Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Under The Dome coming to Amazon Prime Instant Video

It's being billed as the television event of the summer by CBS.  Fortunately, those of us who like to watch TV on our schedule can see it without a DVR or pay-TV subscription.  Under The Dome, a 13-episode miniseries based on the novel by Stephen King, is making its debut this Friday on Amazon Prime Instant Video.  The new show airs Monday evenings on CBS, and each Friday, the latest episode will be available on Amazon Instant Video - free to Amazon Prime members.

I'm really looking forward to this.  It is nice to have entire seasons available at once, the way Netflix offers all of its TV series, but I love the idea of having new episodes available weekly.  I hope this is successful for Amazon and would like to see more of this in the future.  If you're not an Amazon Prime member, why not try a free 30-day trial?  Test drive all of the features of Amazon Prime membership for a full month, and you can cancel at any time.

Amazon Prime Instant Video free trial

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Avengers Now Streaming On Netflix

Just a quick update to let you know that last year's summer blockbuster, The Avengers, began streaming on Netflix today.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Dreamworks shows coming to Netflix

Netflix is continuing to expand their animated programming.  A few months ago, they signed deals with Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting to stream Adult Swim and Cartoon Network episodes from previous seasons.  New Disney films will be also be available for streaming in 2016.

The latest move in animated offerings will come from Dreamworks, producer of hits like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar.  Netflix has poured loads of cash into creating original programming, which produced the critically acclaimed House of Cards and also included reviving the cancelled series Arrested Development.  But this deal looks to be the largest investment in original content to date.

The first series is expected to debut in 2014, which is also when Netflix will begin streaming Dreamworks feature films.  Details of characters were not announced, but the new deal is said to include over 300 hours of new, exclusive programming.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Downtown Abbey available exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video

Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award-winning television series Downtown Abbey is now available for streaming exclusively from Amazon Prime Instant Video.  All three seasons are now available at no additional charge to Amazon Prime members.  Downtown Abbey is a British period drama which aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and then on PBS in the United States. 

The series gives a look at the life of the high-class Crawley family and their servants, with a focus on some of the great events in history.  After two seasons, the series had earned twenty-seven Primetime Emmy Awards, and its third season became one of the most widely watched television shows in the world.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Intel's Plan To Bring You TV

Intel is looking to join the long list of devices competing to provide your TV service.  They have been planning a set-top box to bring a traditional, cable-like TV service with greater flexibility and lower cost than the cable or satellite company can provide.  No content deals have been announced, but Intel is currently in discussions on how the content will be delivered.

According to a report from Reuters, Intel is proposing to pay more than the rates cable companies pay for the same content.  They will need programming from at least a handful of the top American media companies to provide an attractive service that could lure customers away from the cable company.  Intel has previously said that their service will have live programming, catch-up programming, on-demand, and also apps.  A built-in camera was mentioned as part of the set-top box.  The camera could be used to recognize viewers to target ads or provide personalized TV or movie recommendations.  Built-in video calling like Skype or Google Hangouts would be a cool feature.

Intel has crested an independent unit, Intel Media, which is completely separate from the rest of the company.  I'm excited for more competition, but see this as a big challenge for Intel.  The only type of cable-like service that I would be willing to pay for would have to be a truly a la carte service, allowing me to pick and choose exactly the channels I want.  Comments welcome - what are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Father's Day Deal on Roku 2 XD

Looking for the perfect Father's Day gift?  Roku has a special Father's Day deal on the Roku 2 XD.  It's available for $10 off and comes with $45 worth of free offers from Amazon Instant Video, Slacker Radio and more.  The offer ends June 15th, so if you're looking for a great gift for Dad or just want a great deal on a Roku player, grab it while it lasts!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Redbox Instant Coming To Roku This Summer

Redbox Instant is a new movie service looking to follow in Netflix's footsteps. Still officially in beta, Redbox Instant combines DVD rentals at Redbox kiosks with streaming movies. The service recently launched on Google TV and announced that they will be coming to Roku later this summer.

After a 1-month free trial, Redbox Instant's subscription price of $8 per month gives you 4 DVD credits per month (for 4 nights total) plus unlimited streaming similar to Netflix.  For $1 extra ($9 per month), the subscription includes access to Blu-ray disc rentals.

