Cord Cutting 6: Checking-in on how it’s going

It’s now been over a month since cutting the cord, and it’s probably a good time to check-in and see what the consensus is. Spoiler alert: No regrets, a lot of satisfaction, and only a few burps.

Let’s start with a summation of the positives.

  1. Cost savings. As I described earlier in this series, one of the main drivers of cutting the cord is to reduce the monthly spend on television. I consider that a success. The only new recurring charge is for Hulu with Live TV, and the gulf between $110 or so per month and $40 or so per month is pretty significant. (We already had Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video.)
  2. Easier, faster access. Using the Amazon Fire TV Stick (well, multiples of them — one for each television) has been a net positive.
    1. The interface is easy to use;
    2. The remotes work well;
    3. The dependence on WiFi has not been the issue I expected it might be (they work perfectly, and WiFi performance with our Linksys Velop network seems unaffected even when two users are simultaneously streaming); and,
    4. The units are fast, and the time from turning on the TV to watching programming is short — far better than DISH Network’s solution, and faster, I believe, than even the Apple TV.
  3. Lots of programming. Not surprisingly, there’s a lot to watch. While we got off to a slow start with Hulu with Live TV, the entire household is now really enjoying it. There is simply nothing from DISH Network’s lineup that we feel we’re missing — and indeed, the consensus is that there’s considerably more to choose from, despite the drastically lower monthly spend.
  4. The choices are expanding. Since signing-up for Hulu with Live TV, the company has made a deal with Discovery Networks to include some of their channels in the offering. Personally, I find myself really digging the Motortrend (formerly Velocity) channel, which was part of that deal. (If Hulu starts pulling what cable and satellite have, and edging their price point slowly upward, we might have another reaction.)
  5. Consistency matters. While the app user interfaces are by no means consistent (see below), what is consistent is that we chose to put an Amazon Fire TV Stick on every single television in the house — including those that are “smart TVs” with their own apps, and including the home theater, which had a perfectly serviceable, current-generation Apple TV already in-place. Why? Consistency. Having the same device, the same apps, the same methodology, the same performance across all televisions may not remove the adaptation required by the app inconsistency, but it at least makes the inconsistency uniform across all the viewing locations. I’ll take some cognitive load savings where I can get it.

But as great as it is, cutting the cord has not been complete nirvana, of course. Some of what we don’t like?

  1. Inconsistent interfaces. When you pick and choose, and the ecosystem is app-based, just like apps on your smartphone, there will be a notable lack of continuity. Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu and Plex — the primary four apps we use on the Fire TV Stick — couldn’t possibly be more different. The worst impact of this is where and how to skip ahead or backward. Plex? Tap the fast-forward or rewind button once or twice. Hulu? Well, you can’t; you have to actually rewind or fast-forward, and the interface makes it too easy to go way too far. Netflix? Just use the Alexa functionality and speak how much you want to go back or forward. What can you do to unify it? Nothing. Learn how each works, and stumble when you don’t remember — which is to say, frequently.
  2. Inconsistent delivery options. With some networks that appear on Hulu with Live TV, you have access to all the back library of shows. With others, it’s a subset. With still others, there is no back library — you can tape new, or view live, but that’s it. I get it; licensing deals with the networks vary… A lot. And Motortrend (as one example) has an app subscription strategy of their own they want to get viewers to sign-up for. That’s fair, I suppose — and annoying.
  3. Mobile viewing experiences vary. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video allow you to sync a great deal of content (not all, admittedly) to a device for offline viewing. I depend on this when I travel. Hulu? Nope. DirecTV Now? Nope. And Plex makes it harder and slower than it needs to be, time-consumingly transcoding content it simply does not need to transcode before downloading it to my iPad. I’m sure licensing issues are involved here as well, but Hulu in particular has promised that it’s coming, but they can’t roll this out fast enough for my tastes.

In summary, the positives outweigh the negatives in a pretty big way, to be honest, and as I said at the outset, no regrets. I’m far happier with the solution we now have in-place, and the cost of the hardware needed to make it all work will be fully amortized in a matter of a few months with the net cost savings.

And actually, I do have one regret: I wish we’d done this a long time ago.