So in our continuing effort to cut our expenses in reasonable methods we decided that at the end of our current TV contract we would cut the cord and get rid of cable TV. This is a long post but it contains a lot of info. This won’t cover every possibility and if you have questions please ask. Our intent was to give some background about the different options and spur the conversation into saving a few bucks.
We’ve tried doing this in the past when we were much lower on the income totem pole as it was necessary in order to pay other bills that were more important. At that time the only real choices you had were over the air (OTA) antenna TV, Hulu, and Netflix. Today there are so many more choices that allow you to reduce your bill while still getting some of the cable channels that you may be addicted to, like we are!
Available Mini-Cable Plans
Some general info first:
- Make sure that you compare the available channel offerings from each company. You may watch a certain channel that some of them don’t carry and if it is important to you than you may have an easy decision.
- Make sure to look at which streaming devices they support. Some of them are limited or are best viewed on a certain device. For example: Playstation Vue’s Roku interface is terrible. It works but it’s just not good but on the FireTV they have an excellent interface.
Sling is one of the older mini-cable plans available. They sort of developed the market and have a very good reputation. They offer three different packages and the option to add some premium channels like NFL RedZone and HBO:
- Orange $20/month – 30 channels including ESPN, AMC, HGTV, CNN, TNT, TBS, etc
- Blue $25/month – 40 channels very similar lineup to Orange but no ESPN or Disney channels. Adds USA, FoxSports, NBC Sportsnet, National Geographic and a few others
- Orange + Blue $40/month – All the Sling channels from both packages.
There are some additional restrictions like the number of TVs that can be watched simultaneously on or restrictions.
One addition item of note is that Sling does not include DVR functionality.
Vue is a newer service that’s offered by Playstation. It’s important to say right away that a Playstation console is not required to use Vue. They have Roku, FireTV, and other apps for almost any streaming device. Vue also offers multiple tiers/packages for channel selection and the option to add some premium channels like NFL RedZone and HBO:
- Access Slim $29.99/month – 45 channels of similar content to Sling Orange.
- Core Slim $34.99/month – 60 channels which adds a number of sports channels like FoxSports. Similar content to Sling Blue + Orange.
- Elite Slim $44.99/month – 90 channels which includes NFL Network, EPIX, Veloctity, and a handful of others
- Ultra Slim $64.99/month – this includes all of the channels from Elite Slim and includes Showtime and HBO
Some other good features of Vue is that it includes DVR functionality for an unlimited number of shows with the only restriction being that you cannot keep them longer than 28 days. Compared to Sling you can stream on up to 5 devices at a time.
One key missing feature is surround sound 5.1
YouTube TV is the newest player to the market and they seem to be really trying to offer an excellent product. They only offer one package with Showtime available as an addon:
- YouTube TV $35/month – 45 channels including the broadcast channels which is big differentiator from the other mini-cable plans. Also has ESPN, FoxSports, etc.
Some additional perks that YouTube TV is offering include unlimited DVR functionality with the only restriction being you can’t keep shows longer than 9 months (not a big deal to me) and allowing 3 streaming devices simultaneously.
We won’t go into hardly any detail about DirectTV now because everything we read about it indicated that it was sub par and while some people have good luck with it we just don’t want to spend too much time writing it out. Feel free to check it out but we think you’ll come to the same conclusion.
We ended up selecting Playstation Vue for our purposes. They offered all of the channels we watched in their Core Slim package while some of the other services would have required higher cost or letting go of DVR functionality. So far we have been extremely happy with our choice.
Broadcast (OTA) TV
How to select an Antenna
Please do NOT buy a “HDTV” antenna! There is no difference in how HDTV is broadcast now than regular old analog TV was broadcast. What this means is that the antenna does not care whether is it HDTV or not.
The first step to selecting an antenna is to go to tvfool.com or antennaweb.org and enter the information for your house and find out the recommended antenna type. If you’re near a big city then you’ll likely be able to use rabbit ears or a small attic installed antenna. Also check out this guide on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/cordcutters/wiki/antenna
We ended up using this antenna and have gotten amazing results:
How to Record (DVR) from your antenna
There are really only two simple ways to DVR over the air TV. There are more tech savvy ways but we didn’t want to go down those routes. We’ve done that before and while it worked it became a bit of a hassle.
Tivo is sort of the Titan in the DVR world. They’ve been around forever and have awesome products with a great track record. For OTA television the main product they offer is the Tivo Roamio OTA. It includes everything you need to record OTA TV and is about as simple a way to do it as is possible.
Table is really the only competitor to Tivo in this market. They offer two options: the Tablo 2-Tuner and the Tablo 4-Tuner. The only difference between them is the number of simultaneous recordings you can have at one time.
One benefit to the Tablo over the Tivo is that the Tablo can send it’s recording to any device on your network including your cell phone or tablet.
That benefit is what made us choose to go with the Tablo. We have multiple TVs we watch on and being able to send the recordings to any TV was a huge benefit.
Other items we use
So there are a number of ways to watch any of the mini-cable plans and streaming services. We chose to use the Amazon FireTV primarily because it has a good interface for Playstation Vue and has access to all of the normal services. We also have a Roku but the interface for Playstation Vue is so terrible that we spent the money on the FireTV.
We also needed an external hard drive for the Tablo. You can use almost any sized hard drive but we chose to go with a really really big one to make sure we never ran out of storage space. It’s a Seagate Expansion 5TB.