Cord Cutting 101

Not everyone is cut out to cut the cord

Cord cutting – The practice of canceling or forgoing a pay television subscription or landline phone connection in favour of an alternative Internet-based or wireless service. Source: Lexico.com

With the rising cost of cable and satellite services, many are looking for cost-saving alternatives, while others are looking for more streamlined a la carte offerings without all of the so-called fat. Cord-cutting has become a popular option, and there are several different ways to go, but it is not something to go into without research and is not for everyone, and many may not see any cost savings.

I recently cut the cord in October 2019, as my two-year contract with DirecTV was coming to an end. It was a killer deal, mostly due to mistakes and broken promises made during installation (of which I won’t go into but were not the fault of the installer) that essentially netted me a monthly cost of just $15 per month after customer retention and internet bundle credits. I was unable to negotiate a new deal with AT&T that came anywhere close to what I was paying previously, and decided that I needed to find another option. The local cable company Spectrum (formerly Charter) was not exactly an option, since at the time of conducting my research, their DVR options were antiquated, to put it politely.

Research

You need to ask yourself “Is cord cutting for me?” If you are currently a DirecTV subscriber and routinely renew and watch NFL Sunday Ticket every season, then quite obviously you are not a likely candidate for cutting the cord, as that is still a DirecTV exclusive.

The first thing I did was make a log of all of the shows and channels those shows were on that every member of my household watched. What I found was that nearly everything we watched (roughly 90%) was on regular broadcast or over the air television. The remaining shows would eventually be available on streaming services we subscribed to like Netflix and Disney+. With OTA being a definite possibility, my next step was to purchase a quality indoor antenna to see how many local channels I could receive on my television. I purchased from Amazon a ClearStream Eclipse flat indoor antenna manufactured by Antennas Direct. Do not waste your time or money on a cheap no-name indoor antenna, as chances are it won’t pick up much more than connecting a bare wire to your TV. Also, don’t be fooled by marketing claims of an antenna being HD or 4K ready or capable. What is important is if it is VHF and/or UHF capable, and I would recommend, to be safe, make sure the antenna is capable of both frequency bands. When it arrived, I connected it to my TV per the installation instructions provided and taped the antenna to the window facing the repeater towers located in my remote rural town as indicated using an app called quite appropriately TV Towers, and was amazed at how many channels it picked up after running the channel scan – all four major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX), plus PBS and The CW. The real eye-opener was that The CW was broadcast in HD on channel 8.3, while that same channel was re-transmitted in window-boxed standard definition on both cable and satellite. There was some minor breakup in the signal from time to time, which I had attributed to the indoor antenna, which I then promptly returned. So far, so good.

ClearStream Eclipse Indoor Antenna by Antennas Direct

My next step was to find a DVR solution that was affordable, worked well with OTA, and delivered an acceptable picture and sound quality. My first choice was TiVo, possibly the most recognized DVR brand. I once had a TiVo DVR Receiver several years ago with DirecTV, and liked the interface. There were two DVRs to choose from – TiVo Bolt (1TB storage) for $249.99 or TiVo EDGE (2TB storage) for $349.99, plus either $6.99 per month or $249.99 lifetime to receive the program guide. That seemed a bit steep to me, plus the fact that there were reports that TiVo was going to begin forcing their own ads each time you started a recorded program. Oh, and if I wanted to watch something from the DVR in another room, that was an additional $179.99 per room for the TiVo Mini VOX.

I also looked at the Tablo DVR ($150 for the 2-tuner model and $199 for the 4-tuner plus an external hard drive and optional $5 monthly programming), Channel Master Stream+ ($129 plus an external hard drive, available directly from Channel Master), Sling AirTV 2 ($100 plus an external hard drive), the HD HomeRun Scribe Quatro ($250 plus optional $35/year programming fee). Reviews for all of these options were all over the map, with the HD HomeRun having the most complaints with regards to setting up. There were also compatibility issues with external hard drives to contend with, program guide data not loading properly, etc.

I then looked at some of the streaming options that try to compete with cable and satellite packages. Services like Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, etc. Unfortunately, because I live in a smaller market where all of the network affiliates are not owned by the network or even a large broadcast group, very few if any local channels were available on those services for my area. These services, though, are a good option for those living in a major metropolitan area and/or want a sports package as part of their TV programming. I then took a look at Spectrum TV, which is the streaming option for my local cable company. It was a bit pricey for what it offered ($29.99 plus $4.99 to add a cloud DVR, and that was the “guaranteed” rate for the first two years). While it did offer local channels plus a nice selection of what us old-timers refer to as “basic” channels, I did not like the clunky interface. What I really disliked about nearly all of these services was the fact that video resolution topped out at 720p (and quite often there would be macro blocking and other compression artifacts) and audio was limited to 2-channel stereo. Very disappointing! I will say this, though – if you are a cable TV subscriber and happy with the service you are receiving, one way to lower your monthly equipment rental fees is to switch to the cable company’s streaming app in rooms where picture and sound quality are not that important, such as a bedroom or guest room, as that can shave $5-10 per device off of your monthly bill.

