MCN Commentary & Analysis

Cord Cutter Diary: Part 2 – Getting Into The First Details

The journey to a box-free television life continues.

There is something almost as exciting about gathering up all the DirecTV hardware all over the house as there was in having it installed. It’s all gone to FedEx (no remotes requested) for free delivery back to the home ship. Shelves are more open. Fewer wires float around our TVs.

The reality for my family is that we still want access to everything. And everybody’s everything is something else. For us, it’s all the movie channels, all the broadcast networks, cable news, cable kids shows, and the top cable channels. That last one got more complicated than expected.

Our baseline of choice is YouTube TV. We have four TVs in our home, so if we want to have all of them on – very rare, but it happens – they are really the only choice. So here is our new monthly bill.

YouTube TV $49.99
Showtime $11
Starz $9
AMC Premiere $5
Sundance Now $7
Epix $6
HBO Now $15
Philo $20
TOTAL: $123

After a few days of settling into the YouTube TV life, I realized that Comedy Central and Nickelodeon were not part of YouTube TV. I watch The Daily Show and the David Spade show every day they air and as much as I craved my weekly Amy Schumer Show or Broad City, I now find myself looking forward to the weekend Nora From Queens. And my son is into a couple of the shows on Nick, though truth be told, he would live without them. Me, not so much.

So I took another dip into the small bundle delivery companies. In the couple weeks since this cordless journey began, AT&T TV Now (they need to pick a frickin’ name and stick to it) had improved its number and added the Viacom networks. And HBO/Cinemax is part of the package. Their monthly…

ATT TV Now w/HBO/Cinemax $80
Showtime $11
Starz $11
Epix $6
Extra Movies $5
TOTAL: $111

Take Sundance Now and AMC Premiere off of the YouTube TV bundle and they are the same monthly price, but without having to have a second app for Viacom and with Cinemax, which HBO Now does not include (which will be moot in a couple of months, when HBO Max arrives).

With that, the AT&T TV Now free trial begins.

It took less than an hour to decide to stick with YouTube TV. The interface was plainly inferior… at least for me. We are an AppleTV family and on that platform, there is no fast-forward or rewind available with live streaming TV. There is something cool about being able to stroll through “stations” on the app, but because you get no control of the line-up of stations, it is much like switching channels in the 1980s… going past a lot of stuff you have zero interest in seeing.

Also… I don’t trust that the AT&T TV Now program and pricing will remain stable. I just got out of a very long relationship with DirecTV and one of the keys to us staying together was stability with incremental improvements. There were channel numbering changes that still irritate, but mostly, things stayed put.

The AT&T TV Now free trial made it two days. Cancel.

Beyond that, there are still some serious frustrations in this process. If you want the Viacom cable nets, there are very limited options. Philo is a cheap way to get a small bundle at $20 a month, but $20 a month for the Viacom nets feels like a lot of money in this ecosystem. Why doesn’t YouTube TV have Viacom cable channels in its line-up? Probably money. Make it a $6 a month option? I’d be all over that.

Other quirks show up. Like if you held onto a network show on YouTube TV for a week and want to do a two-hour binge after the next episode drops, you get to deal with ads that can’t be passed. Worse, the ads on the show are the same five network promos over and over and over again, not unlike the bad old days of cable and satellite VOD. There are now a series of NBC shows I will have an involuntary vomit reaction to after seeing the same ads so many times in a hour or two. This is good for no one.

Being on the AppleTV box all the time also reminds you of how little you are clicking on other apps you are paying for monthly and how you would prefer them to work. For instance, why does HBO Now not offer up the most recently aired new shows, especially when we are all trained to do appointment viewing with HBO? If I have time, I may wander around the HBO Now site, looking for something to consume. But on Sunday night, I want to go on there, see what is new or when it is coming online… period. Why do I need to click through three or four windows to find out (and still not really know for sure)?

That brings up time zone programming. I probably could fix this by cheating somehow. But with DirecTV, I consistently had shows sitting on my DVR three hours before their first West Coast appearance. HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central, Bravo, etcetera. No more. This is not a deal breaker, but my biggest question is, “Why?” Isn’t this The Future? If I am getting shows, even scheduled shows, pretty much on demand, why does CBS or HBO or anyone really care whether I get it at 5pm or 8pm? Isn’t the goal to get me to watch it, as opposed to get me to jump through hoops?

And don’t even get me started on the AppleTV remote… or do. Next time.

One Response to “Cord Cutter Diary: Part 2 – Getting Into The First Details”

  1. John R Rainwater says:

    Oh, David… I feel your pain! We went off the grid a couple of years ago now. It was easier than we thought, but with all the new streaming services, we are not saving as much $$$ as we had hoped by eliminating DirecTV. Nonetheless, I don’t lose reception everytime it drizzles, and that is worth a lot here in the Tornado alley South. And yes, the AppleTV remote is about the most frustratingly, badly designed remote I’ve ever seen, which is just shocking, because Apple is pretty decent on functionality with their other devices. Not perfect (I detest that they put the power button on the iPhone across from the volume buttons. I’m forever turning off my phone rather than turning up the volume or taking a picture using the side buttons), but they do fairly well. Cheers!

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