So over the last few months I’ve been building up to doing something that I had been wanting to do for a while. I called this little effort of mine Project Cord Cutting. Yes folks … I was preparing to “cut the cord” as they say. I didn’t know what to expect because I was honestly a little hesitant to losing some of the TV programs that I loved. But then I said to myself … “hey self, these shows aren’t that important to your life and there’s always online viewing”.
With that said, I took the first few steps towards Project Cord Cutting. The first step was sitting down and actually looking at what I was spending each month for channels that I never watched. For years I stared at my large AT&T U-verse bill and for years I paid it. My bill fluctuated between $160-$250 depending on whether or not a promotion was running or if I had ordered a PPV. I subscribed to the U450 package because there was always some sort of promotion that just made sense to get.
But even with the promotion for ALL of the channels AT&T provided, my bill was in excess of $160. A few weeks ago my bill was $190!! Let me say that again. Even with a promotional discount, my bill was close to $200. I watched HBO a little bit and VH1 was cool for some guilty entertainment. I watched MTV, ESPN, AMC, USA, CW, Fox, NBC, History Channel, Food Network and one or two other channels. I counted them up and I watched about 2% of the channels I had access to. Say what?!
Most of you are probably like me. You like having all the channels simply because you like having all the channels. I used to just flip through channels just because I could and maybe … just maybe I’d settle in on a show that was cool to watch at that moment. You know exactly what I’m talking about. We’ve all flipped through and said you know what … sure I’ll watch Lord of the Rings again. Or sure I’ll watch John Wick again.
Life is good post-cable.
That was me in a nutshell justifying all those channels that I didn’t watch. But after giving it some thought, it just became stupid to pay $200 a month for the guilty pleasure of being able to flip through them. That’s when I went full steam ahead with Project Cord Cutting. I started looking into the multiple options available these days. Roku, Amazon Fire, Sling TV, Chromecast and a host of others. They all provide access to programming without the huge cable bill. After researching, I settled in on my choices for Project Cord Cutting.
– Sling TV
– Hauppauge Digital Tuner on Xbox One
I chose Sling TV because it gave me access to more of the programs I watch. Food Network, ESPN, TNT, History, AMC. Those channels were among the few that I watch regularly with U-verse. And it was only $20 a month! That’s quite a leap down from $200. The best part about Sling TV was that it offered a special promotion for a free Roku stick. I had to fork over $60 to pay for the first three months of Sling but I felt like it was worth it to get the Roku for my daughter’s television. (I had cheat plans for this .. more on that later)
After deciding that Sling TV would be suitable to sustain my TV habit, I continued on to the second phase of Project Cord Cutting … local channels. Did you know when I called to cancel my AT&T U-verse, they actually offered me a plan that charged me for local channels? I asked the representative if they knew that local channels were free and they said “yes, but”. I didn’t wait for the but. I just kept on with the cancellation. You’d be surprised how many don’t know and would’ve paid for channels they got for free. I was doing it myself but I wasn’t going to continue doing it.
I could’ve gone to my local tech store and got a digital antenna to get local channels but I didn’t go that route. This is where the Xbox One emphasizes how useful and valuable it is in the home IF you take advantage of what it offers. I love using my Xbox One to control my television. Voice commands on Xbox One are seriously underrated. I turn it on/off … I change channels … I go to different games easily and effortlessly. I remembered that the Xbox One provided access to local channels and so I chose to go that route.
I wanted to keep the One Guide integration and keep the ability to control my television without switching inputs etc. Have you guys really “used” your Xbox One? I discovered that I had missed out on a few cool things it does. Last night I was watching a rerun of Agents of Shield and I noticed a Twitter option in the One Guide. I knew it was added a while ago but I never paid attention to it. I was always too busy flipping channels it seems lol. Anyway, I loved it. I was watching a live stream of tweets about Agents of Shield. I tweet a lot myself and the interaction took my viewing of Agents of Shield to a new, fun level.