If receiving local channels are not important to you and/or mounting an antenna is not a feasible option but you still want to receive local news broadcasts, there is an app called NewsON that provides the most recent local news program for at least one local channel in most markets. For example, here in the Reno market, NewsON offers news programs from ABC affiliate KOLO 8, NBC affiliate KNRV 4, and FOX affiliate KRXI 11. NewsON is available on Roku, Fire, and Apple TV devices. National and international news is available across several free news apps, including CNN Go, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, Newsy, etc. You can then add both Hulu and CBS All Access to get most of your favorite prime time broadcast network shows the following day. Both services offer an ad-supported option for $5.99 or a mostly ad-free experience for roughly twice the price (CBS is $9.99 while Hulu is $11.99). If someone in your household is a fan the The CW, they have a free app to watch their prime time shows, too (although the ads have a tendency to be very repetitive at times). One of my favorite streaming apps for its variety of offerings is Pluto TV, which resembles a basic cable TV package offering viewers a selection of hundreds of “channels” of live programming including news (NBC News, CNN, Cheddar, CBS News, Newsy, SKY News, etc.), movie channels, classic TV, music channels, and even on-demand movies and TV shows. Like most “free” services, it is advertiser supported. There is also a plethora of free movie channels (with ads, naturally) available on most streaming platforms, including Tubi, Sony Crackle, Filmrise, XUMO (a Pluto TV competitor), and many others.

You can also add Pay-TV favorites like HBO Now, Showtime, and STARZ for an additional monthly fee. If you are a sports fanatic, then you will probably want to add ESPN+ to your streaming device, and/or Sling TV or Fubo-TV (both have some sports channels/packages). You may want to add Sling TV, Philo, or FRNDLY to your streaming lineup if someone in your household simply must have Lifetime, Hallmark, BET, SyFy, USA, TBS, TNT, etc. These add-ons are where many cord cutters realize that they may not actually be saving money after ditching cable or satellite, yet they may find solace that they are not paying for channels no one in their household is watching. With the way cable and satellite are losing customers with their mandatory packages of useless (and expensive) channels, we may see more channels offer an al a carte streaming option in the future.

Installing and Set-up

I finally settled on the 4-tuner, 1TB Amazon Fire Recast, which happened to be on sale for $219.99 (it later dropped even lower during Black Friday/Cyber Monday), the ClearStream 2V outdoor TV antenna (as recommended by Antennas Direct), and two Firestick 4K devices for each of my televisions. Once everything arrived, I installed the two Firesticks to each room’s AVR. I then got out my extension ladder and hopped up on my roof. If you are afraid of heights or just feel uncomfortable getting up on your roof, it is highly recommended you hire a professional to mount your antenna. Over the summer, I had my roof replaced, and quickly noticed that the roofers had placed the new shingles over the mounting feet of the satellite mast, so removing the entire mast was not going to happen. I then proceeded to remove the satellite dish from the mast, disconnecting the RG6 cable from the LNB. I then mounted the mast that was included with the ClearStream 2V to the old satellite mast using two bolts. I then installed an app on my smartphone called TV Towers, which shows you the location and distance of the nearest transmission (or repeater) towers to your installation site, and even helps you rotate the antenna in the proper direction. Once that was completed, I mounted the antenna on the mast, pointing it in the direction the TV Towers app instructed me, and connected the RG6 cable to the antenna. Inside the house, I connected the other end of the RG6 cable to the Fire Recast DVR, plugged in the power cord, and followed the set-up instructions provided. This included installing the Fire TV app on my smartphone, which I needed to connect the Recast to my home network and eventually run a channel scan.

This is where things got a little tricky, because not all of the stations were available after several channel scans, and a few were unwatchable. Confused, I disconnected the RG6 cable from the Recast, attached the cable to my television’s antenna input, and ran the channel scan on the TV. All of the channels came in crystal clear. I disconnected the cable, connected it to the Recast, ran the channel scan again, and got the same results. Apparently, there is either some signal loss when the Recast splits the signal between the four tuners or the tuners Amazon uses on the DVR are not as robust as on most TVs. Getting desperate, I then ordered a UHF/VHF pre-amplifier from Amazon (Antennas Direct model PA-18), which would arrive a few days later. Do not confuse a pre-amplifier with a distribution amplifier. A pre-amplifier is used when incoming signals are weak and gets attached as close the the antenna as possible. A distribution amplifier is used when you are splitting the signal to multiple devices and is installed in place of a splitter. Once the pre-amp arrived, I got up on the roof again and installed it to the base of the antenna and the power supply at the entry point inside my house. Crossing my fingers, I ran the channel scan again on the Recast and was relieved when all the channels showed up with no major signal issues or interference. I then gave the Recast a few hours to install firmware updates and download the program guide for the next two weeks, came back and began scheduling programs to record.

