In Canada we have fewer options for watching television outside of the traditional cable/satellite TV. With options like Netflix coming to Canada last year, and most channel providers now streaming their TV shows, things are getting far better.
I’ve cut the cord from cable about a year ago, and while it took a little initial work, I much prefer the current setup to channel surfing or paying a cable provider $100 per month. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be outlining the different options that are available to Canadians who are interested in going cable-free. In this article, I’ll be focusing on the HD antenna and Netflix.
Full HD quality TV is available over the air for free, and all you need is an HD antenna. Antennas have a bad stigma from the old days of sensitive adjustments and fuzzy images, but today's experience is far better. Even better, an HD antenna will give you an equal to or better signal then compared to your cable. If you currently don’t have an HD cable receiver, for example, you’re getting a worse picture than what’s available for free.
Channels like City, CTV, TVO, SRC, Global, OMNI 1, and OMNI 2 are all available over the air All you need to do is purchase an HD antenna, plug it into your TV (or receiver if your TV does not have a receiver), and adjust the antenna for the best signal. The HD antenna experience is far superior to the old days of analogue TV watching. The image comes in crystal clear. In addition, depending on your location, you might be lucky enough to pick up additional US channels.
An indoor antenna will cost you as little as $30. Your TV will need to either act as a receiver (have the ability to change channels), or if not, you will need to purchase a receiver to attach to the antenna. My recommendation is to buy the hardware from a store that has a favourable return policy, so if the signal doesn’t work for you, you can always return the antenna and not be out-of-pocket. In most cases, however, you’ll be able to pick-up the Canadian stations using an antenna with full HD quality (assuming you buy an HD antenna, and have an HD TV). The setup, in this case, is very easy and can be done within minutes.
If this option doesn’t work for you, or if you’d like to try to get the US stations, you’ll need an outdoor antenna. This will need to be installed, and cables will need to be drawn to inside the house. If you’re especially interested in getting the US channels be sure to get one that has two directional antennas so you can adjust for the best signal.
When Netflix's streaming service was launched in Canada, it pretty quickly earned a bad reputation for having a limited selection of shows and movies as compared to the US. This has changed over the past year and there is now more quality content available. It's also pretty cheap at $7.99 per month.
You can watch Netflix shows on your laptop, computer, tablet or even phone, but for a more natural viewing experience you'll want to set it up on your PS3, XBOX, Boxee or Apple TV (I’ll be going into more depth on these last two options in my next article).
Netflix is definitely hit or miss when it comes to TV show watching. You can, for example, find shows like the original Doctor Who and newer shows like Walking Dead, Community or Breaking Bad. However, Netflix does not stream current seasons of these shows so the best you can do is watch past seasons. The movies are similarly a mixed bag of new and old. You're not going to see many new hit movie release, but there are plenty of movies available. More disappointing, HBO killed their deal with Netflix and so none of that great HBO content is available via this method. (We’ll discuss how to get HBO programming next week)
Things are not so bad, however. Netflix has a broad selection of TV shows and movies to watch across all sorts of genres. They also have original content that's only available via Netflix. This is slated to include an upcoming fourth season of Arrested Development, a series featuring Kevin Spacey called House of Cards, and the recently launched series Lilyhammer (featuring Steven Van Zandt from the Sopranos).
Netflix has a free trial option before you buy. You can watch all the shows you like, and even use up to two devices at once. It also keeps track of what you watched, what episode you last saw of a series, and where you left off if you stopped in the middle of a show. You can literally stream a movie to your PS3 via Netflix, and catch the rest of it on your mobile phone as you head out (assuming you have Internet access).
Written by Mark Bylok
Mark Bylok enjoys his vices. When travelling, he can frequently be seen enjoying the ‘national’ drink of choice and going to traditional bars. As an avid eater, he frequently decides where to go or stay based on the restaurants he wants to visit. Whether it’s jumping off a bridge, or repelling down a mountainside, Mark likes to explore all the locations that take advantage of a destination’s natural landscape. When he gets homesick, he sneaks off to a local British pub that serves beer on tap. At home, he has an extensive whisky collection and he’s a bit of a tech-head.