It’s not me, it is totally you! After years of bouncing around promo rate between Comcast, Frontier, Xfinity, DirectTV (moving every 2-3 years or so helped), we finally ditched cable/satellite TV for good!
One might think, “Geez, they moved every few years just to get TV’s promotional rate…”. Don’t worry, we had better reasons for the move (e.g. real estate capital gain exclusion, soft-flip property, etc). But another story for that.
As the IT support of the family, I typically would like to stay around $100/mo for Internet + TV, which you usually can get on promotional rate. But once that promo expires, it costs an arm and a leg (rate usually jumps to double if not more).
On the last episode, we used CenturyLink + DirectTV. The monthly charge jumped from $102 to $195+. True that CenturyLink internet is somewhat economical (and they advertises “rate for life”, but we had DSL, capped at 40MB/s. When we moved into the current house in Seattle, that was our only option (fiber optic didn’t even make it here). Prior to that (in our previous home), Xfinity bundle was even more outrageous (>$225/mo). We threaten to switch to competitor, but they finally said, go ahead.
As many successful people says in their books, stop watching TV… naaah, I still like watching TV. Nothing against people who choose not to watch TV (good for you!). I don’t binge, but it’s nice watching TV on my down time, take my mind off of work, and make running (eh, more like walk, run, walk) on treadmill more bearable. But paying 3 figures every month doesn’t seem reasonable, there’s gotta be a better way.
I’m an engineer, so I always start with, “What am I trying to solve in the first place?”. So here are my requirements:
- I don’t like to watch live TV. I need fast forward!
- I like to be able to record something from anywhere. No offense to missRandom, but I can’t rely on my wife to record a UFC fight for me (the free ones on FS1 of course!)
- On demand is nice
- Watch TV from anywhere
- I really like The Voice, House Hunter International, free UFC, Friends reruns, some local show, Andrew Zimmern, Million dollar listing, Simpsons reruns, SciFi
- Let’s cap this to $50/mo at most for TVs (internet not included)
Faster internet, better wifi coverage
First thing first, I need faster internet. Thankfully, Xfinity starts to get available in my neighborhood. Time to switch from Centurylink’s DSL 40MB/s to XFinity 150MB/s (price is about the same, $49/mo). Done!
I used to have a TPLink router, which was decent. But the 5g coverage was rather spotty on some rooms. You also have to manually switch between 2G vs. 5G endpoints. I upgraded to Google Wifi system – Router replacement for whole home coverage, which is awesome. It simplifies life. It handles devices better (we have 26 connected devices in our home for mainly light switches). It also handles 2G vs. 5G connections seamlessly (to give balance between range and speed). If you’re interested to read more, see here for my review.
Free Local TV (Over the Air)
Looong time ago, I used to have a PC with Windows Media Center that had a TV input (you can plug an antenna to it). It was free and it worked well. I think long and hard if I want to go that option again, but decided against it since missRandom would kill me if I have PCs (with loud fan) everywhere. And she hates cables.
Then, I thought about the time when I used TiVo with cable card. Hmm that might’ve worked. I started researching on TiVo Roamio OTA, which seemed promising, but rather pricy at $399. But in order to watch in different room, I would need TiVo mini, which was another $179 each. This doesn’t seem to satisfy my “watch TV anywhere” requirement.
Then, I stumbled upon a better OTA (Over the Air) solution, which fits our needs better (and it’s $199 for the dual tuner):
Tablo DUAL OTA DVR for Cord Cutters
We figured the dual recorder is sufficient for our needs. What’s cool about this device is, you can watch it from multiple devices.
Here’s where we watch it from:
There are many more devices that TabloTV supports. And if you do some more magic in opening a port in the router, you can access it from the internet too!
Setup was a breeze, just connect the antenna, connect to router, and configure in a web browser. I happened to find my old Mohu Leaf 50 HDTV Thin Indoor Antenna in the storage, along with an old 1TB USB hard drive (from my old TiVo). This is among the only times when hoarding electronics paid off.
Then, download apps in Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple, Android store. And for $5/mo, it has nice listings (cable-like) and make it easier to schedule season recordings, find shows and movies. I think it’s worth paying the $5.
Great! This solves my local TV needs (The Voice, UFC on Fox, local news, PBS).
Cable replacement (Internet TV)
To replace remaining channels, I ended up going with Sling TV. I chose the Blue package ($25/mo) and CloudDVR ($5/mo). There’s also a promotion to get a free Roku Express when you pre-paid 2 month of services (that’s where I got my free Roku Express). Feel free to use my referral link to get $5 off for signing up with Sling TV.
What’s cool about SlingTV is, it runs on the same set of devices that I have above (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, iPhone, Android, Web browser), and many more. And the CloudDVR is the answer to all of my past frustration against DirectTV and Xfinity mobile apps. Now, scheduling and watching recordings on my phone is a breeze! I can catch up on Bizzare Foods on the bus, watch Hawaii Life while waiting for appointments, watch UFC while walking in treadmill, fast forward through Inside the NBA to Shaqtin’ the fool, and many more.
I thought about getting the Orange package as well, but it doesn’t justify our needs, so I’m sticking with Blue package.
Before, I paid around $140/mo for DirectTV / XFinity (and that’s just for 2 receivers). Now, here’s the breakdown of our TV bills:
- $5/mo for TabloTV listing
- $25/mo for SlingTV Blue package
- $5/mo for SlingTV CloudDVR
That’s $35/mo, a saving of over $100/mo!!
Additionally, adding these capabilities to each TV is much economical than before (monthly fees to rent the equipments). Each stick costs less than $30:
In our case, I got the Roku Express for free for signing up with Sling TV. And I already had multiple Amazon Fire TV sticks from before (around Amazon prime day, these are the items that tend to be heavily discounted).
- $259 for Google Wifi (set of 3). Okay, this one is a splurge, but fast connection means more seamless experience on streaming TVs, switching back and forth etc.
- $199 for the TabloTV dual DVR
- -$50 for TPLink (I did sell it on eBay) to offset the cost
Total setup cost: $409, which I should recapture in 4 month of saving of ditching DirectTV. But in the long run, this saves big bucks while still providing TV coverage that we still enjoy!