Monday, March 02, 2015

Cutting Cable TV

Note: This post is totally unrelated to maritime security or any other security except perhaps financial.

My cable TV company  and I have divorced.

After paying the maximum price to get 300+ channels so that I could get the few I really wanted (mostly the ESPNs during college basketball season and FoxNews), I got mad when I saw advertisements offering "new subscribers" significant discounts on the services I was paying for.

Just as any good consumer would do, I got on the phone and asked for those discounts to be applied to my account. CableCo was unrelenting. So I began peeling back my services. First, I bought my own modem and within a few months recaptured its cost by not paying a rental fee for one from CableCo. My new modem is way better than the old one.

I began to track channel watching and realized that with the exception of the ESPNs we were mostly watching channels available over the air. Further, we were watching Amazon Prime Videos and Netflix, both services that I was paying for in addition to cable TV. We were not really interested 40 channels of bad music that counted as part of our premium package. Or in paying to receive channels I can get for free over the air.

We had a DVR "rented" from CableCo. This allowed us to time shift certain programs, but most especially "Jeopardy" which is, as far as I can tell, not legally available on the internet, but is provided over the air by the local ABC affiliate. Capturing that show for replay at a time convenient for us became my quest.

First, I acquired a Hauppauge WinTV USB TV tuner for Windows which promised:
WinTV-HVR-955Q has these great features in the easiest to install, USB TV tuner available today:
  • Watch and record live over-the-air HDTV, analog TV or clear QAM cable TV on your PC or laptop
  • Easy to install on your laptop or desktop PC ... small and portable, too!
  • Includes the WinTV v7 application to watch TV in window, pause TV or record TV. Plus a remote control and portable TV antenna are included
  • Also for Windows Media Center in Windows 8, 8.1 and Windows 7
Thing runs about $70 or less at Amazon. It works fine. Plug it into a USB port, connect to an antenna and you get over the air channels. You can record shows to your computer or other hard drive. However, it requires a Windows PC. I have a couple of older Windows laptops (but I prefer other operating systems) so I can use this tuner.

However, I continued my search for a bigger better DVR device to capture over the air channels and not require Windows to be part of the process. That took me to the Channel Master DVR+ and various things to go with it that took about $360 to acquire. This machine (with a 1 TB hard drive) provides a lot of nice features:
DVR+ from Channel Master provides the ultimate cord-cutting alternative to traditional pay-TV services. Watch and record free live over-the-air broadcast programming in crystal clear HD, including all of your favorite shows, news and sports from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW and many more. Enjoy a familiar experience with menus and program guide very similar to the DVRs used by cable and satellite operators, and dual tuners allow you to record one program while watching another or record two programs at the same time. Internet connectivity provides additional features including an expanded 14-day program guide, software updates and access to online streaming services. This bundle includes the DVR+ DVR, DVR+ handheld remote, compatible WiFi adapter for internet connectivity and 12 foot high-speed HDMI cable that supports resolutions up to 1080p.
Based on its price (and the price of the needed antenna), I will recover the cost of the DVR+ in roughly 4 months of cutting cable TV.

One of the reasons it takes that long is that I still wanted access to the ESPNs. Happily, just as I turned my CableCo DVR in and told them to shut off the TV feed (yes, still keeping internet), Dish TV introduced Sling Television which offers, among other things, the ESPNs and more for $20 plus $5 for more sports stuff. So, I now have the ESPNs, Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos and DVR that meets my needs. And I save about a $1000 a year.

The quality of the over the air picture is better than cable, too.

Here's an for the Channel Master DVR+:

I am not getting dime of compensation for any of this. I just hate the CableCo (and its just as bad rivals) so my compensation is purely psychic.

Oh, by the way, buy a good antenna. It doesn't have to be the most expensive one out there, either. I mostly use cheap rabbit ears, but I live in a city. We get 22 or so over the air channels, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW, PBS, and the various digital sub-channels they operate.

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