Friday, July 5, 2013

Tips for Living: How we Cut the {Cable} Cord and Survived - Part 3 - The Service

Welcome back to the final installment in my Cutting the Cord series. I hope you have found it helpful! They say knowledge is power, so today I want to give you the knowledge to make the right final decision for your family. Let's get into the options to complement what you will receive free over the air waves and with your streaming device.

 Part 3: Programs
This part has probably been the most fun! 

The official name of this service is called Subscription Video On Demand. The best part about this step is that you can try out each service to see if it works for you, and if you unsubscribe during the free trial period, then it doesn't cost you a dime! They all have a free trial periods and I've seen them vary from 7 to up to 30 days. That's plenty of time to decide if it's worth making the jump.

Another great thing about the streaming providers is that you aren't stuck in a contract. You can cancel at any time!
 No 2 year contract? No contract and money disputes that make your favorite channels disappear? Nope. You are now in control!

Finally, the monthly cost of these providers is what really sold the deal. We had our service disconnected before we decided on the best provider for us, but you can try them out on  your computer before you disconnect your service. The average monthly cost is around $7. You did not read that wrong! I said SEVEN DOLLARS! A. Month.

1. Hulu Plus $7.99/mo

We immediately tried out the free Hulu Plus trial to continue watching our favorite shows. You can watch Hulu on your computer for free, but if you'd like to stream to your tv, you need to purchase the Hulu Plus service. 

We rarely watched live tv BTC (Before the Cut) and used to DVR our shows to avoid commercials (and because sometimes putting 4 kids to bed lasts long into the night). The trick here is that Hulu Plus shows the new content from local channels, but one day later. This is perfectly fine with us, we just watch everything we want live for free over the airwaves and everything else is essentially DVR'd through Hulu. Hulu is most like having regular live tv and we think it's our must have.

You can set your shows or series that you watch on your "queue" and all past and new episodes will be ready for you. Hulu has a HUGE library. They also have their own original content. I've gotten into series that have been discontinued that we never watched like Arrested Development.They have thousands of movies, documentaries, kids programs (want to watch every single Mr Rogers Neighborhood?)... It's a great basic to have if you make the leap.They have ABC, Fox, NBC, but not CBS yet. I expect this will change eventually.

There are limited commercials on Hulu. Commercials on Hulu usually last about 19 seconds, and you cannot fast forward through them. There is a timer showing how much time is left. 

I'm most happy with the content of the commercials. It's not ridiculously inappropriate and there are NO pharmaceutical companies informing you of the ailments you may have (and their endless list of side effects). I have only seen tech and car commercials.  They only line up one 19 second commercial at a time as well.

HULU Plus is $7.99 a month and you get to try it for one week for FREE! So if you hate it, no money out of your pocket.

If you already rent movies from RedBox every month, this is a great option! RedBox starts you off with the only free trial that lasts a full month! With this service you get unlimited streaming movies AND 4 DVD rental credits at the box. I believe this is still in the beta phase, but it's improving. It's worth a look into if you watch a lot of movies. They also have an app for most devices, so you can take your service with you, and watch when your away from home.

Netflix is probably the name most synonymous with streaming. They start you off with a free 30 day trial and of course, you can cancel anytime. Netflix also gives you the ability to watch anytime, anywhere, and stream thousands of movies and tv shows.

PlayOn isn't exactly a Subscription Video on Demand service, but it's worth mentioning here, and something we purchased but still haven't decided if we like. It has very mixed reviews, and requires a lot from your computer, so look into the requirements before purchasing.  PlayOn is both a browser and media server for your computer which allows you to stream your shows, movies and personal media files from your PC to your tv, tablet or smartphone. PlayOn relies on your streaming media device (Roku/Wii/Apple TV) to get the media to your tv. Like Hulu, there are limited commercial breaks.

They start you off with a 30 day money back guarantee, but service is paid for the year. At $24.99 a year, that breaks down to about $2 a month!

We initially purchased PlayOn to stream channels we couldn't get through the other providers, like HGTV, Comedy Central, Travel Channel and others. We also rely on PlayOn for CBS programs. You can also stream your other SVOD (Netflix/Hulu) through PlayOn, though I wouldn't recommend it.

There are some new features with PlayOn like being able to stream tv shows live through the provider's website to your tv. I haven't figured that out yet, but it's worth a look into.   

Amazon Prime starts you off with a free 30 day trial. This service includes unlimited free 2 day shipping through Amazon and a kindle book to borrow for free each month through the lending library.  Amazon is a yearly membership at $79/year which breaks down to about $6.50/month.

 We purchased this service and they have so many choices, plus new movies you can buy, we have decided to temporarily cancel our Hulu subscription until new fall programming starts. I think they have the most "cable" channels compared to the other providers, like Discovery, Travel Channel, HGTV, Nickelodeon, and so SO much more. This is definitely our favorite service right now.

Disclaimers, caveats and all of that good stuff
During my research, I realized many people seem to bundle 2 services together, which is what we've done. I haven't reviewed every single option, just the most popular, and these opinions are solely mine. Note that Football season hasn't started yet, and my husband has been trying to figure out what the best options are for when the time comes. I will update my series when we get that figured out. 
We are so much happier with the options, service and cost now, that I don't think we will EVER go back to regular cable/satellite. It's not the same as having live cable and satellite tv. There may be programs or channels you watch that you may not be able to find, though I think if you look hard enough, you will. There are shows and channels we have just stopped watching, but that's ok with me. 
Change is good. Let's review the total cost of the change since we've cut the cord.

Total monthly price for satellite: approximately $100 a month (which included rental of receivers and remotes, and HD upgrades). Total yearly cost $1200 which requires a 2 year contract.

Total monthly price since cutting the cord: Hulu $7.99 + Amazon $6.50 + PlayOn $2.00 = $16.49 a month. 
Total yearly cost $198, which no contract.

I'm saving $83.51 a MONTH!  I made a one time purchase of $75 which paid for itself in the first month. That's a yearly savings of about $1000. A THOUSAND DOLLARS!
Not so shabby!  I hope I have given you some food for thought. Most of us are looking for ways to cut our costs, and with a little bit of work and research, you can save some major money! It does require a new way of doing things, so don't expect to not accept some change! But for $1000, I don't mind a single bit. 



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