Cancer, Cable, and Costs

* Cancer is a hot button issue at our house with our having lost my best friend after a grueling three-year battle and my beloved father-in-law after a grueling six-year battle. As a result all you have to do to get me to read an article is use the C word in the headline.

I was sorry to hear that Roger Ebert’s cancer has returned. I enjoy his columns even if I disagree strongly with some of his opinions. I thought it was wonderful that even though cancer robbed him of the ability to speak, he still produced quite a volume of work. This latest setback has him taking “a leave of presence”, a phrase I particularly liked.

Beyond the Valley of the Dollsolls

Update: I wrote this the day before he passed. He will definitely be missed. R.I.P. film critic extraordinaire and writer of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

* We cut the cord here a long time ago. If you haven’t, you should. Barring that, Consumer Reports states that Verizon’s FiOS is the best bundle option although it is not available in our area. We dropped cable TV when the one-year bundling contract ran out and haven’t looked back.

* Both DirecTV and Dish network have some nice bundling plans BUT the plans are good for one year and lock you into a two-year contract. You might have to sell a kidney for what they charge on that second year.

* As if we didn’t have enough streaming services, Intel is working on a streaming service with NBC Universal, Time Warner, Viacom and others. I’m not sure how they think they will do better than Netflix’ $8 a month for all the movies and old TV you could watch or Hulu’s $8 for most current TV. If only Hulu would get CBS on board and/or Netflix get HBO or Showtime.

Game of Thrones

* Speaking of HBO, naturally the third season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones was the most torrented episode ever. If you won’t allow access to your program legally (by making the price barrier ridiculously high), people will steal it. I’m not on any moral high ground here but I am annoyed that I will have to wait for the box set next year.

Winter is coming, HBO! Winter is coming!

Netflix and Amazon Prime are Hell on Wheels

* For those who want to know numbers, Netflix has 3 million paying customers for its international streaming service. Contrast this with the 22.69 million domestic streaming customers and you can see that foreign growth has a vast potential for Netflix. Netflix is beating Lovefilm and has Sky as the goal target.

* Gizmodo recenty posited the question of whether Netflix or Amazon Prime is the best streaming service. Simple numbers always put Amazon Prime to shame. I would love to see them be a contender but they will have to stop clinging so tightly to their by-the-movie pricing model and pony up some money for content. On the other hand FREE two-day Amazon shipping is a nice perk.

* That said Amazon Prime recently signed not only a deal with Warner Bros. but much more importantly an EXCLUSIVE deal. Fringe and The West Wing will be available exclusively on Amazon Prime for the summer. This deal makes other shows available as well (though not exclusively). Titles included are Alcatraz, Dark Blue, and The Whole Truth.

* DirecTV and Viacom have finally ended their spat (well, until the new contract is up anyway) so DirecTV customers can watch The Daily Show again. Personally that is what I have Hulu Plus for and I’m sure the $7.99 a month I pay is far less than what DirecTV charges a month.

I don’t miss cable or satellite TV at all. I have far more than I can possibly watch with Netflix and Hulu Plus. My wife and I are trying to finish Downton Abbey season 2 before moving on to the Titanic miniseries and Breaking Bad season 4.

* In spite of being overloaded at the moment I’m looking forward to watching AMC’s Hell on Wheels. The first season is supposed to be available through Netflix instant on 7/29.