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Adding Multiple Guide Listings to Windows 7 Media Center

April 29, 2011 9 comments

Posted here temporarily while thegreenbutton.com undergoes an upgrade.

There are some situations where you would like to manually add more guide listing data to Media Center.  Most notably for those of us who live in Canada near the United States border, it is incredibly useful to add in guide listings that include the broadcast channels that you can receive but are not part of the Canadian antenna guide info.

Step 1a – Easy Instructions for Major Canadian Cities

For those of you who live near major Canadian cities, I’ve prepared a batch file to take care of adding US OTA listings to your media center.  Simply download the zip file (click here), extract the files wherever you like, and run the file “USGuide.bat” with administrator privileges (Right click and select “Run as administrator”).  This will instruct Media Center to add the guide listings for the digital over-the-air channels in the zip code nearest to that city, and add a scheduled task to Windows to download a guide update every morning.  See, I told you that was easy, now you can skip right down to step 2 and assign your guide channels.
ATSCFiles
batch

 

Step 1b – Custom Instructions for Other Locales

If you don’t live near a major city, or for whatever reason you want to add some other guide information into Media Center, you’ll need to customize the batch file a bit.  We need to get a key piece of information from Media Center, the guide id, for the guide you wish to add.  To find this, you’ll first need to set up Media Center to work natively in that geography.  Navigate to Tasks, Settings, TV, TV Signal, Set Up TV Signal.  Set up Media Center to use the guide that is most appropriate for your needs (for example, I selected the Rogers Mississauga lineup which has all of the OTA digital channels listed).  Next, navigate to Tasks, Settings, TV, Guide, About Guide Listings and take note of the nine-digit ID number.

Before continuing, you’ll want to get Media Center set up again for your “real” geography.

Now that Media Center is back to normal, we’ll want to instruct Media Center to use the additional guide information that we want.  Because you’ve decided to use a custom location you’ll need to modify the custom MXF file to include the guide ID that you just selected.  In the folder you extracted earlier, navigate into the MXF folder and open the file “CustomGuide.mxf” with notepad.  You’ll notice that in three separate areas I’ve used the Guide ID “189833220”.  Replace that number in all three places with the guide ID that you noted from the “About Guide Listings” page.  Save the file and close notepad.
CustomGuide

Assuming that the guide you inserted above is in the same country as your primary Media Center setup, MC will take care of updating the listings every night.  However, if your guide lineup is in a different country (for example, I choose to use guide listings from Buffalo New York) then Media Center will fail when it tries to download on its normal schedule.  We need to add in a scheduled task that will change a registry key fake MC into thinking it’s located in the US, download the listings, then set the registry key back to Canada.  This is all captured in the XMLTask\ImportATSCCustom.xml file, which you can edit pretty quickly using notepad.  Similar to what you did above, replace the number “189833220” with the Guide ID that you noted from the “About Guide Listings” page.  Save the file and close notepad.

Navigate back up a level and run the batch file “USGuide.bat” with administrator privileges (Right click and select “Run as administrator”).  Select option 7 if you’re adding US guide listings (the batch file will set up nightly downloading), option 8 if you’re just adding Canadian listings (we’ll just add the custom lineup to Media Center).

batchbatchdone

Step 2 – Assign Guide Listings to Channel

Now we want to map any channels that previously had no guide data to the new guide information that we just added to Media Center.

