This Year I re-Resolve To…

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…

  1. Do your research
  2. Give OTA a go
  3. Consider set top hardware
  4. Try out streaming
  5. 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!

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16 comments on “This Year I re-Resolve To…

  1. Great post Len…

    My problem here in greater Daytona Beach area in FL is that i have one choice for internet and thats Brighthouse. When we first moved here you had AT&T DSL and Brighthouse… now ATT no longer offers broadband in our neighborhood….

    So no competition, high cost of internet. Their pricing for internet (this pricing includes the hidden fees):
    $64 – 15/1 mbps
    $74 – 35/2 mbps

    For $16 more you can get bundle with standard cable, for $26 more you get premium cable… I work from home so need the higher speed but with bundle pricing we just go with the premium

    If we cut the cord we would have to augment with sling tv and we already get netflix and prime… ready to make the jump as soon as affordable internet is available

    We have Tivo Roamio and Tivo HD, both OTA and cable card capable, plus I am testing new HTPC DVR (since microsoft is dropping windows media center) , Next PVR works well and I am using hdhomerun tuner. I bought firetv sticks on black friday and now all tvs in the house has firestick running plex, kodi and Instatv apps if wanting to watch tv in the other locations

    So I know about spending too much for hardware and infrastructure! But then again its a little hobby of ours isnt it? LOL

    Wishing you the best of luck in the coming year, thanks for very good blog!

    Like

    • I was grinning as I was adding up your costs. You’re right — we are hobbyists. That said, I think my costs are reasonable. Right now, we have five televisions which are actively watched. Each has a DVR with a program guide and access to Netflix, Prime, and my Plex server. We also stream OTA with Simple TV DVRs…for $150/month. Were I to switch to Comcast’s Internet Plus service, the price would be $78/month plus $9.95 for HD plus $39.60 for four additional DVRs plus $10 for a modem — $140/month. After shopping, religious, and spanish channels, I would end up with eleven channels plus HBO. Right now, I have 36 channels plus Netflix (for now) and Prime (replacing Netflix). Notably missing: PBS World, Decades, MeTV, This TV, 8.2 Heroes and Icons, PBS Create, Fox Movies!, LAFF, PBS Kids, Antenna TV, Grit, BUZZER, Cozi, he Works, Comet, BounceTV, GetTV, Escape, Qubo, and ION Life. Expectations are that my costs will continue to decline. If you consider my investment sunk costs, then, after switching to Prime, my monthly cost is $55/month.

      Glad you like the blog. Have fun!

      Like

  2. I cut the cord (DirecTV) on Tuesday 12/29/2015, I was paying $80/mo for DirecTV’s package for locals and 145 channels – only watched the locals / CNN / HGTV / TNT / USA / FX. There’s a DirecTV price increase coming in Jan 2016, which I wasn’t going to be a part of. When I called DirecTV to cancel, the offers started to come in – $30/mo reduction for 12 months / a one direct $20 credit / premium channels for 3 months free / plus a free service call to hook all the equipment back up. Naturally, I refused – I thought to myself: why weren’t these offered to me BEFORE I decided to cut the cord. Goodbye DirecTV!

    I have a Mohu Sky OTA antenna picking up 57 channels here in the Denver / Ft Collins areas. Also, a Roku 4, an Apple TV 4, 2 SiliconDust HDHomerun Extend units and a Channel Master DVR+ rounding out my main equipment setup. I have Amazon Prime. I use Plex to stream my movie collection to all my TVs and mobile devices. The HDHomerun units allow the local channels to be streamed to any network device. Also, since I bought the Roku 4, Roku is offering a free $100 entertainment package – I’ll try Hulu / Showtime / Sling TV / HBO Now to see what these services have to offer that I don’t get with the other service and the OTA channels.

    My secondary TV has an Apple TV 3 / a Roku 3 / an HP Stream Mini PC / a Panasonic Blu-Ray DVR player to round out that configuration, along with a coax cable to the TV for the locals. Everything on my main TV can be viewed on this secondary configuration.

    My internet access costs $50 (10 mbps down/ 2 mbps up), which I was paying in addition to the DirecTV charge.

    Since all the cable shows that we normally watch are on hiatus till spring time, this was the perfect time to cut the cord. The local shows are starting back up next week. Therefore, we are saving mucho bucks (at least $80/mo or $960/yr) with our cord cutting action!

    Len – keep the emails coming – I also enjoy your blog! Both have very interesting articles and reviews!

    Like

  3. Well, I held out until mid-march. Last week I spent $140 on new toys…

    My first MCM order arrived today. I am very impressed. The order consisted of the following…

    4×30-2476 – Deep Fringe Directional Antenna VHF-Hi HDTV 174 – 230MHz $28.35 (Reg: $34.99) $113.40
    1×33-2196 – High Shield Antenna 1GHz Splitter / Combiner – 4-way $3.59 (Reg: $3.99) $3.59
    2×30-1030 – Guy Wire Clamp up to 1 1/2” Mast $3.70 (Reg: $4.11) $7.40
    1×33-2230 – UHF – VHF Antenna Combiner $6.29 (Reg: $6.99) $6.29

    Total shipping was $9.99 and the total cost (after applying 10% off code from retailmenot) was $140.67.

