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Cut the Cord and couldn't be happier

Discussion in 'Streaming and Digital Media' started by Adam Gregorich, Apr 28, 2019.

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  1. Message #1 of 65 Apr 28, 2019
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
    Adam Gregorich

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    After thinking about cutting the cord for a few months I decided to finally do it. Most of the shows my family watches are available on networks we can get via antenna at my home according to TVfool.com:

    antenna1.JPG

    I was mainly interested in the networks: ABC (UHF 38), NBC (UHF 48), CBS (UHF 51), FOX (VHF 13), CW (VHF 11) and PBS (VHF 9). A lot of these carry not only network programming , but additional programming on subchannels. I also wanted independent UHF channels KZJO (UHF 25) for Antenna TV and KFFV (UHF 44) for MeTV, Movies, Heroes & Icons and Decades networks.

    Looking at the charts above I faced a few challenges. Most of the channels I wanted were broadcasting from the same compass location (a good thing), but Channel 13 was not. Also channel 44 was listed as red, which meant it could be difficult to pick up at my address. I also live in deep suburban Western Washington, with a lot of hills, not a RF friendly environment.

    I tested different antennas and mounting locations over the last few weeks to get the right blend of performance with athletics. I started with a basic $36 RCA yagi antenna purchased at a local Walmart hooked up to a single TV as a proof of concept. Not much thought went into it, other than it was the only antenna available locally on the night I wanted to dive in:

    rca antenna.
    It only pulled in 27 out of the 59 possible channels, about half of which were ones I wasn't interested in: foreign language, shopping and religious channels. I was not getting CW, PBS, FOX (all VHF channels), CBS or UHF channels 25 and 44 even when I manually aimed it in the direction of the transmission towers. This antenna that might work well in a flat area, or much closer to the transmitters, but wasn't suitable for my location. It did confirm that I could get reception at my house and that broadcast HD looked good.

    I then took the plunge and purchased a Winegard 8200 based on reviews. It's what I would consider a "classic" roof antenna, a 14" long combination UHF/VHF.
    winegard.

    Frankly, I didn't think the purchase through. I installed it in my small "attic" to minimize anything visible on the outside of the house. It was a real pain to install and unfold around all the roof trusses, and because of the trusses I was unable to aim it properly. I was able to get some additional channels over my proof of concept, but not all the ones I was looking for.
    nosignal.

    This was not the fault of the antenna, but the fact that I couldn't aim it properly due to my roof trusses. I'm sure based on reviews that I would get much better performance if it were mounted on a pole on the roof properly aimed. Unfortunately this won't pass my wife's curb appeal test.

    winegard_attic.


    Back to the drawing board.​

    I then bought the Antennas Direct DB8e as its their best performing UHF antenna, and its compact form factor would allow me to install and aim it in the attic.
    DB8e.

    Its essentially two of their DB4e antennas with a combiner. In addition to having twice the coverage of the DB4e, if you are trying to pick up stations from different directions you can aim each of the two panels independently. I installed it at the far North end of the attic closest to the transmitters.

    antenna_attic.

    Because I was able to aim the elements I was able to pick up the additional UHF channels I was looking for, but the signal was hit or miss depending on the weather or time of day. This antenna was UHF only so I didn't get any VHF stations. I talked to Antennas DIrect support and they recommended I try their $20 VHF Retrofit Kit antenna to get Fox, CW and PBS.

    VHF_add_on.

    I wasn't able to get any of them in my attic with the Retofit Kit. The transmitters were too far away. My only other option was the ClearStream 5 dedicated VHF antenna.

    c5-medium.
    I tried installing it in the attic aimed toward the channel 13 transmitter. I picked up a weak signal on channels 9 and 11, but nothing on 13. I realized that our roof mounted solar panels could be interfering with the signal, so I hooked up a 100ft long piece of coax between the antenna and a TV with the signal strength meter visible and took it up on the roof. There was still no signal, so that eliminated the solar panels as a problem. On the roof I noticed that there were two clusters of large trees at the end of my street. I moved the antenna onto the backside of our garage roof which was lower and was able to find a spot where I could line up between the trees and get a great signal. It was very close to the where our satellite dish was mounted on the side of the house.

    This turned out to be an ideal location, as there was a grounded mount and coax cable already there. It was also on the back side of our garage roof so it wasn't really visible from the front of the house. The satellite mount J pipe had a 2" outside diameter. I found an adapter that would allow me to connect a 1 3/8 pipe (used as a chain link fence top rail) to the mount. I bought a fence rail covered in black vinyl at Lowes, removed the dish and installed the adapter and pipe.

    I test mounted the two antennas and a Stellar labs UHF/VHF combiner to the pole and after fine tuning the aiming, ended up with 59 channels, including all the ones I wanted. A thunderstorm rolled in during the process and I was pleased to see that I kept great signal strength throughout the storm.

    testing.


    After testing, I pulled the pole and antennas down to install new coax between the antennas and combiner with the waterproof boots and to trim the top of the pole with my Sawzall .

    final.
    Only the very top of the upper antenna is visible from the front of the house so my wife is happy, its hidden from the neighbors behind the hedge so they are happy, and I have all the channels I was hoping to get so I am happy. The only loser is DirecTV who will no longer be getting our money.