ClearStream 2V antenna mounted on old DirecTV dish mast.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been using my Fire Recast DVR for almost four months now, and both my wife and I have been very pleased with its performance. It took a few weeks to get used to Amazon’s Fire interface and having to go back to using TWO remotes. The Firestick’s remote uses Bluetooth, which is not compatible with the Logitech Harmony 650 remote we use in the living room, but I was able to program the Firestick remote to control and mute volume on the Denon AVR-X2400H receiver. So now we hit the Fire TV activity on the Harmony, wait for everything to power on and switch to the proper inputs, then use the Firestick remote to control the DVR, Firestick, and volume, and then use the Harmony once again to switch activities or power down. We did run into one or two quirks where a show would not playback, and that was resolved by simply restarting the Fire Recast. Other than that, our favorite shows have recorded without any major issues, all in HD and with a 5.1 audio track if it was broadcast with one (otherwise stereo). Two things to note, though. First was that the Recast transcodes video to 1440x720p. I am not using a projector to view my recordings, so the slightly lower video resolution is not an issue for me. The Firestick 4K, when Surround Sound is set to “Best Available” in the Display and Sound Settings Menu, will transcode most audio into Dolby Digital+ regardless of what codec was used in the stream. This may explain why audio sometimes sounds a bit muffled at times, whether we are watching a DVR recording or Netflix through the Firestick, although it is never to a point where one cannot hear dialogue clearly.

You are probably wondering what I am currently paying for my television programming now that I have “cut the cord.” I could say that I’m paying nothing, but that would not be entirely true. One thing to keep in mind if you switch from a cable or satellite package to antenna, is that you will lose any on-demand options you once had for those rare occasions when a show did not get recorded for one reason or another (schedule conflict or weather are the two biggest reasons) or you simply forgot to record that holiday special for the kids. Antenna users lose virtually all TV Everywhere privileges. What is TV Everywhere? It is apps like NBC, ABC, FOXNow, etc that you can get on your smartphone or on streaming devices like Roku, Firestick, and Apple TV. In order to use those apps, they require you to login using your cable or satellite username and password. For that reason, I ended up subscribing to the ad-supported versions of both Hulu and CBS All Access. Having taken advantage of Hulu’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday offer, I was able to sign up for Hulu for $1.99 per month for 12 months (my rate will increase to $5.99 in December 2020). CBS All Access had a free month trial going at the time of my installation, and after that the monthly fee was $5.99. So, until December of 2020, I’ll be paying around $8.00 per month for those two services, and we use those mostly for On Demand when a show fails to record (although we will be watching Star Trek: Discovery and Picard on CBS All Access). I also subscribe to Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney+, but I was subscribing to those (or planning on adding them) prior to cutting the cord, so I am not including the costs of those services.

My situation is probably a best case scenario, where I am saving money and not really paying for channels I will never ever watch (which was the case when I had DirecTV). We are not sports fanatics, so neither of us miss ESPN or any of the other sports channels.

Shopping links for items mentioned in this article (all purchases through these links help support Home Theater Forum):

My Solution:

OTA Digital Video Recorders:
TiVo:

Amazon Fire Recast:

Other DVRs:

Published by

Todd Erwin

editor,member

41 Comments

  1. I’ll be interested in seeing everyone’s ideas/experiences. Personally, when I moved to Chicago I went with xfinity/Comcast as that was what the apartment building was wired for. I ended up dropping everything except the internet. I hadn’t been as much of a TV watcher for several reasons: I was moving in with my partner, I was LIVING IN CHICAGO (so much more to do here than in Racine, WI!) and the growing streaming services. Other than being tired to watching Judge Judy OTA on occasion (rather than Tivo-ing it) I really am satisfied with most of my options. The Chicago Public Library’s 80+ branches and Redbox usually take care of my DVD watching. And I don’t miss anything really!

  2. I haven't paid for television for well over a decade. I do have Netflix and that currently costs me about $12.99/month. These days the mega companies want to get you into one of their "bundled" options [preferably with E-Billing, etc] because they know you'll likely get comfortable with it and eventually forget about the monthly expense as it [after the introductory period] starts it's never-ending trend of creeping upward.

