Regular Satisfying Retirement readers know my wife and I cut the cord on cable TV several months ago. We weren't watching enough to justify the cost. A month or so later we wavered in that decision, but decided to stick with the original plan. Now, we are so out of the habit of viewing TV that the few times we do watch a network show using an outside antenna, we are overwhelmed by the number of commercials and turn it off again.
In its place we use Netflix a lot, enough so that its 60 percent price increase next month is still an excellent entertainment bargain for us. Recently we have discovered the whole genre of British detective shows and are becoming "George Gently" and "Foyle's War" fans. If they ever make any more Sherlock episodes we will be there.
But, what about other entertainment options? Frankly, there are more choices than there are available hours in the day. I'll highlight a few and ask you to add any gems you've discovered.
YouTube is a surprise addition to my list. Known originally as the place for odd videos of strange people doing silly, provocative, or stupid stuff, this outlet is now part of the Google family and is growing up. A decent and growing list of full length movies are now available for rent at two or three dollars. There are videos to help you cook a great meal, repair your drywall, change a tire, or take a journey through Tibet. Sports and comedy clips abound. Sure, the stupid pet tricks or girls behaving badly videos still exist, but the focus has shifted. Many newer Blu-ray players can stream YouTube onto your big screen TV in excellent quality. If you haven't checked out YouTube in awhile you may be pleasantly surprised. With over 15 billion clips viewed per month, you will not be alone.
Speaking of streaming movies, Amazon has expanded its library substantially, hoping to grab some people upset at Netflix's supersized price increase. At the moment their movie selection is rather limited but growing rapidly. Prices range from $1.99 to $3.99 and can stream to your PC, phone, or TV. If you purchase their yearly Prime mailing package, your streaming choices are free. Apparently, they offer a few free movies on a regular basis. The day I was typing this "The Kings Speech" and "Salt" were both available to watch at no cost.
If your video interests lean toward educational or informative material, you cannot go wrong with TED. Short talks on subjects like technology, culture, the environment, business, science, retirement, and entertainment are all free. Ranging from 10 to 20 minutes, these presentations come from top experts and thinkers in each respective field. The material is freshened every week. You will not waste you time exploring TED. I find it fascinating and stimulating.
Don't forget the multimedia options at your library. Of course, you know DVDs and CDs are available to check out, just like any book. But, most library systems now offer some form of streaming download options. As an example, the Phoenix library system offers e-book downloads of both best sellers and classics, fiction and nonfiction. You don't have a Kindle or Nook? It doesn't matter. The software to download and read the books is free. Audio books can be downloaded directly to your computer. No longer do you need to shuffle through the nine CDs that take you through the latest thriller. The Phoenix system even has over 2,300 DVDs for download.
Finally, music is an important part of what is waiting to entertainment you on the Internet. Pandora is the 800-pound gorilla at the moment. An incredible service, their software allows you to create custom stations with just the music mix you want. While there is a version available for a monthly fee, the majority of us are entirely content with the free version. It contains a 15 to 30 second commercial every 10 to 15 minutes or so. If you stream Pandora through your Blu-ray player there are no commercials at all.
Now, explore beyond the obvious. There are literally hundreds of sites that offer free music and radio programming from virtually every country and music style imaginable. I like to listen to Irish music from Dublin. If I have a hankering for some New Zealand folk music, I know where to click. How about a four-part series on the health problems in rural Africa? Got it. The morning drive radio show from London…available. The latest rock hits from Germany or Brazil…available 24 hours a day. Nonstop smooth jazz or new age sounds…I have close to 50 choices.
The Internet is a candy store with everything you can imagine crowding the shelves. Probably 90 percent of it is completely free and available anytime you want it. The biggest problem is deciding what to taste next.