Amazon Instant's streaming video library continues to grow steadily as they seek to become a serious competitor to Netflix, but in my opinion, Redbox Instant has a lot to overcome.  I like the idea of monthly DVD/Blu-ray credits, which gives access to discs at a Redbox kiosk versus waiting for Netflix to deliver a disc in the mail.  However, the number of titles available in Redbox kiosks is a fraction of what Netflix has available to mail.  I can only imagine that the streaming selection is also much smaller than Netflix's library, similar to how Amazon Prime Instant Video began.

I have not tried Redbox Instant yet, but will do so once the Roku channel is available.  I believe competition is a great thing, and while Redbox Instant has a long uphill climb, best of luck to them and I look forward to testing out the service once they make it available to the 5-million+ Roku owners.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Amazon's new deal with Viacom

Amazon has announced their largest streaming rights deal to date.  Netflix is allowing their deal with Viacom to expire, and Amazon has swooped in to lock up a multiyear deal that will provide exclusive rights to Nickelodeon's preschool shows.  Amazon Prime members now have unlimited instant streaming access to the largest subscription library for Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. content online.

Amazon states that over 250 TV seasons (just under 4,000 episodes) from Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, MTV and Comedy Central will soon be free for Amazon Prime members.  Some of the included shows are classics like SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, and iCarly, plus new shows such as Team Umizoomi, Bubble Guppies, VICTORiOUS, Big Time Rush, and Drake & Josh.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Amazon Instant Video

One of our main sources for TV shows and movies is Amazon Instant Video.  Full-length episodes are available for rental or purchase, and many are included as Amazon Prime instant videos at no extra cost for Amazon Prime members.  Streaming is available on PCs and Macs, many smart phones and tablets, Roku, Apple TV, and also some smart TVs.

With twin 3-year-old boys, we do a lot of shopping on Amazon.  The prices are great and it has saved us from making last-minute or late night trips for diapers, wipes, and other items that we use regularly (their subscribe-and-save program makes it so easy).  For us, Amazon Prime has been a great deal at just $79/year. You can start a 30-day free trial by clicking below to see what millions of Amazon Prime members already enjoy: unlimited streaming of more than 41,000 movies and TV episodes with hundreds of exclusives, unlimited free two-day shipping on millions of items, and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – choose from more than 300,000 books to borrow as frequently as once a month, with no due dates.

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Roku interface

When the Roku 3 debuted in March, it came with an entirely new and redesigned interface.  It is much faster, displays more information on the screen, allows you to choose from different home screen backgrounds, and best of all, now includes a search tool.  Searching from the home screen allows you to see if a movie or TV show is available on Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Crackle, or HBO GO.  It saves so much time compared to searching within each channel for the title you are looking for.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Roku channels and categories

The Roku streaming players currently have access to over 750 channels, similar to apps available for smartphones or tablets.  Categories include movies, TV shows, live sports, music, photo and
video sharing, games, international programming, radio, news, podcasts, and the list goes on and on...

Some channels are tied to subscription services, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Spotify and MLB.TV.  Many channels are absolutely free - some great examples are Crackle, Pandora, Disney and

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Roku review and install pics

The Roku streaming player is a small device about the size of a hockey puck that connects to your TV and brings a huge amount of the videos, music, movies, games and TV shows available online straight to your TV screen. By purchasing a Roku (multiple models that currently range in price from $49.99-$99.99), the one-time cost gives you access to over 500 different entertainment channels. Roku players are very quick and easy to install, connect to virtually any TV, and require only AC power and a wired or wireless Internet connection. I recently installed a new Roku 2 XS and have provided pictures to show how quick and easy installation is:

Here is the Roku 2 XS box

Here is the TV that I will use with this Roku. As you can see, it is an older TV (at least 8 years old) and does not even have an HDMI input. As you will see, Roku works with new or old TVs.

Here's what the inside of the box looks like

A closer look at the Roku 2 XS and its remote

Here is a look at everything that's included - RCA (video and audio) cables, batteries for remote, AC power adapter, Roku 2 XS (rear view) and remote control

A closer look at the back of the Roku 2 XS

Closer look at the included accessories

Extreme close-up of the Roku 2 XS. Micro SD card slot for additional storage and future expansion (optional - Micro SD card is not needed for setup or normal use), standard size HDMI port for digital audio & video connection, A/V out for use with the supplied RCA (yellow, white, red) cable, ethernet port for a wired Internet connection, manual reset button, and DC in to connect the supplied AC power cable.

