There are a few things, it seems like will always be a fixture in the average, modern home. Two of these that come to mind are the home telephone and the home cable connection. But the winds are changing.
Already many people have dumped their home telephones in favor of smart phones, Skype, Vonage, and even a device called Magic Jack. The last three of these are serviced directly by a pipe out into the web. A lot of the switchers away from a land line argue that a fixed location phone does not fit into their mobile life style, and the alternatives offer more rich features than the standard home telephone does. Simple things like emails that have your voice messages attached (and transcribed) can be a big value add in keeping connected.
So, technology has given us an alternative to the home telephone, and with more features for less money. But what about that other home fixture, the TV cable. Is it in any danger of being replaced by new offerings of technology? Could it succumb to a new platform that gives you more content with better features for less money?
Regular Cable Vs The Web
The answer may be a qualified “Yes”, but it depends on what kind of cable you now have. If you have standard (non-digital) cable service, then the answer seems to be a no-brainer – dump it today.
Let me explain why the web beats regular cable. It is as simple as this – you want to be able to watch what you want, when you want to watch it. The days of a box in the living room that simply streams content on a fixed schedule that you adapt to is going the way of the dodo. Instead, it is being replaced with technology that lets you choose what and when you watch.
Popular web sites such as Hulu.com offer many “channels” of entertainment sure to give you a wide viewing choice. Fancast has plenty of full length TV shows to watch. There are others as well, and the content continues to grow.
For the local news lovers, giving up the cable has never been easier. Many of the TV stations now have web sites that let you pick and choose the video segments to watch, keeping you well informed at your convenience. And watching the local news for the latest weather report is almost a thing of the past, with weather, live radar, and forecasts available from a multitude of online sources.
Digital Cable Fights The Tide
Cable companies have not been dormant in their offerings, and they know what the threat of the web could do to their business. In order to keep customers happily paying their cable bill, many have started offering Digital Cable.
Digital cable offerings vary from the different providers, but virtually all have one feature that they push – on demand viewing at your convenience. At your convenience – does that ring a bell? It should – this is exactly what the web gives you.
But the on demand viewing from the cable companies, does it compete well with video from the web? On some levels it does quite well, and the on demand content continues to grow. But this is, in my opinion, not enough to compete effectively.
For example, Hulu provides many behind the scenes clips and interviews from your favorite show that most cable companies do not offer. This degree of specialization is to be expected from websites that service a niche interest as compared to cable that needs to serve everyone.
Digital cable offers the ability to watch movies on your schedule. But online services such as Netflix offers the same capability, and at a much cheaper price than cable. And most digital cable services do not offer anything to be of help if you miss your local news broadcast. With the web, the latest news video content is often there for you – again, at your convenience.
Digital cable carries a lot of varying content, but there are some things that you may never find on there, yet you are potentially missing out on some great content. A few that come to mind are:
There are others, but you get the idea – some TV shows and movies are not even available on your TV Cable.
Fan based content rich on the web
Now, if you are a fan of a popular TV show, such as Star Trek, then the choice is clear – digital cable has nothing to compete with the web. Not only can you find virtually all of the TV shows on the web for your viewing convenience (start with Hulu, trust me), you can also find plenty of new productions made by fans. And some of this is even entertaining. The list includes:
While this glimpse shows a peek into what is out there for Star Trek fans, more content is being generated daily across a wide range of interests. And the bulk of this is not being carried by Digital cable.
Educational advantages with the web
It is not just entertainment and news where the web beats cable, but in education it shines as well. Now, digital cable is starting to carry educational on demand content, and I applaud them for it. But the offerings of educational video from the web overwhelm anything I’ve seen yet from digital cable.
For example, do you want to learn to play a favorite song on the guitar? Chances are you will find a tutorial on Youtube. Want to brush up on your physics? Check out a quality MIT lecture on the topic. There are a plethora of educational content on the web, yours for the asking. One convenient repository to look to for educational material is iTunes University, which offers a large variety for consumption.
Why keep it in one location?
One thing that web viewing offers over cable is that you can get the web content from a wide variety of locations. With your cable box you can get it from one location – in front of your cable box. Once you find your favorite web content, it is a small matter to mark it for retrieval in a lot of different ways, perhaps even on your smart phone while traveling.
Why limit yourself?
I started this article with the intent of showing how web content could replace home cable for your viewing choices. But as it progressed, I think you may draw a different conclusion – why limit yourself by having home cable? You can instead get your favorite shows when you want them, plus a great deal more content, by pointing your viewing habits not at the cable box, but instead across the World Wide Web.