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Bill Hawkins's picture
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 63
Cutting the cord

Some things to consider if you're unhappy with the changes that Greenfield have imposed on the TV service.

When I moved to Rancho Murieta (in 1996), the local TV service provided by RMA was the main way that we all watched TV, with satellite TV the only real alternative.  Satellite TV was way more expensive than the RMA option but provided a way to get those channels not offered by RMA.

Today, the story is different.  You still have the RMA (Greenfield) option with both DirecTV and DishTV as satellite options, but we now have a plethora of streaming options available at a fraction of the cost.  With the recently announced change, it seems that Greenfield have dropped all the channel customizations that they provided when they first came into RM and are just offering the DishTV packages at a $10 discount.  As I recall, the main reason that Greenfield selected DishTV in the first place, was that DishTV allowed Greenfield to offer some channel/package customizations, whereas DirecTV did not.

I switched to DirecTV in the late 90’s because I wanted a channel (Speedvision) that was not offered by RMA, but a couple of years ago, I became disenchanted with DirecTV customer service and started looking around for an alternative source of TV.

Based on my experience, for those of you who are considering switching, here are some things to do.

Make a note of every channel that you normally watch and consider how important the channel is to you/your loved ones.  Make a “must have”, and “would like” list of channels. For the channels that are not on the “must have” list, is there an alternative way to view them (e.g. YouTube, Hulu)

Note any features that you would like to have with your new TV service.  (e.g. Do you need DVR facilities? Do you want to use the TV service away from home?)

Do you own a smart TV?  If not, maybe your DVD/BluRay player has apps.   If neither, you will need to purchase a streaming device to access the various options.  Note, most smart TV’s come with a small number of default apps to offer streaming options, but most of those TV’s a just android devices (like some mobile phones) and you usually have options to download and install more apps.

Do you already have access to some streaming services (e.g. Amazon Prime, YouTube, Netflix?)

Now you can start looking at the competing services and comparing their offerings. 

Do they have all the features that you want?  If not, can you live without the feature?

Look at the cost of the lowest service offering that meets both the must have and want to have channels. 

At this point, it’s just value proposition – what service offers the channels/features that you want, for the price you want to pay?

 

Streaming devices

The more populare streaming devices include Amazon FireTV, AppleTV, Roku, and Google Chromecast.  There's not a lot to choose between them when comparing similar models, but there are a multitude of different models available.  Some devices use an Alexa/Siri interface, so you can ask the TV remote to find a program for you.  If 4K TV is important to you, make sure the device supports 4K, as some of the cheaper models do not.  The device you select may also depend on whether you're already subscribed to a particular infrastructure.   For example, if you have iPhone/iPad and AppleTV, then it's relatively simple to cast the iPhone/iPad screen to your TV.  Also, (IMHO) the amount of memory in the streaming device is not tremendously important, unless you want to load up a lot of apps and/or want to play games on the device.    There are a lot of so-called streaming devices that claim to get you any channel you want.  Most of these are a scam and rely on dubious (or illegal) mechanisms to access content.  I've seen these advertized for $300-400 but they're really a $30 android device with some preloaded (free) software and no instructions.

Streaming services

Some of the better known streaming services include DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu and SlingTV.  A lot of TV channels also offer a direct to customer offering, where you can cherry pick individual channels.  However, going this route can get just as (or more) expensive, and a lot more inconvenient than picking a package service.  Some streaming services may be locked to your local zip code, so may not allow you to watch TV while you travel.   Apple is also expected to launch a streaming service of their own in 2019.  On a side note, the big film studios (e.g. Sony, Disney etc) are looking at the streaming marketplace and they're starting to pull content from other services (i.e. Netflix) so they can increase value of their own streaming services.

Local channels

You may not be able to get some of your local channels with streaming services.  However, you still have the option of getting an antenna and tuning your TV to get the signal over the air (OTA) for free.  There’s a lot of good info about this at https://antennaweb.org.  Note, some modern TV’s do not come with a tuner built in.  If your TV is like this (and mine is) you will have to buy an external tuner before you can receive OTA local channels.

