COLUMN: Cutting the (Cable) Cord... is it Premature?

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor

When that annual cable bill increase arrives, you start conjuring alternatives.

The advent of "streaming" on demand content has opened an option to cable/satellite, but you still have to pay for internet access.

Of course, if you live in a flat area in a major city, over the air digital may satisfy your cravings especially for "retro" fare and limited sports. But the OTA and their sub-channels are unlikely to provide an alternate access to trending cable/streaming series.

Searching the net finds "bootleg" sites for older and pre-release DVD's, but these violate the "rules," they come and go, they jitter and freeze, and you might find unpleasant assessments or even be victimized by malware or hostage ware when browsing.

Streaming "boxes" such as Roku have hundreds of channel and genre choices, but, be forewarned: Some of the better ones charge a monthly fee. It becomes video service a la carte. The totally free ones for films tend to rely on public domain or low budget "B" rated cheesy fare. 

Computer streams of cable/satellite nets often require a cable/satellite subscription. 

On the up side, the streaming channels will likely let you watch news from around the nation and world on originating stations not the mainstream networks. 

Cost factors are such that , for instance, churches stream their services and there is no residential barriers. 

The politics of these wider a la carte choices recall the early "big" dish days when a couple thousand would get you a big dish to view cable content from the sky. The feeds were unscrambled. After about a year, you had your investment back. Once encryption tacked on subscriptions for satellite signals the content remained packaged but offered some individual tweaks i.e. if your cable service left out Turner Classic, you could just subscribe to it on the sat.

Streaming goes that way now.  Beyond classic and public domain movies/TV, there's often a fee to watch something newer or commercial free. 

Hundreds of channels but the same public domain material is regrouped by genre. For instance,  you might find a Rifleman channel 24/7. That's an exception not a rule. 

Who knows, some entrepreneur may determine that dedicated "watchers" would enjoy watching customers shop or drink in public. Would that encourage more decorum ... or , be an incentive for a few minutes of infamy ?

When considering programming alternatives, research is an essential rule. With internet required, you might find that a smaller cable package will work with the additional Roku (and others) box choices.

Streaming on demand a la Netflix could crush the premium nets like HBO, MAX, STARZ and SHOWTIME. (Access tto their on demand libraries is a plus, though) Due to studios starting their own services and increasingly selling product exclusively to one premium net, you can't simply subscribe to one movie channel . It's likely to contain (for example) a Fox/Sony/universal or a Paramount or fill in the blank. Disney/Fox will soon start their own. 

Despite the convenience advances and larger home screens, the big screen, state of the art sight and sound can not be equalled. But the release patterns are altering, the cinema may find themselves concentrating on  premium large and immersive formats that do well for science fiction, horror and tentpoles. Their challenge is to develop a plan that encourages seeing  comedies, dramas, and low and mid budget attractions in an auditorium where the collective experience of other viewers enhances the production. 

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