Who’s Naughty, Who’s Nice (Updated 11/22/2015)

Updated on 11/22/2015 to include $299.99 with Lifetime!  Scroll down to DVRs…

Black Friday is a great time to shop for the cord cutter in your life.  This year, there are a lot of promotions and a handful of new devices.   This post is a guide to what I consider the best buys at this moment.

Let’s start with the ‘no brainers’…

  1. The Roku SE is selling for $25 at Kohls, Best Buy, and Walmart.  This Roku has a slower processor than the current Roku 2/3 models which are slower than the new Roku 4, but it has standard RCA composite out for older televisions.  Great stocking stuffer.  The composite cable is not included, but get one on ebay for $0.99 shipped!  Roku has great apps for Vudu, the Simple DVR, and the TabloTV DVR.
  2. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is $25 at Best Buy, K-mart, and Staples.  It’s faster than the Roku SE and supports a voice remote.  Two features make it a no brainer.  Captive portal makes it easier to use hotel wifi with the Fire TV Stick.  Kodi support plus FireStarter allows the FTV Stick to easily slip in and out of a slick Media Center mode with virtually unlimited programming.
  3. Fire TV is $75 at Best Buy and Staples.  That’s about half the price of the new Apple and Roku streamers.  With wired or wireless game controllers, the Fire TV is a terrific, inexpensive video game console that also happens to be an awesome streamer.  The new model is more powerful, adds 4k support, Alexa integration, and 801.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO, for better Wi-Fi video streaming.

Walmart is going to have the 1st gen Chromecast for $20.  Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, and Costco will all have the 2nd gen Chromecast at two for $50.

My favorite DVR is steeply discounted on Black Friday and you do not have to leave home to get one.  Channel Master’s DVR+ will be on sale for $199 from 4-8 am Pacific Time on Black Friday.  (That’s 7-11 am for those of us on the east coast.)  That’s a pretty good deal.  Buy a pair for $299.  That’s a GREAT deal!

You will need to buy a disk for these, but 1 t usb disks are going for $50 these days, so you can shelve a $200 DVR with no monthly fees.  While the DVR+ is primarily an OTA DVR (which requires no internet or phone connection), plugging in to the internet enables additional features like an Enhanced Program Guide and Linear OTT or Channel Master TV (CMTV).  The enhanced program guide extends the length of the guide from a few days to a couple weeks while adding additional information.  CMTV streams media from the internet to your television continuously.  In other words, words select a CMTV station and watch television continuously until you change the channel.

I like Bloomberg TV, ABC News, WeatherNation TV, Biz TV, WGN TV, The Hunt Channel, Foody TV, Outdoor Cooking Channel, VevoTV-hits, RT Television, RT Documentaries, and Catholic TV (I’m not Catholic, but I enjoy some of the programming).  WeatherNation TV, on the other hand, is great when the weather is on my mind. I actually seek out that channel regularly.  They have recently added some new channels. I will be paying attention to DRTV (Doctor TV). I’ve stopped for a movie or a show on Backlight TV a few times. Got caught up in that. Stream Shift TV has been running a video called Blokes TV which is a bunch of Aussies riding dirt bikes across Southeast Asia, eating ‘happy pizzas’, and hanging out in strip joints. (It’s more entertaining than it should be.) Rivals is a good channel — when something is on. I have watched a couple college football games on Rivals. TWIT TV is terrific background noise.

The DVR+ is the DVR built for cord cutters and is worthy of your consideration next Friday.

Amazon has updated their listing for a TiVo Roamio OTA indicating it will be in stock on 11/26/2015 and can be pre-ordered now.  The Roamio/OTA is my wife’s favorite DVR.  We don’t love the TiVo ‘paradigm’, but do like that it streams Amazon Instant Video/Prime, Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, and Plex.  It’s truly a single box solution for OTA first cord cutters.  At $299.99 with four tuners and a 500g disk, it is actually less expensive than the DVR+.  If you want to have a TiVo in a second or third room, you can buy a TiVo Mini for ~$130 or less.  The mini shares tuners and disk with a four/six tuner TiVo.

My caution is that TiVo makes their money on monthly and annual fees.  These Lifetime offers are fleeting and often prohibitively expensive.  If you get a single DVR and a couple Minis, you may feel compelled to replace a broken fee-free TiVo with one which has a monthly or annual fee.  I recommend you buy at least two for this reason.

If you cannot decide between a TiVo and a DVR+, post a comment below and we can figure things out together.  (I have three Roamios and three DVR+s.)

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Stream Shift TV

This morning I discovered a new Channel Master DVR+ Linear OTT channel called Stream Shift TV.  Since I tuned in, SST has been streaming BlokesWorld TV.  BWTV seems to be about a bunch of guys from Australia who are on a dirt bike adventure in southeast Asia.  The visit tourist attractions, bike through the countryside, shoot automatic weapons, eat ‘happy pizza’, and relax in strip joints.  All the while, sports headlines scroll across the bottom of the screen.  BWTV beats the heck out of CNN as background noise.  Give it a look but be warned BWTV is not suitable for work or the family room!

