Ah, for the good old days when there were only an elite few television channels. There were an inordinately large amount of dial settings on your television set, but only three stations with any content you really wanted to watch.
Some might argue there are actually too many options these days, with services from cable and cable-based Internet, satellite, local stations via smart TV and HD antennas, online movie and television rentals like Netflix and Hulu, and now streaming multimedia hubs like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, which provides Internet TV service that you do not even need a computer to access.
It may boil down to which faceless mega-corporation you feel comfortable paying for the choice of buying only what you want to watch when you want to watch it. Once upon a time, all you had to do was plug your magic box into the wall and, presto-chango-re-arrango, there was Jackie Gleason threatening spousal abuse to his TV wife every weeknight at 6 p.m. The only money that changed hands was at the department store for your television set.
Then one day you turned on your TV and your favorite show was gone! Oh, sure, it was still out there in the ether, but only on cable—an all-or-nothing proposition whose extravagance made it cost prohibitive to most, even in its glory days.
Who had cable and who did not became the measuring stick: You knew you were part of the “in” crowd when the man in the jumpsuit hooked your house up to the wire.
Nowadays, you could probably access cable if you were living in a cave. You don’t even need an address, just a mobile plan or a Wi-Fi receiver with strong enough range to hijack the nearest free McDonald’s signal. (Granted, you’d get poor quality streaming, but, after all, you are in a cave stealing free Wi-Fi from McDonald’s.)
Amazon Fire TV touts itself as a multimedia platform that allows you to either enhance your cable with on-demand programming, like HBO NOW streaming content including shows, music, images, and even video games, or cut the cord entirely (take that, cable!) with online TV subscriptions.
All you need is Internet and, if you want access to exclusive content, Amazon offers prime membership with an annual fee, and then additional fees for exclusive, high-end programming—wait. What?
Do the math.
You pay for Internet access, buy a Fire TV stick, add an annual fee for Amazon Prime Membership, another fee for each separate channel of special content outside of Amazon’s main content, and even more when you include specific items not in Prime Video or any other channel, i.e. streaming movies and TV episodes.
Or, instead, consider how much you pay just for basic cable every month, and then box rental for anything more than local stations, and then the major cable networks like HBO and Cinemax, and then Pay-Per-View broadcasts. Include Internet and any online TV subscriptions tacked onto that.
The rub with Amazon Fire TV is your Internet access. If you already get it through your cable provider, or if your area is rural enough that cable Internet is the only economically viable option, you may be finding that your Internet fees now rival or even exceed your television programming.
It seems there is an equilibrium entrepreneurs set, so that no matter which option you choose, all have their disadvantages. It becomes a question of convenience, personal preference, service availability, and customer service.
Amazon Fire TV at least gives you the option to trim some of the fat. You do not have to buy the entire all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet if all you want are fortune cookies. You can use your Amazon Fire TV stick with any TV with an HDMI port within range of a Wi-Fi transmission to which you have access.
Even in a hotel across the country, you can open up your television and view your shows. If you only want movies or episodes of your favorite show, you do not even need prime membership. You can just create a customer account on Amazon.com and your purchases will be there for you whenever you desire, even every weeknight at 6 p.m.
Adrian Miller is a Field Service Technician with extensive electro-mechanical training and experience. He is the Zenith’s web and graphic designer.