Cutting the Cord Update #3

OK, so far I’ve got an antenna installed in the attic.  I have that attached to a Tablo OTA DVR which is then connected to our home network.  I have the Vonage phone service installed.  The last main piece for cutting the cord is to get a set top box and decide which live TV streaming service to use.

Roku just updated their line of set top boxes for 2017 and the Roku Ultra price has dropped to $99.  I ordered one from Amazon and got it a couple of days later.  I opted to get the Ultra since it (and the Streaming Stick+) supports 4K TV and its remote can power the TV on and off and also control the sound.  Unlike the Streaming Stick+, the Ultra also has an Ethernet port, a micro SD slot, a headphone jack for private listening, and a remote finder feature.  For many people the Streaming Stick+ will be good option and costs about $30 less.

I hooked it up to the Samsung in the bedroom and the set up was very easy.  I had to create a Roku account on their website during the setup but that was no problem.  Part of the set up was to get the remote set up with the TV so it could operate the sound and turn the TV on and off.  That went easy as well.

I installed the Tablo app on the Roku and connected to the Tablo that is upstairs.  I went to the guide and picked a channel and started watching TV from the antenna.  Very nice indeed.

Now, what live TV streaming service should I pick?  Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, or Fubo?

I ended up picking Sling TV.  Your choice of a live TV streaming service really depends on what shows you like to watch and which streaming service carries them and what combination of packages you have to subscribe to in order to get your shows.

We started by making a list of the shows that we really like to watch.  That determined the channels we needed to be in the package.  In a perfect world you could pick the channels you need and just pay for those.  Well we aren’t quite there, yet.  Sling TV likes to talk about a-la-carte TV but it really isn’t.  In reality it is a bunch of skinny bundles that you choose from.  Which is still a lot better that the massive channel bundles that most cable providers sell.  So which one to pick?

Well, for starters, Hulu with Live TV just doesn’t have the channels we want yet.  All the Hallmark channels are missing as well as all the Discovery networks.  Fubo is short some channels as well and it looks like its service is still maturing.

Really any of the big three (Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and Playstation Vue) would have worked well for us, except just a handful of channels.  My wife really likes Hallmark Movies & Mysteries (HMM).  I really like Discovery Channel and Science Channel.  Plus, I needed NBCSN and ESPN for the racing series that I like to watch.  To really complicate things, NBC moved almost all of their figure skating coverage to the newly re-branded Olympic Channel.

On DirecTV Now HMM is only available on their basic $35 package.  I mean ONLY available on that package.  You would think that if a channel is available on the cheapest package then it would be also be included in the larger package, right?  Well nope, not for HMM.  Any package other than the basic package does not include HMM.  How stupid is that.  The Olympic channel is only available on their Go Big package for $60 a month.

Playstation Vue (PS Vue) does not include HMM or the Olympic channel in their basic $35 package.  The Olympic channel comes in on their $45 package, but it does not include HMM.  To get HMM you have to get the $55 package.  At least it is a bit cheaper than DirecTV Now.

Sling TV is not without it’s quirks as well.  In order to get HMM you need to add the $5 Lifestyle add on package to either the $20 Orange or $25 Blue base package.  However, ESPN is only available on the Orange base package.  In order to get NBCSN you need to get the $25 Blue base package, but with that you don’t get ESPN.  But, they do offer a combo of Orange + Blue for a $5 discount at $40.  The last hang-up is the Olympic channel.  It is in the Sports Extra package for an additional $10 a month.  That brings the total to $55 a month. Which is the same cost as the PS Vue large package.  On the downside Sling TV does not have any of the Discovery Network channels.

There is also the detail of cloud DVR service.  We live by DVR.  There are too many shows we like to watch that have conflicting times to not have a DVR.  DirecTV Now is in beta tests with their cloud DVR, so they don’t have one ready yet.  Also, it is unclear if there will be a charge for DVR service.  Sling TV has a cloud DVR for an additional $5 a month and it allows 50 hours of recordings.  PS Vue also has a cloud DVR and it is included with the service without an additional fee, but any recorded show will only stay in the cloud DVR for 28 days which may or may not be enough time for you to watch.

In the end we went with Sling TV, even though with the cloud DVR it cost $5 a month more that PS Vue.  I decided that for now I could give up Discovery Channel since there are really only two shows that I mainly wanted (Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush).  The main reason for choosing Sling TV was that they were offering a deal where if you prepaid for three months, you could get a Roku Ultra for $50, a savings of 50%.  When the three months is up, we may switch to PS Vue to see if it will be a better fit.  In the meantime I might try their free trial offer to test them out.

Anyway, we have been using the Roku/Sling TV/Tablo/Plex setup for a couple of weeks now and it is working and we are getting used to it.  The only hiccup we’ve had with this setup is that a couple of times we were not able to connect to the Tablo.  A reboot of the Tablo seemed to solve it.  I have seen some comments that if you assign a specific IP address to the Tablo and Roku they connect better.  I’ve just done that and we will see if that solves the problem.

The last thing is to switch ISP’s (internet service provider) from AT&T to, dump AT&T U-verse TV and start saving some money.  I’ll update on switching ISP’s later.

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