Cut That Cord!

Back a couple of years or so ago, I dismantled the satellite dish, dug up the pole it was attached to, moved it, painted the pole brown, and put a bluebird house on top of it where the ugly oval had been, and we have not regretted change a single day!

Now, let me give you the boring details of my setup so that you will have at least something to compare to your system. Not by any circumstances should you assume that you need my system. Not at all. Today’s improvements in built in TV speakers and sound bars, gives remarkable sound for a budget price.

We watch streaming programs on:  

  • Samsung 65 inch 4K UHD television 
  • Apple TV 4K Box (Like Roku, or Amazon Fire TV)
  • Boston Acoustics 5.1 surround with five ceiling-mounted satellite speakers and subwoofer
  •  Yamaha 5.1 AV Receiver
  • AT&T fiber downloading at 1000 megabits per second.

We subscribe to the following streaming services:

  • AT&T TV medium-priced package with HBO and ESPN ($70/mo). This is our main service and includes local channels all the typical cable/sat channels (many more that we use).
  • Acorn TV ($6/mo) 
  • BritBox ($7/mo), 
  • Netflix ($16/mo for UHD),
  • Amazon Prime (Comes with Prime membership)
  • PBS (Yearly contribution of at least $5)

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With that out of the way, now for some opinions! 

I like Apple TV 4 for watching UHD programs like Amazon’s or Netflix’s original content. Roku is a solid choice and a little easier on the wallet than Apple. My Apple TV 4 is in the den and is attached directly to the Samsung TV by HDMI cable and to the modem with an ethernet cable.  

Using an ethernet connection rather than a wireless connection prevents lots of issues. Just as importantly, it assures the best and most consistent quality. However, to be honest, we still have infrequent problems, and resetting the Apple Box is a frequent, if easy, job.

We have had the Samsung TV for about four years with zero issues other than hanging the thing on the wall! We did try using the streaming function built into the TV and found that we had many more problems that a standalone like Roku or AppleTV.

We chose AT&T TV as our primary provider because we had been customers of DirecTV, which made the switch was somewhat more manageable. Before deciding on AT&T, I tried Sony and Sling TV and found both services at least equal to AT&T TV.  There are some differences in price and programming, but mostly I see it is an issue of comfort level. All the various services are evolving toward the day when streaming will be the primary source of home entertainment. 

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Program subscriptions are where the viewer takes charge of the kind, cost, and amount of programming to suit your taste and wallet. The days of having to wade through 300 channels to find a show you like is coming to a close as streaming improves. We are approaching the time when we can watch what we want when we want it.

Our favorite in the Dunaway household is Acorn TV. Acorn provides mostly British, Irish, Australian, and New Zealand programming. We particularly like it for that reason, even though you can find some of the same programs on Netflix and Amazon Prime scattered around the sites.

We have been with Netflix since it first started with DVDs, and I appreciate its fresh approach to home entertainment.  However, I find it hard to find programming to my taste among the thousands of titles. In fact, for Netflix and Amazon, I find the best way to build a watchlist is to do it on the computer.  

Amazon Prime is in a reliable third place. Basically, it is because its viewer interface is so darn hard to navigate. I guess, like Netflix, the number of titles is daunting, and Amazon does not seem to have an algorithm to suggest new shows based on my watching habits. However, because it comes with my Prime membership makes up for the navigation issues. 

PBS Streaming is an even better bargain than Amazon Prime. Make a minimal contribution to the local PBS station of your choice, and you become a PBS Passport member. Then you can watch all of PBS’s outstanding drama series. They are many, and they are good. For instance, when Poldark started its final season, we were able to stream all of the new shows at our convenience. We did not have to wait week-to-week to watch them.

BritBox is another British entry but not as consistently good as Acorn even though it is a product of the BBC. If you are a true Anglophile, you will thoroughly enjoy BritBox as it has numbers of British continuing dramas. For me, it is where I go to get my fix for British police dramas since I find them much better than their American counterparts. 

While not a subscription, except that it is a part of the AT&T TV package, I get my sports fix on the ESPN app that I downloaded to my Apple TV box. Fall Saturdays are made for college football and ESPN.   

However, I need to give a plug to the AT&T TV interface on our main subscription service. As I watch one game on AT&T TV, and I hit the menu button on my Apple TV, all similar events being broadcast on AT&T TV are listed across the bottom of the TV screen.  So easy to change games during commercials. However, it aggravates the heck out of my wife!

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What are the best shows you can watch right now on each of the subscription services?

ACORN – It is Doc Martin, hands down. The cantankerous doc is back for another season, and it is as good as the other eight!

NETFLIX –We just finished Peaky Blinders, and right now, we are watching The Devil Next Door.  This is a series about John Demjanjuk – naturalized American citizen accused of being notorious death camp guard Ivan the Terrible.

AMAZON PRIME – without question, it is Jack Ryan. But giving it run for its money is City Homicide, an Australian police drama.

BRITBOX – The most enjoyable crime drama on all channels right now is the delightful Death in Paradise.  It is a quirky Agatha Christie kind of mystery (all the suspects are gathered together at the end, and the perp is identified) set on the fictional Caribbean Island of Saint Marie. This joint British and French drama produced in both languages is pure enjoyment. You can find past seasons on Netflix.

AT&T TV – ESPN. I never miss an SEC game no matter how obscure the opponent.  Actually, if I could subscribe to ESPN by itself without having to have a host TV service, I would drop AT&T TV totally and only go with subscriptions.

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That’s it for this first Cutting the Cord blog I will be back in a few days with more opinions on shows and equipment worth watching and avoiding!  

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