    Bundles consist of 3 typical services, Phone Internet and TV. I get my TV via a centrally connected outdoor Over The Air [OTA ] antenna, my phone through Basic Talk [for less than $15.00/month] and my Internet through Comcast. In my case the latter is free as part of my company benefits package.

    I use a HTPC for my dedicated room which gives me free DVR service for OTA TV along with a host of other great features such as easy Windowed multi-tasking, access to my entire music library, easy access to hundreds of my favorite films which I've ripped to disc over the years and also everything else the Internet has to offer. I do miss live sports when ESPN or the like chooses to hold them hostage but, so far, I've been willing to live with that.

    In the end it's simply a matter of what specific content you feel you must have [and are willing to pay for] and how much time and effort you're willing to spend setting it all up. If you're willing to explore, there is a ton of completely free content out there in all genres. While I don't think we're quite at the cord cutting stage just yet, there is a much better "cord" and it is called the Internet.

  3. Great topic and with the escalating costs of services, it is an important one. The landscape of consuming television has shifted as much as anything we experience on a daily basis over the past 20 years or so. We cut the cord a few years ago, canceled our landline and have internet. We have not gone quite as far as you have, but it is a conversation that needs to take place. We pay for Netflix and Amazon Prime primarily to cover the cost of shipping the mountain of books I purchase.

    I cannot tell you how often people come to me for help with a utility bill while they have a cable bill well over $100. There is an increasing lack of sustainability for much of the population in financial terms, which is increasing the need for assistance from others, while they continue to utilize the things the culture deems as a necessity, which increasingly costs more and more. Those things being cable, cell phones, internet, etc. It is a concern that so many people with discretionary income are limiting themselves in terms of television viewing options such as cable and Satelite tv, while others with limited income do not. We are living in the upside-down in many aspects of our culture.

  4. We just cut the cord last month. Haven’t had a landline in years, just ditched cable, keeping internet, not even bothering with a digital antenna and DVR.

    Over the late summer and fall my wife was away from the house for nearly two months. This ended up being the eye opener I needed to finally let cable go. Without her in the house, I turned on the cable box/DVR exactly zero times. And while she was away from home, she didn’t miss a single show that she kept up with, because they were all included in things we already had subscriptions for, Hulu being one example. We had been using Hulu more and more earlier this year; we’d record shows we liked on the DVR and then ended up streaming them on ad-free Hulu anyway so that we didn’t even have to bother with fast forwarding through commercials.

    So that was the eye opener. That we were paying over $100 a month for a service that had simply outlasted its usefulness to us. It was suddenly very easy to cancel.

    Even buying a digital antenna and DVR setup seems like more trouble than its worth nowadays for us. The majority of new shows we watch are streaming originals (or on premium channels that have standalone app versions, like HBO). For the rare broadcast show we do watch, why go to the trouble of buying and installing an antenna and DVR system when those shows will appear on the Hulu subscription we already have, commercial free, the next day?

    I recently read an interview with an economics professor who argued that the most valuable thing we as individuals have is time, and that the ad-supported model of sitting through commercials to see something for free extracts a higher price than you’d save from paying for commercial-free access by eating precious time from your life that you can’t get back. He argued that ad-supported viewing was a tax on time that is paid primarily by the poor (who can’t afford the equipment to stream or have the credit needed for a credit cart to open streaming accounts) and the technologically illiterate (who can’t or willfully refuse to learn about new technologies and options and just pay whatever the cable company asks for). I had never heard it phrased that way but I thought it was an interesting perspective. I mean, in the year 2020, with the exception of sports and breaking news, it simply doesn’t make sense to watch television in a linear fashion anymore. And as nice as a DVR box is for recording, time shifting and skipping commercials, an app where the program you want to watch just lives, commercial free, always ready at the touch of a button is even nicer.

  5. Congrats on getting rid of cable, Josh! That extra cash will add up fast!

    Josh Steinberg

    I mean, in the year 2020, with the exception of sports and breaking news, it simply doesn’t make sense to watch television in a linear fashion anymore.

    Yep. Live sports events are about the only use I personally have for broadcast TV but my wife isn't as tech savvy as yours appears to be. She prefers the antiquated linear model [because it's what she's familiar with] which is primarily why I have a centralized OTA setup for our televisions.

  6. Josh Steinberg

    I mean, in the year 2020, with the exception of sports and breaking news, it simply doesn’t make sense to watch television in a linear fashion anymore.

    And many of the breaking national and international news stories are carried on the free news apps, even on some of the news channels on Pluto TV.

  7. After two years of not watching cable, we cut the cord last month. The reduction in my bill will be about $85/month, plus another $13 for the two cable boxes I sent back, so about $100 a month.

