Cord Cutting

There is a reason people hate cable companies

Can you drop cable? Be sure you know for certain before you do.
Ryan Michael Downey The Streaming Advisor
Ryan Michael Downey
The Streaming Advisor

If you are wondering why people have begun to look into streaming services as a replacement for cable TV the latest bad press about Comcast is a great example of what is driving people to alternatives. The FCC this week handed out a 2.3 million dollar fine to the cable giant for charging customers for premium channels and equipment they did not order or ask for. 

The ARNU Box Mach 12 is a 64 Bit powerhouse media player with an octa-core processor. The device features the Code Red launcher, the Cloudword Sync configuration tool for Android. The device allows users to access the Android TV version of Netflix and Hulu and features Kodi 17.0. We were impressed with the speed and capabilities of this device and really appreciated the custom build of Kodi which with the aid of cloudword allowed us to add pretty much any add-on we wanted without any hassle from the new set-up. Check out our video for an in-depth overview.

 

Have you seen an advertisement from Sling TV lately? The skinny bundle’s marketing is understandably geared towards football, tis the season, but it does so in a way that makes the entire offering appear to be a sports app versus a collection of channels that includes sports networks. It also does not highlight the two choices and complexities of the program.

I almost never try to compare three things at once because I think that those stories often don’t educate people. But I decided to jump in and give it a shot after an email by a reader. What I have done with Roku 4 Vs Fire TV VS Apple TV is to try to take a look at the devices by focussing on what makes them unique as opposed to relying on buzz terms like ecosystem and focussing on the apps that they have. In this story, we focussed on the top set-top boxes (as far as hardware) from the top 3 players in the industry. It’s quite likely that the top selling Roku model may be the 3 or the quad core stick, but the Roku 4 is the most powerful. I hope this article will help you get to know the best and worst of the devices and help you find the one that is the best fit for your family.

When you set up a cable, satellite or U-Verse plan you will almost always be asked a very important question. How many TV’s do you have in your home? The reason you are asked this is because renting additional cable boxes is a great upsell for service providers and it is almost disguised as a

Send the kids to the play room to watch their favorite Disney shows.
Send the kids to the play room to watch their favorite Disney shows.

necessity. After all, if you have more than one TV you want to be able to watch your content on it right? The answer is usually yes and in turn, people will pay an extra cost per box adding a potential extra bill to their package. That being said, a number of people who have pay TV services through a cable or satellite services could benefit from a great deal of savings by using streaming set-top boxes in place of additional cable boxes.

One of the “hidden” charges that people regularly pay is an upcharge for an additional TV box. In my area, the cable provider is Time Warner Cable. The company charges 11.75 per cable box including the initial box required to access the service. The cost is the same for any other full cable box used in the household. So do the math 11.75 x (your TV’s) = the cost of box rental.  Sorry for the math but an understanding of what you are really paying for is important in gauging your overall expense.

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TV Everywhere apps from Apple TV can let users get their favs in any room without a full TV box.

So how does streaming help me save money on Cable TV?
For a number of years, the pay TV industry has been developing apps that allow users to access channels via wireless devices from phones, tablets, set-top boxes and even computers. One of the most popular “TV everywhere” options is Watch ESPN. The streaming service, which is available to users with a participating provider, and there are a vast number of them, can access full live streams of any ESPN channel that they receive via the app. This could be a perfect way to get ESPN to a man cave without using another cable box. Another popular sports option is Fox Sports 1.

Roku, a company known for its streaming set-top boxes has an entire category of TV everywhere channels that give users a ton of streaming options for a number of channels. They include live channels like watch ESPN and others along with on-demand content channels like HBO Go, which is

Roku uses a simple grid to organize channels.
Roku uses a simple grid to organize channels.

free for HBO subscribers. Apple TV and Fire TV also have a number of TV Everywhere options and for the most part, the major players like ESPN and HBO are available across all major platforms.

Do these apps have a monthly charge
No there is no extra monthly charge to use a TV everywhere app aside from the price of any given premium service like HBO or Showtime etc. The streaming boxes also do not have monthly charges and can add a number of other services to any existing TV. Acess to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon video and so many other sources, thousands in fact.

TWC app
Time Warner’s App for Roku lets users access their entire lineup of Live TV channels on any TV or tablet.

Provider Apps
Depending on your provider there may be multiple options that allow users to access their full lineup of Pay TV channels via apps. This can include full live TV channels including local affiliate networks. In some cases the apps require a user to be in the vicinity of a receiver or modem from the provider. How that works for you will depend on your provider.

Take your TV with you
If you utilize tablets and phones a number of the TV everywhere apps (the channel specific ones) are available anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Is it more expensive to buy separate equipment or rent the boxes?
No matter how much you pay for a separate set-top box if you will be using a pay TV provider every year it will more than pay off over time. Some options can be had for as little as $50.00. And you will have the monthly satisfaction of watching the bill go down.

