TechHive Cord-Cutter Confidential
TechHive helps you find your tech sweet spot. We guide you to products you'll love and show you how to get the most out of them.
HBO Max is confusing, but so is every other service targeting today's cord-cutter

HBO Max launched this week, and the prevailing attitude seems to be one of confusion. Forum posts and opinion pieces abound on how HBO has botched the branding for this new streaming service, which combines the existing HBO catalog with a vast additional library movies and shows. We’ve seen countless attempts at explaining how HBO Max is different from the current HBO Now and HBO Go apps—for most HBO subscribers, it’s supposed to replace them both, though Roku and Amazon aren’t on board yet—and even a poll [..]

How to squeeze more savings from your cable bill

Like it or not, you’re probably stuck with your cable company even if you cut the cord on pay TV. Cable companies, after all, still provide the home internet service that’s necessary for streaming video. Mobile internet plans are still no substitute for cable-based internet, and much-hyped alternatives like 5G home internet and high-speed satellite internet are still years away from being widely available. To read this article in full, please click here

How coronavirus is speeding up a la carte cord-cutting

When deciding to drop cable or satellite TV, there are two potential paths a cord cutter can take. The first is to replace the cable bundle with a streaming one, using services like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Sling TV. The second is to cobble together various standalone services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, perhaps throwing in a TV antenna for good measure. Each approach has its pros and cons, and there’s room for them to overlap. But I’ve been predicting for a while that we’ll ultimately se[..]

Inside HDHomeRun's big bet on ATSC 3.0

Late last month, SiliconDust took a leap of faith and started taking orders for a new HDHomeRun TV tuner on Kickstarter. If all goes to plan, the HDHomeRun Quatro 4K will be the first external ATSC 3.0 tuner for consumers when it launches in September. Like other HDHomeRun tuners, the Quatro 4K will capture over-the-air broadcasts from any antenna and stream the video to phones, computers, and connected TV devices around the house. But in markets where ATSC 3.0 is available, the tuner will support broadcast[..]

Swapping streaming remotes for fewer cord-cutting annoyances

It’s all too easy to overlook the quality of the remote control when picking a streaming device, as I’ve written before. You might not realize it from the price tag, for instance, but the $180 Apple TV 4K has one of the worst remotes on the market. The slim design too easily slips between couch cushions, and its trackpad-based controls have a steep learning curve. Conversely, the $29 Roku Express seems like a great value until you realize that its remote lacks basic TV controls. To read this article in full[..]

How to record all the free streaming TV before it's gone

To help people pass the time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, several TV networks have been streaming movies and shows for free. HBO, for instance, has opened up nearly 500 hours of free programming to non-subscribers, while CBS All Access has offered 60-day trials even to previous customers. Epix is also offering a 30-day trial through Amazon Prime, and several more services are providing extended trials through the Roku Channel. To read this article in full, please click here

This app could change how you use your Roku

Unification is the predominant theme for cord-cutting in 2020. Rathing than bouncing between a half-dozen or more streaming apps, we’ll see more attempts at funneling all our subscriptions into one big TV guide. The latest effort comes from Reelgood, which just released a nifty new remote control feature for Roku devices. When you find something to watch in Reelgood’s streaming guide apps for iPhone or Android, you can press a button and launch the video directly on your Roku player or smart TV. To read thi[..]

Cord-cutters have more free TV news options than ever

It’s been a few years since I last wrote about how cord-cutters can watch the news without cable, but as TV news consumption soars during the novel coronavirus pandemic, now seems like the time for an update. In 2020, there are more ways than ever to watch the news wtihout paying for a bloated TV bundle. While you’ll still need a big pay TV package to watch cable news channels such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, there are plenty of free alternatives. To read this article in full, please click here

ATSC 3.0 could usher in a new kind of TV bundle for cord-cutters

If you use an antenna to cut the cable cord today, you can at best hope to get the major broadcast networks, some public access channels, and a smattering of digital subnets airing mostly classic movies and TV shows. Now, one broadcaster is claiming that it can deliver dozens more channels over the air by tapping into the next-generation broadcast standard known as ATSC 3.0—albeit not for free. Edge Networks, a broadcaster operating in Boise, Idaho, says it will offer a bundle of more than 80 news, sports, [..]