    When I called to cancel, they asked if I wanted a faster internet speed. I said no, since all of our devices were working well as it was, plus I remember the Wall Street Journal article from last summer which said, after a long study, that faster speeds weren't worth it.

    https://www.wsj.com/graphics/faster-internet-not-worth-it/

    Anyway, they turned around and offered me a faster internet speed for $10 less per month. So I took it.

    Now, we primarily use our Apple TV box, with our meager streaming subscriptions, but we have more content than we can keep up with. I enjoyed cable for nearly 40 years, but it's time for something new.

  8. Sam Favate

    After two years of not watching cable, we cut the cord last month. The reduction in my bill will be about $85/month, plus another $13 for the two cable boxes I sent back, so about $100 a month.

    When I called to cancel, they asked if I wanted a faster internet speed. I said no, since all of our devices were working well as it was, plus I remember the Wall Street Journal article from last summer which said, after a long study, that faster speeds weren't worth it.

    https://www.wsj.com/graphics/faster-internet-not-worth-it/

    Anyway, they turned around and offered me a faster internet speed for $10 less per month. So I took it.

    Now, we primarily use our Apple TV box, with our meager streaming subscriptions, but we have more content than we can keep up with. I enjoyed cable for nearly 40 years, but it's time for something new.

    Can't read the article without a subscription to WSJ but I suspect I already know what it says.

    1. Unless you have several people in your home streaming 4K content simultaneously, you're unlikely to exceed the limits of even a basic broadband plan which will usually give you around 8 – 10 Mbps.
    2. Advertised speeds are never guaranteed with ANY ISP. You have to read the small print which gives them complete immunity when speeds are not as promised.
    3. Net Neutrality – With the precarious state of this issue [in the US anyway] ISP's are basically free to throttle your speeds based on their respective relationships with the [typically streaming] sites you frequent.

    In short, why pay for something that you may not even need and the provider won't even guarantee to deliver if you actually do?

  9. Harold here. Hi! (Lurker since 1998/1999 and future lurker.)

    Just in a mood to share our experiences with cord cutting.

    We cut the cord a few years ago after I finally convincing my mother, who lives with my wife and I, that she would save around 60-65% just by purchasing her current shows from iTunes instead of paying for Dish (what we had at the time was about 130.00/month). However, there were a couple of shows that were not available for purchase. For repeated shows, she could find some on some of the OTA sub-channels or get the DVD.

    We never had a problem with the Dish service so we considered SlingTV for some cable shows. For broadcast network shows, I had already switch to OTA years ago with using my Mac, an EyeTV One USB tuner, EyeTV software and shared via iTunes and AppleTV.

    When my mother called Dish to cancel, the agent had her in tears about leaving. We have had Dish service since getting our house in 1999 (15+ years) and that was the only time we had problems with them. It was at that point we decided not to go to SlingTV and that she would just stream certain shows from the cable channel’s website.

    Shortly after, DirecTV Now was announced. Since we already were on AT&T’s unlimited plan, our monthly cost then was 10.00 for the lower tier. It was sweetened later when they added HBO for free, unsweetened a little when there were two(!) price increases within a year of each (Sept 2018 for +5.00 and May 2018 for +10.00). Also, we were able to upgrade my mother’s AppleTV from 3 to 4 for free just by pre-paying 3 months.

    My mother likes the service but did miss the ability to record her shows (she fell in love with DVRs white with Dish) but was happy she had some cable channels. Me: I did not, and still do not, like the interface and rarely use it. For example, I bought Doctor Who in iTunes rather than go through DirecTV Now’s Apple TV app.

    In November/December 2017, I picked up an HD Homerun Quatro. I did not have any installation/set up issue but was not a fan of the interface. Thankfully, I found an application called Channels () that worked with the HD Homerun Quatro, could host the recordings on my Mac, and had AppleTV and iOS apps support both local viewing and remote. The DVR service is 8.00 per month and, IMO, very well worth it especially since it now works with TV Anywhere for viewing and recording.

    Since there was another price increase to 35.00 from DirecTV Now (now called AT&T TV Now) in November, I complained and got it pushed back a month but we are still on the fence about it. The free HBO makes AT&T TV Now 20.00 which is acceptable at this time.

    We currently subscribe to:
    AT&T TV Now $35.00
    Apple TV+ $ 4.99
    Disney+ $ 6.99
    Netflix $12.99
    Channels DVR $ 8.00
    Total $68.00

    Storage: Mac Pro 2008 (using 8TB HDD for just the Channels DVR service)
    Viewing: AppleTVs, iPads, and iPhones

    Antenna: Antennas Direct Clearstream 2Max (paid 54.00 for my second one)
    Tuner: HDHomerun Quatro https://www.silicondust.com/ (paid 150.00 at Best Buy)

    Thanks for reading and now I shall return to being a lurker.

