How much do you spend watching your big, flat screen TV? For some Kiwis it's almost nothing, for others it's more than $100 a month.

TV is an area where you can slim down your spending - should you need to.

For many Kiwis, Sky TV is an essential they don't question. If rugby and cricket are your great loves in life then you probably need to find a way to afford it.

Current Sky pricing for the basic package, My Sky for one room, Sky Movies, Sky Sport and the Rugby Channel comes to $124.55 a month. That's liposuction for some people's budgets.


If you only want movies, shows or football it's possible to skip Sky thanks to stiff competition from "streaming" TV services offering more movies and TV shows than any mere mortal could watch for less than $20 a month.

The big players in New Zealand are Netflix, Lightbox, Neon and to a lesser degree Hulu. They offer vast repositories of movies and shows that you can play at a time to suit you.

Netflix costs $11.49 to $18.49 a month.

Lightbox is $12.99 or "free" through Spark - which means in effect you pay for it through higher internet charges.

Neon is $20 a month and Hulu $7.99.

Or if football is your thing you can sign up direct at beIN Sports for $17.99 a month.

If you don't have a SmartTV you need to attach a "box" to your TV such as a Chromecast, PlayStation 3 or 4, Apple TV or other such device. Or you can play your streaming TV service through a PC, Mac, tablet or phone.

While I'm a dyed-in-the-wool tightwad, the reality is that if you like lots of movies and series and have time to watch them, they are a relatively cheap form of entertainment.

These services have exclusive shows you can't see on regular TV such as Orange is the New Black. You can also binge-watch a series. We watched all the available episodes of Outlander over a remarkably few nights.

There are some buts. The first is if you aren't making ends meet and living on credit, these services aren't essential. They're just not. Better spend the money on paying down your credit card, car loan and other debts.

The other big "but" is that there's an awful lot of TV you can get for free through regular channels, TV on demand, YouTube and other sources.

If you have the time and the technical know-how you can easily watch a lifetime of TV for nothing.

For example, we are great lovers of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight programme.

To view it, we log into HBO's channel on YouTube, press one button and it plays over the TV via our Chromecast. I haven't the room to go into how this device works, but it's a little miracle.

Likewise we have a PlayStation 4, another truly incredible TV watching device (some people use it to play games as well).

There's an awful lot of TV you can get for free through regular channels, TV on demand, YouTube and other sources.

Whenever I want to watch a movie for free I load up the TVNZ PlayStation app, see what's available on demand and click on it. Invariably there's something worth watching.

For the record, we have unlimited fast internet over fibre. If you're in the country, on a slow package or have data caps this could get expensive.

Without confusing anyone too much, some people set up VPNs (virtual private networks) on their computers or media servers to fool overseas TV stations such as the BBC that they're based in that country.

When my colleague Deborah Hill Cone wrote in the Herald that Sky TV is history in her house a host of readers chipped in.

It turns out lots of Kiwis are watching free TV from all over the world using open source media player Kodi. I spent half an afternoon trying to figure out how to use Kodi and then the other half worrying about whether it was legal.

Another popular service, Plex, allows you to access all your media sources from one server.

In the case of Kodi and Plex, you do need to make sure that the actual content you are watching is legal.

If publishers don't earn money from advertising, rights, subscriptions or other means they're not going to produce the content in the future.

Netsafe's head of outreach Sean Lyons told me that you may like to watch Canadian TV via Kodi, but if TVNZ owns the rights in New Zealand for the show you are watching you could be breaching copyright.

Lyons added that people using VPNs could be in the same grey area.

So you may not get caught by TVNZ and other copyright holders, but if you want to have access to good content in the future it's worth paying a few dollars a month to be legal.