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Scott's Column
Dropping to Basic Cable

March 2, 2014
By Scott Lewis

Last month I told you about my initial experiences with HuluPlus and Netflix to help me "cut the cord." After I installed a network switch to get all my hardware working over Ethernet smoothly, I subscribed to both services.

Once all that was working I called my cable company to cancel cable TV and just retain Internet service. They made me an offer that included basic cable, with 20 channels, and internet for about $10 more than it would cost me for just Internet service. So I took them up on their deal. The price matched their "introductory" price for new customers. Go figure.

I had to remove the DVR from my home theater setup. I have my plasma TV mounted on the wall, with two cables running up inside the wall to it. The power cord, and one HDMI cord coming from my Receiver.

With the new setup I had to add two more cords... the coaxial cable from the wall socket to the TV, and a set of RCA cables to get sound down from the TV to my receiver, so all sound comes from a single source.

Once I got all this hardware setup and working... I let the TV scan for channels. It found far more than the 20 channels I was told. Whatever. I went through the TV's setup to put station labels on most of the channels, and added the few worthwhile channels to "my favorites."

Next was to get my Harmony Remote to work with this new setup. It seemed easier to just start over. So in the Harmoy web site I deleted all my devices and then added them all back in and let it ask me how each item was setup. I created three activities. One for regular TV, one for the LG Blu-Ray player I use to stream content from my home network, and one for the Panasonic Blu-Ray player that plays discs and contains the apps for both Netflix and HuluPlus (Remember, the drive in my LG player does not work anymore, which is why I have two Blu-Ray players, but the LG is fantastic for playing content of my home network).

All in all it took me about 2 hours to do all of this. I was pretty tired by the time it was all over, but now I have a simple setup that works.

How has it been working?

As you know from last month I dropped HuluPlus. Since I used the Panasonic player because it had both Netflix and HuluPlus, I decided to see if I could just use the LG player's Netflix app. At this point I have to assume that the hardware vendors write the apps. The LG app looked completely different from the Panasonic app. It was much slicker in appearance. In fact, it reminded me of Apple's stuff. And like Apple's stuff, it left out information for that slickness. Also, it did a poor job of remembering where I left off when binge watching a TV series. For example, I stop watching a show when the credits came on. When I cam back to resume watching that series it wanted to show me those credits. The Panasonic player just assumed I wanted the next episode, which was correct. Plus the extra information about shows and episode, I much prefer the Panasonic Neflix app. So I am still using two Blu-Ray players.

Overall I am very happy with this setup. I still wish there was more content on Netflix. My son and I started watching Castle (from season 1) and that is not on Netflix. However, I showed him the first episode of Life (with Damian Lewis), and he was hooked in only two episodes. We will be watching that through its two seasons.

I am still thinking of getting a Roku or WDTV. I believe either one could do a better job of providing more content to me, while handling the streaming of my own files over my home network. It really comes down to how much free vs. paid content those devices provide. I may have to buy one with a very "forgiving" return policy... in case I don't like it. Ideally, with a Roku or WDTV I would have one primary device for all my streaming (local and Internet based), and one Blu-Ray player strictly for Blu-Ray discs. The TV itself would be a backup for when I can't find something elsewhere.

Conclusion

So far, the cord cutting experience is middling. I can't get everything I want at a reasonable savings to cable. But it is good enough for now because I am poor. Hopefully, the Internet will become a better and better place to get all my video content at a reasonable, a la carte price. That way I won't switch back to cable when my budget allows.

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