I didn’t retweet or attempt to join the conversation but seeing it was really cool. Ok, back to how I got local channels. So after my decision to use local channels on Xbox One, I looked up the Hauppage digital tuner for the console. They were running a great deal at the time I bought it that included a better antenna and the tuner for $99. And they still are at the time of this article. You get a Mohu Leaf 50 antenna and the tuner. I ordered it and in a few days I was ready to roll.
After receiving my Hauppage, Mohu and free Roku stick, I set everything up. The Hauppage was just as simple as plug ‘n play. I connected the Mohu to the Hauppage and then to the back of my Xbox One. I did this after pinning the Mohu onto the wall behind my TV. There’s a white and black side of the antenna you can use for decor. You can even paint the antenna to match your room if you want.
After connecting it to the Xbox One, it scanned for my local channels. Let me be the first to tell you that the Mohu antenna picks up just about every channel in my area! I had about 116 local channels after I ran the setup. Now what I found out later was that about 70 of those channels were Spanish channels but that’s cool. I need a little Spanish soap opera every now and then.
My local channels were crystal clear in high-definition! The Flash will be awesome. Hereos Reborn will be awesome. Blindspot will hopefully be awesome. Local channels on my Xbox One was awesome. The only caveat is that I couldn’t record any shows. But thankfully the Xbox One just recently announced that DVR capability was coming. I’m part of the Preview Program so I know I’ll be getting that first before anyone. Sweet!
Sling TV was about as good as I expected. I installed the app on my Xbox One and I had access to all the channels Sling said I would. The menu system is pretty decent and the connection is ok. I ran into issues with Fear the Walking Dead during its debut but that’s to be expected. And there’s the occassional hiccup when you try to resume watching Sling after coming from a game or other activity but overall it’s ok.
The one thing that does get on my nerves is that it doesn’t work across all profiles. So if I’m signed out, someone has to sign me in if they want to watch Sling TV. Most of the entertainment apps don’t work like that. I wish it would just pair itself to the console instead of to the profile so anyone on my Xbox One could watch it without me signing in.
Now for the cheat I mentioned. Sling TV came with a free Roku stick remember? Roku gives you access to a lot of content but most of that content requires you to have a cable subscription. And I no longer had one. However, good old mom sure did! You can hate me now … but I won’t stop now … ’cause I can’t stop now. Yep just keep singing. So my cheat was that I used my mom’s credentials to get access to the apps. She doesn’t use it ever.
Okay it’s not a cheat. It’s completely legal but I felt like I cheated because Project Cord Cutting was all about cutting the cord. And for the most part I did … for me. My daughter wanted no part of the cable cut. She’s perfectly fine with cable so she’s happy that she gets to enjoy her shows with no interruption. Roku is really cool. She can set her own home channel with just the shows she likes to watch. The remote for Roku even has a dedicated Netflix button. I gave her my Netflix access and she’s all set. It’s as if nothing has changed for her. She loves her Roku now. I love her Roku now.
I know you’re asking yourself … “how is he gonna watch The Strain, Penny Dreadful, Ballers, Suits” and all those shows right? Well, if I’m being 100% honest here … I’m also using my mom’s credentials for that! So I’m technically only 90% cable free. But it’s an awesome 90% cable free because my bill is down from $200 a month to just under $70 a month. That includes the internet fee that I still have with AT&T. I was even able to call AT&T U-verse to get my mom’s bill lowered by $110 a month so she’s saving too!
I haven’t even mentioned that I have subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime for original TV programming and movies. Yep, life is good post-cable. You don’t have to do it my way. This is just what worked for me. If you have any questions or need any advice, I’m here to help. Just email, leave a comment or message me on Xbox Live.
They call me "The Velvet Voice". I like sunshine, games and large amounts of money. I'm a Microsoft Xbox MVP and an Author. Check out the book about my journey through the gaming industry Press X to Reload and The Terribly Terrific Travels of Timber Timmins on Amazon.com. Support the site and buy 'em. Take a look at my About Me bio for more on me.