    I took all the coax that was connected to the DirecTV splitter and connected it to an Antennas Direct distribution amplifier.

    amp2.


    I wanted a DVR so we could still record and skip commercials. I was initially looking at the Tivo Bolt, but wasn't thrilled about having a monthly fee and the expensive hardware. I asked other HTF users what they use and ended up going with the 4 tuner 1 TB Amazon FireTV Recast paired with Fire TV Stick 4ks. I've been using the setup for a week now and it works great. I can even stream live or recorded TV to my phone using the Fire TV iOS app. The only downside is that you can only stream to two Fire Sticks at a time. Normally that is not a problem in our house, but that is why I made direct antenna connections to each TV as well. That way if there is a major event: Superbowl, Oscars, etc, we can have the live signal on more than two TVs.

    Cutting the cord is easier with streaming entertainment. We have Hulu (which I will probably drop later this summer), Amazon Prime and just got Netflix for free (thanks to T-Mobile), so we aren't missing DirecTV at all. My only regret is not doing this sooner.

    Have you cut the cord, or are considering doing it? Did your experience match mine?
     
  2. Mark Booth

    Mark Booth Cinematographer
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    We cut the Cable TV cord 3 years ago. Like you, my only regret is not doing it sooner than that.

    Our OTA DVR is the Channel Master DVR+, which has been discontinued. It has performed FLAWLESSLY.

    We recently dropped Netflix and DirecTV Now. We just weren't watching programming or the cable channels on those too often enough to justify the cost. Their recent price increases were the proverbial straw.

    Now, other than OTA TV, we still have Prime and Hulu. I resubscribed to HBO Now for 2 months to watch GOT season 8. Once I've seen the last episode of GOT I'll cancel HBO Now again.

    Mark
     
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  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    I'm inching in that direction. For those who are "in the know," right now I can stream TCM programming through my Apple TV 4K or Fire Stick 4K because I am a Spectrum cable subscriber who gets TCM on cable. If I dropped my cable service, how would I be able to get TCM any more? That's one channel that I just would not want to be without.
     
  4. Message #4 of 65 May 3, 2019
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
    Cranston37

    Cranston37 Screenwriter

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    TV streaming services all have it. My favorite is YouTube TV.

    But that and the previous posts in this thread beg the question - if you cancel traditional cable only to subscribe to numerous streaming services, is that really cutting the cord?
     
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  5. Chip_HT

    Chip_HT Second Unit

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    Probably depends on if you have wifi in your house.
     
  6. ArnoldLayne

    ArnoldLayne Stunt Coordinator
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    "Hulu With Live TV has only one plan. You’ll pay $40 for a lineup of 50-70 channels, depending on your area. This includes major sports channels like ESPN and Fox Sports, news networks like Fox News and CNN, entertainment channels like FX and A&E, and, of course, TCM. For the price, it’s a fantastic lineup of channels."

    or you can buy a Sling TV $25 package and add a package with TCM and more for another $5

    ...according to my web research, not experience
     
  7. Message #7 of 65 May 3, 2019
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
    David Norman

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    Maybe you mean something other than WI-FI since it's an easy thing to set up wifi in pretty much any house with Internet service?
    Broadband Internet or High Speed internet service maybe?

    Simple to have streaming without wifi at all if you want to run the proper cables to each room for a wired network

    I could easily cut the CableTV cord, but I've yet to find a way to get the channels I want and my wife wants cheaper. Once I unbundle my internet/TV/phone My current service price increases $20-30 per month to get the Phone/Internet, the Antenna I already have as an alternative/backup though if I wanted to max the reception I'd have to move the antennas from the attic to roof.

    More importantly it appears it would cost roughly $50-80 per month to match the typical channels I (more importantly my wife) want to watch which leaves me paying $20 more per month and as said basically I've just on someone else's cable system at that point and lost most of my TIVO functionality. Or I could save $20-30 monthly by sacrificing about 6-10 channels I would like to have -- too old and mean to go that route.
    Yes I know there are workarounds to regain some of that, but like the old day of HTPC, it's taking 3-5X as much work to end up at the same place with more complicated logistics.

    More power to those who can do it, but so far I've seen just about zero advantages for the majority of the folks who have done so (or more like -- those who claim to going to do it but haven't gotten around to it yet).

    Pretty much like I can tell people how to save 80-90% of their cell phone bill, but you it means doing without a bunch or stuff they consider useful that I find baffling. I'll never in my life understand why families have $200-300/month Cell bills (and complain/brag about it usually), but I don't have to understand since I'm not them. For them I guess it makes sense.
     
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  8. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Adam, I did this about 15 years ago. Then a few years later I upgraded my antennas, and actually got the exact same VHF one you have. When I got it, it came with a combiner. I'm also in a fringe area, and still have some trouble picking up VHF channels, but all except for one channel has made changes to broadcast on a UHF channel instead. For example, our local NBC station has a sister channel. NBC broadcasts on VHF, but the sister channel broadcasts on UHF. They added a second transmission of NBC to the sister channel's signal. I also pick up over 50 channels, though a lot of them are of no interest. The UHF antenna I got is pretty much like the one you got, just a different brand. It picks up the signal from 70 miles away like a champ
     
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  9. Cranston37

    Cranston37 Screenwriter

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    I'm not following...
     