  10. Harold, how much are you paying for internet service, though? I’m with Comcast and pay $154 for cable and internet. Internet cost me $90. Plus I have AT&T for cell phone service and have Direct TV combined (because it would cost more if I just had the phone service). The key thing is getting internet service at a good price. If I dropped cable, adding something like slingtv, by the time I added all the channels I wanted I would be right back up to my Comcast bill. I’ve thought about cutting the cord but internet service is so expensive.

  11. Josh Steinberg

    I recently read an interview with an economics professor who argued that the most valuable thing we as individuals have is time, and that the ad-supported model of sitting through commercials to see something for free extracts a higher price than you’d save from paying for commercial-free access by eating precious time from your life that you can’t get back. He argued that ad-supported viewing was a tax on time that is paid primarily by the poor (who can’t afford the equipment to stream or have the credit needed for a credit cart to open streaming accounts) and the technologically illiterate (who can’t or willfully refuse to learn about new technologies and options and just pay whatever the cable company asks for). I had never heard it phrased that way but I thought it was an interesting perspective.

    Do you have a link/citation for this article?

  12. Thinking about this more, I suspect this econ prof's argument is on the mark in the case where one is devoting one's full attention to watching a show/movie.

    I'm not entirely sure if this assertion is still true for the case where I am doing two or more things at the same time, where the tv is playing in the background. For example, at this moment I am netsurfing, watching the Chicago franchise shows (live on NBC), and skimming partially through a new book I got in the mail earlier today.

  13. @Todd Erwin Can you elaborate on your DVR choice. You considered TiVo and rejected it for being too expensive. You considered four cheap DVRs and rejected them for being 720p.

    And then you picked something completely off your list of options that was only 720p.

    Why the DVR you picked? What’s it do that brought it out of nowhere and being purchased after detailed consideration of other options? Why compromise with 720p? Why not the TiVo for the best DVR available?

  14. A friend “cut the cord” and went all streaming. It was more expensive than cable TV. He did it for philosophical reasons initially, not financial, so that was fine. He then later cut out the Hulu Live to save money.

    And that’s what I’ve concluded: to be on parity with what I have now with network TV and DVR flexibility on current TV, it’s not really any cheaper to “cut the cord”* and might be more expensive.

    More specifically: Hulu Live is $55/mo. My TiVo is paid for and my cable subscription is $95/mo for gigabit and cable. I could save at most $30/mo “cutting the cord” and the add $55 to buy back via streaming. For me, it’s not quite yet a total win in cost and experience. But I’m fortunate to have both FIOS and Comcast and to have recently clawed back a major price reduction to “new customer” for the next two years.

    As for truly cutting the cord: OTA isn’t practical where I’m at AFAIK.

    * which for streaming “cut the cord” really means “spend less on the old cords and spend more on a new cord, keep paying the same oligopoly as we’ve always paid” one cord for another cord

  15. DaveF

    15 Mbps to 25Mbps is advised by providers for UHD streaming.

    https://help.netflix.com/en/node/13444

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201859000

    Believe me, the faster download speeds are crucial for 4K streaming. For two years we tried to make do with AT&T's fastest available speed in our area, 18 Mbps, and would frequently encounter buffering issues (on Vudu) and frequently shifting resolutions on Netflix and Prime Video. That all went away when we switched to Spectrum last year, who just began offering internet in our area 2 years ago. We were offered 100 Mbps down 10 Mbps up for $45/month for two years with a free upgrade to 400 Mbps down 20 Mbps up for three years.

  16. DaveF

    @Todd Erwin Can you elaborate on your DVR choice. You considered TiVo and rejected it for being too expensive. You considered four cheap DVRs and rejected them for being 720p.

    And then you picked something completely off your list of options that was only 720p.

    Why the DVR you picked? What’s it do that brought it out of nowhere and being purchased after detailed consideration of other options? Why compromise with 720p? Why not the TiVo for the best DVR available?

    I based my decision on overall start up and monthly cost (we really did not want to pay a monthly programming fee), of which TiVo was just too expensive, plus user reviews. As I stated in my article, the less expensive DVRs had complaints of hard drive incompatibility issues and/or the programming guide was limited or would fail to load. @Adam Gregorich had posted here on the forum that he had some success with the Recast as well. And for us, 720p for OTA programming (which is broadcast in either 720p or 1080i) is just fine, as we delete the program after watching it 99.99% of the time.