    So, $140 for four antennas, a 4x splitter, a pair of guy wire clamps, and a UVSJ.

    The antennas are 7′ long fully assembled. Assembly was very easy. For all but one of the reflectors, all of the directors and the driven element, you simply loosen a butterfly nut, rotate the rod, and screw it back down. The screws have a rubber washer which prevents the nut from accidentally falling off — which would be good if you were assembling outside. The two beam sections and the reflector assembly attach with more screws and nuts — all hardware being in the holes they would assemble to out of the box — no bag of parts to match up. The mast clamp hardware was also pre-assembled and tied together with a twist tie. The balun is pre-attached to the beam.

    It’s still a little chilly to work in the attic comfortably. I’ll compare this to a y10-7-13 when things warm up a bit. I am also going to add one or two of the front sections to an full antenna to max out the directors at 16 — just to see if that adds much gain…

    http://www.radio-electronics.com/inf…tenna-gain.php

    Anyway, MCM looks like a good retailer and the 30-2476 looks like a solid antenna.

    Like

  4. I’m brand new to forums and blogs so forgive me if I don’t practice proper etiquette. I’ve never subscribed to cable and have always loved free TV. Once everything went digital and sub stations began showing up I felt like was watching cable. I grew up on three channels.
    I am looking for advice on an antenna purchase. We’re only connecting 1 TV about 30 feet from an antenna from the peak of our house. I had a large channel master but I can’t remember the number and some brand of amplifier mounted on the antenna pole. I was happy with the reception but wind has destroyed several of my antennas. I would find the elements lying in the yard. Then lightning ruined my pre amp.

    I’m looking for advice on what antenna to buy and whether I need a pre-amp or not. I need a sturdy one that won’t fall apart. Here is my TV fool analysis:

    http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29&q=id%3de2cbec20aafd7c

    In my searching I was drawn to Denny’s stacker because they claim it was sturdy, had good performance and was large but easier to set up because of the stacking.

    I’ve tried to join TV fool and other sites that give advice but I can’t seem to register or no one responds to phone calls or e-mails.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    Matt

    Like

    • No etiquette here except to be polite. Thanks for looking at my blog.

      I don’t have hands on experience with the stacker. Do you want to try to pull in w04ci, w05aa-d, or wbra-tv? These are LOW VHF stations. Are you interested in watching wvpt and/or wset? These are VHF HI stations. wvpt is also in a different direction than the rest of your stations. You will need a rotor to get the bunch of channels due west plus the ones scattered north and south.

      It would be helpful if you could go down the list — at least to wvpt — and note which channel you would like to receive. You can search wikipedia for the call letters to see what sub channels each main channel has and you can check titantv.com to see what is on each channel. Bring the list back here and we can discuss an appropriate strategy.

      Like

      • I’m looking at the TV fool list and I want to watch channels WPXR and up but excluding W04ci and W33ad.

        Like

      • First, if you have a cell phone or a GPS, I would stand right under the antenna and run a TVFool using the GPS coordinates (compare results to http://www.channelmaster.com/Antenna-Selection-a/134.htm). You have a lot of 1edge and 2edge signals. Moving a few feet in one direction or another can change things. Also try running a report for as high as you are willing/able to mount an antenna to see if that makes a difference. I would probably not try to get WBRA unless you are a PBS fan and cannot stream. I think you will have problems with it even if you have the right antenna given the fact that W04CI is between your antenna and theirs. If you can live without WBRA, then all the remaining channels are UHF except for WSET which is VERY HIGH VHF. WSET is your ABC affiliate and caries RTV, Comet, and American Sports Network. WWCW is your CW affiliate and carries Bounce as a subchannel. WFFP carries Cozi, Heroes and Icons, and HopeNow. (I love H&I.) WLHG is HopeNow. WFXR is your Fox affiliate and also carries Bounce. WDBJ is your CBS affiliate and carries Decades and MyNetwork subchannels. WSLS is your NBC affiliate and carries GetTV and MeTV. WPXR is your ION affiliate and carries Qubo, Ion Life, Ion Shop, QVC, and HSN. These stations are 240-273 degrees or 33 degrees total beam width. So, this is what you can expect…

        ABC, CBS, Fox, ION/Life/Qubo/Shoppingx3, NBC, PBS/World plus ASN, Bounce, Comet, Cozi, Decades, H&I, HopeNow, MyNetwork, and RTV.

