One day, when I was about 12 years old, I was watching TV with my dad on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The show we were watching ended so we switched to the television guide to see what was on. At one point, we saw a good TV show on one of the channels we didn't have, and my dad expressed how he wished he had that network. Wanting the ability to watch an ever increasing amount of cartoons, I asked why he didn't order that channel by bumping up our package to the premium selection.
“Well”, he said, “all I want is this one channel, but to get it, I have to pay for all these other channels that I don't want. It's not worth the added cost just for this one channel. I wish I could order just the one, but the cable company doesn't allow me to pick and pay for the channels I want”.
This opened my eyes to the cable scam of packaging channels together to generate additional revenue. It was frustrating to me that even if I only wanted three channels for specific shows. I had to pay for 30+ channels I did not want. This policy continued to frustrate me as I moved out and started to pay for cable on my own. There were only a few shows I wanted to watch, but I had to pay for a lot of programming I did not want. I started to explore alternate options, like purchasing DVD sets or episodes off iTunes, but I found that I wanted to watch shows as they came out.
As providers like Netflix (with DVD rentals and streaming TV shows) and Hulu (which offers free TV shows online) came out in the united states, I grew jealous of this ability to access a wide variety of quality shows. Sadly the same options were not available on Canada. We Canadians don't even have access to a lot of streaming shows from the networks own website, which further complicates the problem. Thankfully, content providers seem to have recognized that there is a market in Canada for quality TV apart from a cable company. So here is how I get my free TV, or at least cheap TV.
First, and foremost, Netflix has come to Canada! This is a cause for celebration. Now, the biggest difference between the Canadian and American version is that there is no DVD rental in Canada. In the states you can have DVDs mailed to you, but in Canada we are limited to streaming only. That means that if you have any Netflix enabled device, (computer, iPhone, PS3, Xbox 360, etc.) that you can watch any television show or movie that they have on their service at any time for $9 a month. You are only limited by their selection, there are no limit to how much you watch. Currently, there is not a huge abundance of content on Netflix as the service just started and they have yet to finalize all their content deals. Their selection already includes great TV shows like Madmen, Monk, Heroes, The Guild and Fawlty Towers. Even six months of streaming is the same cost as buying one season of TV on DVD.
Second, if you live somewhat close to a broadcast tower, you can still get free television over the air. In fact, you can get digital television over the air. If you have a newer TV, then you don't need to worry about getting a digital converter box either, as your TV very well may have an ASTC tuner built into it, allowing you to simply plug in your antenna and have your TV convert the digital over the air signal into free television. Depending on your location, you can even get free HDTV, like CBC-HD. If you want over the air television, did you know that you can even build your own antenna out of little more than a few clothes hangers and a stick of wood? It doesn't work that great for me because I live in a basement suite, but if you have a direct line of sight towards the broadcast tower, you have a good chance of watching free over the air TV!
Finally, even though we Canadians aren't privileged enough to have streaming access to many great television provider's websites, we still have a fair bit of access to local Canadian channels. HGTV has a wide variety of their programming available for streaming online. While we can't watch Jon Stewart at thedailyshow.com, we can watch him and Stephen Colbert, alongside the rest of The Comedy Network‘s programming on their website.
It seems to me that between Netflix, over the air television, and more and more television channels putting their content on their websites, there's never a better time to cut the cable cord. Now, if only we could watch live sports online…
How do you get your free TV or cheap TV?