  17. Todd Erwin

    Believe me, the faster download speeds are crucial for 4K streaming. For two years we tried to make do with AT&T's fastest available speed in our area, 18 Mbps, and would frequently encounter buffering issues (on Vudu) and frequently shifting resolutions on Netflix and Prime Video. That all went away when we switched to Spectrum last year, who just began offering internet in our area 2 years ago. We were offered 100 Mbps down 10 Mbps up for $45/month for two years with a free upgrade to 400 Mbps down 20 Mbps up for three years.

    Yep, I had 35Mb/s and streaming anything, especially Prime, was glitchy, even at 1080. Prime would start low res and improve as it played. Others have reported the same thing. Replacing my very old modem bumped me to 75Mb/s, which helped somewhat, but not as much as you'd think. Then I found a special in my area for 500Mb/s for 30% less than what I had been paying (I hate that Comcast BS) and now everything is peachy.

  18. Bob_S.

    Harold, how much are you paying for internet service, though? I'm with Comcast and pay $154 for cable and internet. Internet cost me $90. And of course I had to pay $10 more for TCM since Comcast decided to put it in the higher tiered sports package. Plus I have AT&T for cell phone service and have Direct TV combined (because it would cost more if I just had the phone service). The key thing is getting internet service at a good price. If I dropped cable, adding something like slingtv, by the time I added all the channels I wanted I would be right back up to my Comcast bill. I've thought about cutting the cord but internet service is so expensive.

    I certainly agree that Internet service is expensive and so are TV services.

    I am in Tucson, Arizona. My choices are pretty much DSL, Cox, or a satellite Internet services (which may offer the DSL).

    Currently, I am paying Cox $103.00/mo for 300/30 Internet service (need the 30 u/l for work). For cell phone services, my share of the AT&T bill after taxes is 62.00.

    Looking at Cox's website, their offers to me to retain the same Internet service (or get faster) and to add TV are:

    • + 94.49/mo for ContourTV which has 140+ channels (Total: 198.48/mo)
    • +150.49/mo for Gigabit Internet and ContourTV Ultimate with 250+ channels as well as premium channels (total: 253.48/mo)
    • +200.48 which is the same as the previous one but with unlimited data (Total: 303.47/mo)

    Again, the only reasons we have AT&T TV Now is for my mother and HBO; I just don't watch as much as I used to. She even agreed to stick with the lower tier. We are grandfathered into the service plan we have now. For what we pay, 35.00/mo and that includes 65+ Channels and HBO, is no longer offered. If we were to change/upgrade the service:

    • Plus (with 45+ Channels and HBO): 65.00/mo (40.00 if they keep the 25.00 discount)
    • Max (with 60+ channels with HBO and Cinemax): 80.00/mo (55 if they keep the 25.00 discount)

    As the prices go up on AT&T TV Now, we are getting closer and closer to possibly making a switch. First jump may be to YouTube TV for its DVR space, which AT&T TV Now is horrible at 20 hours total. And I just hope that the YouTube TV app is better than the regular YouTube app when it comes to closed captions/subtitles.

    Right now, Cox would get me the best Internet speeds and service (have not had many issues since getting them in 2003) so regardless of which TV service I use, I would still be paying them 103.00/mo.

    Looking back at emails: we, as a family, officially cut the cord from Dish in February 2016.

    Overall, I know I am happier with the current setup we have.

    Oh, other bits of info:

    • We do have Amazon Prime so we do get Prime Video.
    • We do not currently have 4k-capable displays.
  19. So much of the cord-cutting thing depends upon geographical location.

    Here in Boise the TV OTA transmitters are up at 7,500 feet in the Rockies, so everyone gets direct LOS reception with smaller antennas. I placed a large "outdoor" antenna in the crawlspace over the garage and connected it to the RG-6 distribution throughout the house. This gets me 45 OTA channels.

    The local cable supplier is Sparklight (ex CableOne). They charge $55 a month for their lowest-tier 100 MBS service. They list a large number of supported cable modems, some of which are several years old models. I bought an open-box Surfboard SB6183 from Amazon for $31. IIUC the original MSRP for this was around $200. Look for bargains in slightly older modem designs.

    With idiot-proof VOIP boxes like my OOMA home telephones are now cheap. OOMA is about $80 retail ($60 refurb) and the monthly charge is only the taxes they have to pay – for me around $5/month. You cut the telephone company cord going into your house then plug the OOMA box into a convenient phone jack – now all your phones are connected. OOMA does charge an excessive one-time $50 for porting over your old phone number though.

    I watch little TV anymore, and I HATE sports, so my situation is probably different than most people's. No interest in streaming for me.

  20. DaveF

    15 Mbps to 25Mbps is advised by providers for UHD streaming.

    Poorly written. Sorry. What I meant was "if you don't have simultaneous 4K streams in play then you are probably safe with any broadband plan." For the moment anyway, I'm only using the Standard HD [Netflix] plan but I did previously have the UHD plan and never experienced any video related issues. I downgraded my plan because I wasn't happy with their Atoms offerings at the time.

