Are you tired of writing cheques your cable provider in perpetuity? Although cable may seem like a small expense, it can really add up over a lifetime – $75 a month on cable over 50 years amounts to $45,000 (this doesn’t account for yearly cable increases and opportunity cost). A lot of people consider TV a necessity like food and shelter. Instead of putting your cable technician’s kids through university, lets look at cable alternatives to save you money.
TV Series on DVD and Blu-Ray
Depending on your TV watching habits, TV series on DVD and Blu-Ray can be a great cable alternative. Start by examining your TV viewing habits – do you have a few favourite shows or do you prefer to channel surf and watch a different show every evening? If you selected the former, you should consider TV shows on DVD and Blu-Ray. You can buy a season of a TV series for $30-$50 at most retailers (they often go on sale). There are two downsides – they can get quite pricey – for example, Law & Order: The Complete Series is listed at $489.99 on Amazon.ca. Also, only the most popular TV series are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
To save even more you should definitely check out the collection available at your local public library – you can even put in requests to order DVDs and Blu-Rays at your local branch. Sharing with friends is also a great way to save money and expand your home collection.
Streaming TV Shows from the Internet
High speed Internet is ubiquitous today – why not take advantage and stream your favourite shows? There are a host of fantastic free and paid services available for Canadians. Major Canadian networks like Global, CBC and CTV allow you to stream the latest episodes of your favourite shows from their websites for free. Episodes are posted a couple days after airing (unlike Rogers on Demand, which sometimes takes over a week). One major downside is there is a limited selection – only the most recent episodes are offered.
If you’re a fan of older TV series or you’re looking for a wider variety, for $7.99 a month you can subscribe to Netflix. Netflix offers thousands of TV shows and movies for download. The selection is decent, although you won’t likely find the most recent TV seasons for download. You can sign up for a free 1-month trial and try before you subscribe. Watching Netflix is convenient and easy – stream Netflix directly to your TV through your video game console or purchase an HDMI cable and use your HDTV set as a second display (please note you may require a new video card).
Watching TV on your iPad
If you’re constantly on the run, the iPad is a great cable alternative. You can watch TV shows and movies in two ways – iTunes or apps. iTunes offers an excellent selection of the both latest TV shows and past seasons. However, iTunes can get quite pricey – high definition episodes cost $2.99, while standard definition episodes cost $1.99.
If you’re looking for free content, most major Canadian and U.S. TV networks have free apps for download. Some apps even offer an enhanced experience, allowing you to live chat with fellow fans and answer trivia questions. If you’re tired of watching TV shows on the small screen of the iPad, you can purchase the Apple VGA Adapter cable and connect your iPad to your TV for the whole family to enjoy.
If you have an Apple computer you can purchase Apple TV for $149 and wirelessly stream TV shows to your HDTV. Apple TV lets you play 1080p HD videos from iTunes, Netflix and watch YouTube videos from the comfort of your couch. The selection of shows is impressive – it’s probably better to subscribe to Netflix because downloading episodes from iTunes can get quite expensive. YouTube is best if you subscribe to official channels from your favourite shows, as exclusive video clips and complete episodes are sometimes posted.
Antenna and Over the Air (OTA)
A while back MDJ did an excellent article on getting free HDTV over the air (OTA) . If you’re located near the U.S. border, you should be able to get a decent number of TV channels with an antenna. Antennas are great if just want to turn on your TV and start watching without using your computer or your iPad. For $40 you can purchase a decent antenna, then mount it on your roof, and purchase 100 feet of cable and you’re good to go. Be sure to check out the channels available in your area before setup – most basic cable channels like Global, CBC, CTV, NBC and Fox are available.
As you can see, there are plenty of decent cable alternatives. Keep in mind none of these cable alternatives are mutually exclusive – you can use a combination of any to catch your favourite shows. Why pay $75 a month for 500 channels when you don’t have to?
Do you think cable is still worth the hefty price? Do you have your own cable alternatives? Please share with us in the comments.
About the Author: Sean Cooper is a single, 20-something year old, first time home buyer located in Toronto. He has experience in the financial sector as a Pension Analyst, RESP administrator and Income Tax Preparer. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in business management from Ryerson University.If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free weekly money tips newsletter below (we will never spam you).