Why should I cut the cord (cable/satellite)? What options are available to me? Can I still watch shows and movies I like?

I can think of a few things that led me to the decision of cutting the cord.

  • Cable/Satellite service is expensive
  • Cable/Satellite service usually involves signing up for a long-term contract to get a price break (Those pesky monthly payments)
  • There’s lots of tv content options out there that are inexpensive and in many cases free

Cable and satellite service replacement options:

Note: The services below may be offered through gaming systems (ex. XBox, PlayStation and Wii), Streaming Devices (ex. Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast), Smart TV’s, Tablets and Smart Phones (by streaming wireless using Airplay, Casting etc. or wired to the TV)

  • HD Antenna installed on your roof, attic or even inside your living area. Depending on where you live, these antennas can often give you live access to many local networks (many of your favorite shows) for free
  • Netflix offers tons of content for only $8/month with no long-term commitments and is available in Canada, the US and many other countries
  • - Hulu is similar to Netflix but is only available in the US. I haven’t tried it but I hear it’s quite good
  • Crackle (by Sony) also offers many shows and movies. It has less content than Netflix and Hulu but it’s free. This is a great compliment to the previous services
  • Network and cable company tablet and smart phone apps like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX (in the US), CBC, Global, CTV, TVO (in Canada) and many others
  • Other TV content apps TED Talks, FilmOn, SnagFilms, Kidoodle, Vimeo, YouTube, Vevo, Discovery, A&E
  • Feeds offered directly through content owners’ websites like The Food Network, HGTV (look for the “Videos” link). You can connect your computer, tablet or phone to your TV to watch these shows full-screen. In many cases you can also stream these shows wirelessly to your TV if you own one of the streaming devices mentioned above
  • You can find TV content from countries around the world using the same options listed in the previous bullet points

As you can see, there’s an incredible amount of free or inexpensive content available out there. Cutting the cord is not for everyone (see one of my older posts: http://cuttingcord.com/2013/12/19/is-cutting-the-cord-cable-for-you/), but if you’re not a sports or “latest TV content” fanatic, you can save you some money and still have lots to watch on TV. My family has never looked back and we always have lots of shows and movies to watch.

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A Macbook… an Apple TV… and Lots of Free TV Content (Food Network Canada, HGTV and More)

It’s been well over a year now since we cut the cord/cable. I have never looked back! We have more free content to watch than we had ever hoped for through an HD Antenna (live content from local networks) as well as streaming content through services like Netflix, mobile device apps, Apple TV etc. (Note: Cutting the cord is not for everyone. Read my previous post on this topic: http://cuttingcord.com/2013/12/19/is-cutting-the-cord-cable-for-you/)

There were a couple of things we missed from our cable days, but these weren’t deal breakers during our decision to cut the cord. One was pausing / recording our OTA content during live shows. I’ll leave that topic for another post. The other feature we missed was watching specific content from a few of the premium channels Like Food Network Canada and HGTV.

These channels do provide OnDemand full episodes of their shows on their websites. The content is provided in Flash Video format. Since we do most of our TV viewing on the TV, these feeds didn’t help us much since we couldn’t Airplay Flash Video from our iOS (iPhones and iPad) devices to the Apple TV.

We recently purchased a Macbook Pro and were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Safari browser on the Mackbook does support Flash Video! Since we can Airplay from the Macbook to the Apple TV, we can now watch many new OnDemand shows we previously didn’t have access to on our HD TV.

At our home we have an Apple echosystem (iPhones, iPad, Apple TV and now the Macbook), not because other technology out there can’t do a similar job, but because we’re comfortable with the way all our devices speak to each-other and the ease of use. Folks on other platforms like Windows and Android can also play preferred content on TV’s using similar tools… you may able to use Roku, Chromecast, a SmartTV or stream to your TV wirelessly or via an HDMI cable from a laptop, tablet or phone. That information is beyond the scope of this post.

Please take a moment to read some of my other posts to get more in-depth information on content you can access for free. Please comment with questions, feedback or additional information.

