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I just wanted to chronicle my eventual path to saying adios to my monthly TV subscription via FIOS.

If you've found this article, you're no doubt looking to save money by having one fewer hand in your pocket every month. My wife and I had some discussions on this subject at length and after reviewing places where we could save some coin was in the cable bill, or in our case, the FIOS bill.

We have FIOS Triple Play which is NOT the $99.99 advertised, but $145/month since we've gone way passed the promo period. Switching to the FIOS Double Play (Internet/Phone) will bring our bill down to $90/month.  While $145 seems like a pretty good value, when you add in the DVR rental, additional subscriptions for channels worth watching and On Demand content, the average monthly bill is 209.61, which means I’ve spent $3563.36 over the last 17 months. That is real money.

We are a family of 4, so I couldn’t exactly have a Fight Club moment where I just blow up my apartment and live a simple life in an abandon building on Paper Street. We love watching TV together as a family, but I don’t want to give up family vacations to do it, so this blog posting will show you the path I took to better spend $209.61/month.

When looking at transitioning my family the first thing I did was cancel the HBO and other premium channels. The rational here is that I’d fill up the DVR with shows I think the family would enjoy, only to get voted down on movie night for the latest chick-flick that was On Demand. After a while, I realized I didn’t miss HBO (although Game of Thrones did look like a winner).

So, I examined our viewing habits and realized we watched a combination of movies, sit-coms and reality shows on Bravo (the wife, not me). The later was a problem, because Bravo is only available on line or on cable. That was going to be a problem, and maybe even a deal breaker, so I knew it made sense to see if I could transition our viewing habits away from cable before I cancelled the TV portion of FIOS. For the Netflix appliance, I picked the Sony BDPS780 from Crutchfield. It’s a good unit and at $249, I am quite pleased with it. Why I chose this over a lesser expensive unit is that it or even a Roku is because it comes with an optical audio output and that mattered to me. Roku seemed to be a great choice too, but we don’t have a Blu-ray player and now that we’ve got Netflix, disks are only $2 more per month.

As it turns out, once we got Netflix, my wife and daughters got hooked on a tween-ager soap opera called Make it or Break it. So long Housewife’s of New York! Now that I’ve gotten the family to transition their viewing habits, it came time to say Adios Fios.

First hurdle is the OTA shows – For this I opted for the Winegard HD7000R VHF/UHF/FM DTV TV Antenna (HD-7000R). This got great reviews and seems to perform better than similar Channel Master antenna’s from what I’ve read. This only advice I can give when selecting an antenna is to choose a model that is sized appropriately for the stations you’re trying to reach – bigger isn’t always better. Fortunately for me the stations I want are all in a cluster within one degree of each other, so I don’t have to deal with a rotor and I can avoid using an omnidirectional antenna. The downside to an omnidirectional antenna is you can get more ‘ghosting’. Go to www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps  see location of the stations of interest to you. The difference in price between cheap antenna’s and the top of the line isn’t enough to even worry about. All in, the antenna, mast, wiring, brackets, etc. put me out $156. Where I live, I could I have gotten away with rabbit ears, but I’m also looking to split that signal with other TV’s so the expense wasn’t worthy of a lot of consideration.

The installation was easy. Granted I did have to pull out an extension ladder, but if you’re not found of heights, you can go with an in-the-attic model. The outside installation requires a grounding block, so make sure you get one, and follow all the safety precautions your installation requires.

The last step for me is to select the DVR for OTA HD. There are really only three choices. You can either get a Channel Master OTA DVR, for around $300. The upside here is there is no subscription. You can get a TiVo which costs $100 + a $20/month fee – certainly better than what I’m paying FIOS, but that replaces one hand in my pocket for a smaller hand. TiVo also will let you buy a lifetime (of the device) subscription for $400 or I can rig up my server with an OTA tuner, Windows Home Media Center and somehow get my server wired into my TV and controlled remotely from the next room. While I’m geek enough to make that happen, the last thing I want to do is be the tech-support for the household, so I’m not considering that option.

At first, I was only going to go with the Channel Master, but from what I’ve read and seen, the menu is way inferior to the TiVo menu What TiVo has going for it. The TiVo additionally records 45 hours of HD vs. the 30 of the Channel Master. The TiVo also has an optional QWERTY keyboard remote, which would come in handy when searching Hulu, etc. I’ll be honest though, the $499.99 lifetime service has me choking.  That works out to about 25 months of dues before I’ve broken even.

The factory-renewed TiVo Premier (with $500 screwing) actually works out to $180 more than the Channel Master and when I put it that way, it’s a better purchase, and with the current 6 months of free Hulu, that works out to only being $140 more. The part that was causing me the most pain was that I’d already dropped $240 for the Blu-ray, but as luck would have it, my new Sony gave up the ghost as I was writing this blog posting, so the good folks at Crutchfield said they’d let me return it, and as it turns out, the $240 is what the re-furbished TiVo with 3 year warrantee and QWERTY remote cost.  I’ll hold back on the lifetime commitment until I’ve actually tried the unit. Even still, I’ll be going from $100/month on cable to $28 with TiVo + Netflix. My entire outlay for the switch is  $156 + $240 = $396, which will take me 6 months to recover.

 

 

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Posted on Monday, May 23, 2011 9:28 PM OTA , HD TV | Back to top


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