Cutting the cord 243

I could have used 101 but I hope I’m a little further along than that.

I’m ready to officially cut the cord. I’ve had a couple of TV’s that are using just streaming and have been happy with the results. I’ve still got a few questions though.

Our main TV is in the family room on the first floor. I have a better than basic OTA antenna, but nothing fancy (no amplification) and get 49 channels (many of which I will never watch). It has Fire TV and we also have several streaming apps like Sling, Netflix, Hulu, etc. so I think I’m set to move on.

Trying to watch Penn and Teller Fool us tonight on CW had some interruptions when the signal pixilated and froze. I’m debating putting an antenna in the attic and wiring it to all sets. Is there really much of a difference?

My biggest question involves my internet connection. I currently have Spectrum cable which includes digital TV. I spend about $200 per month for the service for all sets. They offer an internet only offer for $45 for “up to” 100 Mbps. I tested and I’m at about 80 and it seems to be fine. Xfinity offers 300 Mbps for another $10. We have several devices but I don’t know if it is worth it for the extra money.

Finally, DVR. We like to time shift. What are my options? Currently it is all on the cable, but is there a way to set up a DVR without the cable that can hopefully record something while watching something else.

Any advice would be appreciated. I’d like to stop the cable as soon as I can.

I presume you mean OTA cable.

The “standard” for DVRs is of course TiVo. They sell an OTA only model or two for less than the cable ones. The issue, as always in this world, is getting an EPG (electronic program guide). You can pay monthly or yearly or you can splurge and get a lifetime EPG TiVo.

(The Roamio OTA life time is list price $400 but has sold for as little as $265 recently. That’s a very good price.)

The thing with TiVo is you pay extra to get simplicity in setup, etc.

You can get a good deal on one off eBay with lifetime EPG. (Make sure it’s at least a Premiere, even better a Roamio. Forget Series 3s. Also triple check it can do OTA. Some are cable only.)

There’s a few other companies that make midrange DVRs, but again the program guide is the hangup and often the setup and features are not as good as TiVos. So compare total costs and other features (including number of tuners).

Then there’s low end stuff like MediaSonic’s “DVR”. You need to provide your own external HD, it uses only the OTA EPG (which can be as short as 4 hours ahead), etc. Plus single tuner so if you want to record one channel while watching another you use the TV’s tuner to watch and the “DVR”'s tuner to record which isn’t so simple.

(I have “rolled” my own OTA DVR using NextPVR installed on my home server, a tuner card, etc. Not for newbies and a real pain.)

One issue you’ll have is signal degradation because of the distance and splitters. You’ll likely need to amplify the signal. But it’s what I do. I have the antenna up high and I send it through an amplifier and then to the cable coax in the house. But antenna recording can be flaky depending on weather or whatever. A signal that comes in strong may fade at random times.

An alternative is to get a network-based DVR like Tablo or ChannelMaster. These devices act like hubs that record content and then you use an app to access the device. You’d have the app on your Fire to access the DVR and watch TV that way. The advantage is that you don’t have to do all the wiring to connect the TV’s to the antenna.

I have a Tivo for my OTA recording because I like the reliability and simplicity. It’s one of the more costly DVRs, but it’s a luxury I feel is worth it.

Check out PlayOn.

Missed the Edit Window…

PlayOn will record quite a lot of streaming content like Netflix, Amazon, etc. to your computer. It won’t record Sling.

I imagine you would be able to record OTA TV, but I wouldn’t know how as I can’t get OTA signals.

Yes, it’s completely legal.

I’ve been using it for about 8 months now, and it’s pretty easy to use.

For internet speed if it’s good already you don’t need more speed. If it’s bad you have to figure out why, it could be the speed of the connection, or poor wireless signal, a overloaded router etc. 80mb/s seems fine for multiple sets. I’ve done well with 25 mb/s for years, though now they upped it to about 100. What you can do is try different speeds to see if there is a difference, but I doubt you will notice.

As for your antenna, a attic one sould work better, but also a outside one has the potential for even more so, or not. It really depends, so it’s hard to say.

As for DVR, options suck right now. If you subscribe to Directvnow they include a DVR for their service, which is basically a bunch of cable channels. IIRC Philo (one of the cheapest ‘skinny bundels’ may also have one. It’s sort of primitive but hopefully will get better however read if you can skip commercials. Some insist you play through them.

I have a “cutting the cord” question…

After you pay for internet service and all of the streaming channels - Netflix, Hulu, etc., how much cheaper is it than cable? It seems like it wouldn’t be that much of a cost savings, plus you’re dealing with antennas that don’t seem very reliable.

I cut the cable about 6 months ago. I now have Netfliz, Hulu, Amazon (already had Prime), Sling TV and Calm Radio and I now pay less than half that I paid Dish Network. No, I didn’t have any premium channels with Dish.

I also have no OTA antennas. No signal in my area.

It’s complicated, but I can give you some of the breakdown:
-$10/month extra from my cable company for internet only package
-Skinny bundles (cable channels via internet), I am now switching for cheap promo offers but will settle for Philo at about $18/month
-Additional random buys - less then $10/month (though I may do the same if I had cable TV)
So in total about $28-38/month for cord cutting price for TV

With cable TV it would be $90 , so $90/month for TV

Savings apx $60/month

Additional notes:
Netflix IIRC $12/month (4K package), but I did and would have this with cable anyway
Amazon Prime, but again I would have this anyway

Also for quite some time, and soon to be again I have 2 residences and also travel a lot, so streaming works great as it doesn’t really care where I am, but the cable price would be apx double for 2 places, making the savings apx $150/month.

With that said I have bought 2 firesticks, 2 Roku’s one Fire TV dongle, so yes there are those expenses, but again I would have them either way as I have netflix and Amazon Prime.