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GameCentre (NHL Hockey) – Apps that stream TV content

Last year my folks came from Portugal to spend some time with us. My parents are immigrants and lived in Canada for years before moving back to Portugal. My dad became a bit of a hockey fanatic. I still remember watching the intense and focused look on his face while sitting in the edge of his big chair and almost taking off in flight every time the Leafs scored.

Since they were going to be with us for roughly 3 months during the winter and I had already cut the cord, I decided to make a small subscription investment to bring back some great memories for my dad.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out this gave him access to most live games, games just played and even oldies. This really hit the spot for him. It’s like he’d never left… Still on the edge of the chair and oblivious to people speaking around him. I was thrilled to know that for around $50 I’d given him such a special treat.

As a cord cutter I was happy because even though I had just spent money on a subscription service, I wasn’t locked in beyond the season and I wasn’t paying for content I would never use.

I was able to tap into this app’s service on our Apple TV as well as our smart phones and tablet.

Just another example of one of the many ways to enjoy great programming without breaking the bank.

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Is cutting the cord / cable for you?

I often get asked how I cut the cord, if I miss cable, what steps I took before taking the leap, what costs were involved etc. The questions are usually asked by people trying to trim off a bit from the never ending monthly bills. Before I answer any of these questions, I usually ask them some of my own questions. These questions prompt a discussion about their current viewing habits and wether or not this is the right move for them.

My family and I made a well researched and calculated decision to cut the cord one year ago. We have never looked back and are thrilled with our decision. We save a lot of money every month, have plenty of content to watch and our kids are making better tv programming choices.

Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself before proceeding with cutting the cord and some comments from my own personal experience. If you’re comfortable with most of these changes, then it’s likely a good move for you.

Do you need to watch the latest shows and movie releases?

Our philosophy is that if we’ve never watched it, it’s new to us. This was a no brainer for us. Also, if you get a decent antenna and live in an area where you can tap into free over-the-air channels, you can watch the latest TV episodes live. We currently have a subscription to Netflix for $8/month. Between this subscription, streaming content from websites and apps, our Apple TV and our HD antenna we have more quality tv than we’ll ever be able to watch.

Are you a sports fanatic?

We’re not, so this wasn’t an issue at all for us. If you enjoy watching some live sports than an antenna may be the solution for you. We had a pro install ours (thanks to Mark at http://www.Ditchit.ca) so we get most of the local stations plus a few from the US. These channels provide access to some NHL, NFL and other sports. If you’re a hardcore sports fan and currently subscribe to premium sports channels, cutting the cord is probably not the right move for you. You can in some cases stream premium games from websites, but these are often not reliable or legal. These sites are also a breeding ground for computer viruses.

Do you PVR/DVR everything?

Your current unit probably won’t be able to record from an over-the-air (OTA) feed. There are only a few limited options for recording content from your antenna. The cheapest option uses a tv tuner and your computer. This is a great solution for tech savvy folks who don’t mind always having a computer on. This wasn’t a good option for us. We like things as simple as possible. A more expensive but also more polished option is to purchase a PVR/DVR that works with OTA broadcasts. I plan on testing and posting a review on two of these units in January. The first is the TabloTV. This unit connects to your OTA antenna feed and provides programming via wifi to your mobile phones and tablets. You access your guide and watch shows using your tablet. With an optional unit such as the Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku, you can airplay your live or recorded content to your TV. A subsription is required to access the slick full feature guide. The second unit, the DVR+ was launched this week by Channel Master. This unit is a lot more like a traditional PVR that most people are used to. You access an onscreen guide using a remote (no subscription required for the guide) to change or record channels. Both units provide the ability to pause, rewind, fast forward and connect to an external hard drive for extra storage.

Do you watch premium channels most of the time i.e. Food Network, HBO etc.?

If this is the case, you probably shouldn’t cut the cord. There are ways to watch these channels by streaming them from websites, but much like what I mentioned earlier about sports, these websites are not usually reliable or legal.