First, navigate to Settings, TV, Guide, Edit Channels.
guide2

Select the channel that you want to work with by clicking on the callsign of the station. In this example, we’ll pick some an over-the-air digital antenna channel 5.1.
guide3

In the settings page for the channel, click on “Edit Listings”
guide4

You’ll now be taken to a list of all the channels that your Media Center is aware of (including the guide data that we just added manually).  This list is organized alphabetically, and you can type in letters to skip to the appropriate point in the list.  Assuming that you’re setting up a digital antenna channel, be sure to select a guide data with HD listings.

guide5

If you select a channel that also comes in via some other source (for example you get CBC Toronto on both cable and antenna) you will be presented with the option to merge the guide listings or to copy the listings.  I’d suggest “copy” so that you can manage the ATSC channel independently and take advantage of the HD guide logic for that channel.  Once you’ve selected the correct listings, you’ll now see that the listings are associated with the ATSC channel.  Click Save.
guide6

Click on save, and at this point you can keep assigning channels or you may choose to go to the guide and test things out before continuing.  Once you assign guide listings to all of your ATSC channels, you’re done the setup and should be able to enjoy pristine high-definition recordings on your computer and throughout your home on your extenders.

 

 

Questions and Answers

I’ve noticed some errors in the mcupdate logs, should I worry?
No.  Due to the nature of this setup, Media Center will try to download US listings daily using the normal update.  Since you’re located in Canada, it will fail and throw an error that the headend ID is invalid.  No worries, that US guide will get updated by another scheduled task at 5am every morning.

Where can I get some help if I’m having trouble?
I’ve set up a forum here at TGB where you can post your questions and I’ll try to help you out. Fair warning – my day job is pretty demanding so it can be a challenge sometimes to keep up with Q&A. I take no offense to you asking multiple times if you haven’t gotten an answer to your question.  Click here for the forum.

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Enabling ATSC & QAM in Canada for Windows 7 RTM

April 29, 2011 23 comments

Posted here temporarily while thegreenbutton.com undergoes an upgrade.

I’m thrilled to see so many people have taken up the challenge to get ATSC working in Canada with Windows 7 since the untimely demise of the Vista hack.  Alas, as time marches on some of the holes that made new hacks possible were plugged and more capabilities were removed from Canadians (notably QAM).  I’m pleased to present this new method to enable ATSC and QAM here in Canada with the release version of Windows 7.

First, some background.  Like the United States, Canada has decided to transition all television broadcasts from analog to digital.  These new digital signals have greater effective range, provide a crystal-clear high definition picture, and as with all over the air network TV broadcasts are free and legal to access.  It’s worth noting that over the air signals represent the best high-definition picture quality you can get for network television – better than cable and much better than satellite.  While high definition is available for a fee via cable and satellite, those high definition channels are subject to ever-increasing compression and picture quality degradation as they try to squeeze more and more content into your subscription.  And unlike cable and satellite, over the air broadcasts are not encrypted and can be easily incorporated into a Media Center setup, copied over to your iPod, and are generally easy to use.  The United States has nearly completed their digital transition, and will be shutting down the analog broadcasts in February 2009.  Canada is well into its transition, with most major markets now broadcasting in digital and 100% of the country switching over to digital by 2011 before we shut down our analog transmitters.  Here in Toronto, I can get access to every major US and Canadian network in full high-definition glory using a $40 antenna that I put in my attic.

QAM is very similar except that instead of getting the signals over-the-air using an antenna, the signals travel over your cable company’s network.  However in most of Canada this isn’t useful, as Canadian cable companies tend to encrypt or scramble their signal making it completely useless without buying their cable box.  There are some lucky regions in the country however who do get access to unencrypted QAM, and for those people it’s a virtual nerdvana of digital TV.

Here’s how to get digital high-definition broadcasts into Media Center.

If you’re using Media Center in Windows XP or Windows Vista, follow this link for detailed instructions.

If you’re using Media Center in Windows 7 or Vista with TV Pack 2008, continue reading below.  I’ve tried to provide excruciating detail, but don’t get scared.  It’s not difficult, I’m just going a bit overboard with screenshots and explanation.