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This Friday millions of people around the world will watch the parade of nations and the opening

US TV Now Provides US TV Channels Online
US TV Now provides US TV Channels Online

ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Americans living overseas will not be able to see the NBC broadcast on local television or in many cases on the Internet because of restrictions placed on foreign-based IP addresses. Luckily that is an easy fix because of a streaming service called USTV Now.

What is US TV Now
USTV Now, an Internet-based service that provides both a US based cable package for a nominal fee as well as a free feed of major network channels, will pipe NBC’s full coverage straight to anybody that signs up online at its website. Viewers can stream content via computers as well as tablets, cell phones, an app for Plex, and an app for Kodi. Even attaching a computer to a TV via an HDMI cable, if the option is available, will let families and friends gather around the television to take in the action together.

Got a Google Cast Device (Chromecast, NVIDIA Shield or many TV’s) learn how to stream the Olympic with USTV Now Here

For information on USTV Now click here to be taken to the official website.

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Related Article
Watch American Network Television For Free Online With USTV Now

The Tablo Is a different take on the DVR.

How do you update Tablo?  You must be asking yourself that question because the company website does not have a firmware update section. Don’t worry we can help.

On a computer or connected device go to this address

http://my.tablotv.com/#/livetv or click here

You will be brought to a page where you will be prompted to either be prompted to connect the Tablo to your network via W_Fi or by Ethernet, which is just the option that says connect.

From there you will be prompted to update your Tablo to the latest firmware.

Important note
You will likely have to update your firmware multiple times. The Tablo will download whichever is the next firmware in line not the latest firmware. What we mean when we say this is let’s say you have firmware 1.9 and the most current firmware is 3.0. Before you can get firmware 3.0 you have to install firmware 2.0-2.9 or whatever the various updates are before you get 3.0.

How do I know what firmware I have?
Once you have connected to Tablo using this link you can find your firmware build in the settings. It will be listed toward the bottom of the page.

The latest apps may not work without the latest firmware
Got the new Apple TV app for Tablo? I bet it says it can’t find it. Before you waste time on message boards make sure that the Tablo has the latest firmware available.

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The Tablo Is a different take on the DVR.
Apple TV Tablo
Tablo for Apple TV brings new DVR and live TV functionality to the streaming device.

Want Live TV on Apple TV? Tablo fans have been waiting since CES to see the app on the quickly growing platform and now Tablo, the OTA DVR is happy to oblige them. Already available on other OTT platforms like Roku and the Fire TV the 4th generation Apple TV will be the newest home to Tablo’s app providing it with a new look and feel. The Tablo App for Apple TV will be able to take advantage the Apple TV’s Siri integration and voice commands giving users the ability to as Siri to skip commercials.

Keep in mind, the app itself is not a stand-alone DVR service. In order to take advantage of Apple’s

Tablo makes a two and four tuner device.
Tablo makes a two and four tuner device.

new app users must own a Tablo unit. Tablo, unlike most DVR’s does not work like as a stand alone device. The Tablo unit is attached to an Antenna but can be placed anywhere in the home as long as it has access to a home network. From there the Tablo essentially acts as a hub. Users then access their programming from separate apps. Because it is not required to be connected to a TV the unit can be placed wherever it is most advantageous for the TV signal, whether that is in a crawl space or attic or in the living room.

For more on Tablo see our review here

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PlayStation Vue customers will now be able to access their local network stations through the service provided that the channels are owned and operated by the national networks as apposed to private ownership groups. Vue had struggled to offer services in more than a handful of communities since its launch because of a previous strategy that required the ability to offer local TV stations as part of the package. Recently the service dropped that requirement and became available nationally without major network channels in markets where deals were not in place.

 What this means for viewers
This does not mean that everybody with PS Vue will suddenly have access to the full lineup of network channels such as ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. This is because a number of major network affiliate stations are owned by private media groups and even major conglomerates. But this is a big breakthrough for those in markets where the actual networks own stations.

Network Mish Mash
Because of the nature of this development future customers will be put in a situation where they will not be able to be certain exactly which local channels will stream through the service and which will not. For a list of all of the owned and operated network stations see MCN’s story here. In our area, Raleigh-Durham viewers will only receive ABC while in New York viewers will be able to access, CBS, Fox and CBS.

This is the logical step for online streaming operations like Vue  and Sling and will likely provide a model going forward for other online ventures such as Hulu’s proposed offering and the rumored service from YouTube. PlayStation Vue adding major network channels for some viewers may well influence other services as well as the privately owned stations depending on how revenue works out for the affected stations.

Over Three years ago I began laying the groundwork for The Streaming Advisor because I noticed something. The media landscape was about to change. At the time, there was a barely reported narrative about how some people were experimenting with using antennas for TV and adding Netflix via the Nintendo Wii or the “Roku Box”. Cord cutting was barely considered a thing. It was just cheapskates or people who were out of work trying to save money during a down economy according to those at the big media companies.

Now three short years later things are very different. The cable giants and pay TV world fully acknowledge that there are cord-cutters but I think that they still misunderstand exactly what the industry is dealing with. There are a lot of people who call themselves cord-cutters but they are hardly one group. And how and how well the pay TV industry and the streaming services understand who they are dealing with will help choose winners in the new media landscape.

