Cutting the Cord Part IV; My Choices

Change can be difficult, CATV  companies have done a decent job in creating enough content value for many of us to keep the product even though the quality of the service may be lacking.  The solution of cutting the cord requires the viewer to change their habits. They are betting you will not.  Those of you that require a wide selection of live sports are going to have the most difficult time finding equitable alternative solutions. On the other hand, if you like to watch broadcast TV,  movies, vintage TV or some of the popular Discovery type programs, much of that is viewable from sources such as Netflex.

This episode of my excursion will cover the choices I have made and why.  As you have probably figured, this solution is like a multi legged table, where each leg supports part of the table. It will take a little more effort and some getting used to. But, by most accounts, it will get better.

My Choices:

  1. Broadcast Antenna: (You already figured that one out). To date, I have been impressed with the overall HD quality. There is a noticeable difference between my Uverse (HD) reception and the (HD) broadcast antenna. As previously mentioned, solutions such as the UVerse require alot of compression to get it through the copper wires that serve your house. This compression process degrades the sharpness of the image. Just remember, so far, there are fewer HD Broadcasts than found through the CATV or Uverse type solutions. Worth mentioning, since the digital conversion of  broadcast television, we have barely seen what broadcast television may become.  The biggest drawback appears to be the lack of a on-screen TV guides. See number 2. With the recent digital conversion, local broadcasters now have the ability to provide simultaneous program choices within their channel spectrum. In other words, you may find that the NBC affiliate has the primary station (52.0) a weather only channel (52.1) and maybe a sports (52.2) channel. So to us regular folks it looks like we now have 3 NBC stations instead of just one.   The broadcast antenna business could be the sleeping giant in the bunch.
  2. DVR: To bring broadcast TV up to speed with CATV, a DVR is nearly a must. The Channel Master DVR is a no-subscribtion, one-fee to purchase product. Besides the standard DVR type function it will provide you the on-screen menu that you will miss from CATV. The only draw back so far is that without some other equipment, its a one-box, one-TV solution. (I have some ideas on this one that I need to try.) The Channel Master DVR appears to be the industry leader.
  3. Netflix: There are dozens of choices out there. Netflix appears to have the least amount of hooks (i.e. upgrades and add-on for a fee). To get the Netflix (or streaming video), you will need some form of internet connection. Most new TV’s and DVD’s include an “internet ready” feature. Or, you can just purchase a standalone box. The Roku box appears to be the best choice for me.
  4. Roku Box: The Roku box brings the ethernet connection to your TV that allows you  to pull in streaming video from Netflix. Additionally, you get access to other Internet services such as Pandora, MLB, Hulu Plus and more. Some are fee based some are not.

Disadvantages of giving up cable: Even though I have solved many of the drawbacks and concerns I mentioned in my earlier posts, there are still some that remain with my current solution.

  1. One box, one TV: Assuming you want to watch Netflix on multiple TV’s, the one box per TV solution is actually the short answer. There are some other devices on the market that will allow you to manage 1 input source to 4 output sources. Look at Hometech Solutions for a better understanding of your options.  If you are willing to spend more of your budget, purchasing additional boxes is an easy answer. You may find, you want to replace your DVD (I do), so the Roku box can be used elsewhere.
  2. Available programing: At this point, I believe I am at about 85% of my content target. However, with Netflix, their bargaining power with the various sources continues to increase. So I look for this to get better.
  3. Live Sports: This too is getting better. For a monthly fee you can use your Roku box to access MLB/UFC for some of your sports obsessions.  However, if you are one that consumes all the various sports networks  with all the various programing, it may be worth it to look at those programs through you PC.  
  4. MSNBC, CNN, FNN: These networks are very similar to the Sports Networks; they worked hard to come up with as much odd ball programing  from minute by minute coverage of Wall Street to documentaries about Walmart.

Advantages of living without cable TV:

  1. Cost Savings: So far, with the chosen solutions I have this much invested; 1)Roxu box $59., 2) Broadcast Antenna, amplifier and misc $150. 3) Channel Master DVR $350. and last 4) Netflex $7.99 per month. As mentioned Netflix probably has the largest content offering but there are others coming on-line daily. Unfortunately , if you subscribe to all of them, you are back to the monthly fee of $80 bucks and regular cable programing may become a better deal. 
  2. A la cart viewing: This is something consumers have asked for but traditional CATV has avoided. With the use a Roku type box, you can pretty much subscribe to what ever you want (based on what they currently have to offer). However, be warned,  so far some of the pricing I have seen from the content providers will easily add up to the cost of CATV. 
  3. A lot less crap:  Have you ever wondered why you can block a TV station from your television, but not from your CATV provided set-top-box? Because they don’t want you to!! They use this marketing tool with program providers as a way attract new content to their network. We all surf channels, and there is always a degree of random stopping  to see what is on QVC, so they use that surfing to their advantage.

Next time we will review the new equipment and see how easy/difficult it was to install and turn up.

If you have not read the earlier posts on this topic, click on Techy Things to see all of them.

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