Early Report on “Cutting the Cord”

We decided to cut the cord – get rid of cable TV – in the Telgenhof house a few weeks ago now. Our bill had gotten out of control and, like everyone, we were paying for channels we never watched.

I did some research and talked to friends who had done it and came up with a plan. And don’t kid yourself, if you are going to do this and you are a TV watcher, you will need a plan.

What I have found first of all, is that with cable, especially with a DVR, you are paying for convenience. Pick out your favorite shows, set your DVR and look in your library each night and see what the DVR has put in there for you.

No such luck for cord cutters. You will need to be intentional about what you watch and when you watch it. I know many say this actually cuts down the TV consumption which is a good thing. If you’re not a planner or a technophobe, this can be a bit frustrating.

I digress…let me start with the basics. After a lot of research, we use Google Chromecast, Roku, an HD antenna, an app called TV cast for the iPhone and a Windows tablet with Chrome and Googlecast installed.

You can find a lot of articles online to tell you about these. I’ll do a bit of that but I will organize this by how we watch the shows/networks we like, because I think that’s how most people will view making the switch.

It’s great to have a Roku and you can find lots of uses for it, but the most important thing to most is “I watch NCIS (or fill in the blank), will I still be able to watch it and how?”

So…here goes:

NBC – We watch it mostly using Hulu Plus. It is a channel available on the Roku (or xBox One) that costs $7.99 per month with limited commercials or $11.99 with no commercials. The catch is that the shows are not live, they are available to you the next day. Not a huge deal, but something to get used to. And you may need to let your co-workers know so you don’t accidentally get any spoilers. We can also watch NBC live using our HD antenna. It is only hooked up to one of our TVs so it isn’t optimal but for live NBC events, like sports, it’s a good way to go.

There is one catch for us. For some reason, Dateline is not available on Hulu. We love the true crime shows and for that, we have to go with my tablet and Googlecast to cast to the TV through the Chromecast. I’m not going to get into a long explanation of how that all works here. If you’re interested and can’t figure it out, e-mail me.

ABC – same as NBC, we use Hulu and the antenna.

CBS – these guys are a little tricky. Not available through Hulu so they have a standalone product called CBS All-Access. It’s $5.99 a month and gives you all CBS shows the day after they air.

Basic Cable channels – I can’t get by without my ESPN, there are only two ways I know to get it when you cut the cord. To get live ESPN, we have Sling, another channel/service similar to Hulu with one big difference. Sling shows a number of channels live, including ESPN and ESPN 2. It also runs $20 a month. It allows you to also watch TBS, TNT, AMC, Disney Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Travel Channel, Lifetime, Bloomberg, CNN, History Channel, A&E and others. You can watch live or shows that aired the previous three days.

It sounds great but using it with the Roku is tough because the remote control has a lengthy delay and a difficult interface. Also not every channel has the three days available or the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward.

These may sound like little annoyances but over time, they are a major inconvenience. I would get rid of Sling if there was another way to get these channels (other than one I’ll discuss at the end).

HBO – you can purchase HBO as a standalone for $15 per month either as an addition to Sling or as I do, as a standalone using the iPhone HBO Now app and streaming via Chromecast. Showtime is also available the same way.

Sunday NFL games – it’s still early for me to break this down but the easiest way to get the NFL games is using the antenna if they come through in your area. Unfortunately for me the Lions are usually on Fox and that’s one station we can’t pick up. There appears to be an alternative out there – NFL Sunday Ticket has only been available through Direct TV before but this year you can purchase a standalone package. You can stream on your computer (and thus your TV via Googlecast) for $200 for the season, or through xBox One or Roku for $260. College students can get a discounted price of $100 ($25 per month).

Baseball games – I watch MLB through a MLB.tv package which is $129.99 for the year and gives you access to watch all MLB games live or on demand. The one catch is that local games are blacked out live. You can circumvent this by watching on the computer using Google Chrome and an extension called Hola which makes it appear that you are in a different area, thus with different blackout restrictions. Then if you wish to watch on TV, you cast using Googlecast.

Other shows/movies – we also have Netflix for $7.99 a month which offers great movies (via Roku or Chromecast), original programming (like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black) and past seasons of many TV programs. A similar offering is Amazon Instant Video. This is an interesting one since it has many similarities to Netflix but comes with an Amazon Prime membership at $99 a year. The Prime membership gives you free two-day shipping on Amazon orders and other member benefits such as free book downloads for the Kindle.

Miscellany – Another tool is YouTube which can be watched via Chromecast on TV and has tons of show clips, etc and some full episodes and movies. I also mentioned earlier that I use the TV cast app. It’s a great app that allows you to cast videos from your iPhone to your TV via your Chromecast. I didn’t know they had such a thing until a few days ago. It’s a useful tool.

Conclusion – There is a lot more that I have learned and continue to learn. One of the biggest changes is figuring out what is out there to watch. I found an app called Yideo for the iPhone which lets you choose your favorite programs and it will let you know when the new episodes are available and where.

All of these options I talked about, other than the antenna, rely on the internet so for us we had to keep our Charter internet which costs us $60 a month.

Still we have a signifcant savings – we had the all-channel package which was pushing $200 a month, including internet. Now we have internet ($60), Sling ($20), Hulu ($12), Amazon ($9), Netflix ($8), CBS ($6) – for a total of $115, a 42% savings.

I don’t count the MLB because I had that package before. Once I figure out what I’m doing for football, I may need to add some additional cost.

Lastly, there is another little secret that is out there. If you have a friend or relative who has cable or satellite and is willing to share their password with you, you can use iPhone apps and/or Roku channels to watch CBS, ABC, FOX, PBS, FX, HGTV, Travel, Comedy and more. As such, you may be able to avoid the $6 for CBS and even the $20 for Sling. I believe also that you may be able to watch Fox Sports and NBC Sports Channel though I am not certain.

So, in conclusion, I have found so far that with the package we put together, it is more work and there are some shows we just miss out on (Morning Joe on MSNBC for me), but I like the cost savings and even the adventure.

I didn’t even mention all of the old-time shows you can watch this way – Cheers, Seinfeld, Andy Griffith Show, actually most everything is out there using one of these services.

Then again, you can save a lot of money, get rid of everything and read instead.

About Allen Telgenhof

Allen Telgenhof is the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney; 29 years as an attorney, 14 years of coaching high school baseball, now as varsity coach at Boyne Falls Public Schools. Graduated from Clio High School, Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Proud father of Ty, Ally, Will and Luke.
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