ATSC 3.0: How cord-cutters should plan for antenna TV's big upgrade

The broadcast TV industry has been hyping a new standard for over-the-air channels over the past couple years. It’s called ATSC 3.0, or Next Gen TV. The benefits of this standard are clear: Better reception, 4K HDR video support, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X support, on-demand video, and possibly even streaming to mobile devices and automobiles. (The standard also has also some iffier aspects, such as targeted advertising.) But ATSC 3.0 comes with one big caveat as well: While the new standard will work with any a[..]

Six streaming video options that let cord-cutters stream movies together

With much of the world hunkering down to limit the spread of COVID-19, many of us have more time than ever to work through our TV show watchlists. But this can quickly become a lonely affair. As self-quarantines stretch on, we’ll need more ways to stay entertained at home while remaining in contact with friends and family members. To that end, I’ve rounded up a list of “watch together” apps, websites, and extensions, which allow you to converse with other people while watching videos in sync with one anothe[..]

YouTube TV's regional sports situation is a total mess for cord-cutters now

Last week, YouTube TV backtracked on plans to drop regional Fox Sports networks from its channel lineup. In a new deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group, YouTube TV agreed to carry 19 of those 21 networks, excluding only Fox Sports West and Fox Sports Prime Ticket in Los Angeles (along with the YES Network, which Sinclair partly owns, in New York). In a press release, Sinclair trumpeted the deal as “ensuring continued access for millions of fans.” Sadly, that’s not the whole story. Around the country, YouTube T[..]

AT&T TV is a brilliant idea wrapped in terrible pricing

After seven months of pilot testing, AT&T TV is now available nationwide, and I keep coming back to one question: Why? AT&T TV’s big idea is to provide a familiar TV experience, but over the internet instead of through cable or satellite. Customers get a streaming set-top box from AT&T that’s preloaded with the AT&T TV service, and it comes with a remote that borrows lots of ideas from cable boxes. Because the AT&T TV box runs on Google’s Android TV operating system, it also supports other streaming apps, s[..]

You've just dropped cable TV? Here's what a cord-cutter should do next

Congratulations! After researching dozens of streaming TV services, and choosing among an endless variety of streaming video players, you’re now a proud cord-cutter. This needn’t be the end of your money-saving journey. Now that you’ve returned your cable boxes dove into the world of streaming video and/or over-the-air broadcast television, you can focus on improving your cord-cutting experience and saving even more cash. If you’ve already perused my beginner’s guide to cord-cutting, consider this a postscr[..]

Jam promises an easier, safer way for cord-cutters to share streaming passwords

If you’re going to share passwords for streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, or Hulu with friends or family, you should at least be smarter about it. That’s the pitch, in a sense, for a forthcoming service called Jam, which acts like a social network for password sharing. Users can display a list of subscriptions they’re paying for—streaming video or otherwise—so their friends can request access, and if the user approves, Jam sends an encrypted version of the login info that’s only visible to the recipi[..]

Cord-cutters: Here's how to audit your streaming TV subscriptions so you don't waste money

In a perfect world, each of us would have ample time and energy to monitor all our subscription video charges. We could keep spreadsheets, regularly check our banking statements, and never forget to cancel. Reality, of course, is messier. Between work, family, and household obligations, ending unnecessary subscriptions might be the last thing on your mind at the end of the day. It doesn’t help that many subscription services will run your credit card without any kind of notification beforehand. While I stil[..]

