Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good-bye, Comcast (cable): cutting the cord!

After 25 minutes on the phone with Comcast/Xfinity this afternoon, I went ahead and "cut the cable." (I'm not free of Comcast, since it's apparently the only Internet provider in my neighborhood.) This should shave $70/month off the bill.

It took some amount of effort to overcome the inertia involved, but the amount that cable TV was costing was becoming fairly ridiculous -- $50+ for the cable feed, $20 for equipment rentals, and some taxes on top of that.

I had the following concerns about ditching cable:

(1) Would I be able to find all of the TV shows I watch via some kind of cheap streaming service?

(2) Would I have to abandon my beloved TiVo?

(3) What would I do to get local TV news?

(4) What about live sports?

At $7.99 a month, Hulu Plus seemed to offer the ability to watch most of the shows that I like, with only a brief delay compared to the live airing. Because everything streams, it would be the same kind of time-shifting that TiVo offers. However, Hulu wouldn't offer anything in the way of live sports, nor local TV news.

I decided to look into whether our house would be able to get over-the-air (OTA) HD signals. This wouldn't cover cable channels such as FX, but it would, if it successful, work for the main networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox). Importantly, this would cover most of the remaining gaps in programming: local TV news and live sports. Well, college football and the NFL, anyway. ABC and NBC carry a decent number of college football games, and most of the televised NFL games are on Fox, CBS, or NBC.

Based on reading reviews, I concluded that the Mohu Leaf 30 should work for me. The Mohu website has a feature where you can input your address and it will predict which OTA channels you should be able to receive. (TV Fool does this too.) Both sides predicted that an indoor antenna would work, so I went down to Fry's and bought the Leaf 30:

As a proof of concept, before I went through the process of disconnecting cable from my TiVo and all that, I hooked the antenna up to the TV in the guest room. Once that was connected, I had the TV scan for available channels, and it was exciting watching the number of channels found increase 1, 2, 3, and so on. When the scan was complete, I quickly verified that it was indeed getting the CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox broadcasts. How cool!

As you might know, OTA HD signals can be split into multiple channels. For example, the NBC affiliate here actually broadcasts three HD feeds, one for the "regular" programming, one that looks like a mix of informercials and family-programming, and one that's Spanish-language stuff. Speaking of Spanish, there sure are a lot of Spanish channels OTA.

Okay, so live sports and local TV news concerns have been resolved. There remained the question of TiVo.

There wasn't any reason TiVo couldn't work with an OTA signal; the question was whether TiVo supported OTA scheduling to do its TiVo magic. It didn't take long to determine (via Tivo's website) that the answer was, yes, a Series 3 TiVo (which is what I have) does support OTA programming. Yes!

Now, all of this preliminary testing of proof of concept, etc. took place over a week ago. I didn't actually disconnect the coaxial input from the cable outlet until last night, because I was waiting for the season finale of FX's "The Americans" to finish airing/storing on TiVo. This is one of the few shows (BBC America's "Orphan Black" being the other) that I won't be able to TiVo or stream more or less instantly, so I wanted to get it on to the TiVo before cutting the cable.

And with that (and a bit of comedy of errors in terms of getting the connections right), I now have OTA HD going into TiVo, and a RoKu for handling streaming from Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime. I am set!

No comments:

Post a Comment