In a serious of earlier columns, I compared cable and streaming TV for everyday viewing of network television, and concluded that streaming offered some advantages, but significantly cutting the cost of your cable bill was not one of them.
For decades cable has been the industry standard for delivering scores of TV stations into our homes. But as high-speed internet service improved, new companies began selling access to the same TV programming over these high-speed networks. Interestingly, it’s the cable companies that sell us the high-speed access to these competitors. Because these new services are accessed from the cloud over the internet, it’s called streaming.
I was paying Spectrum, my cable company, $190 per month, half for the high speed internet service and half for cable TV service and a phone line. I was also paying TiVo to record and play back my favorite programs on my schedule and to skip through commercials. Three TiVos added another $45 per month. When I last looked, I concluded that switching to streaming would save perhaps $50 per month, but the inconvenience of switching was just not worth the effort at the time with new remotes, new learning, cancellations and removing old equipment.
But over the past couple of months, several things changed my mind. The first was the Coronavirus and the need to isolate at home. A month into our isolation, our main TV stopped receiving most of the channels. We’d got a cryptic error saying those channels could not be found.
After several attempts by Spectrum to troubleshoot over the phone, they offered to send a technician to our home. But that was something we didn’t want to do, as we were isolating at home. They tried sending us components to switch out that took more than a month to do. When that failed to work, they insisted the problem must be with the TiVo. We had already spent hours on the phone with TIVo to diagnose, reset, and reconfigure, and TiVo concluded that the problem was with our cable provider.
Meanwhile we experienced some surprising issues with TiVo, a company we loved for the past twenty years. When we played back a recorded show, instead of immediately playing back it back, a very load commercial played before the program would begin, and you couldn’t fast forward through it. On a few occasions the commercials would cause the TiVo to freeze and require a reset. When I checked on the TiVo forums, I found hundreds of complaints. TiVo calls these pre-roll ads, something they introduced late last year.
Considering that avoiding commercials is one of the main benefits of TiVos and DVRs, adding their own ads seems to be one fo the most bone-headed ideas I’ve ever encountered from a consumer company. We pay TiVo to avoid commercials. I reached out to the company and they asked for a few days to remove them from my TiVos. Three weeks later, they remained.
As a result, we lost the our loyalty and enthusiasm for TiVo, particularly with new alternatives. Some streaming services lets you save and access your favorite programs in the cloud at no additional cost and with no hardware needed.
So, with one TV not working and with TiVo no longer a reason to hold back, we decided it was time to move to streaming.
We’re now using You Tube TV on all three TVs. One uses a Roku adapter, another accesses directly from it’s built-in smart TV option, and a third set came with Roku built in. (The startingly-low priced 32-inch set from TCL for $129).
We’re now accessing YouTube TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services from each set. And with multiple sets all using You Tube TV, we discovered a number of benefits.
- setting up our preferences once for YouTube TV – recorded shows and which channels to display – is replicated across all sets and our personal devices. A recorded shows can be watched from any set.
- you can use apps on your phone and tablet as extra remote controls and for watching TV wherever you are.
- lots of new shelf space and no tangled wires with the removal of TiVos, tuning adapters and cabling.
Actual cost savings:
Cable TV reduction: $68
TiVo reduction: $45
YouTube TV: -$50
Net savings: $63/month
If I decide to add HBO at $12/mo, the one channel I lose moving to YouTube TV, the savings is $51.
Cancelling both services required about two hours to call the companies and listen to sales pitches about retaining the services, special discounts, and alternatives to streaming. But once it was done, I realized I never need to deal with in home cable service and resetting flakey hardware.
As a technologist, I feel like I’m behind the times, having waited so long. But I do love the idea of moving on from cable.