How To Make Your Cable Company Hate You

I cancelled my cable TV subscription three months ago. My Time Warner bill had been rising steadily--$1.50 here, $2.75 there--at regular intervals. When it reached $85 a month, I'd had enough. I cancelled my cable service, vowing never to return. The 24-hour shopping networks, cricket matches in Bangalore, colon-cleansing infomercials--I wouldn't miss any of it.

Since dumping cable, I've been relying on Netflix's streaming service and over-the-air broadcast TV. There are some drawbacks to this approach, particularly if you're a cable news or sports junkie. The good news is that my monthly TV bill is now a mere $9.73 for Netflix streaming (and one DVD rental at a time) plus tax. By dropping cable, I'll save more than $900 over 12 months. Yep, that buys a lot of colon cleanser.

With Tuesday's announcement that Hulu Plus is coming to Roku's set-top boxes and TiVo's DVRs this fall, cable-less TV watchers will soon have many more shows to watch. Here's how to cut the cable, save money, and still have fresh content for your HDTV.

Stream, Baby, Stream: Buy a Wi-Fi media streamer for the living room. My personal favorite is the Roku player, which starts at $60 and streams HD movies, TV shows, documentaries, music, and other Internet-based content to your TV. The market for set-top boxes is getting very crowded, and that's great news for consumers. The updated Apple TV just now arriving, the Boxee Box ships in November, and Google TV is on the way. Other streaming devices include game consoles, Blu-ray players, and DVRs. You may have the right equipment for Internet video.

Get Netflix: For less than $10 a month, Netflix lets you watch more than 20,000 movies, TV episodes, and other videos as often as you'd like. This streaming service is more convenient than disc rentals, and there aren't any surprise fees on each bill. The Netflix catalog doesn't include this year's network shows, however, and recent movies are often available only on DVD or Blu-ray, not online.

Get Hulu Plus: To watch the current season of ABC, NBC, and Fox shows like 30 Rock, House, The Office, etc., Hulu Plus is the way to go. Cost: $10 a month. Hulu Plus' deep library includes past seasons too, including episodes from classic shows from decades past. Drawback: No CBS shows.

Get an antenna: Over-the-air HDTV broadcasts are quite good if you can get them in your area. To find out which channels you can receive, go to DTV Reception Maps and enter your zip code or address. If you can pick up all of your local network stations, you may decide to pass on Hulu Plus.

What you're missing: ESPN (no Monday Night Football), cable news channels, Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, and other cable-specific programming. You can catch some of this content later on Netflix, however-if you're the patient type.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com .

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