Prerequisites:

  • For ATSC, you should get a good quality UHF antenna.  In most cases I’ve read about it comes down to a Channel Master 4221 or Channel Master 4228 depending on your distance from the transmitters.  Consult this handy chart (PDF) to select the right antenna for your area.  I personally have a 4221 in my attic which was both easy to do and very neighbour-friendly.
  • For ATSC, you will need an ATSC tuner for your Media Center PC.  Any tuner that is supported in Windows Media Center will do.
  • For QAM, you will need a QAM tuner for your Media Center PC.  Any tuner that is supported in Windows Media Center will do.
  • None of these items are the sort of thing you can walk into WalMart and find on the shelves, but there are several online vendors including eBay sellers who carry these items.  I personally have purchased from Sensuz, a Toronto-area HTPC dealer, and have been very happy with their service.

Step 1 – Force Media Center to allow ATSC and QAM in Canada

I’ve prepared some files that will automate the process for you.  Simply download and extract the provided zip file (click here) to your desktop or any location on your desktop.  Double-click on the file “EnableATSCandQAM.bat” which will insert some configuration information into the Media Center database that forces ATSC and QAM tuners to be recognized.
ATSCFiles

Step 2 – Configure Media Center to use your tuners

I’ll walk you through the setup of the tuner in Media Center, although this isn’t any different than what would normally occur out of the box.  Launch Media Center and navigate to Settings, TV, Setup TV Signal.  We want to set up Media Center using the correct region, Canada.  If Media Center doesn’t automatically detect that you’re in Canada, be sure to select a different region and choose “Canada”.
tv1 tv2

Enter your postal code, and agree to the terms of service (assuming you do indeed agree to the legaleze).
tv3 tv4 tv5

At this point, Media Center will configure all of the signal types that were detected.  For any cable or satellite tuners, it will automatically link to the guide data for the region.  For digital antenna (ATSC) it won’t find any guide data since it’s not officially supported.  No worries, we can add in guide listings later.
tv8

Next, Media Center will scan for ATSC and QAM channels.  This process took awhile for me, up to fifteen minutes.
tv9   tv10 tv11

Congratulations, your tuners are now set up!  However at this point, you likely won’t have any guide listings associated with the channels that were detected via the scan.
tv12

Step 3 – Map guide listings to your ATSC channels

For those of you who have used the Vista hack, you may like me be pleasantly surprised by the way the guide works now.  For each channel on each tuner you can specify which guide listings should be used, which is incredibly flexible.  Media Center also now has some much-welcomed logic in the Advanced Record Settings that allows you to specify that any given recording should be recorded in HD Only, HD Preferred, SD Only, or SD Preferred.  Because of this feature, I personally would recommend that you always attempt to associate your high-definition digital channels with listings from your cable company’s high-definition channel lineup or the US over-the-air listings so that the recording logic works properly.  I’ll walk you through how to set that up.

First, navigate to Settings, TV, Guide, Edit Channels.
guide2

Select the channel that you want to work with by clicking on the callsign of the station.
guide3

In the settings page for the channel, click on “Edit Listings”
guide4

You’ll  now be taken to a list of all the channels that your Media Center is aware of (including channels that were set up via other sources, such as Analog Antenna, Satellite, or my multiple guide listings hack).  This list is organized alphabetically, and you can type in letters to skip to the appropriate point in the list.
Select a channel with HD listings.
guide5

If you select a channel that also comes in via some other source (for example you get CBC Toronto on both cable and antenna) you will be presented with the option to merge the guide listings or to copy the listings.  Select “copy” so that you can manage the high definition channel independently.  Once you’ve selected the correct listings, you’ll now see that the listings are associated with the digital ATSC or QAM channel.  Click Save.
guide6

Click on save, and at this point you can keep assigning channels or you may choose to go to the guide and test things out before continuing.  Once you assign guide listings to all of your ATSC channels, you’re done the setup and should be able to enjoy pristine high-definition recordings on your computer and throughout your home on your extenders.

 

Questions and Answers

I’ll try to capture some key answers that come in over time here in this section.  To kick things off, here are some things that came to mind for me.

What happens if I select “Merge” instead of “Copy”?
I’ve found that by selecting merge, Media Center assumes that all sources for a given channel are standard definition.

