About a year ago I posted a article on reducing cable costs by replacing a landline phone service with GoogleVoice and replacing a DVR rental with a cable card. The voice system has worked well but the TV system never had a working DVR. This lead to more use of our 3 AppleTV’s and the realization that we don’t need a cable subscription. The final frustration was our cable service didn’t include the new FXX network the show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” moved to. Cable TV was canceled saving ~$50 per month and below is a description of the setup.
Access to a lot of quality content (TV and movies) on-demand
Access to content we have purchased on DVD, home movies and iTunes.
Nice to Have
Access to news shows
Access to music & photos
Latest network shows
3 AppleTVs (Gen 2 &3) accessing home network via WiFi (~$300)
3 32″ Sony TVs (~$900)
MacMini with 2TB of storage – always available on wired network (~$500)
iPadMini (or other IOS device)
iTunes on MacMini
IOS apps – PBS, 60 Minutes ($5), Vimeo, CanIStream.It, Remote
Netflix ($8 streaming, $8 for 1 DVD at a time)
Internet connection 15MB/5MB
Other Ongoing costs
Electricity – to be measured
iTunes purchases – example season pass to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia $22.
Use Case 1 – Streaming free/prepaid content
Simply use the AppleTV to watch programs on-demand. Roughly the use of the sources as follow;
Netflix – 75%
PodCasts (video) – 5%
SkyNews – 5%
YouTube – 5% – not AppleTV & Youtube
Weather Channel – 1%
iTunes purchases – 5%
Use Case 1a – DVD from AppleTV
You can’t play a DVD directly on AppleTV. However, you can rip it with Handbrake and add to iTunes and then watch it from AppleTV. It is illegal to keep ripped DVD’s that you don’t own so the files should be deleted. Unlike music, video content tends to be watched once except for thing you really love. If you love and use it, buy it! If a one-time thing, rent it.
Use Case 2 – App to AppleTV
Unfortunately, many content providers are not on AppleTV but do have apps that allow you to watch on a computer, iPhone/iPad/iPod. Some of these providers enable Airplay which allows you to watch and control from the AppleTV. If an app doesn’t provide this, it gets deleted. Best so far are PBS and 60 minutes.
Someone mentions and old movie or show and you want to watch it. Simply use the app or website CanIStream.It and it will tell you how
The current solution doesn’t include over-the-air broadcast because the location of the house is obstructed by a hill that impedes the signal for an antenna. An Aereo subscription when available in the area may be evaluated but they way it would be setup is under the less convenient Use Case 2 unless a Roku box is added. AppleTV was selected over Roku as Roku only recently added the feature of playing local content via the Plex server.
Paying for content
The above scheme works as we are willing to pay for content. Many people are comfortable with a cable TV subscription model where channel costs (most channels do charge the cable despite advertising) are spread amongst all subscribers and there is a single monthly bill. Most cable TV providers also enjoy rental fees on the dated equipment they provide. However, good content costs money to produce and users of this scheme should accept that they may have a lower cable bill but also may have to pay $2 even for a 20 year old movie.
Free content – Theft and Persuasion
There are only two types of free content available. One may steal it (example BitTorrent) if can rationalize it within a moral framework (unlikely). More likely, people opt for free content supported by advertising. Advertisers do pay to persuade you and it does work so it is not really free.