First what is not a cord cutter
Some people think that because someone likes streaming that they are a cord cutter. they look at Roku sales or Netflix subscription numbers and say “look at all the people cutting cable!” This ignores the millions of people who subscribe to one streaming service or another in addition to their cable package and that population is vast.

The Different types Of Cord Cutters


Moved on cuttersThe moved ons

These are people who have had cable for years and realized that as the bills have gone up they rarely turn on the TV for anything other than the local news. Some of them were cord-cutters before it was hipster chic. There are no kids in the house anymore to watch Nickelodeon, the premium channels don’t have movies that they enjoy anymore and they are not sports fans. These are the “reading is better for you” crowd. They are not counter-cultural as much as done. Let’s face it, what is considered entertainment changes over time and TV and movies do not look like they did 20, 40, 50 years ago. And given a choice between keeping the air conditioner going during a hot summer or in some cases the heat (we all know those people) and paying a $200.00 monthly bill they walk away from it never to come back. They might give Netflix a look when their grandson stops by though. Not all of these people are elderly. They are just people who don’t care to keep up with the Kardashians or for that matter the Lannisters. They are not going to be walking through that door cable.

PiratesPirates
There are some people who decide that cable is too expensive and as long as they are not going to pay for cable then they should not pay for anything other than their Internet access. But as opposed to depending on antennas and just deciding to change their entertainment they choose instead to grab all of it from the Internet for free. Some claim that art should be free to the world and that anything that comes on TV or appears on a screen is art. Some concentrate on the money associated with studios and the actors involved in the various movies and TV shows that they consume and feel that because say an actor or say Warner Brothers is already rich that they won’t suffer from not making money off of them. They consider it an act of social justice. Some even call those who pay for services of any type as suckers. They utilize torrents a bevy of Android-based apps (remember Popcorn Time) and third party applications designed to work with the media server program Kodi, which the creators of kodi have said was not the intention of their open source program. For more on that issue see our story on that topic here. Pirates are not likely to be convinced to try out any service that costs more than zero until the means to get content without paying for it dries up.

Budget cuttersBudget Hawks
Budget hawks are the type of cord-cutters who really got the ball rolling. They are the people who looked at rising prices for pay TV services and decided to take a look at how much TV they could watch without $160.00 bills. They like television and tend to lean towards substitutes like Netflix, Hulu and antennas and will give things a look. They are the ones who say things like “I wish I could just get the 10-20 channels that I really watch and not pay for 200 channels that I don’t. They may even be open to getting back into the pay TV culture if offered a package that could match up with their needs. These are the people that Sling TV, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon have built their video businesses around. They want to be able to talk about the show that everyone is watching but choose to check them out any number of ways from buying a series to stream or watching the next day etc. But the days of price gouging services that raise the bills on committed customers are probably over.

Black HoleThe Cord-Nevers
This is the group that will be very interesting to watch over the next 10-15 years. Cord-nevers are young, busy and have bills to pay. They never bought in on the bundle. Maybe it was that they matured when every show was a reality show. Maybe their parents cut cable during the recession and while they were in college they did not develop an interest in current TV. But what did happen was streaming exploded as they were maturing. So it was cool when they were in school. These people watch TV shows though. Lots of them. A realization of this finally forced the industry to stop calling people who did not pay for cable “Non TV Households” Some don’t own TV’s and watch shows via everything from large desktop computers to cell phones. But others are buying the big TV’s too. They just never bothered to make that appointment between 9am and Thursday. They became accustomed to binging TV or even waiting till things were on Hulu. So far nobody has done a study to find out exactly what impact the job market has made on TV viewing habits but I believe it has. Because considering the number of younger workers both college-educated and those without secondary education who work more than one job in today’s world they would be cheating themselves by paying for a live TV service that they can never be home to watch. If you can never ever see a show unless it is on delay that there is no reason to pay for a Cable package and DVR when services like Hulu are out there for $7.99 or even just waiting until it is available on Netflix and or Amazon etc. These guys use almost every means to get their content from pirating, paid streaming services and everything in between including password sharing. Password sharing is using either a friend or parents password to view content that they are paying for. This goes on with everything from Netflix to TV everywhere services sponsored by cable companies.

As important a medium as TV has been in the US it is a learned habit. For some folks can’t fall asleep unless there is one on. Others can’t imagine a dinner where they have to talk to, gasp, each other. I enjoyed many tuna casserole or fried chicken dinners watching Gomer Pile, Full House, Saved By The Bell or whatever happened to come on at 5:30 every weekday. This is why the cord-nevers are so important to pay attention to. If they continue to be cord-nevers so might their children. And if that happens the TV industry can set a doomsday clock for the bundle. Because for year, the industry hoped that most people would get cable again when they “grew up”. Well, watch out because they have.

Is that it?
There are other subgroups of cord cutters but in general, those are the camps that have observed through four years research, conversations with insiders and interactions with readers and face to face conversations with people across the country.