TechHive Cord-Cutter Confidential
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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[..]

7 tools to make sense of cord-cutting

Figuring out the best way to cut the cord isn’t always easy, with dozens of streaming video services to choose from. Even if you’ve already done the deed, making sense of what you have can be tricky as well, with each app offering its own labyrinthine menus and features. Unless you have encyclopedic knowledge of the world of cord-cutting, it helps to lean on some tools to figure things out. Here are some of the best apps and websites that will help you decide which streaming services you need, and how to ma[..]

The one subscription trick all cord-cutters should know

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: There are too many subscription services—so many, in fact, that you might even forget that they’re silently siphoning away your funds. There are a lot of ways to deal with this problem, from maintaining and auditing a subscription list, to setting cancellation reminders. But here’s a better idea: Unless you’re certain about keeping a streaming video subscription for the long haul, just cancel it immediately after signing up. To read this article in full, please click[..]

Amazon, Roku, and Apple TV "Channels" are a well-intentioned mess

This week, Apple became the third streaming platform to launch its own marketplace for video subscriptions. With Apple TV Channels, you can sign up for services like HBO and Showtime directly through the TV app on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. You don’t have to download separate apps to start using those services, and you can manage all their subscriptions through iTunes billing. Apple TV Channels also supports offline viewing on iOS, so you can download Game of Thrones episodes before your next flight. To[..]

Disney+ and the a la carte TV effect

Allow me to recap a series of recent events in the world of streaming video: In late February, Hulu dropped the price of its ad-supported service from $8 per month to $6 per month. It also started bundling subscriptions with Spotify Premium ($10 per month) for free in March as a limited-time offer. Last month, Disney announced an aggressive price of $7 per month (or $70 per year) for its Disney+ streaming service, which will launch in November. Disney has also hinted at bundling Hulu and ESPN+ with Disney+ [..]

Spectrum quietly adds cloud DVR, but it's limited

Spectrum is inching ever closer to competing in earnest with cord-cutting, although the company doesn’t seem eager to let people know about it. With Spectrum’s TV Choice and TV Stream plans, which are available if you have internet service through the cable company, you can now add cloud DVR service for $5 per month. So far, though, the company hasn’t published any information about this service on its website. The only way to add it is to contact customer service and inquire about it on your own. Still, cl[..]

The easier cord-cutting is, the less money it saves

When I dropped cable TV more than 10 years ago, there weren’t a lot of alternative viewing options beyond Netflix, Hulu, and an antenna. If you wanted a lower TV bill, you had to forgo most of what was on cable. Since then, cord-cutting has gradually gotten easier, with more shows to watch on streaming services, and many more streaming services overall. You can even replace your cable or satellite TV bundle with a live streaming one, and get a similar experience with many of the same channels. While this sh[..]

6 steps to solving your streaming video problems

Although cutting the cable TV cord can save you money, it also involves more potential points of failure. With cable or satellite TV, a technician hooks up one of their company’s set-top boxes, which in turn connects to your TV, and it generally just works. With streaming video, you must account for internet speed, Wi-Fi connectivity, the capabilities of your streaming device, and your individual streaming services, which have their own unique set of reliability issues. To read this article in full, please [..]

Hulu is the cure for your Netflix nostalgia

One of today’s trendier complaints about streaming video—and by extension, cord-cutting—is what I’ve taken to calling the “Netflix nostalgia argument.” It goes something like this: Back in the day, all you needed to cut cable TV was a subscription to Netflix, and you could watch a virtually limitless number of shows from all your favorite channels. Now, all those shows are leaving Netflix as networks launch their own steaming services. Cord-cutting is doomed! To read this article in full, please click here

Apple TV isn't dying, it's more vital then ever

Among the many announcements Apple made earlier this week, one of the more surprising was Apple’s plan to bring its streaming TV services to other platforms. Starting in May, Apple’s TV app will offer subscriptions to video services such as HBO, Starz, and CBS All Access, so customers can easily sign up through a single interface and billing system. In the fall, the app will also play host to Apple TV+, a collection of original movies and shows. While the TV app is already available on iOS and Apple TV—and [..]

The best ways to watch March Madness without cable

Just a few short years ago, watching March Madness without cable was a second-rate affair. There wasn’t a single, easy way to get every game, and cord-cutters often had to deal with substandard frame rates and unreliable streams. These days, we have plenty of options for viewing the NCAA Tournament. Still, you’ll need to choose wisely if you want to get a similar (or better) experience than what you had with cable. Read on for everything you need to know about streaming options, multi-channel viewing, frame[..]