Roku, Fox, and the threat of streaming blackouts for cord cutters

Let’s talk about some Super Bowl drama. I’m not referring to the game itself, but rather the faceoff between Roku and Fox that occurred a few days beforehand. On Thursday night, Roku announced that it was removing Fox apps from its streaming players and smart TVs as a distribution deal between the two companies expired. In response, Fox accused Roku of using its customers as “pawns,” and even had Sean Hannity and other Fox News personalities admonish Roku on air. By Friday evening, however, Roku and Fox rea[..]

Cord cutting gear's next frontier: Better sound

Next month, Roku will release a nifty update for the smart soundbar and subwoofer it released last fall: Owners will soon be able to pair those speakers with Roku’s existing wireless TV speakers to create a 5.1-channel surround sound system. Unlike most soundbars, Roku’s doubles as a streaming video player akin to a Roku Streaming Stick+, providing both video and audio output when plugged into a television’s HDMI-ARC socket. Roku’s streaming remote also handles audio settings, so you don’t need to juggle a [..]

Cord-cutting and sports: 5 ways to squeeze out more savings

Here’s a harsh truth that every cord-cutting sports fan must live with: Chances are, the teams you want to watch are still locked up in bloated pay TV bundles. Whether that’s through traditional cable and satellite TV or through live streaming packages such as YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV, you’ll pay for a lot of channels you don’t want just to watch the games you care about. The reasons for this aren’t complicated. Most popular cable channels are owned by a small number of media conglomerates, which mak[..]

ATSC 3.0: How cord-cutters should plan for antenna TV's big upgrade

The broadcast TV industry has been hyping a new standard for over-the-air channels over the past couple years. It’s called ATSC 3.0, or Next Gen TV. The benefits of this standard are clear: Better reception, 4K HDR video support, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X support, on-demand video, and possibly even streaming to mobile devices and automobiles. (The standard also has also some iffier aspects, such as targeted advertising.) But ATSC 3.0 comes with one big caveat as well: While the new standard will work with any a[..]

Cord-cutting in 2020: The race for a unified streaming guide is on

During this week’s CES show in Las Vegas, I checked out an unusual in-development streaming device called Dabby. The device is part tablet and part streaming TV dongle, and you use the former to control what plays up through the latter. More notably, Dabby’s software provides a single interface that covers practically any streaming source. All you need to do is type or speak what you want to watch, and Dabby will find it. I’m reserving full judgment on Dabby until it launches in April, but its very existenc[..]

Make the most of YouTube TV with these 14 tips

If you’re looking to cut cable or switch up your current cord-cutting plan, now’s as good a time as any to check out YouTube TV. The $50-per-month channel bundle remains our pick for best live TV streaming service, and that position is only getting stronger with this week’s launch of PBS channels and a price hike to $55 per month for Hulu’s rival live TV service. To read this article in full, please click here

Media streamer remotes, ranked

Remote controls are the most underappreciated aspect of streaming media players. While other features such as software, speed, and video format support might seem to matter more, the remote is the what you ultimately interact with the most. Like the bun on a hamburger, it can make or break the entire experience. Even so, media streaming device makers such as Roku, Amazon, and Apple have little agreement on what the ideal remote should be. Unshackled by the conventions of cable TV, streaming remotes are a bl[..]

The best over-the-air DVR power tools for cord-cutters

One of the great things about using an over-the-air DVR to cut the cord is the amount of control it offers. Unlike with cable or live TV streaming services, DVR products such as Tablo, Plex, and HDHomeRun give you free reign over your recordings, so you can copy, transfer, and modify them at will. With this level of control—and the right tools—the possibilities are plentiful. You can back up your recordings to a separate hard drive, transfer them to a phone or PC for offline viewing, and even permanently re[..]

