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Replacing the Cable Box – Idea Dump

So it’s 4AM, but I woke up with some ideas about replacing ye olde Cable DVR box with a more efficient and more up to date version. It occurs to me that I am paying about $134/month for Cable TV, Internet and HBO that me and my family rarely do and never need to watch. Being laid up the past few days, I’ve been very intimate with Boxee and I totally think it is capable of replacing the set top box, most of which hasnt changed for the past 5-10 years. 

Lets take a look at my current setup. My $132 bill to Verizon breaks down like this:

  • $52.99/mo for 20/5mbps FTTH Internet
  • -$14.99/mo ‘Double Play’ TV/Internet Promo price break.
  • $16.99/mo for HBO. We don’t watch it often, was mainly purchased to watch True Blood. Curb Your Enthusiasm was neat but now that it’s season is over there is no regular content on HBO that we watch. HBO should be allowing subscribers to stream content online. Boo to HBO, your revenue model is flawed. We also have Netflix and will likely dump HBO for Netflix’s great streaming content.
  • ~ $80 for the FiOS Premier TV Package along with a DVR Box and a regular set top box for the PC upstairs.
While this provides an extraordinary amount of content, we never watch a majority of it, and the stuff we DO watch we can really do without especially with online alternatives. The DVR box, while providing the convenience of recording shows from your couch, has a clunky UI and it is very hard to find the content that you do want to watch. The one thing that my wife, myself and sometimes my friends come over to watch are some broadcast television programs such as The Office and Lost (which is coming up soon!)

I plan on replacing the above setup with the following solutions:
  • Downgrading the television package to the $12.99 local channel plan.* This provides local channels, and the FCC requires that these stations be sent in Unencrypted QAM format so that if your television has a QAM tuner you can receive them without any additional set top boxes.
  • This allows my main living room TV to get ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and other local stations live. It also allows me to utilize my PC upstairs, which has a QAM tuner and BeyondTV installed, to record programming in HD and act as a DVR. Planning to install BeyondTV Link to stream DVR and LiveTV from my machine upstairs.
  • Keeping my internet package the same. I am not sure if they will bump my price back up to $52.99 or not, but even if they do I am still saving money in the long run.
  • Purchasing a Boxee compatible box or PC. This will replace my DVR on the main TV downstairs. It can pull in the regular Boxee programming but also play any content I have recorded on the PC upstairs or any movies I have backed up off of my DVD collection. The max cost for a Boxee compatible PC would be $200 with some othercompellingoptions out there.

Let’s assume that they take off my $14.99 “break” off of the cost of the internet package, this puts my monthly Verizon bill at about $66 a month, which is halving my bill. It should have paid off any up-front hardware costs in only 4 months while still providing a variety of content, you might even argue a greater amount of content.

The cable box is dead. If I do decide to go with the above setup, expect a full write up.

* This package is available but is not advertised by Verizon at all. It is seen on their TV Plans page in smaller print at the bottom: “FiOS TV Local service package also available, providing access to local TV channels and community and educational programming for $12.99/month.”