I complained for years about paying a cable bill and not having anything worth watching. Who hasn’t? Even after ratcheting down to the basic cable package, the cost for the useless channels and mediocre programs was an annoying waste.
Then last summer during an afternoon squall, a bolt of lightning snuffed out my television set. After making sure that the air conditioning unit – my favorite major appliance – was still running, I felt relieved and ready to start down the path to cable independence.
The television set was showing its age anyway, so an upgrade to high definition was in the cards, along with whatever technology would replace cable service.
The Best Buy salesperson walked me through the streaming device options and I chose Apple TV. What sold me was the fact that since my iPhone, iPad and MacBook were already intertwined, Apple TV would complete the circle. (Or lasso, if you’re an anti-Apple Android person.)
The Apple TV box with remote cost $99 but now the price is down to $69, ahead of a new, $149 version to be released in late October.
Using an Internet connection, the small Apple TV box streams movies, TV shows and music you choose from the on-screen channel menu. Just click the remote to conjure up Netflix, YouTube, ABC News, Disney, HBO Now, PBS, Hulu, The Weather Channel and many others.
For my tastes, PBS has by far the best offerings on Apple TV: outstanding programs like The Great British Baking Show, which is surprisingly addictive, Austin City Limits, Masterpiece, A Chef’s Life, Frontline, the PBS NewsHour. Music, drama, food, news, the hits just keep coming.
You’ll find quirky things to watch on Apple TV that you may have never thought of, like the daily White House press briefings or live stump speeches by the presidential candidates.
Some channels are cable-subscription only or fee-based but there are enough free options to keep things interesting. Sky News, the British based 24-hour network, is live and free. Others like Bloomberg and CBS News are a mix of live broadcasts, original programming and snippets of shows broadcast earlier. For instance, you can watch a network’s morning news show highlights and “reruns” of some full episodes whenever you’re ready.
Some people hold on to cable just for local news shows. My local station’s website features all of their newscasts live, and without commercials. No need to turn the sound down every few minutes to mute the Viagra or laxative commercials.
For breaking news and other special coverage, CNN and other outlets provide free online access to the coverage. You may have to poke around or Google where an event will be streamed but it’s out there.
Even with all the new streaming and online options, I added an extra layer of access with a $50 antenna. It’s about the size of an album cover and plugs into the back of the TV set. On a good day it pulls in stations in a 50-mile radius offering CBS, NBC, ABC and more PBS programming.
All in all, the streaming-online-antenna combo has served me well for more than a year. No world events, celebrity scandal or political buffoonery has escaped me. I just don’t have to pay as much to follow the action.