    My Internet service is low-tier and hasn't changed in many years. Here are my test results as of today but they can vary WIDELY depending on multiple factors. It's also worth noting that most of the popular Speed Test sites [this one included] are designed to make your ISP look good but don't always return real-world results. Because of this, I doubt most people even know what their true [nominal] Internet speeds are.

    View attachment 67318

    For a more accurate test, I would suggest this tool. Note the disparity between the two tests conducted within minutes of each other.

    View attachment 67319

  21. DaveF

    And that’s what I’ve concluded: to be on parity with what I have now with network TV and DVR flexibility on current TV, it’s not really any cheaper to “cut the cord”* and might be more expensive.

    Depends on your preferred [must have] content. For me [with the exception of live sports] it's all about genres. I can find more content [You Tube, Netflix etc.] in any of them than I ever have time to watch. For example, I just finished watching "The Good Place" on Netflix. Shows like this serve as my light comedy at the beginning of my day while I have breakfast. Tomorrow morning I'll start looking for a new show to fill that slot.

    Meanwhile the new season of Lost In Space just launched on Netflix too. There's my next Sci-Fi fix!

  22. For The Good Place, though… just as an example. There are lots of ways to access that show for less than the cost of cable, without a roof antenna and without waiting a year.

    -It’s an NBC show, which means that the full episode goes on NBC.com for free after it airs

    -The entire series is on Hulu, with new episodes added the morning after the broadcast. $10 a month commercial free (or $6 with commercials) gets you pretty much every current network show this way and tons of legacy content.

    -Digital retailers like iTunes and Vudu sell new episodes for $3 each the day after they air and offer discounts for pre-purchasing the whole season

    -The coming NBC Peacock app will allow this content to be seen for free with commercials or without commercials for a small monthly fee.

    If you want to watch The Good Place at exactly the moment it airs on NBC, yes, you’ll need cable/satellite, an OTA antenna, or a Hulu Live/YouTube Live service that costs $50 a month. But if you can accept watching it anytime after 12:01am instead of 9:00pm on the dot, there are major savings to be had.

    This is one of my wife’s favorite shows and one she wouldn’t want to make do without. But she was always watching it the next day on Hulu even when we had cable. Cutting the cord didn’t change her approach to the program in the slightest. Since we already had Hulu, it didn’t cost anything extra when we cut the cord.

    But since we’re saving nearly $150 a month, which will add up to around $1500 for the year, if we add a service for $10 for a couple months, or spend $20 on a season pass for a show here or there, that’s still far less than what we were paying.

    I guess the difference is, when you cut the cord, are you looking to have all of the same channels as you had before, or are you just looking for the content you want? I don’t need to have channels to surf, so having online access to channels playing content in a linear fashion didn’t matter to me. If I can stream The Good Place anytime I want, what difference does it make that I can’t watch it at specifically 9pm with commercials?

  23. Josh Steinberg

    I thought you could simply go to NBC.com and watch the programs directly on their website (with ads) once they air. That it wasn’t a full library but the last few weeks of shows.

    NBC.com, yes, if you connect your PC to your TV or AV Receiver. The NBC app (on Roku, Fire, Apple TV, or smart TV), though, requires registering your cable or satellite or streaming (YouTube TV, AT&T Now, etc) subscription.

  24. jcroy

    I just connect my desktop computer's graphic card to the screen with a generic hdmi cable.

    Thanks.

    I'll have to give this a try in my main room. I tried it on my office PC and received 3 credits [free show views] only after providing my email address. Fair enough but clearly a teaser.

  25. Josh Steinberg

    For The Good Place, though… just as an example. There are lots of ways to access that show for less than the cost of cable, without a roof antenna and without waiting a year.

    MODS – If this is verboten (I know a little German :)) please remove and advise. I wasn't sure.

    If you have Netflix you can also access season 4 today with a VPN. It's already out in Europe.

  26. Josh Steinberg

    For The Good Place, though… just as an example. There are lots of ways to access that show for less than the cost of cable, without a roof antenna and without waiting a year.

    MODS – If this is verboten (I know a little German :)) please remove and advise. I wasn't sure.

    If you have Netflix you can also access season 4 today with a VPN. It's already out in Europe.

  27. Robert Crawford

    Lets get back on topic, please.

    Sure. To reset, I've done about as much cord-cutting as one can do. In my particular case I don't have to deal with Internet as I get that free, for now at least. I also get my home phone at a very cheap rate as described in a previous post but anyone can get this plan.

    We all have different situations. For me OTA and Netflix work for now.

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