Black Friday streaming TV devices: An upgrade guide

Black Friday is one of the best times of the year to upgrade your streaming setup, with major discounts on Roku players, Fire TV Sticks, Chromecasts, and more. It’s also a great time of the year to waste your money on premature upgrades or on streaming devices that aren’t even worth buying in the first place. Keeping with last year’s tradition, let’s walk through whether you actually need a new streamer and which ones are worthy of your holiday shopping budget. Roku’s Black Friday deals Roku devices are gen[..]

This free tool helps you escape from bloated TV bundles

One of the points I often try to make in this column is that cutting the cord doesn’t have to involve spending upwards of $50 per month on a bundle of streaming cable channels. You can make choices and trade-offs, instead. If you’re willing to go without regional sports or specific cable channels, you can still get plenty of entertainment from cheaper services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. And if you’re able to get over-the-air channels from an antenna, you can even watch some major sporting events an[..]

Disney+ marks a critical moment in the TV bundle's collapse

While introducing this column back in the fall of 2014, I wrote about how the mighty cable TV paywall was beginning to crack. Although the cable bundle wasn’t in grave danger at the time, new streaming services such as HBO Now and CBS All Access were making TV a little easier to watch on your own terms. Fast forward five years, and cable TV bundle is on the verge of collapse. With so many new shows turning up exclusively on streaming services, paying $100 per month for a bundle of cable channels no longer g[..]

The 8 big unknowns with Disney’s streaming service plans

Update: Disney+ launches today, and you can purchase it for $6.99 a month, or $12.99 bundled with Hulu and ESPN+. Early reports say the streaming service is suffering login problems and missing content, but if you're interested in streaming Disney classics, Star Wars content (including the new Mandalorian series), the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more, well, this subscription in your entry point. And now, our original coverage... After going through several stages of grief for its traditional TV business—d[..]

Apple TV+ has arrived: Here are the details (and some fine print)

After more than two years of rumor, speculation, and hype, Apple TV+ has finally arrived. Apple’s streaming video service is now available for $5 per month, but if you buy a new Apple device, you can get the first year for free. At present, Apple TV+ consists of eight original series and one documentary movie—all ad-free and exclusive to the service—with Apple promising to add more movies and shows over time. Although we’ve been hearing about Apple TV and its lineup of original programming for some time, ma[..]

The death of PlayStation Vue is a damned shame

The cutthroat business of live TV streaming has claimed its first victim. On January 30, 2020, Sony plans to shut down PlayStation Vue, having decided to focus more on its core gaming business. While Vue was one of the first live TV streaming bundles when it launched in March 2015, it ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the growth of YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, and Sling TV, among others. Remaining subscribers will receive their final bill in December, at which point they’ll be able to use the service unt[..]

For streaming TV harmony, make a joint Netflix profile

A few weeks ago, I created a new Netflix profile for our household. But instead of it being just for me or any other individual, it was a combo profile for my wife and I. The idea was to bridge the gap between our respective recommendation lists, which had grown rather different. Hers leaned more towards documentaries, light dramas, and the occasional romantic comedy, while mine was a weird mix of dark humor, showbiz comedies, and thrillers. Our tastes do have some overlap, especially in the realms of stand[..]

Streaming TV voice controls: Fire TV vs. Roku and the rest

Of all the possible uses for voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, controlling your TV has the most potential. With so many streaming apps to keep track of, each with their own complicated menu systems, a simple voice command can cut through the clutter. Why thumb around endlessly on a remote when you could just say “watch ESPN” instead? Unfortunately, not all streaming TV devices treat voice control the same way, and not every streaming video service works with voice commands in the fir[..]

Where's the "Low Data Mode" for streaming TV devices?

In a perfect and just world, cord-cutters wouldn't have to deal with data caps on their home internet service. As internet providers themselves have admitted, these data caps have no real technical justification, they're primarily a means of extracting more money from customers as their internet use grows. They can get away with it, too, because most U.S. residents have no meaningful choice or competition between internet providers. To read this article in full, please click here

Gee, the cost of all these streaming services sure adds up!

