Americans love our entertainment, but we hate parting with our precious money. We’ve grown a healthy paranoia for any service that wants to make us pay on a regular basis; bills are no fun.
There are some services, though, that are well worth the monthly fee for what they provide. Here are some entertainment bills I’m currently paying that are more than worth the cost of admission.
TiVo – $19.95 a month
Say goodbye to the tyranny of commercials, the inadequacy of cable to produce a good show at any given time of day, and the need to find a TV Guide every time you want to know what’s on.ï¿½
If you’ve been living under a rock, the Tivo lets you arrange to record programs to a hard drive located in the box. There’s a monthly charge of about $20 (less if you buy a yearly plan) that puts a guide on the Tivo that lets it know when your shows are on, and you’ll need a phone number or computer network for the Tivo to download that information from. The Tivo is better than other DVRs because of its simple interface and esay to navigate menus, and it’ll change the way you watch TV (for instance, thanks to the Tivo, I actually started watching TV-I hadn’t had a cable connection for the previous six months).
Sirius Satellite Radio – $12.95 a month
If you travel or commute at all, a Sirius satellite radio is a must. This is radio the way it was meant to be heard-uncensored, raw, and real. The talk element is fantastic, particularly the revitalized Howard Stern show, and the musical element has every genre you can think of, expertly picked songs and no commercials. The on air personalities are bizarre and cool and the receivers start at about thirty bucks. For fifty cents a day, this is a steal. Skip your soda at lunch and join the 21st century of broadcasting.
Real’s Rhapsody Music Service – $9.99 a month
The trouble with all of this iPod technology is that it only really helps you listen to music you own or music you buy after hearing a 30 second sample. I like to listen to full albums before deciding whether to make a ten dollar purchase-in a lot of cases, only a few songs are going to be worth a buck, and I’ve got to hear them a few times before I decide to put the dollar on the line. Of course, I’ve got the Sirius radio, but for a more controlled musical experience I’ve got access to the best musical library on the Internet, Real’s Rhapsody service.ï¿½
On Rhapsody, you can pay about $10 and listen to thousands of albums easily and quickly. It avoids the slowdown and poor file management of programs like Napster and has a simple, intuitive interface that encourages musical exploration. It even displays trivia about the artist you’re listening to on the screen while the song is playing. I can spend hours just exploring my favorite musical artists’ influences and influencees, and for just under $10 it’s well worth it. Plus, if you’ve got a compatible digital audio player, you can throw in another $5, take your tracks with you, and jam out on the go.
TotalFark – $5 a month
Fark.com is one of the forefathers of Internet comedy. Users post links to weird news articles with humorous headlines (for instance, “Sea cows more intelligent than previously believed. Oh, the shrewd manatee”), then tear eachother apart in the forums for each link. You’ve really got to give the site a few days, and you’ll find yourself hopelessly addicted.
That being said, you can’t get much more entertainment for $5 a month than a Totalfark subscription.ï¿½
Fark.com offers this premium subscription service to let you see all of the incoming links whether they’re approved or not, participate in TotalFark discussions, and view photoshop contests weeks before they’re on the main page. Fark is one of the funniest sites on the Internet, and a TotalFark subscription is so cheap and addictive that you might not need the rest of the items on this list. It just goes to show you that entertainment and high cost aren’t intrinsically linked-and monthly subscription services can be more than worth their price.