  10. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Subscribing to Sling TV and the like isn't cutting the cord, it's just getting the same stuff from a different 'cord'. I gave up on cable more than 25 years ago, as I had a laundry list of problems with it that have only gotten worse as time goes on (mainly the idea of paying for channels that still show commercials.) I've tried out Sling TV for free a few times when it's been offered, and I could never imagine paying for it. Flipping through the channels, it seemed like all of them were showing commercials and in the overnight hours many of them also ran "paid programming" in place of anything that I would actually want to watch.

    I've been far happier spending my money on media, things I actually want to see with zero interruptions. Some streaming services have been good also, though I now have issues with a few of them similar to cable- but that's another topic. Most over the air TV is garbage, but at least I'm paying exactly what it's worth for it.
     
  11. Chip_HT

    Chip_HT Second Unit

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    It was a joke playing on the literal cord cutting.
     
  12. David Norman

    David Norman Producer

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    Blew past me for sure.
     
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  13. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    How is the FireTV Recast DVR user experience compared to TiVo?
     
  14. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    I'm going the opposite direct and adding all the cords. I have cable and streaming and internet. And I'm getting more streaming.

    So...yeah...not on track to "cut the cord". :)

    When I deal with cable contract renewal the end of this year, I'll be looking at options, including dropping cableTV and going only streaming. That will make me evaluate whether I keep the TiVo DVRs (which I love), or am I now done with DVR completely? It's a tough one because DVR can still have a better experience than streaming.

    But going OTA isn't of interest to me. Been there, done that. Loved it. But too much bother for where I'm at now.
     
  15. Cranston37

    Cranston37 Screenwriter

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    Streaming for sure. I only pay $45/month for YouTube TV that includes recording functionality. Most channels have their shows available on demand as well, so usually you don't even need to record.
     
  16. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    But I've found that locally recorded playback on a DVR can be a better overall experience than streaming. There's no buffering. There's no ads (TiVo auto-skip). And if you miss some dialogue, the skipback function on the TiVo tends to work better than on streaming services.

    The benefit to streaming of course, is no risk of Sunday Night Football screwing up the broadcast schedule and causing the TiVo to miss half a show, and other such quirks of chasing recordings of live broadcast against a fallible scheduling system.

    What's going to decide it is if Survivor and Amazing Race can be watched in real time via streaming without a cable subscriber. I don't care about live sports, but my wife needs her live "sports"! :)
     
  17. Message #17 of 65 May 4, 2019
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
    Cranston37

    Cranston37 Screenwriter

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    I would look into it a little more, Dave. Even sign up for a free trial.

    I've never once experienced buffering with YouTube TV (although I have with Sling and of course your internet may vary - hence the free trial).

    If you missed dialog - on an Apple TV you would just click the left side of the touch pad to go back 10secs or say "Siri, what did he say?" and it not only skips back about 15 seconds but puts on captions for that time so you can read it ;)

    And of course shows like Survivor and Amazing Race are on in real time. These services we're talking about are exactly like cable.

    Channel list can be found here:

    https://cordcutting.com/services/youtube-tv/channels/
     
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  18. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Thanks. I'll be looking into this stuff more seriously this Fall. First, I've got a project to run Cat6 cable from my Fios box to my network terminal, to be able to upgrade to Gigabit. The third year of my two years contract (sigh) is over Dec 28, so I'll be looking seriously at my options this Fall or Winter.
     
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  19. Message #19 of 65 May 4, 2019
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
    David Deeb

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    We cut cable years ago and I couldn't be happier. Don't have wired phone service either so no cord there and no "bundles" needed. Pay a small amount for internet service, stream Netflix, have an antenna with solid local channels, and tons of free stuff to watch via Hoopla, YouTube, Vudu and more. Also have 4K Blu-rays and Movies Anywhere.

    Why would I ever go back to spending $100+ a month for a ton of horrible channels that show commercials? Answer is I won't. The only commercials I see are when local channels are playing through the antenna.

    What I love about streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and all the others is the fact they set a price and you know what it is. There is no surprise. The cable company has a package, then adds fees and equipment, "broadcast fees" (for the channels you can watch for free if you don't watch it through them). It's endless. Then on top of that you have to go haggle with them once a year to get back to a reasonable rate. Netflix, Amazon, Disney +, Criterion streaming, Hulu, etc. is the same price for me, you and everyone else.

    For anyone "fearing" they can't survive with out this or that channel, then I guess they should keep cable. Frankly though, I have more options than ever and if I miss a channel, so what. I'll never be able to watch all the good, commercial-free stuff available as it is. And if worse comes to worse, just stream / buy / rent that show or movie.
     
  20. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Rocket Science Department
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    If I weren’t married, I would drop satellite like a hot potato. I only watch one network broadcast show and it ends forever in 4 more episodes. Everything else I routinely watch is on Prime or Netflix.
     

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