Made your New Year’s resolutions yet? If one of them is saving money on cable TV, and you have an Xbox 360, then you’re in luck. Yep, your Xbox can save serious money on your cable bill, which is almost $1000 a year for the average American. Using sites like Hulu and Netflix, and connecting the Windows Media Center Extender to your HTPC, can significantly cut cable costs. Even if you have to buy an Xbox console, which could cost up to $300, that’s better than paying a cable company more than $30 per month for the most basic package.
Here’s how to do it:
- Look into streaming TV services – Some networks host episodes of their most popular shows on their own websites, which you can access through your Xbox after downloading PlayOn to your computer. This is a media server that lets you cancel cable without missing your favorite shows, and you can get it when you either pay $5 per month or $40 per year, though you can also pay a one-time fee of $50 to have it forever. CBS, SpikeTV, MTV, South Park Studios, ESPN, NFL, MLB, and Food Network are just a few of the sites you can access through PlayOn. You might already watch Hulu for free on your computer, but now you can watch it on your TV through the Xbox, thanks to PlayOn. Many shows are available for free through Hulu, but if you want access to many more, you can pay $8 a month for Hulu Plus. If you want to watch movies and entire seasons of shows, paying $8 per month for Netflix may also be a good idea, and the Xbox lets you watch them all on your TV instead of your computer.
- Connect your Xbox to an HTPC – If you want to be able to watch TV in more than one room, you can save money by connecting an Xbox to an HTPC and using your Xbox 360 as an extender. Then you can get rid of the various cable boxes, for which you likely pay a monthly fee of at least $5 each, and not look back. The Xbox provides readable programming, so most channels will play perfectly. For the price of a stripped down Xbox, you can have quality to match that of a cable service.
- Stream content from your computer to your Xbox – If you have videos or pictures on your computer, you can view them on your TV when you install TVersity. This is free to download to your computer, and you can then use your Xbox to access it, allowing you to view your content on a screen that’s likely larger than your monitor.
- Invest in the Xbox LIVE new interface – Microsoft has plans to allow users to have access to on-demand TV, movies and user-generated videos through Verizon’s FiOS (26 channels), Comcast On-Demand (a library of 10,000 movies), Hulu Plus, Last.fm, Netflix, Zune, and ESPN. You’ll also have more options for watching content by using Kinect voice commands to switch channels or search through the various entertainment options. Maybe you’re in the mood for an X-Men marathon – simply say “Bing”, then tell it to search for anything related to X-Men. Bing will give you X-Men selections from movies, TV or games. Then you choose the service, such as Zune or Netflix, with the lowest cost. You will need a subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold for this service, and this costs about $5 per month.
All of these options tend to be cheaper than continually paying your cable company, considering that the average person’s cable bill is around $60 monthly, and even up to about $100 if you want premium channels. By contrast, you can pay a one-time fee for an Xbox 360, which tends to cost $200-$300 new, though you can get it much cheaper used. You can usually find a cheap HTPC starting at about $150, if you do not already have a computer with Windows Media Center. You can then cancel the majority of your cable channels, and then pay a few smaller subscription fees of $5-8 per month to access nearly every show and movie available.