One of the best ways you can save money this year is by getting rid of your cable television and switching to a set top box. Set top boxes allow you to stream TV shows and other content via the internet. They offer a much more personalized experience of watching TV and are a lot cheaper than cable. Let me explain the basics of how they work.
First, you will need to buy a set top box for your television. Two of the most popular models are Roku and Apple TV. They are small devices that you attach to your TV and then connect with your internet service.
- Roku ($59-99) has the advantage of offering the most streaming channels in addition to the ability to play games and any local TV or movie files you own.
- Apple TV ($99) has a very easy user-interface and offers the ability to stream content you have purchased via iTunes. In addition, if you own an iPad you can mirror it to your TV via AirPlay.
Other streaming devices include: Google TV, Boxee, WD TV Live and game consoles like Xbox. Also, many new television sets now have their own streaming hardware built in, so if you are in the market for a new TV you might consider this alternative.
To compare devices, check out this Gizmodo article: How to Find the Best TV Set Top Box…
Next, you will need to sign up and subscribe to a streaming service. Set top boxes come with channels (apps like YouTube, Pandora, NBA) that allow you to stream and watch a lot of content for free. However, Netflix and Hulu Plus, are the two most popular channels for streaming television. Both require a monthly subscription, but at $7.99 per month, they cost considerably less than cable.
- Netflix allows you to stream previous seasons of television shows commercial-free along with a good selection of movies and other videos.
- Hulu Plus gives you the advantage of streaming current television shows along with past seasons, movies, clips and more. However, streaming comes with a minimal amount of commercial advertising.
Streaming TV is a different experience from watching cable and broadcast channels. Content is not live, but it does allow for a lot of personal choice. I prefer Apple TV and Netflix because I like watching a show’s entire season back-to-back without commercials. If I cared more about current shows I would probably add Hulu Plus, but for now I find plenty to entertain me.
So, what kind of money would you save if you only had to pay $7.99 a month for TV?