Thoughts from an old guy on going from Cable/Satellite to streaming
When I was a kid I had three channels, five after the sun went down. Most of my pre-20’s I had six or seven channels but I didn’t have cable. If I wanted a movie I rented a movie at a shop about a mile and a half away that I walked to some times. If I wanted to watch something and it wasn’t on or I was out I had a set of cheap VHS tapes I could record on.
TL;DR – Gen-X guy discovers what Millennials have known most of their lives – most live TV doesn’t matter. Also about unhealthy relationship with the boob tube. There is no particular conclusion.
I was a very bored and lonely kid. Homeschooled, insomniac, spent nights coding when I couldn’t sleep (which was every night,) and watching whatever was on because it’s 3am, I have no weekday friends, little human contact, what else am I going to do? Could only read so many books a week before my eyes hated words, and after hours of coding, BBSs, gaming, it was time for bad Kung Fu movies on Ch 17 and beating Super Mario Brothers for the 118th night in a row.
I moved to New York in 1997 and had a roommate with cable. For me that was something entirely new. Turning on the TV there was always something new (to me,) to watch, and I had many years of not having cable to catch up on so everything was interesting and new. After work it was like a nonstop showcase of 24 years of missed movies and shows and it was great, and terrible.
This gave an insomniac a reason to try to be more miserable.
When I moved back to Nashville, I decided it would be cool to give Comcast about 5-7% of my income for the next several years for miserable customer service, poor picture quality, and a product that just didn’t work well, because I really did not want to be up at 2am with nothing to do.
One of the things I thought I enjoyed with corded TV was the ability to plop down and watch what was on right now and the tons of available content. My experiences with attempting to choose a movie on Netflix had solidified the belief that choice limitation could be a good thing. Netflix also was not really know for its shorter TV-like series at that point. Live TV can help couples just choose from the best of the available trash. Meh.
I was wrong, I realize this now. “Right now,” is increasingly unimportant and over the past few weeks since I cut the cord completely the only “right now” things I’ve been interested in have been news and American Horror Story. I’d been pretty afraid of a disconnect from cultural events such as Sharknado (and the live tweetstorms,) and such, but YouTube TV and my HDHomeRun have that covered. I’m about seven to twelve seconds behind XFinity and DirecTV as far as I can tell, however I’m fine with not spending an additional $50 a month for those seven seconds.
I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 channels when I left Comcast/XFinity. I think I watched 11. When I left DirecTV I had more in the 400 range. I watched 9. When I got to YouTube TV I have 55 or so channels. I watch programs on 9. Of those maybe one matters seeing it live or close to air time.
What seems to have been important to me is not that the shows are on when I plop down, but that I can get to them without jumping through hoops or getting smacked in the face with the big balls of Amazon or Netflix’s absurd libraries. Not having to run technical support is also key. I don’t think a few years ago I could have had this experience.
If they’re all in one place, that’s better, I haven’t quite got there yet. It doesn’t feel too far off, but until Plex buys Playon or vice versa and they work together to stream any streamable content to one destination that’s just a missing component.
I feel I’m probably the last person to the cord cutting party. I was set in my ways, I’ve experienced some terrible streaming (I’m looking at you HBO / nights that Game of Thrones came out,) and I’ve seen what Amazon did when it tried to save a couple of bucks (there’s my story of HBO through Amazon for a week that happened to be right when they dropped the bandwidth and everyone was complaining).
But no, streaming services seem significantly better picture than I was paying the big guys for. I mean, I’ll throttle my bandwidth to verify but I feel like the data stream I was getting for most channels was in the 1mbit range with an effective resolution of less than 720i, but who knows. 50-75mbit streams on YouTube TV are spoiling me for everything except the OTA local network broadcasts, which I thought look significantly better on the HDHomeRun.
Someone with a dog in the game agrees:
Great first look @pocketables! Few people realize that 1080i and 720p Over the Air TV remains some of the highest quality TV with the most bandwidth out there. Good eye for catching it! #cordcutting FTW! https://t.co/86LOHmJavO
— Silicondust USA, Inc (@HDHomeRun_US) September 12, 2018
I texted with a friend who has friends at the local NBC affiliate and the general text-relayed response was that one of the things I might be seeing here is that some streamers (Hulu and DirectTV Now) get an IP broadcast and just repeat the signal, and some (YouTube TV,) use an OTA decoder and recode for streaming.
That said, this is a game of texting telephone so who knows. Does make one wonder if the tower went out would your streaming provider’s feed disappear? Something I’m going to have to investigate.
Was I cutting down from 400 or so channels? No
OK, so I have YouTube TV, that’s 55 or so channels, I also have my OTA channels which include about 40 channels that don’t overlap as well, then there’s Pluto TV can’t skip ads, not channels I’d see on the services, but that’s another 58 or so live channels. So there alone if I’m looking for some semblance of “happening right now,” I’ve got a couple hundred options. Mostly crap, but that’s what I was paying the big guys for before.
Was I giving my wife and kids an insurmountable hurdle? No
Other than that on my Roku we now have to press “ok” to get into YouTube TV and wait for approximately nine seconds for it to load, there’s not been any complaints, except about what’s coming up live. This is solvable via tvguide.com, which may not be an issue for people who simply don’t want to sit down and watch what’s happening right now.
Pretty high, except as noted the local channels being re-encoded look a little blocky to me, which is where the HDHomeRun comes in. Catching up on shows while I’m on breaks on my phone has been fun as well. I’d previously not toted television around, and I try to not Netflix Cheat on the wife.