Because of the day job, I am constantly reading blog posts and mainstream media articles focused on one thing – telling you how easy it is to ditch cable, and still get all the content you’re currently watching FOR FREE!
The answer is always incredibly simple. For instance, you can just get Netflix, and watch all those episodes of Entourage on DVD – six months or so after they air. You can go to Hulu and watch programs – except for the fact that the overwhelming majority of cable programs are either a) not on Hulu or b) on Hulu months after they air.
Now there is a point to be made here about why they call it pop “culture” and how there is a societal value to watching shows near the air date so you can engage in the social aspects of entertainment. But I’ll leave that point alone.
The really annoying part of these posts is the authors will invariably talk about the ease of getting cable content, then cite as their examples shows which are not cable programs.
The latest of these is TechCrunch. Now, I’m a geek, so I read TechCrunch a lot. Some of their content I’ll quibble with, but most of it is pretty good. This little item, though, is truly stupid.
John Biggs posits that he has come up with a great process for ditching cable:
I‚Äôve been angling to get rid of my TiVo and cable for some time now and I believe I‚Äôve finally figured out a solution that works best for me. It involves a lots scripting, Sabnzbd, and HandbrakeCLI and I‚Äôll tell you what I ultimately did next week once it‚Äôs stable but it seems to be working as well as can be expected for these sorts of hacks.
Sure, John, that’s super easy as long as you’re familiar with Usenet, binary newsreaders, and video transcoders. Super easy!
He goes on to explain that the content he’s pulling in is completely illegal:
It consists of two disparate parts. The first is a shady underground that can offer these shows, stripped of commercials, a few minutes after they‚Äôve aired. How they do it is a topic for another story, but needless to say popular shows are available in less than ten minutes after they air on the Eastern Seaboard. It is a testament to the dedication of a few TV lovers that these shows are available, for free, as they happen.
It’s important to understand that unlike mp3s, television content is not easily ripped and not easily portable. Yes, the shady underground may currently be doing this, but the content owners are chasing it down.
But let’s assume all of this is easy, and the illegality won’t make you squirm, and let’s look at the shows John’s actually talking about here.
What I don’t see in that list is actual, cable content. There is a bunch of stuff from the UK, and a whole lot of broadcast content, but where is the cable content? If it’s that easy to ditch cable (and cable companies should be “skeered”) and given there are literally hundreds of cable channels, and only a few broadcast channels, why is a list of available illegal content skewed so heavily to broadcast.
So from the read of this, John Bigg’s has gone out of his way to come up with a way to steal broadcast content through an incredibly complex process that involves “a shady underground”.
So here’s my suggestion for John. If you want to watch TV as it airs (rather than “immediately after”) then go buy yourself an antenna. They’re lovely inventions that let you watch all the broadcast TV you want, and don’t involve scripting, HandBrake, or SABnzbd. If you want an option to timeshift that programming, invest in a Win-TV-HVR-950Q from Hauppage. It has a built in DVR, and picks up NTSC, ATSC, and clear QAM programming (broadcast, in other words). It’s plug and play, so again, no scripting.