I haven’t paid for cable TV in almost three years.
I have a 55-inch TV in my living room that’s connected to an HD antenna so I can get networks like NBC, ABC, and CBS for free. I use my Apple TV for everything else: Netflix, Hulu, my parents’ HBO GO account, and buying seasons of shows like “Mad Men” on iTunes so I can watch new episodes the day after they air.
I made that shift when I moved into my own place and no longer had to worry about sharing cable with two roommates who watched a lot more TV than I did.
I don’t regret my decision at all. I’m saving hundreds (more than a thousand?) of dollars a year by not paying for a zillion channels I don’t want to watch, and I’m perfectly entertained binge watching old stuff on Netflix or catching up on sitcoms on Hulu.
But there are times I miss live cable TV, especially when it comes to some live sports and premieres of big shows.
It sounds like Apple has an answer for the growing number of people like me, and if it’s anything close to what’s being teased in reports from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, I’m going to sign up.
Here’s the rundown:
According to those reports, Apple has deals in place to let you stream live TV from networks like ESPN, Disney, Fox, ABC, and CBS over the internet to your Apple TV, iPhone, and other Apple gadgets. The reports say there will be about 25 channels to choose from like Disney, ESPN, Fox, ABC, CBS, and Discovery and it will cost anywhere between $US20 and $US30 per month.
What a deal.
Let’s do the maths.
I pay Time Warner Cable $US65 per month for internet. (It used to be $US45, but that was just an introductory two-year offer). I also spend $US8 per month on Netflix and another $US8 per month on Hulu. I’m also a big “Mad Men” fan, so I buy the season pass for that every year, which costs about $US45 for all the episodes.
That’s a grand total of $US81 per month for my entertainment needs, plus the occasional one-off purchase of a TV show or movie on iTunes. (I’d also argue I get much more value out of my internet subscription because I do a lot more than just stream TV shows and movies with it.)
If I signed up for cable, I’d have to spend at least another $US50 per month, plus a ~$US10 DVR fee. That’s a grand total of approximately $US140 and most of it would be a waste. What a terrible deal for someone like me who has grown used to watching what he wants when he wants it without having to spend out the nose for it. I don’t need a lot of those extras and I suspect most other people don’t either.
Apple’s solution sounds much better. I’d get the top-tier channels I care about (hello, ESPN!) and none of the junk. Yes, ESPN, ABC, and many of the other networks that will be part of Apple’s new TV service already have streaming apps, but they’re disorganized and still require a cable or satellite subscription to use. You effectively still have to pay your cable company that ~$US50 for the right to use those streaming apps.
Now for the downsides and caveats. It sounds like NBC doesn’t want to participate in Apple’s TV streaming service, so you won’t get networks like USA and MSNBC. (That’s not a big deal for me personally since I can get NBC for free with my HD antenna and I don’t watch any of the NBC-owned cable networks.)
It’s also unclear if Apple will offer some sort of virtual DVR or back episodes of shows in case you can’t watch something live. That’s a potential deal breaker.
But the idea of getting top cable channels on my Apple devices for a fraction of the cost of a full cable subscription is enough to get me on board.