When I was a younger man, cutting the cord on cable TV was so easy. All you had to do was pay for Netflix, and you could watch practically every movie and TV show that ever existed. As lots of other pundits have pointed out, it’s not so simple anymore. With every major tech company, media conglomerate, and telecom provider trying to grab a slice of that sweet streaming business, getting sufficient audiovisual stimulation at a reasonable price has become pretty much impossible. And trust me, as someone who’s[..]

Why TiVo is putting ads in its DVR (and what you can do about it)

TiVo’s been making a lot of noise in the press lately as it prepares to roll out new products. These include a new DVR called the TiVo Edge, arriving imminently; a $50 Android TV streaming stick, coming next year; and an in-development streaming service called TiVo+. Sadly, TiVo also knocked down whatever anticipation it had been building up by confirming last week that it will stuff pre-roll video ads into users’ recordings. The ads will roll out to all TiVo Roamio and Bolt DVRs running the latest TiVo Exp[..]

The $100 streaming box is back

A rule of thumb in the streaming device business is that most people are going to buy the cheapest possible option instead of the best. That explains why, in recent years, most companies have raced to the bottom on streaming player prices. Streaming dongles like the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Express cost $40 or less and are pretty decent for the price, and you can get 4K HDR streamers for only about $10 more. But while the push for ever-cheaper streaming players has been a boon for cost-conscious cord-c[..]

Don't blame AT&T and DirecTV if ESPN gets blacked out

During Monday Night Football this week, Disney kicked off the all-too-familiar dance of a carriage dispute by weaponizing its viewers. In the middle of ESPN’s telecast, Disney warned DirecTV customers that they might soon lose access to ESPN, Disney Channel, and Freeform. The full-screen ad included a phone number that reiterated the warning before offering to connect the caller with an AT&T representative to complain. (AT&T operates DirecTV, U-Verse, and its AT&T TV streaming services, all of which are at [..]

Roku and Amazon have different ideas about over-the-air DVR

Antennas are making a big comeback as more people cut cable TV, but that doesn’t mean over-the-air DVR is going mainstream along with them. Last week, I interviewed executives from both Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV group ahead of some hardware news they announced this week. (The short version: Roku and Amazon are both releasing soundbars later this year with their respective streaming software inside, plus Amazon has new smart TVs and a revamped Fire TV Cube on the way.) Out of my own curiosity, I also asked t[..]

Disney+ device streaming limits could be big problem

Late last week, Disney revealed lots of new details on Disney+, the $7-per-month streaming service that it’s launching on November 12. Among the announcements was a troubling bit of fine print: For each Disney+ account, subscribers will only be able to authorize up to 10 devices total. This limitation is in addition to the maximum four devices per account that can stream Disney+ at the same time. For now, Disney isn’t saying what will happen if subscribers exceed the 10-device limit, but unless those users [..]

Frndly TV: A cheap way get Hallmark Channel, Weather Channel and more without cable

Sometimes just one channel stands in the way of someone cutting the cable TV cord. And given what I’ve heard from readers, it can often be something niche like The Hallmark Channel. For those prospective cord-cutters, a new streaming called service Frndly TV might be the answer. It starts at $6 per month and has a dozen cable channels, including The Hallmark Channel (plus its Movies & Mysteries and Drama offshoots), The Weather Channel, and Outdoor Channel. Frndly TV is by far the cheapest and most focused [..]

10 wishes for the new Nvidia Shield TV

The Nvidia Shield TV occupies a special place among streaming TV players. It’s by far the best Android TV box you can buy today, and it’s one of the only streaming devices that doesn’t sacrifice speed to hit a low price. (The other is the Apple TV 4K.) Still, the current Nvidia Shield TV is more than two years old, and it has the same processor and performance as the original 2015 version. An upgrade is overdue, which may explain why new Shield TV hardware—including both a refreshed streaming box and a poss[..]

