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SpiceWare's Blog - Looking back


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Hard to believe, but its been three years since I cut the cord. I did so because I estimated $800 a year in savings while still being able to watch the shows I wanted to watch. Those savings would be what I used to pay DirecTV ($146 a month) less purchasing shows à la cart - buying seasons via Amazon, iTunes, and physical media (Blu-ray & DVD sets). There would be a tradeoff though as I wouldn't be able to watch that content the same day it aired. For most shows it would be minor with just a day or two delay, but for series on HBO and Showtime the delay would be nearly a year.

I did go a bit overboard in setting up my Mac mini DVR, spending $3716 in total. Most people aren't going to invest in a RAID storage system for their transient recordings, but I'm also using my mini for other things such as storing my ripped DVD and blu-ray content, as well as various emulation options. While I could easily rerip my media if the hard drive failed, it is time consuming so I opted for a RAID setup to reduce the probability of having to do that.

One thing that surprised me was that over time I decreased the number of series I purchased à la cart:

  • 2013 - 11 series
  • 2014 - 6 series
  • 2015 - 5 series
The reason for the drop was manyfold: shows ended (or were cancelled), I lost interested in shows (such as The Walking Dead, which became too depraved and depressing), and I kept finding other "new to me" series to watch via OTA (such as Psych, Burn Notice, The Listener, etc.) as well as free series via Amazon Prime* (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Red Oaks, Oz, etc) which decreased the desire to find other series that I would have to pay for.

Another part was that in 2015 premium streaming options like HBO Now and Showtime became available. I tried both and have kept Showtime for their series (the movies, not so much). However, I cancelled HBO due to the crappy picture quality when watched on a Mac. I can get a bunch of HBO's older content via Amazon Prime, and it looks amazing in comparison to HBO's service. I'll check out HBO again in a few months with Game of Thrones returns - hopefully they've fixed their picture quality problem, if not I'll watch it on my iPad Pro.

There's been an exciting new development, last month Amazon added à la cart channel subscriptions - something that many of us have been wanting from the cable companies for many years now. I counted close to 30 options so far (with links for those I could find):I was already interested in CuriosityStream, so signed up for it after Christmas. I'm able to watch those shows via Amazon's web site as well as via the Amazon Video app on my PS3 and iOS devices.





iPad Pro

Selected CuriosityStream channel

Works fairly well. I'll write up something more in depth about CuriosityStream and Amazon's à la cart channel subscriptions at a later date. One thing to note is most(if not all) of those channels have a free trial - for CuriosityStream it's 30 days while for Starz you get 7.

So how was that $800 a year in savings estimate? It was way off - I ended up saving $4575 over the past three years, for an average savings of $1525 per year!

* yes, Amazon Prime does have a yearly subscription. However, I subscribed to that long before for the free shipping. The yearly subscription and the free shipping end up being a wash, so I consider their streaming video service to be free. I only consider "Prime" video free though, anything I pay extra for gets counted as an à la cart purchase in my savings calculations.
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