10/06/2010 09:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Is Cable Dead? You Do the Math...

For as long as anyone can remember, we've received more TV in our homes than we could ever want -- and less of what we want.

The Fall of 2010 is when that changes.

Call it whatever you want, A la Carte TV, VOD, TV On Demand -- it is simply Internet Television, and it is going to change what we watch, how we watch, and what we share on the web, almost overnight.

Today, I thought I'd focus on the math. What TV used to cost, and what it will cost in the future.

Today, I am a subscriber to Time Warner Cable in New York. An average bill looks like this:

Cable (basic + digital channels) $90.00
Roadrunner: $40.00

So, what If I decided to cancel my cable programming package?

How could I spend $90 in other services today?

Well, with $90 you could buy 90 shows a month at the $.99 Apple price-point. That's 22 shows a week. Now, even if you want to get Netflix 'watch instantly' you can do that for $8.99. Netflix is available on Apple TV as well as Roku. Of course, if you're on Roku you can add Hulu Plus for $9.99. HuluPlus on Apple TV? There's no clear answer to that one. Might be too close to Apple's core product offering -- but not clear.

So, even if I buy BOTH Netflix and HuluPlus, I'd have enough budget left over to watch 71 shows on Apple TV.

Option #1: Netflix and VOD


Netflix costs a $9.95 a month and has a very extensive catalog of movies and TV shows. There's one big drawback, however; you won't find episodes from the current season, and some past seasons are available only on DVD/Blu-ray.

New TeeVee says that Netflix has a head start when it comes to cross-platform development, a much larger film catalog than Hulu and 14 million pre-existing subscribers. Hard to see folks going for both.

Devices: Roku, Boxee, Apple TV.

Option #2: Hulu Plus and Vod


Hulu Plus costs $9.99 a month, and will let you watch every episode from the current season of popular shows from the major TV networks, including ABC, NBC, and Fox. (no CBS) In addition, you'll be able to watch entire past seasons of classic shows. Negative -- still has Advertisements. Ugh. Positive, iOS devices can tune into Hulu.

Maclife reports that Hulu's website offers just north of 1,000 feature films (1,069 to be exact, at this writing). Unfortunately, the paid Hulu Plus service offers only a fraction of even that meager selection. If you're more of a movie buff than a fan of TV shows, there's simply no contest - Netflix is the clear winner, especially now that they've beefed up their streaming catalog with titles from pay-cable movie channel EPIX.

Devices: Roku. Apple iPad and IPhone (no word on Apple TV).

Option #3: Apple TV.


The upside of Apple TV is that is simple, and plugs into your iTunes micropayment system. They've done deals and are trying to set up a .99 per show download price point. But much as Apple broke the old 'album' pricing structure of music labels, they're trying to turn tv buying from series and networks into shows. Don't expect TV networks to be to excited about this model.

I've now got 2 Apple TV's, the old and the new. My new Apple TV sold me a movie last night, and then told me it would be ready to watch in 800 minutes. Ugh. Not sure I love streaming.

Software: Netflix.

Then, The hardware:

Apple TV vs. Roku, vs. Boxee vs. Smart TV Logitech.


I'm a big Boxee Fan, and while I wish they had been out in May - I think that they still could win the day. The Apple box is crippled (it doesn't see the web) and Boxee with beefy storage and its great interface could be a home run. Roku is out there too, but for whatever reason, I've just never felt the pull of the brand. Not enough buzz, or market penetration, or sexy features. Might be great, I just don't know.

The Next Big Move -- Smart TV:

Even as Apple is trying to build a closed 'set top' box ecosystem, there are forces gathering that say the future of TV will be far more open, and interactive. The Smart TV consortium consists of Intel, Google, Sony and Logitech. The are gearing up to connect an android powered operating system to boxes, televisions, and the web in an open solution. Google TV is the center of the offering, and there's a lot riding on this for content creators, video curators, and television advertising. So, while Apple got out of the gate first, it isn't clear that Apple has a fire in the belly required to dominate in such a hugely important and potentially profitable area. Google has lots to gain by providing a flexible, open, software based solution. So - expect CES this January to be a battleground for the future of TV and your living room flatscreen.

This post originally appeared in The Business Insider.