It’s possible that you may have to subscribe to more than one service, in order to get your selected channels.

 

NOW vs GO

You will see some companies offer NOW or GO (or both) options.  While they essentially do the same thing, they’re targeted at different audiences.  The GO service is typically when you have a subscription for the channel with your TV service and want to watch the channel away from home, and the NOW service is when you have cut the cord and have a streaming-only service.  HBO is a great example of this.

 

Before you cut the cord, you should realize that when using RMA/DishTV/DirecTV, you do get a very convenient way to watch TV.  They provide set-top boxes that allow you to record multiple channels concurrently and even watch those recordings away from home – this convenience also has a value.

In my case, I changed my DirecTV $190 monthly bill to various streaming options at around $70 per month.  I did have an initial outlay of around $100 for two streaming devices and I don’t have all the bells and whistles I had previously, but for a $120 monthly saving, that's ok.

One last thing to bear in mind before you cut the cord, is that if your internet is out, then so is your TV.

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Ralph Frattura's picture
Joined: 06/18/2007
Posts: 235
Bottom line: Close, but no scissors

As one who has started doing this research, I think there's a lot of good advice here, Bill. My research on this question is starting to look like this:

  • YouTube TV ($40) has what's supposed to be the friendliest, most cable-like interface for viewing, as well as a wide variety of channels, including locals, and unlimited DVR storage in the cloud. Wow, that's a good foundation.
  • But it doesn't have HGTV or other home-improvement channels.
  • Another service, Philo ($16), has many of those channels.
  • But none of these services has live streaming of PBS. PBS hasn't made the leap to streaming and only posts shows online after the fact. (I haven't checked to see if ALL shows are posted and how long after the fact.)

Bottom line: It looks like cutting the cord is getting close but still too much trouble to fit our lifestyle.

Bill Hawkins's picture
Joined: 08/08/2007
Posts: 63
Cord cutting convenience

The streaming market is still in it's infancy (or maybe kindergarden) so a lot of the infrastructure to make it really convenient is still maturing. A lot of the streaming services have added DVR facilities in the past year or so, and it was really this feature that made it possible for me to break with DirecTV.  The Amazon FireTV streaming device does know what apps you have installed/subscribed and the search option will search across multiple apps/services, which helps somewhat, and I'd be surprised if the other devices don't have something similar. 

I chose the Playstation Vue as my provider.  Not that I watch the Golf Channel or Hallmark much, but both those channels are in their core package for $49.99 per month.  One of the nice things about streaming is that there (usually) is no committment period, so you can chop and change as much as you want.

That said, at this time, cutting the cord is not for everybody and will almost certainly require a change in viewing habits.

FYI, you can stream PBS.  Donating at the $60 level entitles you to PBS Passport, which is their online option.  I don't think it's a direct replacement for the OTA service, but the ability to stream their programming - a sort of "PBS NOW"

I decided to post this info because I've had a number of friends ask about streaming over the past month of so.  Given the Greenfield annoucement, I figured that more people out there may be having the same questions.

Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 908
We cut the cord too

Thanks Bill for all the great info. 

We cut the cord a week ago.  We had to buy a FireStick as our 5 yr old TV does not have the apps needed.  We are using Directv Now for streaming live for about $40 a month but you only get about 20 hours of recording to the Cloud.  We also got a crazy special on Hulu in December for $1 a month for one year.  Now Hulu does not have two of the channels I watch...CBS and CW, it also doesn't have current shows on a few cable channels, like USA and one other which is why we went for Directv Now.  Also for the CW channel you can watch current shows on their website so that is an alternative.  

Directv Now has had some hiccups this past week with CBS dropping out while watching it, so not quite sure if we will continue that next month.  Maybe we end up paying for CBS All Access...

