I think I can finally safely report on the outcome of yet another decision we had to make when we moved into our new house (this won't be the last): namely, the decision of what to do with our cable television service.
In our old house, we subscribed to Comcast's "Expanded Basic" plan, meaning the networks and a few cable channels, but no pay channels or on-demand service. For that, we paid around $45 or $50 per month (after a discount for also subscribing to their Internet service). We have also subscribed to a 4-disc-at-a-time Netflix plan for $24 per month for over two years now and have been very happy with it. I got to the point where I couldn't stand to watch regular TV because the commercials were so intrusive.
So, I was making all of those exciting phone calls to transfer our services to the new house and I thought, why even bother with cable? The only show I was even still watching on TV was "The Office" and I was downloading them afterward anyway. My wife and I both zoned out occasionally to HGTV, but I knew I wouldn't miss that. So, I started exploring alternatives. Comcast was the only cable provider, but there was also the satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network. The prices were roughly similar with only slight variations in the channel lineup and I dismissed them pretty quickly.
Next, I went out and actually bought an antenna. Yes, the old rabbit ears. I did a bit of research and found that our neighborhood was supposed to have pretty good reception. I talked to a sales rep at Best Buy who told me that the best models in the current generation of antennae have an internal signal amplifier, so I picked one up for about $30 (on-sale, of course). I was very excited when I first hooked it up; we picked up about 20 different HDTV channels and the reception and picture were amazing! Except for when they weren't. Every once in a while, we'd see large swatches of pixels wash across the screen, especially if anyone was walking around the house. One day, we inexplicably lost over half of the channels. We sadly decided to return the antenna. I think that if I were really into network television, I'd probably explore installing a roof antenna, although I suspect our HOA probably wouldn't allow it. No real loss.
The last televison service option I explored is still relatively new: FiOS TV. We decided to use Verizon for our Internet service in the new house to take advantage of their fast new fiber-optic network and learned that our TV could hook up to the same connection. Like the satellite providers, it was still pretty expensive and didn't really have anything that compelling.
So, where did that leave us? We rely totally on Netflix these days for all our television watching. We decided to take some of the money that we were spending on cable previously and bump ourselves up to the 6-disc plan for $35.99 per month. I'm not sure if we'll stay there, but we found that we would occasionally run out of things to watch on the 4 disc plan, mostly due to the weekend postal lag. This is less of a problem now that we are ordering more television shows, as they usually have more content per disc and last longer. Even if we stay with the 6 disc plan, it is still cheaper than cable, and I always feel like we have a lot of choices of things that we actually WANT to watch at home.
The only drawback so far is that our friends with cable aren't able to discuss the current season of shows with us, but that isn't a problem this year.
Just the disc service is adequate for me, but there are two more important features of Netflix I think are worth mentioning. The first is the "Watch Instantly" feature that lets us bypass the USPS and stream some titles directly to our computer screens. I use this for TV shows, because sitting in a chair in front of a computer for 2 hours to watch a movie can get tiresome (especially since I sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day at work) and it doesn't really work well for more than one person. That does bring me to the second important feature, however: Netflix has announced that they are partnering with hardware manufacturers to bring the download service directly to our televisions.
The cable and satellite companies have resisted user-driven programming for far too long and Netflix is finally helping us achieve the ability to watch what we want, when we want. If you haven't yet, check them out.