Cordcutting: My Journey To Cutting the Cable Cord

Are you considering cutting the cord? I completely understand. New cordcutting services pop up all the time. The news trumpets stories about cordcutting and cable and satellite companies losing subscribers every day. Because of this, you’re probably thinking “Should I be cutting the cord?”

The answer to that question isn’t always clear. Everybody has different needs, and decisions like this may take a lot of time. In this article, I’m going to detail my cordcutting journey. I hope the information inspires and informs you on your cordcutting journey.

cordcutting

Background: TV Viewing in My Household

My family was spoiled with premium access to stations and a premium DVR and watching experience. In addition to having almost all the channels from DirecTV, my family has used MythTV as the primary DVR for over 10 years.

MythTV

MythTV spoiled us. It has had features like:

  • Online (web-based) scheduling and viewing
  • Very sophisticated recording and retention rules
  • Easy ability to add storage for recordings and archive them
  • Separate recording groups and rules for different people
  • Commercial skip functionality
  • Integrated music, home video and photo libraries
  • Web browser
  • Multi-device streaming (and bookmarks)
  • Theming
  • Exporting recordings

for over a decade. Over the years, commercial DVRs have gotten closer to its functionality, but MythTV still works better than my DirecTV DVRs. It’s faster and has more features, and is easier to use.

Our MythTV setup consists of distributed backends and multiple frontends. The backends record from a cable card based Silicondust HDHomerun Prime (I have an older version) and directly from a DirecTV box using an HD-PVR, In order to view the recordings I have frontends connected to TVs (via inexpensive, low powered, quiet computers) and android apps.

With the frontend and backends I can record and watch multiple shows at the same time throughout my house and even away from it, automatically skip commercials, view photos and much more. Although this setup seems highly technical, it was actually fairly easy to put together and works with very little maintenance.

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DirecTV

DirecTV Satellite

My family has had a love/hate relationship with DirecTV. Even though we’ve been longtime (over a decade) customers, we have often wanted to leave, but the choices haven’t been much better

What we love about DirecTV

  • Channel selection
  • Multi-room viewing
  • Remote viewing and recording scheduling via the app

What we hate about DirecTV

  • The user interface is dated
  • The user interface is frustratingly slow
  • Buggy DVRs (lots of freezing of channels)
  • Pricing
  • Horrible customer support

Why I Decided to Cut The Cord

Cost

Like many, I have been looking for ways to save money. DirecTV is too expensive, so at first, I was considering just cutting channels. But then I realized we already subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Since we are comfortable with streaming why not looking into completely cutting the cord?

DVR Performance

As mentioned before, we have a love/hate relationship with DirecTV. Often the DirecTV DVR sluggishness is frustrating when you want to change channels or simply rewind something. We are spoiled by the responsiveness of MythTV. However, when we are watching live TV, it is almost always with DirecTV.

Customer support

Then came the terrible customer support. A few months ago I had 2 DirecTV receivers fail. It took two customer support calls and one chat to get them to replace the receivers with equivalent models. They’d promise the receivers were on the way but they would never show up. I ended up having to request replacements three times. Finally, three weeks later, I received them. But that wasn’t the end of the problems.

When they finally sent me the replacement receivers, they could not activate them over the phone. They could not activate them online. A customer support rep had to come out to my house to activate them (another week’s wait). They scheduled the first support person for the wrong time. Then, finally, a support tech arrived at the right time and activated them. Problem solved finally, right?

Well, not so fast. During the course of this, I complained and was awarded a $50/month discount for 12 months. Except I didn’t get it. It took another three or four chats, each with me having to prove that I was promised the discount (thank God for chat transcripts). Exhaustingly, 3 months later, my promised discount kicked in.

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I was done with DirecTV.

Picking a Cable Replacement Streaming Service

YouTube TV Main Interface

Now I need to find a cable replacement streaming service. The top contenders tend to be DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu with live TV, Playstation Vue, Sling, and Fubo.

If you’ve read a few of my articles, you might have figured out by now that I am mostly team Google. Google services are portable, reliable, and tend to work pretty well. That immediately put YouTube TV (here is my review) at the top of my list of choices. I investigated channel selections, pricing, UI, device support, multiple simultaneous streams and DVR options which led me to YouTube TV as my top choice. Unlimited DVR for 9 months, the most intuitive UI, and every channel I really want except the NFL Network for just $40/month.

I signed us up for a 2 week free trial and my family had little problem transitioning. YouTube TV was the choice.

Picking a Streaming Device

Roku Streaming Stick+

Picking a streaming device is a personal choice for many people, based on their needs. I tend to recommend Rokus for most people, but, in my case, Roku was an easy and obvious choice. Due to the Google/Amazon spat, YouTube TV isn’t on FireTV devices, leaving Roku as the clear winner over the Chromecast for functionality and the Nvidia Shield device for price. Which Roku? I went with the Roku Ultra on a Black Friday sale because I wanted the assurances of a wired solution.

Streaming My Local Multimedia

Emby Web Home

We have primarily used MythTV for streaming locally stored TV Shows, videos, and photos. Although MythTV can still keep running, it really isn’t worth it to keep it up to date just for streaming locally stored media. It would also be nice to not have to switch to a different device for home media. Originally I switched over to using Plex for these needs, but we have since started to prefer Emby.

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Putting It All Together: Cordcutting Results

About a month after first trying YouTube TV we’ve canceled DirecTV. I don’t think we miss it, and we saving over $100/month. The kids love that they can easily watch YouTube TV on their phones, and have adjusted to the streaming everything. I have no regrets.

What’s Next?

This is really the beginning of the journey, not the end. We really have to look at TV show watching differently now. For instance, we watch shows on HBO, but YouTube TV doesn’t offer HBO. We can order HBO a la carte from HBO directly or through Amazon Prime, but we don’t need to do that all year round. We can add and drop it as the shows we want to watch (Game of Thrones!) are on. All online and easily. Same with other services (like the NFL Network).

Editor’s note: Check out my article on my experience after a year of being a cord-cutter.

However, we are now more dependent on our home network and Internet connection working than ever. With our cordcutting savings, we should consider backup Internet service. Our Internet provider, like many others, has a data cap (1TB/month). We haven’t surpassed that but it is a consideration when looking for an ISP. I will also look to maximize the speed and latency while minimizing the costs of Internet service. I’ll be keeping a close eye on 5G.

Edit: We were getting close to the cap and recently started watching some 4K content so I switched to CenturyLink Fiber. Faster speed and no data cap!

Cordcutting truly is the future. If you haven’t considered it, look into it. You may end up with better service and a smaller bill.

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using an affiliate link I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Affiliates do not influence my recommendations. Read my disclosures for more information.

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Cordcutting: My Journey To Cutting the Cable Cord

by HomeTechHacker time to read: 5 min