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More people opting to cut ties with satellite, cable TV
[February 06, 2011]

More people opting to cut ties with satellite, cable TV

SANFORD, Feb 06, 2011 (The Sanford Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- She doesn't get to watch "Good Morning America" or the "Today Show" anymore, but that's about all that Lindsay Tipton misses about her cable.

Her news now comes from the Internet. Her movies from Netflix (hooked up through her Wii gaming system). And the time she and husband Ross usually spent hypnotized by mindless television in the evenings has turned into quality playtime with their 13-month-old son, Madden.

In other words, cutting cable television two months ago hasn't been a bad thing for Tipton and her family. In fact, she estimates they're saving $90 a month since making the change.

"Right now, the Internet offers enough entertainment for us not to miss TV," Tipton said. "And if there was one thing I couldn't have lived without, it would have been the Internet." What the Tiptons are doing is becoming increasingly popular throughout the nation. There's even a name for it already -- "cord cutting." Media researchers Informa reports that about 1.2 million people worldwide (426,000 in the U.S.) opted to "cord cut" in 2010 -- a large number, but small relative to the number of people currently with cable and satellite TV plans. The 1.2 million is the equivalent of about 0.18 of a percent of the total pay-TV population.

It's not enough yet to have media giants DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner or Charter close shop, but Informa and other analysts do anticipate cord cutting will increase in the next five years.

And for good reason. In addition to the $8-a-month phenomenon known as Netflix -- which offers thousands of movie titles and full seasons of hundreds of television shows that can stream through a computer or gaming device -- most networks offer streaming of their own newscasts, playbacks of primetime comedies and dramas and even live streaming of sporting events like the NFL and NBA.

A good high speed Internet service such as Charter cable's 12 mbps (megabits per second) runs approximately $29.95 a month, according to the company's website. Adding Netflix, before taxes, runs a family approximately $38 a month combined. Tipton didn't disclose which service provider she used for television, but she estimates her family spent $150 a month for cable, Internet and phone combined. Without the cable and by adding Netflix, they'll save $1,100 in the coming year.

"When we made the decision, it was about saving money," Tipton said. "But there are other pros to it ... With Netflix we watch things we are actually interested in instead of just watching TV because it's on. And yes, it used to be on all the time. It's nice to have more quiet and more conversation now." The Tiptons are new to cord cutting, but Lindsay's friend Katie Thomas, also of Sanford, has lived six years without cable or satellite. For her favorite television shows, she's come to rely on Hulu, which typically broadcasts shows the day after they air. And for movies, it's Netflix streaming from the Roku she got for Christmas.

In all, that set-up typically costs anywhere from $28 to $38 a month, factoring in low- to medium-speed Internet.

"At first, I did it because I was just graduating college and was broke," said Thomas, now a therapist in Sanford. "But oddly, it is less stressful to me if I don't have as much choice ... like having so many shows to keep up with." Thomas says one of the cons is she's usually clueless when her friends have conversations about last night's TV shows, and on many occasions, friends will have given away an ending in a Facebook posting before Thomas had a chance to catch the show on Hulu.

But she doesn't miss being hooked to TV.

"Sadly, I would totally get hooked to reality TV," she said. "So I'm glad it's not there." Since she's still paying student loans in addition to a mortgage, Thomas doubts she'll go back to paying for television any time soon.

However, she and Tipton wouldn't rule out an antenna, which in Sanford can pick up Triangle and even Triad television stations depending on quality. For a one-time purchase, antennas can pick up any station sending out a digital signal within a reasonable distance at no charge.

COMPARE THE BILLS All prices are monthly, pre-taxes * Windstream (120 Dish Network channels, Internet, phone) bundle: $104 * DirecTV (219 HD channels) and Internet (Windstream 6mbps): $80 * Charter TV (100 channels, non-HD) and Internet (12mbps) bundle: $75 * Internet only (Charter 12mbps) and Netflix subscription: $38 * Light Internet (Charter 1mbps) alone: $20 * TV antenna alone: $0 -- mbps refers to Internet speed; all prices according to current local deals on websites THE RUNDOWN The following is a list of websites and devices essential to survive "cord cutting" without totally giving up on getting entertainment in your home (websites courtesy of TELEVISION * Clicker: Shows you where your favorite shows are airing on the net. (Free) * Hulu: Popular streaming service offers the five most recent episodes of hundreds of television shows, plus archives of more popular shows. Has added Hulu Plus, which like Netflix, offers more premium programming for a small monthly fee. (Free with optional monthly fee) * CBS: Streams most of its primetime lineup, plus some older shows. (Free) * NBC: Very good about streaming primetime shows. The Office and Saturday Night Live are popular destinations. (Free) * ABC: Streams its primetime lineup and archives specials such as the Oscars. (Free) * FOX: Like its competitors, streams primetime shows like The Simpsons and Glee after they air. (Free) * Netflix: Full seasons of hundreds of shows, usually a year after they aired. A few shows like Saturday Night Live add episodes a week after they air. (About $8 a month) * iTunes: Download new episodes for replay on computers or portable devices such as the iPhone or iPod. (Typically $1.99 per episode) MOVIES * Hulu: Full movies are free for download, but rarely are they new. Hulu is better suited for television. (Free with option for monthly fee) * Netflix: Subscription includes recent movies mailed to your doorstep, but the online streaming movies are less recent. Most appear a few months (up to a year or more) after they're released on DVD. ($8 a month) * iTunes: Pay approximately the same amount for a movie as you would for its DVD or rent a movie for $3-$4. (Movies typically $15 each).

* YouTube: Great for random clips of your favorite movies (but better for mindless surfing and videos of people getting hit in the crotch). (Free) * Redbox: Get in your car (gasp!) and head to a local Redbox machine (gas stations, grocery stores) and rent a DVD for a buck. Movie titles are typically new, but not as new as recent DVD releases. ($1 per rental).

SPORTS * MLB.TV: Baseball fans can watch every regular season game live or on demand, and more than 150 spring training games with no blackouts. ($79.95 a year) * NFL Network: Though this is actually the National Football League's official cable channel, its website has a ton of post-game video footage for fans to check out. (Free, but to watch live games, you must subscribe via satellite) * NHL Game Center Live: Watch up to 40 live hockey games, including some of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a subscription to this service. ($119 a year or $29.95 a month) * NBA All Access: Basketball fans can choose from two types of season passes: unlimited for access to all teams, or a league pass to follow only seven teams. ($64.95 a year) * ESPN: New ESPN3 provides free live streaming of some ESPN-televised games, such as Monday Night Football. (Free, provided you have Charter or Windstream as a provider) * NBC: Streams much of its sporting events, including NFL Sunday Night Football games. (Free) * Up until two weeks ago, provided live streams of all games. But the site and many like it have been seized by the FBI. That said, if you search hard enough, it's likely you can find the game you're looking for. Just watch out for the Feds.

DEVICES The following devices, like your computer, are compatible with movie streaming programs like Netflix or Hulu Plus. Devices work best (and some only work) in homes with WiFi connections: * Roku: The first Netflix device can now access Amazon Video-on-Demand and MLB.TV. Doesn't do much else. ($80) * XBox360: Netflix and other streaming programs available but only with an XBox Gold Membership plan. Buyers also get to play XBox games (Starts at $200) * Wii: Nintendo's Wii recently added Netflix capabilities. So now you can watch movies between your Wii workouts. (Starts at $200) * Playstation 3: A more expensive device, but one that can play Blu Ray discs in addition to your Netflix and Hulu Plus movies. (Starts at $300).

To see more of The Sanford Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, The Sanford Herald, N.C.

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