If I understand cutting the cord (and I don’t really understand all of it!) you can’t get network TV (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) without an antenna…right?

If you’re flexible about what you watch, you won’t need to subscribe to every service. And you don’t have to subscribe to all the services all at the same time. But if you need to watch shows on Showtime, HBO, HGTV, etc., then all the services add up.

Most major areas can get a lot over an antenna, so you might not need Hulu. But like you said, reception can be unreliable. If you miss a show, you may be able to get it directly from the channel’s streaming app.

Not exactly. There are streaming-only TV packages, like Sling and YouTube, that give you a cable-like channel selection that will have the networks live shows. Those will also have some of the network shows on-demand.

Hulu has many of the network shows on-demand (not live). Hulu doesn’t have all the shows, and they don’t have CBS shows since CBS has their own streaming offering. Hulu will get the shows a day or two after they are broadcast.

Many networks have their own streaming app. ABC, NBC, and PBS have free apps which allow you to watch much of their content on-demand. CBS has a subscription app for their content.

Many of the non-network channels also have a streaming app (e.g. HGTV, E!, Discovery, etc), but they typically require you to have a cable or satellite subscription. Those apps are just a bonus for people who already subscribe to a package rather than a way to watch them independently.

It’s complicated. Generally no, but it depends on what you want from the major networks. If it’s brand new shows shown on the same day/time as OTA, then you would have to subscribe to that network’s streaming service or rely on an OTA antenna.

If it’s older shows (a week or more older) then some shows may be available on other services like Sling.

“Cutting The Cable” requires a different way of watching television. I find that there is far more to watch without cable, but some or most content will not be as up-to-the-minute current as a network channel on regular cable.

Again, it depends on what channels or shows that you “must have” and cannot do without. I find that the cost savings of cutting the cable far outweigh any inconvenience of not being able to watch the next episode of “Whatever” when it airs.

To optimize antenna placement, check where the transmitters are in relation to your house. There are many websites which take your address and show you which TV channels you should receive. They often also show a map of where your house is in relation to those transmitters. That may help you put the antenna in a place where it will have the least obstructions.

I also seem to remember that there are some OTA DVR’s which have two antenna inputs. This would allow you to have antennas pointing in different directions and the DVR will pick the best signal when it records.

Another question for you experts…

On a radio show I listen to, they are always advertising/talking about the TCL 4k Roku TV. They say if you want to cut the cord that this is the TV to do it with. Would I still need an antenna? All I need is wireless internet? Does anyone know anything about these TV’s?

It means that the TV already has Roku built in. As opposed to buying a separate Roku for a non-Roku TV.

“4K” is the resolution of the TV. As opposed to 1080P. That’s pretty standard for new TVs.

You’ll need an antenna to receive OTA channels. If you don’t need that, then yes, Internet and subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. is all you’ll need.

Maybe someone could weigh in on whether a Roku built in to the TV works as well as a separate Roku…

Do you need the local channels that Roku doesn’t carry? Pretty simple question.

Roku is great on the surface, but you have to spend real $ to get a decent assortment. And, like cable, you can’t pick and choose individual channels. You can easily end up spending the same as an Internet/TV combo deal from a cable company.

It’s the issue of having to pay several different companies for different segments that quickly eats away at cord-cutting savings. And it’s getting worse rather than better.

A la carte from just one service would be ideal. As if that’s going to happen.

Oh, another thing. Some cable companies are greatly increasing the rates on Internet only services in order to thwart cord cutters. Such nice people.

I have a TCL with Roku. It works just like a Roku. To watch OTA TV, you pick the TV app right next to all your other apps, like Netflix, Amazon, etc. But you don’t need to get a whole new TV to do streaming. Just get a Roku box and hook it up to your existing TV. A Roku box is like $50.

But many TVs now have smart capability, which means they can support streaming apps. If you have a recent TV, yours might have it already. If you’re buying a new TV and will be using the smart capability, get one with Roku or Android support rather than something proprietary from the TV manufacturer.

And with regards to the streaming apps, there are many apps which offer free content. For example:

CBSN - 24 hour CBS news channel
Crackle (and many others) - Movies with commercials
PlutoTV - Combines many of the free live-streaming channels into a single channel. Provides a cable-like TV guide showing what is on all the channels. Has many news, movie, lifestyle, music, etc, channels.
Vudu - A movie rental channel, but also has a lot of free movies and TV shows (with ads).

I did locate the transmitters and have it pointing in more or less the right direction. My big issue was to get local news as well as network programming as it is being aired. As I said, I can pick up 48 channels with the antenna. It is just the low channels that ever give me a problem (and not that often). Unfortunately this antenna has to be close to the TV I’m going to watch it on. It is basically on the exact opposite side of my house than the transmitters.

This is also what I would like to be able to DVR. I’m sure there is something out there even if I have to go back to the old VCR style of telling it to record every Thursday from 10 to 11 rather than picking record series from the menu. I don’t really have a need to DVR streaming shows.

I picked up a 50" 4k Toshiba with Fire built in on Prime day. It was dirt cheap (under $300). I hooked it up on Saturday and still have the cable available but haven’t turned on the cable box since I hooked it up. I also have a Sony Android TV. They really both work fairly much the same. I picked up some Fire TV dongles for a couple of other TV’s so I think I’ll be cancelling cable later this week. And, yes… they have raised the Internet Only often considerably.

I got this digital converter box for under 40 bucks. It records to a USB flash drive or extern HD (doesn’t include one) and works like a charm. The only thing is you can’t just select a show from a guide. You have to program the channel, date, and start/end times like you did on a VCR. I actually got it because I wanted to be able to manually set the start and end times and it appears you can’t do that with a TiVo.

Even though it’s a digital to analog converter, it has HDMI output and can send the digital signal to your modern television.