Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our journey toward cord cutting

For the past several months, our Directv bill has been shocking. Rates seem to be going up monthly, a few dollars at a time. The latest bill? Nearly $150.

Ouch.

We decided to take a hard look at what we were watching, how much we were actually using the satellite service, and alternatives for the shows we watch.

Turns out, most of the shows we watch are on the basic over-the-air (OTA) networks or BBCAmerica. About half the shows we record are on PBS (hello, Masterpiece!). We already have Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts. The cost to purchase (on Amazon) the few BBCAmerica shows we watch would cost less than 1 month of our current Directv bill. We can also get a Hulu account, but right now that doesn't seem necessary.

Can you say ch-ch-changes?

Yep, time to make some changes.

Our first step was to pick up an inexpensive OTA antenna at Best Buy ($15) to see what OTA channels we could get.

  • Our local PBS (WTIU) came in great, with all 5 digital channels. The boys immediately took to PBS Kids.
  • We picked up a dozen or so digital channels on that cheap indoor antenna. 
  • We were still missing ABC, one of the networks we wanted.
But, proof of concept: OTA was a distinct possibility.
Next, Chris checked TV Fool to see what stations are possible, at what distance and direction, and what sort of antenna power is necessary. And then he picked up a better, outdoor antenna. He put the antenna up on our antenna mast with the radio and ham radio antennas.

Chris on roof installing antenna on mast.
How many antennas will fit up there?
With the improved antenna, we were able to receive 24 digital stations, but still not ABC. Unfortunately, our neighbors' evergreens stand between us and the Indianapolis ABC station. The other possible ABC stations happen to be in the directions of... more trees.

The shows we watch on ABC would be available to purchase through Amazon, still costing a lot less than we are currently paying. But Chris was not satisfied. So he added an amplifier, the LNA-200 from Winegard, to the antenna. With the amplifier, we nearly 40 stations including ABC!

The next piece of the puzzle was a DVR. We really like being able to record shows to watch later, especially since so many shows are on later than we like to be up. Some online searching and review reading led us to the TiVo Roamio, one of few DVRs with a built-in tuner to be able to record OTA programming.

While we've been getting everything set up for our transition, we've been working through all the shows and movies recorded on our current Directv DVR. We have also been holding off until the final episode of a show I watch on BBC America records Wednesday night (I'll watch it Thursday). With only 1 episode left, I'd like to finish the series before cutting the cord, especially since it's only 2 more days.

Current goal and plan: cancel Directv Friday. We started this process with some research on July 30th, so this has been a 3 week process for us.

It has cost several hundred dollars to get set up (over half of the cost is the DVR), but we will still recoup that cost before the end of the year.


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