Anytime I mention cord cutting, I get a ton of responses on it. It’s not just about the cultural phenomenon. For a lot of people, the alternatives to the traditional cable model are much better at delivering the desired content. If you think TV is immoral, the solution is simple. Don’t buy a television. If you enjoy some shows and movies, it gets a little more complicated. Given how many times it comes up, I thought it would be worthwhile to post about what I’m doing as a cord cutter. Others can chime in with what they are doing.
Like a lot of men, I ended up with a cable bill because I liked sports. When I was a kid, there were a few games on a week. Then ESPN came on-line with live sports. Then regional sports networks. Now every league and sport has multiple channels dedicated to showing live events. It is the golden age of TV sports, if the gold standard is measured in quantity, rather than quality.That said, I had all the other stuff on cable so I tried to watch popular shows. It was there and people talked about, so I watched.
My first foray into cord cutting was due to technical issues. I did not have cable for a summer and one of things I noticed is I did not miss it very much. I’ve always been a baseball fan, but listening on the radio is a better way to consume baseball. The other stuff I used to watch, well, I did not miss it. If I felt like watching a movie, I got a disc or watched one of the discs I owned. That’s one of the truths of TV watching I learned. Most of what we watch is re-runs and old movies that we have already watched.
With that in mind, I cut the cord at the same time I bought an Amazon FireTV box. This is a simple little device that lets you access Amazon library of movies and TV shows, over the internet. It plugs into your TV via an HDMI cable and connects to the internet over your wireless. You can also connect it with an Ethernet cable. It also has a simple browser so you can access video on the web, like YouTube. It lets you load apps for other video content providers like Hulu and Netflix. There are a lot of small providers with apps.
I have been a Amazon Prime member for a long time, as I do almost all of my shopping on Amazon. The free shipping pretty much covers the cost of the membership for me. That means I get all of the Prime video, which is old movies and TV shows. For instance, I watched a series called Justified that had gone off the air long before I heard of it. They also have original content and some of it is very well done. Amazon also has a movie and TV show rental service. For most people, Amazon Prime for $90 a year is all they need.
In my case, Amazon is all I needed, but I got curious and sampled some of the other serves and devices just to see what was available. I tried the Hulu live TV service, which is one of the many new services for live TV. Their package has most of the popular cable channels for $40 a month. That also gets you their massive library of old TV shows going back to forever it seems. If you liked Taxi or Three’s Company, you can watch it with your Hulu service. You can also watch Hulu on other devices like phones and tablets.
I gave the DirecTV service a ride and it was buggy as all hell. They say it got better, but my experience was not good. In theory, it should be great as it is an internet version of the DirecTV service, which rated the best of all traditional TV offerings. I know when I used their satellite service, it was fantastic. Their internet option has lots of content, but getting it too work was so frustrating I finally gave up and deleted the app. I was an early adopter so maybe it is better, but I’d recommend Hulu over DirecTV for most people.
Now, if you are not interested in the Amazon ecosystem, then you can use something like Roku. I got one of these free when I signed up for comething. Like the Amazon box, it is a small device that connects to your internet via wireless and to your television through an HDMI cable. The interface is easy to use and the setup is super simple. I had it running in five minutes. That’s really the amazing part of all of these new devices. They are vastly more simple to setup and operate than your old cable box.
Roku does some things really well. It is good at buffering content so even if your internet connection is a little buggy, you get no interruption in the video service. Amazon is not as good at this. It’s also really good at finding content on your PC’s so you can use the Roku to play your music and movie collection in another room. I was really impressed at how well this feature worked. I have a vast music collection so having it available anywhere is nice feature for me. I would imagine the same is true for video collections.
One more thing about the ease of use bit. The new devices are modern, unlike your old cable box. For instance, they use Bluetooth for the remote. You don’t have to point the remote at the box, which means the box can be hidden away for a nice clean look to the TV area. I have mine behind the TV. The remotes are also amazingly well designed. You can navigate everything with a few buttons. The Roku remote has a feature where you can plug headphones into the remote and listen, without disturbing everyone else.
Finally, there is one other thing I’ve been doing. I loaded an app called Kodi on the Amazon FireTV. This is a service that uses add-ons to allow you to see content from anywhere on earth. The legality of this service is dubious, but it is impossible to police. The upshot is you can use Kodi to get all your TV and movies free. You can also watch sporting events from all over the world too. There are two downsides. One is you have fiddle with the installation and configuration. The other is the quality is not always the best.
If you are the sort who enjoys fiddling with stuff, then you can find plenty of on-line guides to setting up the Kodi system. Here’s a guide to installing Kodi on a FireStick. You can get the Fire TV Stick for $40, so you can use it for an experiment without spending much. You can also buy a box that is configured, but people really into this stuff tell me those boxes are mostly junk. My experience is that installing on Amazon took about 30 minutes, most of which was spent watching a video on YouTube. Otherwise, it was simple.
Here’s the thing with Kodi. I have no idea how it is legal or how it could be policed in the future. This has the same vibe as the Napster and LimeWire fads of yesteryear. The technology is designed to circumvent current efforts by the gatekeepers to maintain their monopolies. In the music rackets, the gatekeeprs eventually waged jihad on the users in order to scare people out of using file sharing. It failed, but a lot of people were bullied and hassled by Big Music. You need to assess your risk tolerance before using Kodi.
That’s my cord cutting story.