Cutting The Cord or Saving $3000+ dollars

Seems the cable bill just kept going up year after year.   We started exploring the possibility of cutting the cord,  the cable/satellite cord that is, and to start saving money.   Early 2014 saw us cutting the cord and we are now saving several hundred dollars each month.   We wanted to have pretty much the same TV viewing experience without major sacrifices.   We had 4 TV’s in the house, each connected to whole house DVR. Some of our friends thought it would be too difficult to replicate our current TV environment.  But it was much easier than they thought.

Each TV in the house could watch any show recorded on the DVR in any room.  We were pretty much never watching a show live, as with a recorded show, we could fast forward thru all the commercials, saving about  20 mins/hr.   Which meant, we already, hardly ever, watched any live shows.  So the switch to online streaming,  wasn’t very different in terms of when we watched our shows.  Online streaming pretty much means you will not watch shows live, but 24hrs to several days after the original air date.

 

online streaming

Can You Also Cut the Cord?

First research if your favorite shows are available online. Now granted our household can probably be categorized as being in semi-TV junkie category.  Our household follows about 75 shows during the year (bearing in mind that several shows only run as summer replacements) as well as 3- 7  basketball  games a week  during the basketball season.  Additional we’ll watch maybe 3 – 5 football games during the entire season,  and  a dozen baseball games during the summer.

Check,  www.CanIStreamIt.com  to see where your favorite shows are streamed.  Many TV shows are streamed on subscription services such as Hulu/Hulu Plus(Hulu is free, Hulu Plus is $7.99/month), netflix ($8.99/month), Amazon Plus ($90/yr) etc.   Some networks such as CBS, TNT, Lifetime, VH1, BET, TLC  don’t air their programming over subscription services, but rather directly from their own websites (usually for free).

For movies, Netflix ($8.99/month) and Amazon Prime ($99/yr) will provide much of the movie content you’ll want to watch.  You can additionally supplement it with other services such as Vudu, M2go, blockbuster on demand, Red Box on demand.

For sports there are several avenues available to meet that fix in your TV watching addiction.  NFL, MLB, NBA, & NHL  all have streaming packages available. Each has its own terms and conditions and fees.  Usually there are local blackout restrictions.  A workaround for this is to use a VPN service (link) or a DNS service (Stealthy, or un-block-us.com). Many games can be had via OTA antennae (Over the Air) for free, but again you face local blackout restrictions.   NCAA March madness is streamed via CBSSports.com.  If you have access to a cable subscription or have a select listed ISP you can watch ESPN via ESPN.go.com

Additionally there are services such as firstrowsports.eu , vipboxus.co. VIPBox.com,  CoolSport.tv, GoATD.net  and  ballstreams.com that allow you to pickup streamed  sports events content from online broadcasters.

Our Equipment Inventory

You’ll need to have some equipment, software and/or subscriptions to make your streaming experience complete.   For our set up of 4 TVs in our household, we chose to use Roku  (one Roku3,  one Roku2 and twoRoku1’s) as our streaming devices to our TVs.  We also use one dedicated desktop PC as a media PC.  This allows us to run a media server that pulls in the shows that need to come directly from a website.  The media pc is also used as our household DVR and serves as our repository for all our music, photos and videos in the household.  As our media server software, we chose to use PlayOn.Tv .  The  main reason we went with Playon was so we wouldn’t have to  keep track of which website had which content.  Playon also conveniently retains all your login information, so you login once and forget it.  This makes it easy for the non-tech members of your family to use the Roku instead of tinkering with your PC (Playon will sling the content from your PC to your roku device for viewing on your TV).   Playon is a bit slower to load than other Roku channels but it works well once the show has started.  Hardwire your Roku3 to your Ethernet internet setup and your speed will be appreciably better.

To one TV we attached a local antennae (link for TV antennae),   which allows us to pull in over the air (OTA) channels.  You can hook   an antennae to each TV or you can use simple.tv to stream the content of OTA channels to each of your Rokus or streaming devices.   If your TV is older than 2009, then you’ll also need a TV digital converter (link to a digital TV converter)   to get OTA channels to work with your antennae.

You’ll need a high speed internet connection.  At least 5 mbs is suggested if you only have one TV and a PC or two connected.  If you have multiple TV’s and several PC’s that will be drawing internet bandwidth, then we suggest 10 – 15 mbs minimum.    Our household has 15mbs for 4 TV’s, 3 pc’s, 3 cell phones and a couple of tablets.  We’ve found that lag time/buffering  is very infrequent at this speed.

We decided to buy our own internet modem/router, rather than continue to pay the $8/month rent for the cable provider’s modem.   It’ll take several months to recover the rental cost versus own , but we now have a simultaneous dual band router, that allows me to place the Rokus  and media pc on the 5ghz channel, that is considerably less crowded than the 2.4 ghz channel, that our legacy devices  (those unable to use 801.11n) and cell phones use.  Separating the devices into multiple channels helps assure that we have minimal buffering time.

Using the PlayCast/ Playon extension allows you to send any video that can be viewed on a windows computer to a Roku in order to view it on your TV.  In order to use the application,  the PlayOn media server must be installed and running on a windows based computer. The PlayCast and the PlayOn Channels must be installed on the Roku. Once PlayOn is fully installed a PlayOn icon can be added to your preferred windows browser to allow you to easily mark your favorite videos for later viewing.

Setup

Attach your Roku to each TV set.  Set up your Roku Account on the internet.    Setup your Playon software on your media PC.  Add the Playon channel to your roku account.  Also allow Playon to categorize and index all your media (Picture, music, videos) on your PC.   Open your hulu account, amazon prime account, & ballstream accounts.  Add each channel to your Roku account.  On your Roku device sign into each channel and enjoy.   Basically 95% of our programing comes through Roku via some kind of channel   (Roku has public and private channels).  There is some content however, that  must  be played  from a web enabled device (ie, a computer that is streaming or direct connected to a TV).  Some content on Hulu and ESPN can only be played  via the web.  We use our family room TV to  video connect to our media PC , that in essence makes our TV a huge computer monitor.  Using a wireless keyboard and mouse makes the PC navigation very  convenient from the easy chair.

Bottom Line – $ Saved

Cable Costs :   TV + Phone + Internet bundle  = $250/month, Netflix $8/mo, Hulu $9/mo,  Amazon Prime-$99/yr =  Total – $3294/yr

Cut the Cord Costs:   Netflix – $8/mo, Hulu -$9/mo , Ballstreams –$55/6 months,    Amazon Prime – $99/yr, Internet + Phone bundle = $55/mo.  Total = $997/yr

One time expenses –  4 Rokus – $270 ( one Roku3,  one Roku2,  two Roku1s),  Playon Software, -$ 85, internet modem -$ 135 , Media PC – $715, OTA  Antennae –$ 70.   Total = $1275

Icing on the cake… our electric bill was reduced by $20/month when we removed the 4 cable/dvr boxes (apparently,  cable boxes are big electrical hogs).

 

1st yr savings = $1022

2 yr savings = $2297.

Electrical Savings 2 Years – $480

Total 2 years savings =  $3799 (or averaged out to $158/mo over two years)

So if you like saving $150+  per month, and like the convenience of on-demand programming, it may be time to cut the cord in your household and join the internet streaming generation.

 

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