Cutting the Cord…
Here in the UK there are a number of TV options available. As standard there’s the Freeview service which is exactly as it says, a number of channels free to any one that owns a TV that supports Freeview, and that’s about 90% of the UK population, if not higher.
There are of course several paid options available as well, many of which are bundled with your Internet and telephone bill such as Virgin Media, British Telecom (BT) and Sky. All three of these services offer a number of different packages, channels, and subscription services for movies, TV shows, and sport. Costs range from just £12.99 per month, to truly astronomical fees depending on the packages you wish, if only there was another way, is it possible to get rid of your subscription paid TV service, and cut that coaxial aerial cable, to purely rely on the internet, legally?
Current TV Choices
Let’s start with the standard services you would expect to get by having an aerial cable plugged in to your TV. As standard you would get the 4/5 main channels that have been the mainstay of British programming for decades; BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 & Channel 5 to a degree, whether you have a Freeview compatible TV or otherwise. (Note; Channel 5 is not guaranteed in every region).
In addition to these main stay channels, Freeview also offers several catch up services (BBC+1, ITV+1 etc…) on their own websites via the internet, desktop applications, and mobile apps and games consoles.
Note: You do need a TV license providing you only you the catch up services. If you stream the program on iPlayer when it is also shown on TV, you still need a TV license. (Source – iPlayer)
Whilst Freeview is sort of free, you do still need to pay for a TV license each year from the BBC, and whilst it’s reasonably inexpensive (roughly £145 per year) you don’t actually have to pay it, providing you do not have an aerial plugged in to your TV.
Whilst this is interesting, it’s not cutting the main cord, that of your subscription to Virgin Media, SKY BT or YouView for those extra channels.
I know what you’re saying, think of all those channels that you get with your (insert name) TV package, but how many do you actually watch, more importantly, how many are available via internet or app catch up services? Netflix, LoveFilm are just two of the main subscription based services you can use here in the UK and is available on nearly every internet connected device you can imagine, both also carry a large number of shows that are often screened on the more expensive TV packages.
Premium Shows + Sports Channels
Understandably there are a number of shows that are exclusive to certain channels. Game of Thrones was exclusive to Sky Atlantic, Breaking Bad was also only available on Sky, and the biggest culprit for exclusivity is often the Sky Sports.
What you need to remember is that there are several sites on the internet that stream these shows live, or shortly after it has occurred. I’m not talking about illegally downloading these files, but streaming them on the internet. There are in fact several sites that live stream football matches from all over the world; some even have better coverage of games that your TV provider has decided to cover as well.
Getting it on your TV
Alright, so you’re convinced that you can get the shows elsewhere, and you’re ready to cut the cord, but how do you go to a completely internet based TV service, what work is involved?
There are several options available to you that I have detailed below.
Many households have either an Xbox360 or PS3 all of which have apps for BBC, ITV, 4OD (Channel 4) Channel 5, and others that are not included on TV packages. These don’t cost you anything as they are providing content via your internet subscription. (It’s worth noting that some of these apps require an Xbox Live GOLD membership, which does cost money).
In addition these consoles also have access to LoveFilm and Netflix and Spotify, two extremely excellent video subscription services and a Music subscription service that provide thousands of films, TV shows and Music on demand.
An odd heading, but really the only way to describe the following devices. These boxes connect to the internet via Ethernet, or wirelessly and also contain the BBC ITV, 4OD apps, in addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime, in addition to music services such as Spotify and RDIO.
Many of these boxes also have one or in some cases two USB ports so that you can plug in external hard drives for personal movies you may have ripped, or to access music. They also provide access to network drives if you have one set up.
Media boxes range in price, from £49.99 up to £150. Check Western Digital Play, Apple TV, or the excellent ‘Roku’ selection for more information.
With the advent of mobile devices, and Wi-Fi, it’s becoming more and more common to watch and stream movies, and TV shows on your mobile device. Rather than purchase a media box, or a games console, why not just connect your mobile phone, tablet or laptop to your TV?
If you have an iPad, Android Tablet, or Windows Tablet, there are a number of adaptors and cables you can purchase that then connect to your TV via HDMI. You then simply need to find the media you wish to watch (BBC iPlayer, Netflix, 4OD) and turn the TV channel to the HDMI port you have plugged the tablet in to.
The same goes for your laptop. If you have an HDMI port on your laptop, simply plug it into the TV, go to the site you wish to watch, and do so, all on the TV, rather than the laptop itself.
You can also use your mobile phone if you have a Google Chromecast. For £35 this device plugs into the HDMI port of your TV and pairs with your Wi-Fi network at home. Provided you download the Chromecast app for your device (any Android or iOS device) you can then ‘send’ a number of apps to your TV to watch, you can even turn off your mobile and the content will continue to play. Whilst the apps are limited on Chromecast at the moment (Netflix and a host of Google services) more and more apps are planned to be released and become available.
So you see, it’s entirely possible to cut the cord to your TV and cable packages and still get the majority of shows that you watch, either live streamed or on catch up. Ask yourself this, do you really need to record Eastenders, when you can watch on iPlayer later?