A couple months ago my wife and I downgraded our cable from the fancy $75/month digital package with DVR offered by Time Warner to the most basic cable option — about 20 channels, non-digital, no DVR, and only $12/month. We haven’t missed cable and we still get to watch all of our favorite current TV shows, as well as plenty of movies and recent premium TV series.
The key ingredient? An Xbox 360.
It’s a gaming powerhouse, but, ironically, we own just a single game for it: The 360 incarnation of the Katamari series, which we also own on our iPhones. So it’s clearly not about the gaming, though it’s good to know the option is there. (I haven’t really been much of a video gamer since the Super Nintendo days of Zelda, Street Fighter II, and other now-classics.)
So here’s how to get plenty of entertainment in your living room for about $13/month and about $230 in up-front investment:
Buy an Xbox 360. The $199 arcade version is all you need.
Get a long Ethernet cable to run from your router to your Xbox 360 ($10-20). Don’t want to string a cable through your house? Other options include the $99 Xbox 360 wireless adapter or the DIY bridging of your laptop’s wifi connection (I’ve done this; it works but isn’t too reliable).
Subscribe to the 1-DVD-at-a-time with unlimited streaming $8.99/month or higher Netflix account (I have the 2-DVDs-at-a-time with unlimited streaming $13.99/month account).
Hook yourself up with an Xbox Live Gold membership (it’s $49.99/year with options to pay monthly or quarterly, so roughly $4-5/month). That will allow you to use the Xbox 360 to stream Netflix with the high-quality player.
If you want to stream Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, and more, pay the one-time $29.99 fee for PlayOn Media Server, which allows your Xbox to stream content from the Internet via your computer (there’s also a Netflix module included with PlayOn, but the quality is not as good as the version built-in to the Xbox 360, which even streams some content in high-definition).
That’s it! With this setup, you can enjoy streaming movies like Step Brothers, premium channel shows like Dexter (I recently watched Season 1 and am in the middle of Season 2 via Netflix), and even watch new episodes of current shows like Heroes via Hulu — all from the comfort of your living room.
Sure, you could opt for the $99 Roku Netflix player, but then you’d miss out on streaming Hulu to your TV, along with the ability to playback any video, picture, or music you’ve downloaded to your computer… not only that, but your Xbox Live account gives you access to new movie rentals and a whole universe of gaming, if that’s your thing.
(Thanks, Justin, for introducing me to the beauty of the Xbox 360.)[ Subscribe to gabeanderson.com via email or RSS feed. ]