Doesn’t Media Center support Analog Antenna in Canada, and can’t I use those guide listings?
Yes analog antenna is supported and you’ll get the listings for your local channels, but because it’s analog Media Center will assume that all channels that use these guide listings are standard definition.

But isn’t it incredibly stupid for Microsoft to support Analog Antenna but not Digital Antenna, given that analog channels are all shutting down and digital is the government-mandated standard for all of North America?
Yes.

Media Center didn’t automatically detect all of the ATSC channels that I’m able to receive, is there any way I can manually add them?
One of the users at digitalhome.ca maintains a list of all the channels that you should be able to receive in major centers of Canada.  You can use these lists to manually add stations to media center using the functions in Settings, TV, Guide, Add Missing Channels, Add DTV Channel.
Southwestern Ontario
Kitchener-Waterloo
Niagara Region
Toronto & Hamilton Areas
Montreal & Surrounding Areas
Ottawa & Surrounding Areas
Vancouver & Surrounding Areas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not able to find guide data for all of my over the air channels, is there any way for me to get guide data for more channels?
Yes, you can force Media Center to load in guide information from any region using my multiple guide listings hack.  For example, my cable provider Cogeco doesn’t list many of the Buffalo-area over the air stations since they source their high definition content from Detroit instead.  I added the listings for Buffalo over-the-air digital antenna to Media Center using the multiple guide listings hack, and used those to complete the mapping of my channels.

Where can I get some help if I’m having trouble?
I’ve set up a forum here at TGB where you can post your questions and I’ll try to help you out. Fair warning – my day job is pretty demanding so it can be a challenge sometimes to keep up with Q&A. I take no offense to you asking multiple times if you haven’t gotten an answer to your question.  Click here for the forum.

Cutting the Cable in Canada–US Content (Part 7)

March 5, 2011 10 comments

This is part seven of a blog series on cutting the cable in Canada

During the course of this review I’ve bumped up against a wall several times, and that wall is the invisible internet border between Canada and the United States.  From the Canadian side of the content fence, the grass sure does seem greener on the other side.

No review of cutting the cable would be complete without an honest assessment of the gap that exists between the US and Canada, so I decided to walk a week in the shoes of an American consumer.

What I discovered is that while the services are certainly more mature, some of the same issues that make internet content frustrating to work with in Canada also exist south of the border.

The Good

Internet TV services in the United States have a good head start on similar services here in Canada, and those years of experience really show. 

Recognizing that people don’t want to hunt all over the internet for their favourite shows, websites such as hulu.com, tv.com, and fancast.com (as well as many nerd-targeted aggregator applications) have popped up which have HD content available from multiple networks. 

imageimage

Recognizing that people don’t really want to watch TV on their computers, Internet TV providers have adopted wide-ranging device strategies from Hulu’s Plus service that brings TV content in a fantastic user experience to the XBox, PS3, and computer to TV.com’s mobile app.

imageimage

And recognizing that people are willing to now actually watch the advertisements in return for a good experience, providers are working hard to ensure that those ads are relevant for you.

image

Movie rental/streaming sites are significantly ahead in the US, with services like Vudu offering BluRay-quality HD streaming of all the new releases to multiple devices for less than your local Blockbuster.

imageimage

The Bad

At first pass, the plethora of content options is downright awesome.  But after actually putting the services through their paces some of the same warts start to shine through.

On the Hulu website, if you search for CSI you’ll get a hit and be redirected to watch it at CBS.com.  But through any of the Hulu applications, no dice.  Nearly half of the shows we watch are CBS shows and they’re simply not available on Hulu apps even after you pay $7.99 for the privilege of watching premium content.

On Boxee (and other similar aggregators), you have access to much more content than when in Canada but because of the massive amount of cutthroat competition in the US it keeps breaking.  On one day, all Hulu content became unavailable on Boxee, another day all of the fancast videos didn’t play properly.