Note the time on the clock. After opening the box and taking a few pictures, we began the install at 6:42pm.

Another view of the Roku 2 XS and accessories. The AA batteries give some perspective as to the size of this incredibly powerful and awesome device.

An extreme close-up of the connections I used to install the Roku 2 XS. I only needed the power cable and used the A/V out with the supplied RCA (yellow, white, red) cable for video and audio connection to the TV.

A look at the back (and very dusty) connections available on the TV

Once connected to power and the TV, the Roku automatically begins the setup process

Rear view of the remote control

Front view of the unwrapped Roku remote control

First step is selecting a wired or wireless Internet connection. I used a wireless connection - the Roku lists the available wireless networks and I used the remote to enter my network password.

After connecting to the Internet, you are prompted to choose your local time zone

Once your time zone is set, the Roku automatically checks for updates and downloads any that are available. You must set up a free account at the Roku website to complete activation (and provide payment information in case you purchase any paid channels).

Before I knew it, updates were installed and the Roku was ready to use! The latest generation of Roku players allow game play and some come with Angry Birds pre-installed.

And here is the finish time - 7:28pm. Total setup time took me 46 minutes and that included extra time to take lots of pictures, about 5 minutes of rearranging and rerunning wires behind the TV, and my first game of Angry Birds.

The finished product - sitting nicely next to the Wii

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our current setup

For almost a year, we paid nothing at all for our home entertainment, using the methods listed in our last post.  I had been researching the Roku and AppleTV streaming boxes, which both provide a huge amount of free and subscription content to your TV with an extremely simple interface and a small easy-to-use remote.  If you are an Apple person with more than one device (iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac) and/or use iTunes to watch TV and movies as well as music, then AppleTV is probably best for you.  It seamlessly brings all of your iTunes content to your TV, has many other apps for content and entertainment, and uses AirPlay to instantly play content from another iOS device on your TV screen.

We chose the Roku box for three reasons:
1) We used iTunes for playing our imported, previously purchased music and were not buying music, TV or movies from iTunes.
2) Similar to Apple vs. Android in phones and tablets (although Roku has nothing to do with Android), Roku is a much more open system than AppleTV.  On this platform, Roku has more apps and anyone with programming knowledge can create their own apps (Roku calls them channels).
3) Roku has multiple versions of its hardware, offering different features with multiple price points.  We chose the top-of-the-line Roku, which cost the same as an AppleTV but offered better features - 1080p vs. AppleTV's 720p, plus our model has a USB port for accessing pictures, music or videos on portable USB drives or USB hard drives.

We use our Roku every day and LOVE it - so much that a month later we bought a second Roku for our second TV.  The easiest way to describe Roku is that it replaced everything we were doing on our laptop.  Using the many different channels available, Roku can stream virtually any content available online using a simple interface and an easy-to-use remote.  Roku has an "official" channel store (like Apple's iTunes app store or Google Play) as well as private channels which are user-created apps that Roku does not officially support.  Google "Roku private channels" for listings/databases of private channels and instructions on how to add them to your Roku (it's very easy).

Our Roku does everything that I was using our laptop for - streaming TV shows and movies, podcasts, radio station streams, streaming music services, plus so much more.  I occasionally watch "live" over-the-air TV for NFL football and some other network sports on the weekends, but our Roku boxes provide about 90% of the information and entertainment that we consume.  My next post will show you how easy it is to install a Roku.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How we cut the cord

I spent a lot of time researching entertainment options before making the call to AT&T to cancel the TV portion of our U-verse service.  Along with the TV service, we also had 6Mbps U-verse high-speed Internet, which we have kept and has provided almost all of our entertainment for the last three years.  Dropping U-verse TV took our monthly bill from around $105 monthly to $35/month for AT&T U-verse 6Mbps high-speed Internet only.  The Internet price has increased to $40 and now $43 monthly, but is still a great value for us at about one-third the price of what we would be paying for TV and Internet.

