Last year at this time, I resolved to begin to reap the economic benefits of cord cutting. I ended up subscribing to Amazon Prime, buying three TiVos, two Minis, two Fire TV sticks, and a DB8e, and replacing a pre-amp. So much for free tv, right? In fact, since cutting the cord, I have spent $6400 plus $55/month (for high speed internet and Netflix) on free tv. It’s been 68 months, so my average monthly cost since cutting the cord is $149.12.
For 2016, I to re-resolve to spend less on free tv.
A Great Year: 2015 was a great year to cut the cord. In May and August/September TiVo sold Roamio OTAs with Lifetime for $300. If you missed out on that deal, Channel Master sold their DVR+ for $150 (two for $300, actually) on Black Friday. Also on Black Friday, Amazon sold their 4k Fire TV for $75 and their FTV Stick for $25 and Roku sold a Roku SE (rebadged Roku 1) for $25. Amazon offered Prime for $99.99 per year in September.
The two best OTA DVRs got a better in 2015. TiVo added Plex to their apps. Channel Master launched Linear OTT.
Amazon’s Fire TV streamers surpassed Roku’s app count in 2015. While Roku still rules the news and adult entertainment, Amazon wins out on family friendly content and gaming. Amazon added 30 premium add-on subscriptions to it’s Prime service including Showtime ($8.99 per month) and STARZ ($8.99 per month).
Sling TV and Sony’s Vue streaming service launched as OTT alternatives to cable and satellite. Sling TV is available on the Roku and Fire TV. For $20/month, you get a single stream of ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, Food Network, A&E, History, TNT, El Rey, HGTV, IFC, Disney Channel, Polaris+, Maker, TBS, Travel Channel, Adult Swim, CNN, H2, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Lifetime, Galavisión, and Bloomberg Television. For $5/month each, you can add special interest tiers of programming like Sports Extra, Best Of Spanish Tv, Deportes Extra, Kids Extra, Hollywood Extra, Películas & Novelas Extra, World News Extra, And Lifestyle Extra. For $15/month, you can add HBO. Vue is available on the Playstation consoles, Fire TV, and Chomecast. Vue supports five concurrent streams including one Playstation and up to three mobile devices. Vue costs $49.99/month for 50 channels, $54.99/month for 60 channels, or $64.99 for 85 channels. You can add Showtime and Epix for $13.99/month.
The Boston market got a LOT of new broadcast stations. Decades, Heroes and Icons, LAFF, BUZZER, and Comet TV all arrived in 2015.
The news was not all good, though. Mohu’s Channels device launched and burned in 2015. Real Simple Software’s Simple TV DVR was discontinued. Rokus and Apple TVs got a lot more expensive. The new 4k Roku had of problems with heat at launch. Their v7 firmware broke most of the older models. Apple abandoned plans for their own streaming service.
The Empire Strikes Back: After years of denying the impact of cord cutting, Big Entertainment is finally adjusting to the cord cutting phenomenon. TWC and Comcast are both offering discounted packages. Comcast has introduced less expensive Blast and Stream packages. Most providers are allowing users to stream a lot of premium channels to Rokus and Fire TVs to avoid the cost of additional set top box rentals. Caps and surcharges are back.
What to Expect in 2016:
- Broadcast television will continue to be the best value for most. For a modest investment in an antenna and some coax, frugal cord cutters can unplug from their premium provider and enjoy ‘free’ TV. No high speed internet or hardware is required. A lot of people are going to do just that.
- Streaming will attract and disappoint as rates rise, congestion increases, and services splinter. Premium providers will shift charges from content to bandwidth to hold customers. Star Wars 1-6 and the Avengers will come to Netflix; The Force Awakens will go to Starz.
- Premium providers will struggle to balance loss of subscribers against loss of net revenue as cost of content increases and marginal customers migrate to lower tiers of service or leave altogether. Comcast’s Stream service will go national. TWC will pilot a $10/month package of 20 channels for their internet customers. They will also offer a premium package which includes Starz and Showtime for $20/month.
- Premium content creators will abandon lucrative ‘exclusive’ deals in favor of a TV Everywhere strategy.
- Optical media will make a modest comeback as the most practical way to enjoy 4k content.
In 2016, Comcast will have more bandwidth to sell. Comcast claims they can achieve gigabit data rates on existing cable infrastructure using new DOCSIS 3.1 modems.
Should YOU Resolve to Cut the Cord in 2016?
If you have found this blog, you have probably at least considered such a move. My recommendation is that you try. If you go through the process I prescribe at the top of this blog, you will figure out if you are a good candidate before spending very much money…
- Do your research
- Give OTA a go
- Consider set top hardware
- Try out streaming
- Make it yours
If I Only Knew Then…
Just want to get started? Go to TVFool.com, run a report for your address, and post a link here. I’ll help you choose and point the right antenna. Run coax from the antenna to your television’s digital RF input, scan for channels, and watch television.
If your television is old and has no digital tuner, you will need some kind of digital to analog converter. You might as well get one that records programs and has a program guide, right? Consider the Mediasonic Homeworx HW180STB for ~$30.
If you are going to have high speed internet, get yourself a TiVo Roamio OTA. They are only $49.99. You are going to have to pay $15/month for service, but, if things don’t work out, you are only out $49.99 plus $15 per month.
Run a coax from the antenna to the TV your family watches most, plug in the TiVo, plug in the ethernet, and plug in the television. Need some nudity and profanity? Trial Netflix and Prime. The TiVo streams both. At the end of the month, if things do not work out, return the antenna and TiVo, cancel your subscriptions and enjoy cable. If it happens your family isn’t missing much, cancel cable and get a couple Minis.
If you have a new television with HDMI input, but do hot have internet access, Channel Master’s DVR+ may be the best DVR for you.
Happy New Year!