In our case, cutting the cord was a great move but this isn’t for everyone. If you really enjoy premium tv, sports and high tech DVR boxes, you should probably consider sticking with your cable or satellite subscription. This is the price of entertainment and if it keeps you and your family happy then it’s money well spent.

Please take a moment to read some of my other posts to get more indepth information on content you can access for free. Feel free to comment with questions, feedback or additional information.

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TV Guide for Over-The-Air (OTA) Programming on Your iPhone or Android Phone

One of the things I quickly realized after cutting the cable was that I no longer had the feature and information rich TV guide I was used to from the cable company’s PVR onscreen menu.

This wasn’t a problem for very long since there are a few online resources for programming information for OTA broadcasting.

The resource I settled for is called Tubetime and it’s available on the App Store and Google Play store as free download. Once the app is started for the first time, you’re prompted for your location and tv provider. The provider in this case is OTA Broadcast. After you’ve provided this information, the app pulls up a listing of channels available in your area. This list may show more channels than you currently receive based on the type of antenna, installation location and your line of site access.

The app offers many features like current and future listings, program details, discussion, sharing, favorites and the option to set timers for future programming with push notifications.

The app is a fantastic resource for cord cutters and free, so nothing to lose. Download it today and give it a try.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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TVO Doc Studio – Apps That Stream Free TV Content

This app happens to be on my top ten list of favourite streaming apps. This is a wonderful resource for people looking for high quality onDemand programming.

Videos are available on the iPad app (TVO Doc Studio), a free download on Apple’s App Store or directly from their website at http://ww3.tvo.org/video. I usually watch shows using the iPad app with built-in AirPlay which allows us to watch through the Apple TV in high quality.

Many high quality documentaries are available on the website or app, broken down by a variety of different topics. This is how TVO describes TVO Doc Studio:

“Doc Studio is…
an online community for documentary filmmakers — both emerging and established. It’s a learning community that supports POV (point-of-view) filmmaking. If you’re interested in making docs or just watching them, this is the place for you. Find out about the craft of filmmaking at Doc Studio — an online community showcasing documentary filmmakers and their work. “

TVO is funded by the Government of Ontario as well as the generosity of Donors. If you are in a financial position to do so, visit their website (http://support.tvo.org/site/PageServer?pagename=SupportTVO&s_src=web&s_subsrc=14OLWEB) to find out more about how to become a donor. TVO produces smart high quality programming that includes documentaries, shows that talk about current local and international topics as well as programming for children and parents that support Ontario’s school curriculum.

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Children’s TV Programming – Kidoodle.TV – Age Appropriate Viewing, Legal and Cut the Cord Friendly

While browsing my twitter feed today, I stumbled upon what so far seems like an incredible new source of TV programming for my younger son.

a Parent Media Co. Inc., based in Calgary, Canada has launched (Dec 2013) a new service called Kidoodle.TV. The company’s goal is to offer children an age appropriate safe media viewing experience.

In a nutshell, the parent signs up for an account. Once the account is active, the parent logs in and enters the “Parent Room” to add a profile for each child. At this point the parent chooses a profile picture (from a predefined list), theme background colour and age group. The age groups are as follows: [0-2] [3-4] [5-8] [9-22]. In addition to the age group setting, the parent can further customize the child’s viewing experience by selecting a higher age group and deselecting certain shows from that age group. Once the profile is complete, age appropriate content is now available to the child within their own personal profile. When the child enters the website or app, the parent (using the passcode) selects the length of time they want their child to watch shows.

The service is available through the browser on a home computer, iPad, iPhone and will soon be available on other phones, tablets and gaming consoles as testing is completed.

A two week free trial is currently available. Once the trial ends the subscription fee is $5/month or $50/year. As much as I hate subscription based services, I think this is an acceptable fee for safe, age appropriate programming for my child. It’s like a safe Netflix for kids.

To try the service, visit http://www.kidoodle.tv on your browser or search your App Store for Kidoodle.TV.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

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