I’ve been writing about cord-cutting long enough. It’s time to jump in, disconnect from my pay TV service and start saving some money at home.
In fact, I did just that a month ago.
Longtime readers may remember that my wife and I tried cord-cutting years ago, but that was before there was much streaming content, and we jumped back into paying for TV.
My experiences with live streaming services from Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Hulu have shown me that it’s a good time to try again.
I’ve had an antenna up at my house for a while now, and I’m comfortable watching the free over-the-air local channels. I’ve also set up a Plex media server to house my digital music, photos and movies. Last year, Plex introduced its Live TV viewing and recording inside the Plex system. I connected my antenna to a SiliconDust HDHomerun tuner that talks to the Plex server on my network so we could record the local channels. It all works really well, but I’m always looking for ways to make the content easier to navigate.
Most of the streaming services include some local D-FW channels in their bundles.
Sling TV carries only Fox and NBC.
DirecTV Now, Hulu, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue all carry the local Fox, NBC, ABC, and CBS stations. Sadly, our local PBS station is not carried on any of these services.
Receiving the local channels from a streaming bundle service has its advantages — mainly that you don’t have to put up your own antenna. Some people live in apartments or in places where putting up an antenna just won’t work.
Most of the streaming services also offer, or will be offering, DVR service so users can record and save the shows.
Having the local channels bundled in with a streaming service means that we can stay in one app for watching most of our TV. This is important when you’re showing your family members how to navigate and watch live shows and how to watch recorded shows. I’m always looking for ways to make it simpler.
The beauty of these streaming services is that they don’t require a commitment, and all of them have a free trial period — usually a week — so you can get a feel for the service before you sign up.
I did some research and decided to try YouTube TV first. I like its channel lineup, including local channels, and its interface. Not all services’ on-screen interfaces are the same, and some are harder to navigate than others. YouTube TV’s is simple and easy to get around, plus its DVR is included in the $40 monthly fee and storage is unlimited, although shows will only stay for nine months.
But I will say YouTube TV has a feature I really don’t like. If you record a show, when you go to the library to play it back, YouTube TV will likely substitute the network’s “video on demand” version that has commercials you can’t fast-forward through. I understand that there have to be some concessions made to the networks. They want to sell commercials, but I’m not happy about it.
One thing you will notice if you try these streaming services is that the channel lineups will differ. YouTube TV doesn’t offer channels from Scripps (HGTV, Food Network, Travel Channel and others) so if these are important to you, they are available on other services.
Right now my content at home includes the Plex server with local channels and DVR, YouTube TV, Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming. All of this streams through a fourth-generation Apple TV.
We’re still trying to figure out all the little details. Fast-forwarding through commercials is hit-or-miss sometimes. We’ll get the hang of it.
So far it’s working out well. There is more than enough to watch. As we try other services and find out what works for us, I’ll certainly let you know.
I just read about DirecTV Now’s cloud DVR that just launched. Perhaps I’ll try them next.
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