smart spending

Save money by watching Internet television

Cable providers and telephone companies are marketing bundle packages that save money by combining services such as TV, Internet and phone.

"Normally, with any form of bundle, you get anywhere from a 10 to 15 percent savings," said Jopling. "Consumers go for it because it normally means a cheaper price, one bill, one number to call and limits (on) the fees. The providers know that when you're in a bundle, it is difficult for you to decide to change."

The coming of narrowcasting

IPTV is technology that allows a user's PC, TV, phone and wireless devices to be integrated, allowing for more personalization and features. But one important distinction between cable/satellite broadcasting and IPTV: Cable sends broadcast signals to your home with all of its content at once, whereas IPTV "narrowcasts" -- sends only the channel you request. That could limit the amount of programming that cable can squeeze through its pipe.

But narrowcasting comes with a price, of course. As more households are added, advertisers will have the kind of detailed demographic information they could only guesstimate before, such as who specifically is watching a given program and when.

"IPTV is going to add some new wrinkles to advertising," Jopling said. "Now, if you advertise on a sports show, for example, you have a pretty good idea who is going to be watching that, and you tune your advertising to it. But there are lots of other shows that aren't that demonstrative on who the audience is.

”Because IPTV just sends you the channel you want, it gives advertisers significant knowledge of what you want and when you want it, so you'll begin to see much more targeted advertising," Jopling said.

Until then, the thrust and parry between telecommunications firms and the cable companies for your business bodes well for cost-conscious consumers.

"Whenever there are two people fighting for your love, it's always a good sign," Jopling said.

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