Disney+ and Netflix couldn't be more different

Disney appeared to drop a bomb on Netflix this week by announcing a $13-per-month bundle for all its streaming services. When it launches on November 12, the package will include Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, all for the same price as Netflix’s most popular plan. (Disney+ will cost $7 per month on its own, while Hulu and ESPN+ will be priced at $6 per month and $5 per month respectively if purchased separately.) Reporters and analysts quickly cast the Disney+ bundle as an assault on Netflix, which makes sense o[..]

Here's a better DVR for streaming cable channels

For a certain kind of cord-cutter, combining over-the-air broadcasts and cable channels into a single DVR has always been the dream scenario. While we’ve seen several attempts in the past—including Dish Network’s AirTV, FitzyTV, and HDHomeRun’s ill-fated Premium TV service—none are quite as elegant as what Channels DVR is launching today. The $8-per-month do-it-yourself DVR service now lets users record TV Everywhere streams, which networks offer at no extra charge to pay-TV subscribers. If you’re already p[..]

Cord-cutters beware: Amazon's TV antenna listings are rife with dubious claims

Early last week, during Amazon’s Prime Days, I decided to see if the e-tailer had any good deals on over-the-air TV antennas. I was appalled by what I found. Searching for “antenna” on Amazon.com revealed listing upon listing for products with dubious performance claims. In Amazon’s most popular and sponsored results, antenna makers were advertising unrealistic reception ranges, nonexistent over-the-air channels, and picture quality that current U.S. broadcast standards don’t support. These misleading claim[..]

Sling TV would be great if it wasn't so chintzy

Of all the live TV streaming services that want to replace your cable bundle, Sling TV is the one I’d love to recommend most. While other services have larded on more mandatory channels—and raised prices accordingly—Sling TV has tried to preserve some semblance of cost control with its lower base prices and add-on packages. Unlike its rivals, Sling TV has also embraced over-the-air antennas, selling hardware that integrates free broadcasts and streaming cable channels in a single menu. It’s the rare live TV[..]

Live TV streaming price hikes: Why the worst may be over

This week, Sony announced the second price hike for PlayStation Vue in a little less than a year, raising the cost of all live TV streaming packages by another $5 per month. That brings PlayStation Vue’s starting price to $50 per month for the basic “Access” package, and $55 per month for the “Core” package that includes regional sports. While Vue is adding some new channels to the latter bundle—including the NHL Network, Bein Sports, and the Tennis Channel—higher prices were probably coming either way, as [..]

Netflix, The Office, and the end of watching everything

NBC is pulling The Office from Netflix after all. Starting in January 2021, the hit sitcom will become exclusive to a new streaming service that NBC plans to launch next year, and it’ll remain there until at least until the start of 2026. The Office is yet another example of major TV networks pulling their shows from streaming services—and Netflix especially—to boost their own over-the-top offerings. Disney and AT&T’s WarnerMedia are making similar moves as they plan to launch new streaming services later t[..]

No, your smart TV isn't catching viruses

Earlier this week, a Twitter post by Samsung became fodder for the internet outrage machine by suggesting that users should periodically run a virus scan on their smart TVs. “Prevent malicious software attacks on your TV by scanning for viruses on your TV every few weeks,” Samsung’s support account wrote, following up with a video tutorial on how to launch the McAfee virus scanner built into its latest smart TVs. Samsung deleted the offending advice soon after, perhaps because it realized the absurdity of e[..]

The scourge of auto-play preview videos on streaming TV services

A few years ago, Netflix decided that we should no longer browse in silence for things to watch, so the company introduced “video previews” that automatically play a trailer—with sound—if you linger on a title for more than a few seconds. The approach has proven wildly unpopular, at least among folks with loud internet megaphones. A complaint on Twitter last year by the film director Rian Johnson went viral, and anguished articles by Thrillist, Kotaku, and TidBits followed. Reddit users routinely ask one an[..]