It’s a huge movement. It’s becoming cool not to pay for bloated cable subscriptions. The internet has made cable obsolete and cable companies know this but they don’t want you to know. Why pay for what you don’t use? It’s invisible clutter. My cable bill was $280 per month and now I pay $62 (not including the subscription services, some of which I was paying for already). You may not save as much as I’m saving because you may not have been paying as much. If you can save an amount that makes a difference in your life and you can meet your home entertainment needs, then why not give it a try?
I have been using Apple TV for roughly 4 years, mostly as a way to watch Netflix, Hulu, etc., and from the start, I knew that one day I would get rid of cable and somehow watch TV over the internet. I also knew that I wouldn’t do that until I could cover all or most of my bases. The last thing holding me back was sports. Being a sports fan and a cord cutter didn’t play well together until recently. I didn’t mind paying for sports packages, but blackouts made it impossible no matter how much you pay. A sports blackout is when a sports event that is scheduled to be televised is not transmitted to a particular market when a game is televised locally via a regional sports network. So, if you live in San Francisco you can’t watch SF Giants baseball with your MLB.tv package because it’s being shown on CSN San Francisco. Even though you’re paying for the MLB.tv package, you’re still out of luck. I am morally opposed to these blackouts and feel that if someone uses a service like unblock-us.com
to provide access to a DNS server located outside the local market, to avoid the blackout, then so be it. The team, MLB, and in many cases the network, are getting paid with your $99/year. When you change your DNS settings on your Apple TV to receive access from somewhere else you also open up a larger and/or different catalog of television and movies. There are a slew of programs you can watch if you connect from the United Kingdom and France that you can’t watch if you connect from the U.S. and vice versa. Think of cord cutting like breaking the chains.
Here’s a breakdown of the equipment I’m using, the subscriptions I have, and how I’m using these in the family room and bedroom.
- Apple TV (2)
- Tablo 2-tuner DVR
- Western Digital 2 terabyte portable hard drive
- Mohu Leaf Antenna
- 50/50 MBPS Internet from Fios (includes over-the-air TV channels)
- Hulu Plus
- HBO Now
- Tablo screen interface service
In the family room, I have an Apple TV connected to the television and wired to the router. The Tablo DVR is connected to the antenna and the external hard drive and is wired to the router.
To use Tablo, you need the following equipment:
- HDTV antenna
- Internet connection
- USB hard drive (max 2TB capacity), which is required both for watching live TV and recording programming
- iPad running Apple iOS7+ OR an Android tablet running Android 4.1+ OR a computer/smartphone running the Chrome browser
When I watch one of the subscription channels (Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, or MLB.tv), I do so via the Apple TV with the particular subscription service’s native Apple TV app. When I watch a network channel that is from the antenna, I do so via the Tablo DVR using the iPad interface (you don’t have to use an iPad). When you open the app and choose what TV show you want to watch from the TV guide and send it to the Apple TV via AirPlay, you can get free HDTV with an antenna! Often, the picture is better because it’s not being compressed by the cable company and you’re receiving pure HDTV signal over the air. When I want to record a network show, I do so via the Tablo DVR with the iPad or iPhone app. You can watch whatever you record either on your television or devices, so you can watch whether you’re at home or not; if you’ve recorded something, all you do is open the app on your device, and it will connect to the DVR no matter where you are.
In my bedroom, I have the cable cord (same cord that was connected to the cable box) and Apple TV connected to the television. Again, I can open the Tablo app and watch on my bedroom TV with AirPlay (built into Apple devices). Also, the cable is carrying free local channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, MPT, FOX, and a few others).
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can send just about any video to play on your television using Apple TV. I have watched videos I’ve recorded on my phone on my television. I also frequently mirror my phone so I can see my phone screen on my television.
My Teenager’s Room
My teenage son doesn’t watch a lot of television. When he does, he has an antenna that he uses to watch network shows and a XBOX ONE that brings in subscription services. If you have a XBOX, Wii, or Playstation, you can watch some of the subscription services such as Netflix.
The Younger Boys’ Playroom
Meh. I’m not too worried. The only things they watch in there are YouTube Minecraft videos. If they want more, I’ll hook them up. The kids really don’t have a lot of television time.
If you’re not sure that you’re ready to cut the cord, remember that you can always reorder cable. If you make the initial investment, you will recoup those costs pretty quickly. Keep in mind, you don’t have to use Apple TV. You can use Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, or a Chrome Dongle-thingy. If you’re fancy enough, you can use the Tablo web app with an HDMI-enabled computer connected to your TV. Each household has a unique need and therefore will require its own custom setup. What works for me might not work for you. I’m always willing to answer any questions and help you reach home entertainment freedom.