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Cutting the Cable: Enjoying TV at a Lower Cost

SPRINGFIELD (WGGB) — At a time when cable TV offers hundreds of stations and can cost hundreds of dollars a month, some people are changing their viewing habits.

For the Bartolomei family, watching TV is a favorite pass time because they enjoy specific shows. But what Craig Bartolomei didn’t enjoy… his monthly bill.

“We had our phone, our internet, and cable thru them. We had the full package,” explained Bartolomei. “I want to say it was $205 and it wasn’t necessarily that we needed or didn’t need the money that was why we did it. It was that it wasn’t worth the money because we weren’t watching enough.”

It’s a common enough complaint – hundreds of channels and nothing on.

But increasingly viewers are turning to an alternative method of get their viewing fix.

“For me it was easy, “ said Bartolomei. “For my wife it got a little easier and now since the beginning of the year since we did do it, neither of us miss it. And we learned that PBS actually has great cartoons for my daughter.”

Through an antenna, Bartolomei discovered he can get PBS as well as the local networks – a total of perhaps half a dozen stations – free.

But using his Wi-Fi, he’s able to access content through subscription providers like Netflix, Hulu, and VUDU.

Now, rather than relying on cable to dictate what and when to watch, the family has more of an a la cart menu for their TV diet.

And while that menu isn’t as expansive – the prices are a lot cheaper, even though the Wi-Fi bill did increase.

“So that went up from $50 to $60 cause we don’t have the package, but it’s $145 a month less and you can do whatever you want. Put it away. Pay bills,” said Bartolomei.

Doug Battema is a communications professor at Western New England University. He sees a trend that’s growing.

“I think that the kind of cutting your cable that you’re describing is something that we’re starting to see much more of and wouldn’t be surprised if we see a lot more of it in the future,” said Battema.

The future seems to be now. But while viewers are embracing this new form of content providers, they’re also experiencing the limitations.

To find out what we could watch online… we choose 5 of the top TV shows for the 2nd week of February – The Big Bang Theory, Person of Interest, Two and a Half Men, and American Idol – which came in at number 4 and 5.

Turns out, 3 of the 4 – The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and American Idol are available through various providers including Hulu, VUDU, and iTunes.

They’ll run you about 3 dollars an episode or 40 to 50 dollars per season depending whether you opt for high def.

You can also try the networks sites. We did with mixed results.

While we found new episodes of two and a half men and the big bang theory… American Idol was only available in highlight clips as was Person of Interest.

And you get what you pay for – network sites are free, but the video quality is poor.

For Bartolomei and his family, there are no regrets. “It just has everything we need. Just to kind of entertain yourself for a little while.”

Granted, they have limited viewing habits,  but the move from cable clearly made sense – because it made serious cents – saving them more than 17-hundred dollars a year.

According to one recent study, over the past 3 years more than 2.7 million cable and satellite viewers unsubscribed from those services to rely solely on over-the-air signals, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and other online providers.

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