John Merchant's picture
Joined: 08/30/2007
Posts: 121
Bad (the 2019 Giants) to worse (2019 Giants Viewing)

Thanks Bill for that 21st Century viewing primer.  Like Ralph, I have not cut the cord yet and the recent price increases highlight a new hurdle.  Unless I am wrong, a SF Giants and/or Oakland Athletics game is impossible to view in RM without a Greenfield subscription.  It would be a no brainer to buy a yearly subscription to MLB and watch it over the Apple TV.  However, we are a "blacked out area" for both of these teams. I believe that is also the case for the Sacramento Kings. I am a transplanted Warrior fan and this represents no problem at all. With NBA, I can buy a game by game, a year long Warriors or entire league pass.  If someone knows another angle for Giants and Kings, I would love to hear about it. Maybe I am overlooking something, but I can's seem to find a way to live stream NBC Sports/Comcast if I cut the cable.

Obviously, Greenfield knows this as well.  I think all these packages are cleverly designed to appear like a great bargain. I am sure the necessary upgrade to pick up the local sports channels more than compensates for the changes in the three, lower level package offerings.

 

John Merchant's picture
Joined: 08/30/2007
Posts: 121
I did see a Hulu

I did see a Hulu advertisement.  The $39 package seems to give you NBC Bay Area.  Anyone have this experience?

 

Ralph Frattura's picture
Joined: 06/18/2007
Posts: 235
Hulu channels

John, 

I'm going to have to give Hulu another look. Not only does it have your sports channels (see attachment) but it has HGTV and some other channels we like. But sadly, nobody has PBS live.

Bob Fagan's picture
Joined: 09/28/2009
Posts: 16
I can watch Giants, A's and

I can watch Giants, A's and Kings on Playstation app on my roku device.  Cut the cable several years ago using this set up and Greenfield's lowest tier internet.  I think playstation is $50 per month and gets lots of channels including csn bay area, csn california, golf channel, espn and all the locals except pbs.

Damon Mercado's picture
Joined: 08/13/2007
Posts: 161
PBS

I use an HD antenna to get all the local channels"about 40" total  and I get BPS, all for free! I switched over three years ago and happy I did. I do streaming video, this allows me to receive all the other programs that I want to watch.

Bob Lucas's picture
Joined: 01/05/2010
Posts: 19
Sling TV & OTA

I do a combination of Sling TV (which gives me not only Comcast Bay Area and California but also ESPN channels, FS1 & FS2 and Pac-12 Networks) and then HD Antenna in the attic for OTA to all local channels - 3, 6, 10, 31, 40, 58 and their subsidiary channels - for free (and better picture than cable actually).  I get my Dodgers through MLB.com annual subscription, and we have Netfix, Amazon Prime and Hulu (not live though) as well .  I use the Greenfield 50 mb tier (soon to go to 100) and now that gigabit is here for only $20.00 more, I'll probably upgrade to that.

On the HD Antenna - I placed that in the attic and with a high-powered splitter, I've just connected the cables that were already in the house to the HD Antenna instead.  Works flawlessly.

All streaming is run through Apple TV 4K.  I'm saving well over $100.00 from when I had Greenfield Dish service. No need to have a DVR really either as you can always pick up recorded shows on Sling TV (even without using its cloud DVR), Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. 

Research each of the streaming services - Hulu Live, Youtube TV, Playstation Vue, DirectTV Now, Sling TV (which is owned by DISH).  For sports fans there is FUBOTV, MLB.com, NFL Game Pass, etc.   You just have to do some research to find what is right for you. Cable is likely to be all but dead in 10 years.

Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 908
Streaming options
Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 908
Streaming comparison
Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 908
Channel comparison
Jan Kays's picture
Joined: 05/06/2008
Posts: 111
PBS FOR FREE

I have an original ROKU which I never used much until now.  In investigating all this I found that I could get PBS on it and have watched "Victoria" .

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