The Supreme Court recently dealt a huge blow to on-demand TV viewing. It ruled that a company called Aereo is breaking copyright law by retransmitting over-the-air broadcasts.
If you haven't heard of Aereo, it acts like a super digital video recorder. For $13 per month, you could watch any broadcast show in your area on your TV, computer or mobile gadget whenever you wanted. But now Aereo is no more.
This is just another in a long string of setbacks for TV consumers. Like you, I just want to watch what I want when I want, and I don't want to juggle five services or mortgage my house to do it.
To get a better sense of the problem, let's look at what's currently available. We've got cable, satellite and over-the-air broadcasts. For online video streaming, there's Apple's iTunes Store, Google Play, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube and a dozen others.
To actually use a streaming service, you have your choice of Apple TV, Roku, Google's Chromecast, Amazon's FireTV, video game consoles and smart TVs. To make it worse, not every streaming service has every show and not every gadget supports every service.
Oh, and Google just announced Android TV software that's going to power a bunch of upcoming smart TVs and set-top boxes. Given what happened to Google TV, I'm not holding my breath, but it's another option you have to wade through. Go to bit.ly/RvHfFa for a guide to help you navigate ditching cable.
So is it better to just avoid the whole thing and stick with cable? No. If you need to bring down your monthly bills, cable is probably one of your biggest expenses.
Of course, before you do anything drastic, call your cable company. Tell them, sincerely, your cable bills are too high and you need to cut some services; you might come out with a good deal.
Even then, you should think hard about whether you actually need cable. How many of the 500 stations do you watch anyway? Fire up a site like Can I Stream It? or GoWatchIt to see which of your favorite shows are available online and on which services.
Be sure you check often as options are added and removed regularly.
Amazon, for example, just got most popular HBO shows like "Rome" and "True Blood" - and you can also sign up for HBO Go to stream those and "Game of Thrones." The NFL is bringing NFL Now to Roku and Apple TV so you can watch games. Of course, a subscription will cost you.
Be sure to match the services you want with the streaming gadgets available.
You'll also want to take into account other gadgets you own like an iPad, which will work best with an Apple TV, or a Kindle Fire, which works best with Fire TV. Go to bit.ly/1mkiINe for more on buying the right streaming gadget for you.
For sports, news and syndicated shows, an indoor HD antenna is a great choice. It will bring you high-definition over-the-air broadcasts from local networks for less than the cost of one month of cable. And you can keep it for years.
After the initial purchase, it's basically free TV. Just be sure you know what stations you'll get before you buy with a site like TVFool.
Will your final mix and match of services be perfect? Probably not. However, the more people switch to on-demand or free services, the more it signals the established media companies that we want something different.
Hopefully that will push them to make a system that puts consumers first, without driving either side into bankruptcy.
Well, I can dream can't I?
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.
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