Cut your cable

In Business & Technology /

Students hate paying for cable. So do we. That’s why we’re going to use a little thing called the internet to get you your network TV fix— and sometimes for free. Business and technology editor Matthew Braga shows you how.

STREAMING

A lot has changed in the past few years, and streaming is now a totally viable option for getting caught up on the latest season of Chuck. And while you could hunt through obsucre Russian websites for the latest user-uploaded links, the networks themselves are often the best place to get your streaming fix these days.

CTV, Global and Comedy Central are all good places to catch last night’s episodes the morning after they’ve aired, and include a great deal of US content that’s broadcasted here too. And if you’re a little more tech-savvy, you might even be able to get yourself onto ABC or NBC’s regional sites to stream content you can’t normally access here.

There are ads of course, just as you’d see on TV, but you really can’t argue for the student-friendly price of free.

But as great as these sites may be, they’re not particularly useful for watching back catalog items. Full episodes will often disappear from a network’s site after a few weeks or months, and don’t even think about trying to watch past seasons. That means turning to other sources — like Netflix.

The popular US streaming service launched in Canada last month, and is offering users 30 free days to test out the service. The selection isn’t nearly as great as in the US — some recent shows are missing —but for unlimited viewing at $7.99 per month, including movies, it’s still cheaper than a Rogers subscription.

DOWNLOADING

The problem with streaming is that it takes up a lot of bandwidth – something that every student paying for internet these days knows is in short supply. Every repeat viewing requires you to download that content from the internet again, and there’s no easy way to share content with friends.

Depending on how ethical you’re feeling today, you have both legal and illegal means with which to download your television content online. Services like iTunes, Xbox Live and the Playstation Network all offer video download services with varying prices and levels of quality, though you’ll most likely find yourself paying a few bucks per episode on average, with a slight premium for high definition content. iTunes, for example, has HD episodes of Glee for $3.50 each.

But before you groan at the thought of actually paying for content, remember, going legal has its perks. New episodes make their way online very quickly, almost always by the next day, and you’ll never find yourself searching for a good link or stream.

But the big disadvantage? Crippling DRM, or digital rights management software. Unlike music downloads, video content is still bundled with software designed to prevent piracy, limiting where you can play your content, and whether your roomates can share it.

It’s for this reason alone that illegal downloads may be more attractive to some – specifically, torrents. Websites like EZTV.it are entirely dedicated to television downloads, and the latest episodes are often available online as little as an hour or two after the show airs — even faster than time shifting on cable.

Of course, illegal downloads are against Ryerson’s network policies, so tread carefully.

Either way, while you may not have cable, you’ll have more than a few ways to catch the next watch Shark Week in all its murderous glory.

OLD SCHOOL

You might elicit the laughter of your friends with this one, but nothing beats the awesome results of a cheap antenna. Depending on where you live, and in what sort of building, a good set of bunny ears can actually be your best option.

Don’t believe us? Antennas have come a long way from your grandfather’s youth, and can actually pick up high-definition signals over the air, just as you would with your HD cable box. All the local networks, like the CBC, CityTV and Global will broadcast certain shows in digital HD, and if you’re lucky, you might even get a few US networks from across the lake, depending on the weather. The cost of a decent antenna will run you about $50-80 at places like NCIX or Tiger Direct, and all you need is an HD tuner built-in to your TV.

To see what sort of reception you can get in your area, check out AntennaWeb.org for more info.

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