Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Bachelorette,” with Emily Maynard and Jef Holm, is among programs viewers lost temporarily because of disputes between cable or satellite services and companies that provide them with shows.
The Associated Press
“The Daily Show,” with Jon Stewart was among programs viewers lost temporarily because of disputes between cable or satellite services and companies that provide them with shows.
HOW TO CUT THE CORD
"Cut the cord" has become a rallying cry for people who want to give up cable or satellite services, and instead watch their favorite shows on over-the-air channels, on websites or from streaming services. There are forums online to learn about how to cut the cord, including what sort of equipment -- tuners, antennas, etc. -- you might want to buy. One of the best online forums on the subject is at Reddit.com/r/cordcutting.
If you'd also like advice from a fellow Mainer, Tim Lambert of Biddeford suggests this equipment for fellow cord cutters.
What you need:
• Internet connection ($35 to $50 a month)
• A Windows 7 PC ($400 to $600)
• A good, external antenna ($75 to $150)
• SiliconDust HD Homerun network tuner ($130) or internal TV tuner card.
• Media center remote ($25)
• A TV
What you get:
• A free DVR built in to Windows 7
• High definition programming broadcast for free
• The ability to record and/or watch two programs at a time with the network tuner. Add a second network tuner if you'd like to watch more than two channels at a time.
• Ability to pull in free programming over the Internet. You can also subscribe to services like Hulu Plus and Netflix if you feel there aren't enough free options available.
It's not a new idea. For decades, people have bemoaned the fact that by paying for cable or satellite TV packages, they are paying for lots of channels they never use.
And paying a lot.
Baldwin and her family are among an increasing number of consumers who have found they can "cut the cord" to their cable or satellite service by cobbling together cheaper -- even free -- means of watching TV programming, including network websites, video streaming services like Hulu or Netflix, and over-the-air programming from local network affiliates.
Before making the switch, Baldwin's family paid about $67 a month for cable, excluding fees. Now they pay $9.99 a month for Netflix, and get the rest of their favorite TV shows for free online or over the air.
"We still watch TV. We don't spend any less time in front of screens," said Baldwin, 47, director of learning and interpretation at the Portland Museum of Art. "But we're only watching what we want, when we want -- and paying a lot less."
Although the number of TV viewing households like Baldwin's are relatively small -- an estimated 87 percent of all U.S. households still use a cable or satellite TV service -- it has been growing. Last year, Convergence Consulting Group, based in Canada, released research on American households that showed that between 2008 and 2011, about 2.65 million Americans left their cable companies in favor of an Internet subscription service.
At the same time, the Nielsen media research company estimated the number of households in America with a traditional TV set declined from 98.9 percent to 96.7 percent, adding to the argument that more people are watching programming on their computers or via other sources.
The fact that most TV watchers depend on a cable or satellite provider was spotlighted earlier this month both nationally and in Maine by a rash of channel blackouts. In each case, the blackouts resulted from high-profile financial disputes between cable or satellite services and the companies that provide them with programming.
Time Warner Cable subscribers were without Portland's lone ABC affiliate, WMTW (Channel 8), for about 10 days after negotiations broke down over how much Time Warner should pay WMTW's owner, Hearst Television, for the right to use its programming.
DirecTV subscribers nationally also went more than a week in July without several Viacom cable networks, including MTV and Comedy Central, due to a similar dispute. And for most of July, Dish Network customers have been without the cable channel AMC, home of the popular shows "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad," because Dish says it will not meet AMC's demand for a price increase.
The spate of channel blackouts caused Congress to hold a hearing this past Tuesday on whether or not to make changes to the 1992 Cable Act, which was designed to regulate the industry and foster competition. What Congress' next step might be is unclear.
Program providers blame cable and satellite companies for the growing number of disputes and program blackouts; in turn, the cable and satellite companies blame the program providers.
During the past two years, there have been more than 40 such disputes leading to channel blackouts. Before the WMTW blackout, the last blackout of a channel on a cable system in southern Maine caused by a contract dispute was in 1993.
Neither Time Warner nor Hearst will say what price they finally agreed upon. But Time Warner had said Hearst initially wanted a 300 percent increase for its stations' programs. Media analysts estimate that cable and satellite companies often pay major cable networks like ESPN around $4.75 per subscriber, while often paying station groups like Hearst something less than 75 cents per subscriber.
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