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Buh-Bye, CableCo

By - February 13, 2014

chromecastWhen it comes to television business models and the endless debate about “cutting the cord,” I consider myself in the “fast follower” camp – I’m not willing to endure the headaches and technical backflips required to get rid of cable entirely, but I sure am open to alternatives should they present themselves. I’m eager for Aereo to get to San Francisco, but until it does, I’ve stuck with my way-too-expensive cable subscription.

My rants on cable’s products (here’s my favorite – still true after 8 years!) and services (please don’t get me started) are well known by friends and family, but because I have had no simple alternative, I pay more than $200 a month to Comcast, who announced plans today to consolidate its market by purchasing one its largest peers, Time Warner.

But in the past few months, a clever, $35 device from Google has started to chip away at Comcast’s grip on my family television viewership. You’ve probably heard about it – it’s called Chromecast. It’s a neat little hack – it looks like a USB storage dongle, but you plug it into any HDMI port on a standard flatscreen. It uses wifi to sync with your mobile phone or tablet, and within minutes you are watching Netflix, YouTube, or your browser on your television. It’s kind of magic, and it’s changed how we watch TV completely.

The reason my Comcast bill is so high boils down to a luxury tax: I get charged something like ten bucks a month for “extra” cable boxes. I don’t *need* these boxes, but if I *want* a TV screen in secondary places (my music room, office, etc.) I have to pay for the privilege. Turns out, I really only use those screens for watching movies and shows on demand. Comcast’s on demand service is so lame, I can’t really describe it here, so I prefer to use NetFlix or Hulu – both of which work with Chromecast. Goodbye, cable boxes!

It’ll be interesting to watch services slowly but – to my mind – inevitably bail on the cablecos. First to go will have to be sports networks – I’d far rather subscribe to the MLB channel than overpay Comcast to see my beloved Giants. I imagine local news will be next – since they are often already available via the web (which you can stream via a Chrome browser).

In fact, there’s a ton of video on the web – much of it very high quality, but there’s really not been much *programming* of that video for audiences who live in a post-cable world. Well, I’ve joined that world, happily, and I hope the programming will soon catch up with the distribution. Chromecast just opened up its platform for third party applications – a big move that could bring a lot of innovation to “television” – something it desperately needs, given it’s been in the grips of monopoly for decades. Buh-bye, Cableco!

 

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9 thoughts on “Buh-Bye, CableCo

  1. Adam Gott says:

    I dumped my cable (actually satellite service) two years ago and never looked back. I do miss live sports but I can partially supplement that with NHL Center Ice. Being that I was already paying for Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime before I dumped the dish I save close to $100 per month.

    • johnbattelle says:

      It does seem like a lot of work to cut the cord, though I imagine that will get easier with apps that help make it easier.

      • Harry Hawk says:

        If your on Android check out Droid TV via Amazon App Store.. Been using since 2010, far from perfect but it bridges the gap.

  2. george says:

    It’s hard to attack a fortified hill (cable providers) but google and apple know how to bring the battle to them. Hope the app community at large can help unbundle the subscription model.

  3. Harry Hawk says:

    After 11+ years of $220 a month for a triple play ($29,304) — we are finally cutting the cord March 1st. Magic Jack for phone, FIOS Internet + Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and Droid TV. Should save $1,500 a year.

  4. Lena says:

    I haven’t cut the cord yet but I’m definitely loving my Chromecast and getting closer to ditching cable. I’ve also been using an app called Flipps that pairs my phone and TV. The setup was nonexistant, especially compared to Chromecast, and it’s got a lot more content than what Chromecast is currently offering. It lets you stream a bunch of content from the app to the TV and acts as a remote. Really cool experience overall and I don’t know that anyone else is doing it at the moment.

  5. I cancelled cable 4 years ago an don’t miss it a bit. Thanks Netflix streaming.