Cutting the Cord IV.I

 If you have read my posts on this subject, cutting the cable cord is a growing interest.  CNET correspondent David Katzmaier revealed the reality of his journey that resulted in returning to cable. Cutting the cord can be difficult and you may/may not be a candidate for the transition. Since I am not complete with the cut over, I thought I would do a state-of-the-transition of my own, but more in a techno-nerd sort of way. Here are some things I have learned along the way as well as some concerns and considerations:

  1. Cold Turkey: As the author of the CNET article mentioned, he went cold turkey in one fail swoop and besides the immediate cable withdrawals he also struggled with antenna adjustment issues. A broadcast antenna can experience similar reception issues found with satellite services more so than cable or phone based services.
  2. Antenna Reception: As noted in my earlier entries, having a good antenna and good broadcast antenna service will be paramount. This is the core of your (off cable) service. If you have poor reception, pixeling, or blocking you will get quite frustrated with the service. If your antenna service is marginal on a good day, it will be poor on a bad day. Wind, rain, tree’s with large leaves in the summer will all negatively impact the reception. If you are old enough to remember depending on a TV antenna for all of your broadcast television, you will remember fuzzy, scratchy and intermittent service. This can also occur with the digital antenna.
  3. Limited Reception: Some channels will not show up. Obtaining ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX are the big broadcast providers. However, due to antenna placement, you may have difficulty receiving all of them. Even being relatively close you may find it difficult to get good reception. Spend the money on a good antenna, mast, coax, splitters and amplifiers to ensure high quality reception. If you are not a much of a technogeek, consider hiring a professional to establish your antenna service. As a DIYer project, its quite a trial and error process.
  4.  Antenna Placement: Even though having an antenna on a 10 ft. mast may work for many urban dwellers, antenna masts of greater proportion may be required. In my case, I have struggled with getting adequate reception of the 4 major networks off of a 10 ft. mast (and I live in the city).  I have continued to tweak my arrangement and after about 2 months. I have been monitoring the quality during some spring showers and it appears to be working pretty well.
  5. It’s Not the Same: To put it bluntly, cable TV services do a decent job to create a seamless one remote solution. Without the cable box, you will have to manage your watching habits a bit more. Using the tuner built into the TV, you will have to select different input sources that you have to move across to see what you want. For instance: the Broadcast antenna will be source one, where the Roku box will be another as well as a DVD player. Most modern TV’s have multiple input sources built into the tuner .
  6. No Online TV Schedule: With Cable, it got real convenient to channel surf the TV guide to see what else is on. Right now, an online TV schedule does not exist in my arrangement. However, as an option, TV Guide has a mobile app for Iphones and Itouch devices. You can program in your zip code to see localized TV programing. (NOTE: Once I install the Channel Master DVR, the TV guide is part of the programing, so I assume I will regain the surfing feature.)
  7. Multiple TV’s: Much like the cable boxes, if you want to watch multiple viewings through the Roku box, you will need more that one (there are other methods to use one centralized Roku box, but it will cost as much as just adding a second box). However, if you are just looking at broadcast TV on a specific set; no additional boxes are required.
  8. Sports: If you are tied to live time sports beyond your normal region or programing area; cutting the cord will be an issue. If you are still committed to making the move, you might consider looking at the online sources for real-time sports outside of your region

Cut the Cord Gradually: This would be my biggest recommendation. It’s best to wean the household off the cable instead of the flash cut.

  1. Dedicate one television to the conversion: This will allow you to gradually move toward using this solution as an acceptable viewing solution.
  2. Connect the new antenna to this TV to work out any bugs found in the reception. As I mentioned, we struggled with getting adequate antenna service to work a reliably as the Cable Service. For that reason we continued to go back to the other room. Since it appears we have cleared up the problem, we dont find it necessary to go to the other TV to watch broadcast television. This process will also help you identify what programing you are really watching. If you find you have to watch Overhauling, or the DIY network, it may be a struggle to make the final cut.
  3. Live with the solution for a month or so: Get the antenna service working well. Purchase the Roku box and use that to watch on demand movies. We got the Roku box and we have watched a few movies, but maybe 3 over the last week, which is a lot less than I thought I would be watching.
  4. The good news: Broadcast and Internet TV options continue to grow. Stay tuned for my next installment of “Cutting the Cord”.  My next step is to purchase the Channel Master DVR (recently reduced to $299 on Amazon).

Stay tuned!

BOB

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2 Responses to Cutting the Cord IV.I

  1. Michael M says:

    I started the cord cutiing before discovering your site. I ended up following some of your advice. Phase 1 was an $93 BDP-S380 Sony Blu-Ray player with Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu and Crackle streaming services. Our streaming Netflix will resume in a few weeks so or streaming options will be very good. I was already paying for the Amazon Prime shipping but ignoring the “free” video. I warned my children that Disney and Nick were going away and they needed to “look” for shows on these services. On the advice of a AVS Forum member I bought a $5 UHF bowtie antenna and a few other parts and was surprised that I could pull in 35 major and minor digital channels in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. It’s not exotic but it works. That lead to a new TiVo Premiere. The $82 TiVo is a smooth performer especially now that TiVo has lowered the monthly DVR fee to $10 for over the air (OTA) antenna only use. TiVo even gave me a six month, $48 credit for Hulu Plus Service. I am planning on monitoring the use of the Netflix and Hulu Plus service for the next six months, if the family is not taking advantage of those services I will cancel one or both and save anothe $8 to $17 per month. Next up is covenrting the telephones to Vonage and last up will be shopping and switching ISP. The only hurdle left after that is how do I watch the Phillies when the return in April. I know there is a free OTA game every Sunday on WPHL 17 and an occasional free OTA Saturday game on WTXF 29, but what about the rest of the time?

    • homeownerbob says:

      Awesome, I am glad it is working for you..I have to admit, I have not made the final cut. I purchased the Channel Master DVR with mixed results, but still evaluating it (review coming soon). The good news about this solution is there is not a monthly fee associated with it. Regarding Netflex, I am a little disapointed and have not used it near as much as I thought I would. The good news is that there are other movie sources through the Blue Ray or Roku box in my case that I can get just about the same amount of movies. Thanks for your update on your progress. BTW… regarding your Vonage conversion, make sure they will accept emergency 911 calls as this had been an earlier issue with ISP voice line conversions as the 911 services could not identify the source of the call.. GOOD LUCK.. BOB

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