Friday, January 19, 2018

Cutting the cord: An initial investigation

Next week we are having fiber to the home (FTTH) installed to our house and cutting the cable TV cord. We plan to become an all-streaming home to save money since we don't use traditional TV all that much. However, it would be nice to have access to a few channels (local news, BBCA, AMC, and a few others), so I have been investigating options and asking for feedback.

As background, we have just the one TV that needs access - maybe two if there's no extra cost. We already own a TiVo DVR that we understand we can't use as a DVR, but it does support Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube. We also own an older model FireTV that is not currently being used, which would also support Amazon and Netflix - but not YouTube. It would be nice to not have to buy any new hardware. And it would be best if the solution was very simple (i.e., no requirement to launch a browser on a computer and cast to the TV).

Here's what I've found so far. I am posting here to get feedback from the hive mind so that we can determine the best option for us. Please comment via whatever method works for you. We really do appreciate the feedback.

YouTube TV
This one looks very good. It has a no-limit DVR, all of the channels that we want, and a $35 per month price tag which is the low end of these universal services. However, YouTube TV is not supported on FireTV (Amazon and Google are being petty) and requires ChromeCasting to be used on a generic Android device (that I would have to buy). I might be able to spring for a new Android TV device, but I'd rather not have to keep a laptop or other Chrome browser around to use the TV.

DirecTV Now
No DVR support kills this one early. It's promised for a future release, but message boards show that the promise has been very slow in coming. On the plus side, it supports all of the channels that we're looking for, has the same price ($35) as YouTube TV, and is supported on the Fire device. If the DVR was there, this would probably be a clear winner, but we never watch anything when it's actually scheduled.

People swear by Hulu, but it looks pretty poor in comparison these days. The DVR is limited to 50 hours unless you pay more for 200 hours (the amount that costs is hard to find on the web). Hulu is also more expensive ($40), but the biggest problem is the limited channel lineup for their live service - no AMC, no BBCA, and others. I suppose the shows we want will appear eventually, but I didn't look too deeply and would be annoyed by a long delay. On the plus side, Hulu Live also includes the Hulu library, and that seems to have some good content. Hulu is a potential contender.

I remember the old Sling boxes, and several folks recommended looking at Sling's streaming service. To get the channels that we are interested in required buying both their blue and orange services for $40 per month. DVR is an additional $5 per month for only 50 hours of storage. And Sling does not appear to support our local channels, so an additional antenna (perhaps attached to our TiVo?) would be required. Sling isn't as attractive as other options.

Xfinity Stream
This is Comcast's attempt to enter the streaming market, and it was recommended as an option. Unfortunately, this product does not appear to be available in the Atlanta area, so it is not for us.

Just get an antenna
Yes, we may end up doing that, but it would be nice not to have to keep switching among multiple boxes and interfaces to watch TV. Our TV is older and only has 2 HDMI ports. We can use an expander (I have one), but that's yet another device to manage. It would be preferable to have a single service that covers what we want.

So, in conclusion, nothing's perfect. What do you folks think? What do I have wrong? What works for you? Thanks for any feedback.

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