        If you have room on your mast for two Yagi antennas separated four feet, I would probably go with a coupled pair rather than the Stacker. I have no first hand experience with the Stacker, but reviews are mixed. I can recommend very good UHF and VHF antennas with which I have first hand experience and for which reviews are unanimously positive…

        UHF: 91XG (Home Depot has this for $63.47 shipped and you can return through your local store if things do not work out)
        VHF: http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/30-2476 $35

        You’ll need a preamp and I like the RCA TVPRAMP1Z because it is cheap and has separate vhf/uhf inputs. $25

        If you would like to take a shot at WBRA, consider one of the big Channel Master or Winegard antennas. Home Depot and Walmart carry these, so you can get one shipped free with local return. Here are some highly rated all-in-one antennas to consider.

        http://www.homedepot.com/p/Channel-Master-Deep-Fringe-Masterpiece-100-Mile-Range-Outdoor-Antenna-CM-5020/203763051
        https://www.walmart.com/ip/Winegard-HD8200U-HDTV-Antenna/19410174

        Good luck!

        Like

  5. Channel Master Distinguishes between Masterpiece and Advantage antennas…

    Hello,

    Our Masterpiece product series is designed for bad weather conditions. It is our most rugged antenna that we make. That is basically the difference.

    Thank You
    Chris
    Channel Master Support
    support@channelmaster.com
    1-877-746-7261

    Like

  6. OTA guru agrees…

    Hello, wizwor:

    I don’t know of any better options. I think ether one would be suitable for down to WPXR on the report. I don’t trust the claims made by CM since they were bought out by PCT, like the 4228HD is “an 8-Bay, phased array, multi-directional outdoor antenna that receives high definition and digital signals from a span of 180 degrees.”

    Best regards.
    rabbit

    Like

  7. My mast is as tall as I can handle and it comes off the peak of my house on the western side so I’ve maxed out my vertical adjustment and side to side adjustment is pretty much fixed because of the peak of my roof. I ran the report again but this time used the GPS coordinates for where my antenna sits and there was a slight improvement of the numbers.
    http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29&q=id%3de2cb4f4e369cda
    WPXR changed from 1 edge to 2 edge.
    WBRA and WDBJ improved to 1 edge

    I would like to get WBRA. With the antennas I’ve had in the past we were able to receive it. These Antennas were the ones about 9 feet long. So what I’m hearing is those antennas were probably my best choice and I should stick with them if I want WBRA, the low VHF channel. Is that a better option that the two Yagis? I assume theUHF: 91XG is a yagi?

    Is there anything I can do to help these big antennas last longer? I find pieces laying in the yard.
    Any advice on protecting connections and grounding?
    Is it ok to tape my ground lead to the mast or should it be held off?
    I’ll get the RCA TVPRAMP1Z pre-amp.

    Thanks for the help.

    Matt

    .

    Like

    • Under the circumstances, knowing you want WBRA, and having discussed things with Rabbit73, I would suggest you go with the single antenna options — CM-5020 or HD8200U.

      http://pdf.crutchfieldonline.com/ImageBank/v20150520103700/Manuals/659/6595020.PDF
      http://www.winegard.com/help/images/4/48/1450292.pdf
      http://www.winegard.com/kbase/uploads/HD7698P.pdf

      The CM-5020 is 116(L) in. × 101.5(W) in.
      The HD8200U is 168.25″ x 53.5″

      That tells me the CM-5020 will be more durable and easier to work with due to shorter length and do a better job with your vhf-low channels since the elements are a bigger multiple of the wave length.

      I just got my house sided. After interviewing with the last contractor for more than an hour, he said, “At some point, you have to trust someone.” Both those antennas can be returned locally (be sure to call to verify this), so you can pick one and switch to the other if you are not satisfied (I would buy both and return the lesser model). This is a great time of year to install an antenna because the leaves are full or moisture and blowing a bit, so likely the worst reception you will see during the year.

      I can’t really tell you anything more. Be sure to let us know how things go.

      Like

      • The antenna came yesterday evening and I got it up before dark. It’s pretty big and in the past I put the antennas together on the ground and walked it up the roof which was pretty precarious and risked bending the antenna. This time I took the box and tools up on the roof and put it together while I sat on two ladders tied together laid over the peak. It was awkward but successful and safer.
        The pre amp hasn’t arrived yet so I haven’t raised the pole to it full height but with out the pre amp I got 33 channels. Several are repeats but we even got channel (12 Real 31) which is NBC but pretty far down my list of channels. WBRA the VHF low PBS station is being received as well.
        Your recommendation yielded the results I wanted so thanks to all who were involved. I will try the pre amp and raise it to it full glory and see what happens. I’ll let y’all know.
        Thanks

        Like

  8. Since it was less money I ordered the HD 8200 and the pre amp you recommended. I also ordered the grounding parts. I’ll let you know once I get it set up.

    Thanks
    matt

    Liked by 1 person

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