Channel Master Teases Sling/Linear

slingondvrplus

 

Two weeks ago, Channel Master teased that last week was going to be a ‘good week’.  Friday afternoon, CM added a couple videos to their Facebook page.  The first showed Sling TV running on a DVR+.  This is a big deal.  While OTA-first cord cutters may not be particularly excited about a pay service on their no fee dvr, many do pay for Netflix, Prime, and Hulu.  Of course, Channel Master is targeting people who are on the fence — those reluctant to cut their cord because they cannot miss a an episode of Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or because they wake and fall asleep to ESPN.  For $35/month, Sling delivers ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, TBS, CNN, A&E, Lifetime, History, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Disney Channel, ABC Family, IFC, H2, El Rey Network, Maker, Galavision, and HBO.

For another $5/month, you can add special interest packages to your subscription…

  • Sports: SEC Network, ESPNews, ESPNU, Universal Sports, Univision Deportes, beIN Sports, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line
  • Kids: Disney Junior, Disney xd, Boomerang, Baby TV, Duck TV
  • Hollywood: EPIX, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In, Sundance TV
  • World News: Bloomberg TV, HLN, Euro News, France 24, NDTV 24/7, News 18, Russia Today
  • Lifestyle: truTV, Cooking Channel, DIY, WE tv, FYI, LMN

The second was another demo of Linear OTT.  The quality of the video was poor, and the accompanying text did not clear things up, but it looks like the DVR+ is going to get some watchable content…

  • Bloomberg TV
  • ABCNews. com
  • CBS News
  • WeatherNation
  • BIZ TV
  • Pursuit
  • Hunt Channel
  • FOODY TV
  • Outdoor Cooking Channel

At CES, CM demo’d Linear TV featuring Bloomberg, Al Jazeera America, CNN World, WGN, NASA, BBC World News, Vevo TV, and QVC.

Let’s hope Channel Master delivers something soon.

$189 Open Box Special on CM DVR+

On their facebook page, via twitter, and in a targeted email, Channel Master has announced that it will sell off a limited stock of open box DVR+s at $189 beginning Monday March 30 at 8:00 am PST (11:00 am EST)…

 Folks, we never do this, but you’ve been asking for discounts and we’ve got a great one for you! Starting Monday morning, click the ad on our home page to get an Open Box DVR+ for just $189!
ONE DAY ONLY, WHILE SUPPLIES LAST!
Some of these have been gently used for media reviews and demonstration events, some have never been used at all. Tested and certified, full warranty, free shipping. These won’t last!

I bought three of these on BF to replace (awesome) aging DTVPal DVRs. This is the best OTA DVR not named TiVo. I chose this over the TiVo because…

1) one year warranty vs 90 days for TiVo (can’t spend $500 on a device with 90 day warranty)
2) completely untethered (TiVo requires internet or phone connection)
3) price

This is a great set top box for cord cutters. First, it has a very nice channel guide. The thing most people miss when they lose their cable box is the guide. The DVR is very good. Two very good tuners capture shows by name and by time. (I like to record blocks of sitcoms that play when I am at work to watch when I get up in the morning.) Playback controls are excellent — you can rewind, pause, fast forward all with preview (i.e., you can see where you are in the show as you rewind and fast forward.) These last two features are not available on simple/tablo alternatives. External storage makes it easy to swap out disks. This is very important because there is a free DVR Lister program which will let you download files from the usb disk to a PC where they can be converted to mp4 and played back on a media server. While the DVR+ uses an enhanced guide while connected to the internet, it used OTA data to build a guide when not connected. This is huge because it means your DVR+ will continue to function if Rovi pulls the plug (as it did with the DTVPal OTA guide) or Channel Master stops supporting the DVR+ for any reason. OR is you have to be off the grid for any reason — you can use this DVR when dry camping or when your power and internet are lost.

The DVR+ has some streaming capability. It can stream Vudu (movies), Pandora (music), and YouTube. Beginning next month, Channel Master will be streaming other programming to the DVR+. This programming will be more like traditional television than ondemand alternatives. Still very little information available.

I highly recommend this DVR. This is the second best ever price for the DVR+ and, though these are open box, they carry a full warranty.

Happy streaming!

A&E Coming to Sling this Month!

from Sling press release

Sling TV today announced that four A+E Networks’ channels – A&E, HISTORY, H2 and Lifetime – will be available in its “Best of Live TV” core package by the end of March. The company’s core package will remain priced at $20 per month.

Sling TV’s “Best of Live TV” $20 core package delivers ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, TBS, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, IFC, El Rey, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, Disney Channel, CNN and Galavision, with A&E, HISTORY, H2 and Lifetime coming soon. This package additionally features access to WatchESPN, including ESPN3 and an array of VOD entertainment.

Sling previously announced an agreement with AMC that will bring AMC, BBC AMERICA, BBC World News, IFC, SundanceTV, and WE tv to their $20 core package.

Add a second stream, and I’m in!

Apple to Launch TV Service

from the Wall Street Journal

The idea is to offer consumers a “skinny” bundle with well-known channels like CBS, ESPN and FX, while leaving out the many smaller networks in the standard cable TV package.

Pricing for this 25ish channel service is rumored to be $30-$40 per month.  Lauch is scheduled for fall.  Apple is the exclusive launch partner for HBO’s standalone streaming service as well.