Cord cutting success and digital sustainability

In July 2018, 32% of cable TV subscribers in the USA had cut the cord and left cable. This was due to the excessive pricing model and the free market's supply & demand model by opening up options to Internet subscribers.

This information is US centric. I live in Arizona, so your mileage my vary depending on where you are in the world. But I'll share my experiences here, hoping that someone can benefit.

I have a routine in the mornings. I get coffee and while I'm waking up, I sit in front of my very big screen TV and scour through what happened over night. I have a NVidia Shield Android TV Box which I absolutely love. It has become my daily driver for TV and media consumption for years now.

I have installed the most awesome DTube Android TV app which I absolutely love and I'll be doing a full review of that in the coming posts. I can check out what new content has been created and posted each day with ease, and watch it on my big screen TV via the Nvidia Shield.

TabloTV is awesome!

The one thing we did a year or so ago, after constantly being scammed by DirecTV who would unexpectedly double the cost of satellite TV service, or start to add in products to our plan that we never ordered, was to cut the cord. This simply meant calling them up and telling them to shove their TV service where the sun doesn't shine.

My biggest concern was that doing this was going to be "wife friendly". I needed to not strand anyone in the house without the regular TV content they watch. I found after reviewing what was being watched, was that other than some cable TV news services, and sporting events (I'm a big fan of Formula 1 and Indycar motor racing), that the rest of the content we would watch came from free OTA (Over the Air) TV via regular antenna. The quality of the digital signals was far better than the compressed signals from satellite.

I did some research and although I can't remember how, I stumbled on this little piece of wonder - the Tablo TV DVR Tuner box.

It is an amazing piece of technology. You plug it into your network (or Wifi, but I would suggest cabled Ethernet for speed), and then you install an antenna and plug that in via Coax to the back of the unit. You can see it via a web browser, but then you simply install the TabloTV app on your device (in my case the NVidia Shield, but it can be Roku, Amazon Fire stick, Apple TV, etc.) and it will find the device and then you tell it your region and channels will be sourced and you will have Live TV immediately. 100% FREE!!!!!!!

But it gets better. The DVR facilities run just like a Tivo unit. You tell it what you like, and it will record it for you. Just hook up an external hard drive to the unit (I run one of these Seagate 4TB External Hard Drive) and it will record thousands of hours of HD content for you. Then you just return to the app periodically, see what it has recorded and then sit down and watch.

No commercials to twist your brain

I've written on how the US Media distorts our brains. Hence being able to skip ads is key to keeping sanity and yet watching this great about of free TV content. Easy, peasy. The Tablo TV app has awesome 30 second skip so you can just breeze past the ads. It even brings up a thumbnail view of the frames so you can quickly find the start of the show you are watching after skipping the ads.

You just use your remote to forward through and then resume watching. It is faster than the ad skip I had to hack into my Tivo DVR years ago. Just much nicer experience in general. Happy wife, happy life!

YouTube & YouTube TV

The Nvidia Shield comes with YouTube pre-installed, so just hook that into your Google account and you are watching all your favorite YouTube content on the big screen. The app for this is excellent. I find myself spending hours consuming valuable learning content with YouTube all the time. My hope is that DTube can eventually rival this, but to be honest I'm not seeing signs yet of content quality that is anywhere near YouTube. This is because of the incentive for content creators to create LOTS of content, with a focus on quantity over quality. I think that one day when they realize that this content lives on forever and the best way of being 100% self-sustainable is to create content years before that still gets watched and generates revenue. But I'm getting tired of saying this over and over again. If DTube dies a natural death, it won't be for a lack of me whining about it.

The one missing link in all of this cord cutting experience for me was my racing season TV. YouTube TV came to the rescue on this, and for about $35 a month, I can get all of that as needed. But the really good thing is that I can subscribe and unsubscribe without any long term commitment so this can be done to align with the racing season. There isn't any season between December and February so I can simply unsubscribe and save money during that time. Or not. If something comes on the TV that I want to watch, a single subscription to YouTube TV covers 6 devices. It has an awesome channel selection too, although I do miss A&E and a few others. But for the most part, it works well.

Oh, and this is the key thing for me. Ad skipping is available on YouTube TV as well. Google provide their own DVR in the cloud, so if you have a show that is recorded for you, you can ad skip to your heart's delight.

Netflix & Amazon Prime Video

Shows here seem to be expanding all the time. More new content seems to be coming on these distribution networks all the time, which is great. But each service expects you to subscribe with them. Well you can still get content over the Internet depending on the level of Pirate you want to be. Sure, it isn't legal to pirate content, but if you want to watch the latest season of "The Grand Tour" and you don't have a subscription to get it, there are plenty of torrent sites still out there that have it, and if you know what you are doing you can access them invisibly. I'm not going to advocate you do this - you decide for yourself. But know that most of the subscription content can be found on torrent sites if you know where to look. Here's a hint. You do the searching.

You can still pay for your subscriptions and run those apps on the NVidia Shield. Netflix comes pre-installed, but you can side load Amazon Prime Video as well. Just google search for how to do this, and you'll find plenty of instructional YouTube videos that should help.

Kodi and your own media library

If you have collected videos and store them on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) server, your Nvidia Shield can run Kodi (you can find it in the Google Play store) and it can be connected up to any server to watch content there. It is awesome. I run Unraid on some home built servers for my NAS, but if you are not a technical nerd you can buy pre-loaded NAS servers like the Drobo NAS from Amazon and get up and running quickly.

Just load up new content to your NAS, and it appears on your Nvidia Shield to watch instantly.

Finally the perfect solution

It has taken me over 10 years to get this working where the cost is minimal and the ease of use is maximized. I'm sure it will get better and better in time as well.

But the key here for me is that I don't want to be dealing with a "walled garden". That means I don't want to have one provider who can control all I watch, when I watch it, how much I have to pay to watch it, that I can't skip ads and that I can't integrate my viewing from ALL the sources (including DTube) in one place. Finally I can do that. I no longer have to change HDMI inputs on my TV to go from one device to another.

Will this last for long? Who knows. I know that right now everything works perfectly. It could stop at any moment. But I think with the amount of open source systems out there, there is some future proofing here. My investment to set this up was done years ago, and I've been getting a return on it for ages. I expect to continue that well into the future.

Hope this helps someone out. I don't expect this is the only source you need to cut the cord, but it should help you get there faster.

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