While our content providers haven’t quite matured their services yet in Canada, the mature services in the US are in a constant battle for content that leaves you with a fractured experience.  Our broadcasters are just dipping their toes in the water, but the US broadcasters have recognized that this is the next battlefield and are leveraging their biggest asset (content) to try to make sure that the other guy doesn’t win.

My Conclusion (for this segment)

In my opinion, the grass is just a different shade of green on the other side of the fence.  Services are much more mature, but because of the exclusive content deals there really isn’t one single family-friendly answer to cutting the cable yet in the US either.

It does paint a positive picture for the future, assuming that we’re a couple of years behind in the experience department it is likely that the better tech will be running in Canada around the same time the content wars are getting settled.

U.S. Content is not generally available to Canadians and will not be a part of my solution.  The search continues…

Cutting the Cable In Canada–Boxee (Part 6)

March 4, 2011 8 comments

This is part six of a blog series on cutting the cable in Canada

In my last post, I reviewed the content available through the web sites of Canadian broadcasters and concluded that while interesting it was generally not particularly family-friendly.

Enter Boxee, a product that hopes to solve this problem by making internet content accessible in a more friendly way on your TV.  They have recently launched the Boxee Box, which is a small silent little cube that sits beside your TV.  You can also run Boxee on your computer, which is what I’ve done for the purposes of this review.

image

The capability list is long, including the ability to play back all of your music, photos, and videos on your TV as well as aggregation of internet content.

To get to the internet TV content, you simply use the remote control to click onto the TV Library where you can browse through available TV shows by popularity or hone in on just the new shows.  Select a series, pick the episode, Boxee recommends an internet source for the show, click and it starts playing.  Brilliant!

Boxee TV LIbraryBBT Listbbt_episode_ctvbbt_playing

Once you’ve found a series you’re interested in you can add it to “My Shows” so that new episodes show up for you automagically on the My TV screen.

Behind the scenes, Boxee is actually navigating to the broadcaster’s website for you, so you’ll get the same video quality and embedded ads that you would see if you were on their website.

Boxee is currently partnered with Global, CBC, CTV, CityTV, Comedy, History, Food, Slice and Showcase as content providers here in Canada.

There is a similar experience available for movies, although the content providers available in Canada are pretty limited right now.  Only films from the National Film Board of Canada are available through Boxee.

boxee movie libraryboxee_movie_nfb

Just in the last week, Boxee has announced that Netflix Canada is now available through the Boxee Box as well but I haven’t tested that capability.

While Boxee is pretty cool, there are some wrinkles that they need to iron out.  Because they are essentially clicking the mouse for you across multiple websites, the Boxee team needs to make sure that they’re keeping up with changes that might happen on those sites.  Generally it works well, but when a content provider stops working you’re at the mercy of Boxee to update the software.

Let’s go to the ranking board…

My current Cable TV bill: $56.99

Cost of content via broadcaster websites: $0 (but indirectly paid via forced advertising)

Amount of my content covered:  85%

  Cable TV Antenna Bit
Torrent
Fibe TV
(TO)
iTunes Netflix Canada TV Web Sites Boxee
Family Accepted Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad Star
Creators Paid Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star Star Star
HD Quality Star Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad
Cost Neutral Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star
What I Want Star Steaming mad Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad Steaming mad Steaming mad
When I Want Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star Star Star
Where I Want Steaming mad Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad
Rent vs Own Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star
More Info Part 1 Part 1 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5  

As you can see, Boxee takes the experience of the TV Web Sites and makes it more family-accessible.  For my primary requirements, the only one that it doesn’t really meet is the HD quality requirement. 

 

Boxee alone isn’t going to meet the ground rules of this review, but I have a feeling that it may just be a major part of a hybrid solution.

Cutting the Cable in Canada–TV Web Sites (Part 5)

February 24, 2011 10 comments

This is part five of a blog series on cutting the cable in Canada

One of the reasons that digital media seems to stop at the Canadian border is that media companies have signed distribution deals here in Canada that give them exclusive rights to that content. So let’s take a look at what those companies are doing to capitalize on their content.

