We posted recently about alternatives to traditional broadcasting and we’re sure that you’re wondering: “How do I get all of this delicious content onto my big screen?” There is so much content out there on the web that getting rid of cable would seem to be a no-brainer. More and more people are doing just that. Blip.tv, an online platform for web series, published the results of a recent survey, however, that showed that 56% of web viewers still tune in to watch their favorite shows. Over a third combine web viewing with traditional TV. The numbers, however, are growing. Over the last 6 months alone, almost 10% were watching less traditional TV, 19% said they were watching more on mobile, and 18% had turned on their gaming consoles.
It sounds like an oxymoron but to ditch YOUR cable box you’re going to need a box. Thankfully, there are several to choose from and some come from some unlikely sources.
Tivo was one of the first DVRs to emerge in the new digital market. Initially marketed to record shows from standard broadcasting for viewing later, it has since morphed into a complete portal for web viewing. Tivo will give you access to Netflix, HuluPlus, and YouTube, but can also offer over 100,000 movie titles through the addition of Amazon and Blockbuster On Demand. Your favorite songs are available through Pandora and Rhapsody. You can surf the web and pluck things from your media library on your PC or Mac. It can be a bit costly, with the box starting at $99 and a Tivo Premier XL DVR with 150 hours of HD disc space going for $299. Keep in mind that you still need to add service plans to this for premium content.
Boxee is kind of cool. It started out as a free download that would allow you to plug the content of your computer into your TV. They’ve since developed their own hardware, the “Boxee Box” (catchy, isn’t it?) but a visit to their website will give you a how-to on turning your computer into the device. You still need the appropriate cables and will still need to register for services like Netflix but we kind of dig the “DIY” mentality. Who doesn’t love a good hack? Once you’ve got your computer making nice with the tube you can download an app for your smartphone to turn that into your remote. The only complaint that we’ve heard is that getting started with Boxee is kind of like IKEA furniture: A lot of steps. Boxee will stream from Netflix, VUDU, and Vimeo, reads your computer library, has Pandora and Flickr, and offers live streaming from MLB and the NHL. But wait, there’s more: You can share and get recommendations from your friends through Facebook and Twitter.
Have you got a gamer in the family? The Xbox and PlayStation will let you download and watch movies and TV. Both offer Netflix but the Xbox adds HuluPlus. PlayStation has its own store where you can download thousands of movies and TV shows like ‘Modern Family’ and “Glee.” A big difference between the 2 is that the PlayStation will let you stream but the Xbox makes you burn titles onto the drive for viewing unless it’s a Netflix title.
Roku is the little box that can. Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon, Pandora, Disney, UFC….the list goes on and on. It will grab photos and video from your Facebook stream, you can watch live baseball, NBA and MLS matches, and it will grab tunes from your library. All with a footprint smaller than a coaster and running on less than 2 watts. Like everything else, you can access thousands of titles, but a subscription is required for premium content. Two big plusses? No cables to hook up and the basic model is $59 bucks.
Our favorite is Apple TV. Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, MLB and NBA, and EVERYTHING that is in the iTunes Store. All in HD, and all from a box that’s 4 x 4 and weighs a little less than half a pound. Like all things Apple, the interface is super easy to use. Surf through channels, type in a search, it’s all at your fingertips. If you can use iTunes or navigate the iTunes Store you’ve pretty much already used Apple TV. The first version of this was a kind of clunky box and costly but they now have this little black beauty and it’s about a hundred bucks. You’ll pay for the good stuff but with so much out there for free, who cares? Best of all, it talks to everything Apple. If it’s on your Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch it’s on your TV. And the “remote” app for your gadget is a free download.
There are several other packages out there for getting your TV connected, like Slingbox, PopBox, or even converting your old MacMini. We’re curious to see what happens with Google TV. They already rule the world of search engine and have a unique partnership with Sony who are actually MAKING a Google TV, so it’s only a matter of time before they become a game-changer in the watching world. The cool thing about the Guys at Google is that they’re actively encouraging developers to jump into their pond. If you’ve got a cool app or website that would rock out the old Zenith they want you to get it into the system. It’s a really cool, organic community that drives content and services from device to device to device. But that’s perhaps another blog…
The important thing is this: you’ve taken that step and cut the cord. No more sweaty installers in your basement, no more elevator music waiting for the customer service rep, and a whole Internet at your beck and call. Unless you’re reading this on your TV right now, turn off the computer and start watching!