My first step was to invest in two indoor "rabbit-ear" type powered antennas - one for each of our TVs.  These can be found at Amazon or some local retailers and vary in signal strength and price.  I bought Zenith and RCA antennas that cost around $30-$40 each.  If you live in or near a city with local TV stations, you can receive more local channels in better quality than cable or satellite provides absolutely free.  How?  Now that TV broadcasting is digital, many local stations offer a second and sometimes third channel as well as the main channel you are used to watching.  Some extra channels may have continuous local weather information while others may offer music videos or other variety programs.  The extra content may or may not be of interest to you, but it is absolutely free and unavailable on most cable and satellite systems.  When watching an HD program with an antenna, you are getting the best signal available anywhere.  The HD signal you pay for with cable or satellite begins with a direct connection or antenna feed, is highly compressed to travel along with the hundreds of other channels, and then uncompressed when the box or receiver sends the picture to your TV.  Visit, enter your zip code, and you will see the type of antenna you need and a list of channels you can expect to receive.

Most of our favorite shows were on the major networks - ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX.  If we were unable to see them live, most were streamed on or the network's website.  I bought a cable that used the S-Video output and headphone audio output of our laptop to connect to our TV's RCA inputs.  It is even easier to connect with an HDMI cable if your laptop and TV have HDMI ports.  A note about using HDMI - DO NOT pay for an over-priced, "premium" cable.  Look for a low-cost one on and see how much you can save.

Our cord cutting journey began with absolutely no monthly cost for entertainment (besides our monthly Internet access) - only the one-time cost of antennas and the laptop-to-TV cable.  Having twin newborns at home cut down on our free time, but one of us was always home with the boys, so we had a lot more time at home than when we were both working.  Our entertainment consisted of local over-the-air TV, local radio, streaming radio/music/podcasts, our rarely-watched DVD collection.  I also used the laptop and iTunes to create a huge library of our MP3 music and many of our music CDs for instant access to lots of music that we were able to control from anywhere in the house with the iTunes Remote app on our phones.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why we chose to cut the cord

We loved our cable TV (AT&T U-verse), but found that the more we watched, the more we wanted, and the DVR was constantly reaching its capacity.  It was so easy to become hoarders, recording anything that looked remotely interesting, knowing there was little chance we would ever really be interested or have the time to watch it.

As our TV time decreased, we realized that most of what we watched was "mainstream" hit shows.  Almost all of our favorites were available on local network channels with an antenna or could be streamed online on or on the channel's website.  Our first-year lower promotional price was gone and were were now paying almost $70 each month for the TV part of our service.  Our twin boys were born three months premature, it was four months before both were home from the hospital, and they required around-the-clock medical care at home.  We made the decision to sacrifice and cut our income so that I could stay home and care for the boys every day. 

Again, we loved our AT&T U-verse service and had very few issues, but it was time to cut costs and pay TV was a quick and easy cut in our monthly spending.  We had a mid-grade package - 2 receivers, the U-300 package, and no HD or premium channels.  Cable TV was a very convenient, continuous source of entertainment and information.  At times it was nothing more than background noise, but it helped pass the long days spent with the boys and very little interaction with other adults.  I was completely on-board with cancelling our cable TV, especially because of the savings, but in the back of my mind, I was a little worried that it would be a difficult transition.  My next post will describe how we cut the cord and what I found to replace cable TV.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hello and Welcome

Hello and welcome to Adventures In Cord-Cutting!  I have thought over and over about starting this blog, and it's time to finally do it.  Four years ago, my wife and I were expecting our first child and extremely busy working, saving money and doing our best to get ready for life with a baby.  Our wishes were doubled and we were blessed with twin boys.  We loved our cable TV (AT&T U-verse), but soon had very little time to watch or extra money to spend on TV.  We took the plunge, cut the cord, and have never looked back.  There are a few things we miss, but for a fraction of the cost we still have access to an endless amount of entertainment.  If you're willing to press a few buttons instead of simply turning on the TV, you can save a lot of money without sacrificing very much content.

Here is what you can expect from this blog:
I will explain why we cut the cord (stopped paying for a TV subscription) and how we did it.  There are devices/hardware and services that can give you access to many types of entertainment (legally) - many free, some for a low cost, and all much cheaper than a monthly cable or satellite bill.  I will also be your source for the latest news about devices and services that can bring you the content you want while saving you money.

Thanks for checking this out!  I hope you will stick around and choose the most convenient way for you to stay up to date (RSS reader, email subscription, Twitter or Facebook).  Spread the word and enjoy the ride!