A quick visit to Global TV’s website shows what basically all of the Canadian broadcasters are doing with their content.  Whatever is airing on their network is also available online, which to be honest is pretty darn cool.

imageimage

However, the efforts of the Canadian broadcasters fall down when it comes to usability.  I don’t want to have my family huddle around a computer screen to watch TV, and even if I did have a computer plugged in to my big-screen TV (which I do), I wouldn’t want to be fishing around on multiple websites with my mouse to find the content that I want to watch.

Other problems with the broadcaster’s websites include varying levels of video quality, most leaning towards “unacceptable” and a painfully ineffective attempt at ad insertion.  I asked my wife to go through a night watching nothing but web TV from one of these sites, and by the end of the experience she wanted to strangle whoever made the Dove man-hide commercial.  After sitting through any ad ten times in a row, the blood does begin to boil.

I’m sure that the people who put these sites together are all working hard, but overall the attempt is half-hearted compared to the relative maturity of the US broadcasters.  While not perfect (I’ll review some of the US services in a later post), the US sites have made it easier to find your content through aggregation sites, to make HD content available on many mobile and tv-connected devices, and to help ensure that the ads which hit your eyeballs are relevant to you.

The product manager in me says stop wasting your money, and partner with some of the US players to leverage their platform and economies of scale while retaining your license and advertising revenue rights.

Okay, so enough of the pontification and on to the review against our cutting the cable in Canada ground-rules.

My current Cable TV bill: $56.99

Cost of content via broadcaster websites: $0 (but indirectly paid via forced advertising)

Amount of my content covered:  85%

 

Cable TV Antenna Bit
Torrent
Fibe TV
(Toronto)
iTunes Netflix Canada TV Web Sites
Family Accepted Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad
Creators Paid Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star Star
HD Quality Star Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad
Cost Neutral Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Star Star
What I Want Star Steaming mad Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad Steaming mad
When I Want Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star Star
Where I Want Steaming mad Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad
Rent vs Own Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Star Star
More Info Part 1 Part 1 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

For the purposes of this exercise, the Canadian TV Web sites are not a useful alternative for cutting the cable.  I have a feeling that they may play a part once I start to look into hybrid solutions, but on their own they just don’t cut it.

For reference, here are the Canadian TV websites that you can leverage for content (if I’ve missed any good ones, let me know in the comments).

Aggregators
http://www.rogersondemand.com/ (Closest thing we have to a Hulu, but bad video quality)

Major Networks With Significant Content
http://watch.ctv.ca
http://www.globaltv.com/video
http://www.cbc.ca/video
http://video.citytv.com
http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca

Specialty Networks
http://www.showcase.ca/video (They have Weeds!)
http://watch.spacecast.com
http://www.history.ca/video

http://www.foodnetwork.ca/video
http://watch.discoverychannel.ca
http://watch.muchmusic.com
http://www.slice.ca/Slice/Watch
http://ca.eonline.com/videos
http://media.treehousetv.com/
http://video.visiontv.ca/
http://www.ytv.com/videos
http://www.tvo.org/TVO/WebObjects/TVO.woa?video
http://www.teletoon.com/teletoon3/teletoon.php?language=En&func=php|templates/video.php|0&xVar=0

Cutting the Cable in Canada–Netflix (Part 4)

February 23, 2011 7 comments

This is part four of a blog series on cutting the cable in Canada.

Netflix launched in Canada with a great deal of attention by the media, and with good reason.  Netflix has led a change in viewing behaviour south of the border that saw Blockbuster Video stock drop by 96% over the last few years.

