How not watching Game of Thrones (on HBO) saves $1000/year

Trent Ernst, Editor

 

I am, like most people, a bit of a pop culture junkie. I don’t watch six hours of TV a night or anything, but there are certain shows that I can’t miss.

For a few years there, I didn’t watch much TV, but lately, there’s a bunch of shows that are appealing to my geek heart. Having grown up a comic book nerd, I am a big fan of shows like Arrow and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This year promises to bring even more comicky goodness to the small screen with the second attempt at a Flash TV show. I grew up on The Flash, and the last 20 issues of the Barry Allen Flash in the mid-80s, as written by Cary Bates and drawn by Carmine Infantino, still ranks as my favourite series ever.

In the 90s, a Flash TV show lasted less than a season, suffering from poor special effects and typically hokey scripts. And from what I’ve seen of it, this new attempt to bring the Flash to live action looks just as bad.

But I’ll still watch it. And I’ll watch it like I watch Arrow: I’ll watch it online. I don’t have cable or satellite; I watch everything I watch on a big screen projector hooked up to a computer in my living room.

You see, most of the TV shows I watch can be found online. Gotham, a new crime drama that explores Gotham City before Batman becomes Batman, can be watched at CTV.ca. Doctor Who, another favourite, is found at Space.ca. Almost Human, a show that I rather enjoyed but only survived one season, could be seen last year at globaltv.com.

Of all the shows that I want to watch, there are only two that I cannot watch online as they are airing.

The first is AMC’s the Walking Dead. While AMC does post episodes of the show on their website, you have to first verify that you have cable TV, and not just cable, but American Cable. The same thing applies to most AMC shows, like Mad Men and the upcoming Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul.

But here’s the deal. AMC shows are available within 24 hours at iTunes. The cost of a season of Walking Dead? $34.99.

My other favourite show on TV is HBO’s Game of Thrones. Here’s where it gets problematic. Game of Thrones is not available on iTunes until nearly a full year passes.  With another five months until season five hits the airwaves, Season 4 won’t be available until February, when it is released on DVD and iTunes.

I could be like so many and simply find pirated copies of the show. But my mission here is to watch the shows that I want to watch legally and ethically. So piracy is out of the picture, not even using the Oatmeal model, where you pirate shows with the intent of purchasing the DVD or digital copy when it becomes available. I’m funny that way.

So, that means, unless I subscribe to HBO on cable or satellite, no Game of Thrones for me until February of next year.

And you know what? I’m good with that. I’ve read the books so any discussions of Red Weddings or Purple Weddings or White Weddings or even Taupe Weddings are not spoiler laden for me. To quote Axis of Awesome: “I read them years ago, so don’t tell me about Jon Snow, because I already know.”

And why am I good with that? Because television and movies are no longer appointment viewing for me.

Once upon a time, I lived in a place where I didn’t have to drive four hours just to see a movie. But living in Tumbler Ridge has made me willing to wait for a movie. Ten years ago, it was waiting for a movie to come out on DVD, which I could then rent—when the DVD was actually in—from the local video store.

These days, I can get it from iTunes, but the point is I have learned to wait. Delayed gratification. There are some movies that I’m willing to drive to Grande Prairie for, but those are few and far between, and there are years when I will catch maybe one movie in the theatre.

The other reason that I’m good with waiting for the Game of Thrones DVD? Because it saves me $1000. The cheapest satellite package that includes both AMC and HBO (Eastlink doesn’t offer AMC in Tumbler Ridge, so cable is out of the running) is about $100/month, or about $1200 a year.

If I take the money that I save by not having cable, then spend $8/month on Netflix and a few dollars here and there for movie rentals, I will have spent less than $200 by the end of the year and still been able to watch all the movies and TV shows that I wanted to.

Sure, I had to time-shift Game of Thrones and Walking Dead by nearly a year (the wife is not a big fan of zombie movies so instead of buying episodes on iTunes, I just wait until the new season shows up on Netflix. Like Game of Thrones, it means I’m waiting about a year, but if I really can’t wait to find out what happens next, I can just watch the next episode, unlike people who watch it day and date and have to wait a full week before they can watch the next episode), but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

And, unlike traditional TV, I can watch online TV shows at any time during the typically one-to-three-week window it is available online. So if I was busy putting the kids to bed when Gotham premiered on Monday, I can still watch it later that evening when they’re finally asleep.

Is cutting the cable for everyone? No. For fans of channels like HGTV and the Food Network, some shows may not be available. But even specialty channels are starting to put their content online for free, though often in limited quantities.

Bell and Shaw recently announced Showmi, a Netflix competitor that will cost the same as Netflix, but promises to offer a bigger collection of more recent TV shows then Netflix Canada currently offers. And someday Hulu might come to Canada, which will mean that Canadians don’t have to use programs like Hola for Chrome to get around geofencing.

And, as the world we live in shifts away from a “pushed down a pipe and you get what we give you” model to a “here’s most of the content ever created in this store, which you can buy or watch for free,” model, being able to watch online will become easier and easier.

And when the choice is between spending less than $200 for all the TV shows and movies I want to watch vs $1200, well, it’s not really much of a choice at all.