Adventures in Cord Cutting

A few weeks ago we finally made the decision to look into cord cutting and send cableTV packing. We’ve been with a provider for a few years and, while we’re not unhappy with the service, we’re more than displeased with the value. I don’t really need 1000 channels including, after all, and I was a little confused as to why TV, internet and phone (I never used the phone service) cost me upwards of $250 per month. Seemed kinda nuts.

A few weeks ago, October 2nd to be exact, I posted a comment on Facebook asking for guidance from those that have been down this road. I took advice from all the comments and did some research on what was available. And I must say, holy crap are there a lot of choices out there. There are more entertainment choices that colors of paint. And it’s ridiculous.

A summary of what I discovered to be the best fit for my situation is below. Keep in mind, this may not be the best fit for you if you have different entertainment preferences.  Anyway, here’s what I discovered, in no particular order:

  1. Individual viewing patterns determine everything. For us that meant, HBO and Showtime for a few of their original series and sports, particularly college football and basketball along with NHL and NFL games for a few teams. To that we wanted to add some of the major networks for a couple of series. Live TV was a cord cutting factor for us as we like to watch sports as they happen since one innocent visit to social media usually ruins the outcome. Apparently some are burdened with the responsibility to broadcast scores on social media since it’s so difficult to find scores elsewhere…
  2. AppleTV: We have had an AppleTV for a while and used it primarily for ESPN and Netflix. Works well, not throwing it out.
  3. Amazon FireTV: There were some services available that don’t run on AppleTV so I ordered an Amazon FireTV to check that out (more on that in a minute). Also, since we’ve been Amazon Prime members for years, we could take advantage of Prime Video on the FireTV at no additional cost.
  4. SlingTV: We tried it and it didn’t make the cut. Most of the shows are OnDemand with limited live viewing (at least that’s how it was in my area — not sure if this varies by geography). I also found the quality to lacking frequently. The picture would go lo-res and my aging eyes couldn’t take it. The giant Zenith TV that took up half of the family room in my childhood home had a better picture than lo-res SlingTV.
  5. Hulu: This service had most of the shows that we watched, with the exception of one or two and a reasonable cost. Still, no live TV and there were only two shows that we occasionally watched that were exclusive to Hulu. Didn’t make the cut.
  6. Playstation Vue: looked interesting, but I don’t have a Playstation. Wait, what’s that? I don’t need a Playstation? That’s right, there’s a Vue app that runs on FireTV. And it’s a good thing, because Vue was the clear winner over both Hulu and SlingTV (for us anyway). Vue offers by far the most LiveTV, tons of OnDemand and has a “DVR” feature that Sling and Hulu do not have. So it’s not really a DVR obviously, but it allows DVR like flexibility on some shows, including NFL games.  Here’s how it works: If you add a show to your favorites AND it is a DVR capable show, when the show becomes available OnDemand, you can fly through it using fast forward just like it was recorded on a DVR. For many OnDemand shows this isn’t the case and you’re forced to sit through the entire thing at original speed, commercials included. The amount of commercials during sporting events seems ridiculous to me (touchdown, commercial, kickoff, commercial, four plays, commercial) so having a DVR feature available can be a real time-saver. Nothing beats watching my favorite NFL team get their butt kicked in 20 minutes instead of 3 hours. And yes, this feature is available on the majority of NFL games on Vue. There are a few options available but we opted for the full version at $65 per month that includes HBO and Showtime. I can opt out of HBO and Showtime any time I want and opt back in later, if I want to save about $20 per month during the dark months when Game of Thrones is not playing.
  7. Vue as Provider: The other great thing about Vue — and it deserves its own bullet point — is that it qualifies as a provider with most standalone network apps. In other words, when you try to use the ABC OnDemand app from AppleTV or FireTV, it will say you need to log in using a provider. We used to do this using our cable provider credentials, but now use our Playstation Vue credentials and it works just fine. There are some network apps that don’t work with Vue but that will likely diminish over time.
  8. HDTV Antenna: A few folks in the cord cutting world that I’ve spoken to get great results with an antenna. I may add this in the future, but chose not to do it now as I get everything I need through other means without having to go on another adventure in the attic.
  9. Bandwidth: We current have internet service from our cable provider and get 105Mbps with a total of 300Gb in data on a monthly basis for about $110 per month (that’s the price after tossing their TV and phone service). That is plenty of speed for what we need, but we’re going to switch as I really don’t want my cable provider having a single tentacle reaching into my abode.  We’re going switch to AT&T who fortunately ran fiber through my neighborhood last year. We can get 1Gbps with a terabyte of data transfer for less than $80 per month (currently a special in my areas, not sure when it ends).  Ten times the speed and over three times the total data transfer for less money. The only hassle is that we have to use their modem/router which means putting another router behind their router so that an AT&T screw up won’t expose every online device in my house to the internet.

So here are the final decisions:

  • AppleTV (since we already had it)
  • Amazon Prime Video (already had Prime for other reasons, so this was a freebie)
  • Amazon FireTV (for Playstation Vue and Prime Video)
  • Playstation Vue
  • Netflix
  • AT&T Gigapower 1Gbps internet.

Total Cost

  • One time costs:
    • FireTV $100
    • HDMI Cable $6(Amazon, why doesn’t FireTV come with an HDMI cable?)
  • Monthly costs:
    • Netflix: $10
    • Internet: $80*
    • Playstation Vue: $65
*This is the entire cost for internet service which I also use for work. I should likely only attribute half of this cost to TV.

So, for an initial investment of $106 and a monthly cost of $155, I’ve still got way more than I need. And I’m saving $100 per month. As mentioned, I could make that $120 during non-GOT months. Plus if you look at half of the internet cost being for TV as mentioned, it’s more like $80 per month (savings of about $160 per month).

What did I give up for these cord cutting savings? Starz, Cinemax and the ability to DVR anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of those things were available in the near future via Playstation Vue, though.

It’s worth noting that some things were gained. Many channels that we did not get via cable were on Vue including one channel that shows original Japanese versions of Ultraman with English subtitles. Apparently, I wasted an entire Sunday morning watching various monsters being thwarted by the original chrome dome himself before being distracted from my viewing stupor by early afternoon hunger pangs.

What an amazing time we live in.

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