than $100 by 2015 -- $200 by 2020, according to a new report from analyst firm NPD. Meanwhile, 3.58 million U.S. cable subscribers will cancel their service, an increase of 35 percent over cord cutters in 2011, reports Convergence Consulting in its annual study "The Battle for the American Couch Potato."

What's happening? The licensing fees for movies and shows continues to rise and the cable companies pass the cost along to you.

If you've had enough, you can quit cable. The transition may be tough for ardent HBO fans, but others may find they can get as much entertainment as they want for less than half the cost of cable. I know, I did it and that's with a houseful of teenagers.

You'll need two simple devices and your choice of several services to see almost every popular show aired on TV plus a big selection of movies. Settle in -- you've got lots of entertainment ahead.

Devices

Try the $40 Mohu Leaf for over-the-air broadcast channels, including HD. The Leaf is an indoor HDTV antenna that works with any TV. About the size of a piece of computer paper, the leaf attached to the wall with Velcro and plugs into your TV's coaxial port. The Leaf delivers all available network channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS -- many of which are broadcast in HD.

Add an $80 Roku 2HD or $100 Apple TV for media streaming. The palm-size media streaming devices connect wirelessly to your TV if you have a wireless router, or you can use the included cable. Both stream movies and shows in full HD (1080p), play music through a free Pandora account and bring Facebook to your big screen. Both offer Netflix, but only Apple is compatible with YouTube and iTunes, while Roku has Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. You'll want to decide which services best match what you want to watch.

More stuff

Subscribe to Netflix for movies and TV. The streaming-only service costs $8 a month. Netflix streaming offers movies and full seasons of past TV shows. If it's on DVD, it's most likely on Netflix. But don't hold your breath for new releases. Netflix must wait at least 28 days to release "new on DVD" movies because of its deals with movie studios.

For new shows, add Hulu Plus for another $8 a month. You're probably familiar with Hulu on your computer, but the premium version of Hulu may come with a few surprises. First, you'll still see ads on Hulu Plus, and some regular Hulu content is not available on Hulu Plus -- such as Food Network. However, Hulu Plus offers many TV episodes to watch 24 hours after they're aired on cable, a complement to Netflix's older offerings.

On demand

You can fill the gap left by the Netflix waiting period by using on-demand video services. There's no monthly commitment, but you'll be limited to what's offered through your media streaming device. If you get an Apple TV, you'll have access to iTunes and YouTube -- yes, the "amateur" video site has just signed a movie rental deal with Paramount that includes recent releases and classics as well as offerings from five other major movie studios. Roku owners can buy shows from Amazon Instant Video. The one big holdout is HBO, which does not make its shows available until they come out on DVD.

Depending on the service, you can "rent" a movie for a day or two, or buy it to stream as many times as you wish. For instance, the current season of "Mad Men" is available from iTunes for $35 in HD, or you can buy single episodes for $2.99. Each episode is available to download about 24 hours after the show airs on AMC.

Calculating savings

A premium cable subscription will set you back $85 a month for Comcast's Xfinity TV service with HBO. Over the course of a year, you'd spend $1,020.

Cut that cord and you'll spend up to $140 on hardware plus $26 a month on Netflix, Hulu Plus and a couple of on-demand shows for a yearly total of under $450. What will you do with your savings?

Ogden-based TopTenREVIEWS.com guides consumers by comparing products in the world of technology, including electronics, software and Web services. Have a question for TopTenREVIEWS? Email Leslie Meredith at lesliemeredith@technewsdaily.com.

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