I’ve worked out how to take a typical AVI file download (generic MPEG-4 with MP3 audio, such as XviD) and convert it to something the Apple TV should be able to play without re-encoding all the video.
There’s also the elgato turbo.264, which approximately quadruples the speed of encoding video for AppleTV.
I tried re-encoding a good quality downloaded show that’s unavailable in the USA, using the QuickTime AppleTV preset. The result was indistinguishable from the original. So I’m really seriously considering AppleTV now.
So, how does AppleTV stack up as a way of replacing cable or satellite?
Mythbusters: $50 (30 episodes)
South Park: $24 (14 episodes)
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: $20 (13 episodes)
Venture Brothers: $20 (13 episodes)
Reno 911: $21 (14 episodes)
The Soup: $6 (per 8 episodes)
If we imagine Dr Who and Torchwood were also available at similar prices, that’d be about a year’s TV for maybe $200, or about 4 months of cable or satellite bills.
This ignores the option of watching shows by renting the DVDs from Netflix. Do that, and it’s an even more cost-effective option.
I’d be inclined to spend some of the freed-up money on “This American Life”, Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit”, and other shows that I currently don’t get to see.