Finances & Money

Ok, the free digital cable isn’t totally worthless

Back in early March, I posted about how our free digital cable was worthless as we only got a few extra channels (mostly PBS).

To refresh your memory, Comcast offered us 12 months of free digital cable just for being basic cable subscribers. We did also get 6 months free HBO and Starz (and one random Encore channel). However, as we found out (as did others), Comcast is still charging a couple dollars extra for the cable box rental and taxes.

We generally don’t use the cable box because FOX and NBC won’t come in for some reason, and I’m too lazy to call Comcast to fix it. Plus, channel surfing with digital cable is so slow (even with just 10 basic channels). Lastly, we don’t have our VCR routed through the cable box due to the Fox/NBC issue.

What I found out last night

I’ve been considering canceling our Blockbuster subscription (not displeased; just have other ideas), and I wanted to check into the prices for OnDemand movies through Comcast. I never got around to checking the prices because I found out something else. We get more than just paid movies through OnDemand.

That’s right, Comast gives us free shows and movies. There are dozens (or hundreds maybe) of free older movies (2+ years old), as well as shows from basic AND cable channels like CBS (NCIS, CSI, etc.), Discovery Channel, MTV and more. I knew that one reason Comcast made this offer was to get us hooked on OnDemand, but they never made any effort to advertise it to us, or tell us what it offered.

I also found out that the DVR controls on our remote work on these OnDemand shows and movies! I figured we wouldn’t be able to pause OnDemand movies since we didn’t have a DVR box, but I was wrong. Sure enough I could use all of the buttons to rewind, pause, stop, and even come back at any time to resume. However, it’s all stored on Comcast’s system, not our box.

So I’ll be investigating what shows we get from these cable channels, as well as the actual prices for OnDemand movies. I won’t do OnDemand and Blockbuster at the same time though. Basically, we feel pressured to watch movies from Blockbuster because we feel we need to get our money’s worth each month. We had a movie from May 30th that we just watched on July 4th because we just weren’t in the mood to watch it before then. Depending on the price of the OnDemand movies, we might drop Blockbuster for a few months, or longer. We really didn’t watch many movies before Netflix and Blockbuster came into our lives about 3 years ago, so perhaps we could get back to that lifestyle. We’ll see.

Until then, I’m gonna check out OnDemand!

About the author

Clever Dude


  • Comcast’s marketing must vary greatly by region. In this area (just west of Philadelphia PA), they advertise their free content heavily, and it’s often the selling point for why you should get On Demand. One local radio morning show even has their own section in On Demand, which they promote incessantly. The commercials advertise the pause/rewind feature, also.

    We no longer have digital cable (or any cable, for that matter), but we made heavy use of the free On Demand features when we did have it. In the 3 years we had the service, I believe we paid for one movie, but we watched On Demand more than regular cable. As a matter of fact, if they offered On Demand as a stand-alone package (no basic cable required), I might consider re-subscribing.

  • We tried NetFlix but weren’t happy with the time lag. An offer led us to try Blockbuster and it was much better. However, we caught up on our couple years of movies we were behind on and cancelled. I think having Blockbuster’s movie service for some period of time, for us it’s best from mid-December to mid-February, works great.

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