However, Netflix in Canada is different from Netflix in the US for two reasons:

  1. Netflix US is primarily a DVD-by-mail service with access to all of the same movies as your local video store.  Netflix did not bring this service to Canada (but a similar service is offered by Zip.ca).
  2. Netflix US offers a large catalogue of older movies and TV series to its customers as on-demand video to supplement their mail service.  Due to licensing restrictions, the online catalogue offered by Netflix Canada is not the same catalogue as is offered in the US.
    One of the keys to success for the Netflix streaming service is ease of use.  Netflix works pretty much everywhere through your iPad, your Xbox or Playstation, internet-connected TVs, and several other devices.  Once you connect to the service, you’ll also notice right away that they’ve done an excellent job of making content easy to find through a simple interface and excellent personalized recommendations.
    netflix list netflix_horton_details

    Video quality varies, but many titles are available in high definition (note that the HD video quality is good, but not really comparable to BluRay HD quality).

netflix_horton_player

As you can probably tell, I’m impressed by the service itself which benefits from several years of innovation and improvement in the US market.  However, I’m less impressed by the content available in the Canadian catalogue.  After rating all of the movies that I’ve already seen, Netflix Canada struggles to recommend any movies to me that are actually interesting to me.

Let’s see how Netflix Canada stacks up for the purposes of this exercise.  As a reminder, I’m looking to replace my family’s current viewing patterns which are made up of current-season broadcast television shows as well as new-release Hollywood movies.

My current Cable TV Bill: $56.99

How much of the content I watch is on Netflix Canada: 0%

How much the content they do have would cost per month: $7.99

 

  Cable TV Antenna BitTorrent Fibe TV
(Toronto)
iTunes Netflix Canada
Family Accepted Star Star Star Star Star Steaming mad
Creators Paid Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star
HD Quality Star Star Star Star Star Star
Cost Neutral Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Star
What I Want Star Steaming mad Star Star Steaming mad Steaming mad
When I Want Star Star Steaming mad Star Star Star
Where I Want Steaming mad Star Star Star Star Star
Rent vs Own Star Star Star Star Steaming mad Star
More Info Part 1 Part 1 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

The bottom line is that Netflix Canada isn’t really intended for this purpose.  It was intended as a top-up service for people who watch a lot of TV and movies on DVD.  I know that for many people, having access to slightly stale library of still high quality content is good enough for their entertainment needs.  If that describes you, then Netflix Canada may be a good option.

But for my family’s needs, Netflix is not a viable alternative.

Note: A commenter in one of the previous posts convinced me that BitTorrent doesn’t really deliver on the “when I want” definition so I’ve changed that from a star to an angry-face.

Cutting The Cable In Canada–Apple iTunes (Part 3)

February 22, 2011 17 comments

This is part three of a blog series on cutting the cable in Canada

Every time the topic of online media comes up amongst certain friends and colleagues, the answer I always get back is “iTunes”.  As much as the closed ecosystem of Apple grates on me, in the end if it does what I need then I don’t really care.

I’ve always said that if I can take the money I pay for TV content today, give it to Apple, and they give me all of the same content wherever and whenever I want then sign me up.  Today I tested that theory.

My Cable TV bill: $56.99 before taxes

How much of the content I want is available on iTunes Canada: 78%

How much the content they do have would cost per month: $116.21

image

Ouch! More than double the cost to get three-quarters of the content, and that’s before spending money on new AppleTV devices that I would need to enable this content in a family-friendly way.

Sorry Apple, you’re not in the running for this potential cable-cutter.

Let me summarize where we are so far in the series:

 

Cable TV

Antenna

BitTorrent

Fibe TV
(Toronto)

iTunes

Family Accepted

Star

Star

Star

Star

Star

Creators Paid

Star

Star

Steaming mad

Star

Star

HD Quality

Star

Star

Star

Star

Star

Cost Neutral

Star

Star

Star

Star

Steaming mad

What I Want

Star

Steaming mad

Star

Star

Steaming mad

When I Want

Star

Star

Star

Star

Star

Where I Want

Steaming mad

Star

Star

Star

Star

Rent vs Own

Star

Star

Star

Star

Steaming mad

More Info

Part 1

Part 1

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

Stick with me as I test out more internet-based TV and Movie services in the coming days!