DirecTV Now price hikes: What cord-cutters need to know

AT&T is holding a red wedding for DirecTV Now this week, axing dozens of channels from its lineup for new subscribers and raising prices for everyone. Gone are the old DirecTV Now plans that ranged from $40 to $75 per month. In their place are the $50-per-month “DirecTV Now Plus” without regional sports, and $70-per-month “DirecTV Now Max” with regional sports. Both include HBO, but are missing many popular channels that came with the old plans, including HGTV, Nickelodeon, and AMC. Existing customers will [..]

6 big questions cord-cutters should ask about AT&T's and HBO's next streaming service

Changes are afoot for HBO under its new corporate overlords at AT&T. But what those changes might be are still anyone’s guess. After longtime HBO CEO Richard Plepler abruptly resigned last week, AT&T executives went on a media tour to talk about the channel’s future, take shots at Netflix, and hint at the streaming service AT&T plans to launch this year. Still, those interviews didn’t reveal much in the way of specifics. If anything, AT&T and HBO’s streaming plans seem even murkier than they did a week ago.[..]

It's 2019. Why can't you cancel cable TV online?

Earlier this week, I was on the phone with Spectrum, trying to cancel the company’s “TV Choice” streaming service after writing a review for TechHive. Although I signed up for the service online, the only way to cancel was through a customer service call. This in turn required a conversation about why I wanted to cancel, a warning that my internet price would return to the “standard rate” (despite it never having dropped to a lower rate), and a pitch on wireless phone service. When Spectrum’s representative[..]

Channels DVR review: A powerful but pricey DVR for discerning cord-cutters

In some ways, Channels DVR is tough to recommend. The subscription cost is much greater than other over-the-air DVR options, the hardware requirements are more stringent, and even some basic features—such as conflict resolution—are absent. Yet Channels DVR also has a few strengths to compensate for those weaknesses: Recording options are deeply customizable, video quality on Apple TV is superior to other cord-cutting DVRs, and you can easily skip through recorded commercial breaks with the press of a button[..]

No, you probably can't cut the cable cord using a mobile hotspot for internet access

When people reach out to me about cutting the cord, they’re often looking not only to drop TV service, but to sever all ties with their cable company. As such, one of the most frequent questions I get is whether it’s possible to drop home broadband service and use only a phone’s mobile hotspot to access the internet. I hate to bear bad news, but this approach remains impractical if you plan to watch any significant amount of video on your laptop, tablet, or television. That’s because every major wireless ca[..]

No, you probably can't cut the cable cord using a mobile hotspot for internet access

When people reach out to me about cutting the cord, they’re often looking not only to drop TV service, but to sever all ties with their cable company. As such, one of the most frequent questions I get is whether it’s possible to drop home broadband service and use only a phone’s mobile hotspot to access the internet. I hate to bear bad news, but this approach remains impractical if you plan to watch any significant amount of video on your laptop, tablet, or television. That’s because every major wireless ca[..]

Cut the cord, or else!

After years of insisting that cord-cutting was neither significant nor worrisome, cable and satellite providers are facing the inevitable: The traditional TV business is now in free fall. In the last quarter alone, major TV providers lost a combined 1.1 million subscribers. One might think that these companies would respond with lower prices and more flexible TV options. Instead, the opposite is happening: They’re squeezing their remaining subscribers by cutting off promo deals and hiking prices. As a resul[..]

Cut the cord, or else!

After years of insisting that cord-cutting was neither significant nor worrisome, cable and satellite providers are facing the inevitable: The traditional TV business is now in free fall. In the last quarter alone, major TV providers lost a combined 1.1 million subscribers. One might think that these companies would respond with lower prices and more flexible TV options. Instead, the opposite is happening: They’re squeeze their remaining subscribers by cutting off promo deals and hiking prices. As a result,[..]

Why live PBS streaming is taking so long (and how to deal with it)

These days, you can stream pretty much any TV channel without a cable or satellite subscription, assuming you’re paying for a live TV package. But there’s still one popular live channel you can’t get, and it’s one that technically shouldn’t cost you anything. I’m talking, of course, about PBS, the non-profit home to programs such as Nature and Masterpiece, along with popular children’s shows like Wild Kratts and Sesame Street. While it’s possible to stream many PBS shows on demand (more on that shortly), yo[..]

Why live PBS streaming is taking so long (and how to deal with it)

These days, you can stream pretty much any TV channel without a cable or satellite subscription, assuming you’re paying for a live TV package. But there’s still one popular live channel you can’t get, and it’s one that technically shouldn’t cost you anything. I’m talking, of course, about PBS, the non-profit home to programs such as Nature and Masterpiece, along with popular children’s shows like Wild Kratts and Sesame Street. While it’s possible to stream many PBS shows on demand (more on that shortly), yo[..]