Who Says You Need a TV Service Provider to have a DVR?


Back in February, I wrote a multi-part blog series on cutting the cable television cord. In that series, Step 3 was Setting up an Optional Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for over the air (OTA) programming. In July, I did this myself. Now it’s September and I’ve had a couple of months to get accustomed to this new TV paradigm. I’d like to share my experiences with you.

First, I bought the TabloTV 4-Tuner whole-house DVR from Nuvyyo (Kanata, Ontario). I’ve discovered that the concept of “whole house DVR” takes my friends and family two or three times of hearing it before they finally get it. The easiest way to explain it is this: the box sits next to the router and has the antenna connected directly to it. I can watch it anywhere I can get on the WiFi, with my iPad or Android tablet.

Second, I began wanting to view the content on my large TV so I bought a Roku 1 and downloaded the Tablo app onto it. When I launched it, it automatically found my Tablo, being on the same subnet in the house. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) felt natural for the Roku, but was different from the iPad app. It didn’t take me long at all to find some shows that I had already recorded. Watching them was a breeze.

In the mornings, I tend to watch live TV, such as news and weather, but in the evenings I only watch recordings from earlier. I use my Roku almost exclusively to watch the content because I like the large picture and full sound. If you have a new AppleTV, you can use Airplay to watch the content from your iPad. Google’s Chromecast is supposed to work, too, but I don’t have any experience with it.

Even though I love having it, and saving the $100+ a month from having dropped cable TV, I still found the software lacking, albeit serviceable. The mental list got so long, I captured it on the TabloTV community forum thread here. I really would like to see a full 9-12 months of feature and functionality improvements on their GUI before they begin to call it stable.

But I have no regrets with my choice and, for the money I’m saving, I have been able to adapt and overcome the withdrawals of having 200 channels and a DVR. Now I have TabloTV plus Roku with Netflix, Amazon Prime, WatchESPN, Hulu+, A&E, History, NFL Now and Qello to keep me entertained.

If you decide to go this route, do yourself a favor and bump up to the 4-tuner model, rather than skimp on the 2-tuner. You’ll be resolving conflicts left and right if you don’t. But you certainly don’t need to pay ridiculous prices to have television piped into your home and a DVR. Go antenna plus Tablo and save big.

6 Steps to Cutting the Cord of Cable

A Modern Home Network Can Enable Streaming Content Without Paying Monthly Cable or Satellite TV Bills

A Modern Home Network Can Enable Streaming Content Without Paying Monthly Cable or Satellite TV Bills

In these days of on-demand streaming services and high-speed Internet access, do you wonder why you pay so much for hundreds of channels that you don’t watch?  Do you wonder why you can’t just choose a la carte the channels you watch most?

I did.  So I began the quest of planning out what it would take to make the big switch and “cut the cord.”  I’m starting from having Time Warner’s Signature Service, which includes Ultra Broadband Internet (50/5 Mbps), Unlimited VoIP Telephone within the Continental U.S., and HD TV with 2 DVRs that can share shows.

Your process will vary depending on your starting point and where you want to end up, but here are the steps that will approximate a replacement to cable TV.  Over the next several days, I’ll elaborate on each of these steps, but for now, I’ll stick to a single paragraph and you can use this as a summary.

1) Start with a High Definition Television (HDTV)
Most new TVs have a built-in digital tuner and HDMI input.  Let’s call this step “table stakes”.  If you’ve never replaced your old “glass” TV, stop reading now and go get yourself something like this Vizio from Walmart for under $200.  You can spend up to $2000 on a TV, but this post will be much better if we assume this is in place before we go any further.

2) Get an Antenna for Over The Air TV – $20 to $100
There are lots of options for digital antennas, and more than half of them are mediocre at best. My favorite style antennas are the multiple bow tie that can be used for 95% of the HD stations.  There are others that can work and I’ll go into details in a future post.

3) Get an Optional Digital Video Recorder – $200 to $400 plus guide service fees
TiVo was the first big dog to this party, to the point that, back in 2003, the word “tivo” was being used a verb, meaning “to record television show on a hard drive in digital form for later viewing.”  There are newcomers to this market now that have reinvented this market and are worth considering.  This will also be part of a future post.

4) Get a Media Streaming Device – $35 to $200
There are three primary competitors for this, Apple TV, Roku and ChromeCast, although there are lots of options.  They help put your content on your TV.  Many BluRay players and game systems come with network apps that provide interfaces to many content providers, which leads to the last two steps…

5) Get a WiFi N Router – $40 to $60
Many of us have had G-speed routers (802.11g), which supports 54Mbps shared bandwidth, but if you want to have multiple wireless streaming devices in your home network, it’s really better to be running at N-speed (802.11n).  Doing so will ensure you minimize any video streaming jitter and buffering.  Of course, you can avoid this need if you run Cat5 ethernet cables to your devices, but many devices today are WiFi only.

6) Create Logins and Subscribe to Streaming Services – $10 to $50 per month
Streaming services give you content on demand, which means you can start it, pause it and finish it anytime that is convenient to you.  The easiest way to introduce this topic is by example, so here are some that you probably have heard of: Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon Prime and vudu.  There are many others, specializing in niche content, such as Mexican soccer, NBA, old westerns, YouTube videos and independent films.  Some are free, some require subscriptions that are usually less than $10/month.

Those are the five steps that you need to evaluate in order to cut yourself loose from Time Warner Cable TV, DirecTV, Dish Network or AT&T Uverse and replace them with Internet-based content.  In each of five future posts, I will dedicate to the above five steps.

Take your time to plan your attack.  Read my future posts for ideas on the steps and map out your transition along with me.