For a long time, I was of the mind that canceling cable and cutting the cord wasn’t worth it. I almost never use Netflix, I want to watch my shows live or close to live, and I don’t want to miss Padres games. For a time, I was living downtown and worked a solution to jailbreak an iPad to get by MLB blackouts on MLB.TV, and it worked fine, but it was a pain. Every year when I’d make that call to the cable company to pretend to cancel to get them to continue offering the same rate, I’d do the math on canceling and see that once you factor in higher internet costs, various subscriptions like Hulu and Netflix, it was a little cheaper, but not cheap enough to make me actually do it. Well, times have changed. There are a lot of new options to basically get cheaper streaming cable that all offer Fox Sports San Diego.
Getting the Padres games on FSSD was obviously a big factor for me. This year, options like Sling TV, Playstation Vue, and DirecTV Now. Sling TV is the cheapest, but I was put off by reviews of it’s performance, buffering, and channel selection (it’s sparse). DirecTV Now is new but also had reported performance issues. In the end, Playstation Vue turned out to be the best reviewed option. It had basically all the channels we actually watch, and offers a cloud DVR service which the others don’t. DVR is critical for us. This whole experiment doesn’t fly if I can’t get my The Americans episodes recorded and ready for me before Sepinwall blows it with spoilers. The good thing is none of these services require a contract. So if Vue farts out, I can just cancel and sign up for one of the other services. Let me say that Vue would probably do a lot better business if they just called it Sony Vue, not Playstation Vue. I don’t have a Playstation, so seeing reports of Vue’s existence the past few months led to me just making a fart noise. As I found, no Playstation needed, it wokrs on lots of platforms. So the next step was finding which streaming platform to use Vue on. I tried it first on my existing Amazon Fire TV sticks. It works, but the stick is clearly underpowered, and things like changing channels and accessing the guide work like butt on it. After researching, the Apple TV had the best interface for the guide. Reportedly, the Amazon Fire box is also good, and the Roku’s interface is crappy.
So how’s it perform and do I miss cable? It’s great. In most cases I don’t even realize I don’t have cable. In San Diego, it’s got CBS 8 and NBC 7, and then has on-demand Fox and ABC, as well as access to the Fox Sports Go app for things like NFL, Super Bowl, and the Padres. It also has FSSD natively in Vue, and appears to run at a higher frame rate than my old Time Warner cable did for FSSD. The DVR is working great as it’s full of episodes of Taboo and Always Sunny right now. Vue is so close to actual cable that it’s more like a curated collection of channels I actually want that happen to stream over the internet. And I’m someone that was never impressed with Apple TV, but the touchpad remote control makes navigation of the Vue guide super easy (as well as fast forward/rewind).
And the cost? $35 for what I’ve got. My internet went up to $60 a month, so all in, I’m looking at $95 per month versus the old $135 from stupid Time Warner (or U-Verse). And I’ll still get my Padres games, which is critical. Lord knows how grumpy I’d get if I didn’t have the ability to watch Paul Clemens not make it out of the 4th inning.
Anyways, a lot of people have cut the cord at this point. I’m well aware I’m not on the cutting edge. But I’ve been shocked at just how unobtrusive the change has been, and surprised how I basically get everything I wanted out of cable before, just for $40 a month less.