A big goal that Jason and I have for this year is to save up a good sum of money. In January, we downsized to an apartment with lower rent and while we purchased internet service, we skipped the cable television subscription. We figured we’d try out having no cable TV and see how it went. I’m sad to announce that as of this week, we have caved and purchased a low-end cable package. Before I go into the details on why, I want to explain what we’ve been doing for television programming for the past five weeks.
We decided that aside from Food Network, there wasn’t a great deal of television content that we tune in to regularly. By and large, we could access most of the programs we enjoy online. With that in mind, Jason began the search for media center software we could run from a PC and connect to our TV. The idea was to have a server for our personal media files and use a program to access them and play them on the television in addition to streaming online video content. He found Boxee, which was designed to do just that. While it shows a lot of promise, it also behaves a little wonky on my Windows XP machine.
The fatal flaw in our plan (and the reason we eventually gave in) relates to how we use television. While we don’t tune in to many shows regularly, we do a lot of passive viewing. Until cable was gone, we didn’t realize how often we found things to watch just by channel surfing. With only the basic local channels, there is a lot less to surf. We also tend to use the television as background noise.
Our passive viewing style was in direct opposition to what a program like Boxee requires. Streaming television over the internet is very purposeful: you actively pick and choose the shows you want to watch. It’s great when you missed last week’s episode of Scrubs. Not so great when you just want to chill out on the couch and watch some random television. You are also at the mercy of your connection speed when your main source of television content is streaming over the internet. And if your internet connection is down, then your television options are limited too.
After one too many choppy streams of The Daily Show and finding nothing on our local channels, we threw in the towel. We didn’t get anything fancy—no HD, DVR, or On Demand. Though it changes our budget, I’m looking forward to once again watching Barefoot Contessa on Saturdays and going to bed with The Daily Show on weekdays. This time, Comcast, you win. This time.