So you’re thinking of a move from “traditional” television service and to be free by cutting the cord. Congrats! It’s a move that my family has now made twice. A little bit of background on my story, we had a traditional cable service until we found out we were expecting our third child. Around that time we couldn’t justify the amount of money we were paying for cable tv compared to the time that we spent watching it. It wasn’t just a time factor, it was also a budget factor. Our cable and internet bill total was around $185 a month. After going without cable for about two years, we were approached with a one year rate for $112 a month. No longer having all three children in daycare, we could justify the increase and made the choice to subscribe to cable tv service once again.
Fast forward one year, that locked in rate is set to expire and we are cutting the cord once again. Why it is easier the second time than the first? Over the past year, I’ve realized how little we watch television. Besides following the Kansas City Royals (which I can listen to with a radio for free or the MLB At Bat App, $19.95 a year), I don’t really watch television. My wife watches mainly network television shows, which you can watch with an over the air antenna or the Food Network. My children mainly watch Netflix, an account we kept after cutting the cord.
So after identifying what we watch and how we watch it’s help me determine what our setup should be. Our setup is our new 100mb internet for $65 dollars a month, a 4x faster speed than the 25mb connection we had. The internet is a must for the on-demand world we occupy. We also have the above mentioned Netflix account. Netflix allows us endless programing options for ourselves with their original content, TV & movie library and kids selections. Hulu will also be added to our lives once again. It was a valuable resource when we cut cable for the first time, once we subscribed to television it felt like Hulu wasn’t needed. Now with the void of “new” episodes, Hulu provides us with current episodes of some of our favorite shows without having to wait a season to binge watch them. We also have a neglected Amazon Prime account that is mainly used for kids programming such as Nickelodeon that is no longer on Netflix.
So how do I use all of these services on my television? Our setup include a custom firmware Apple TV 2 that runs Kodi to play video from our Windows Home Server, more on this later. The Apple TV 2 provides us with options to play content from Netflix and Hulu in our living room. In our bedroom we have a Smart TV w/ built in Netflix, we also have a Chromecast so we can cast apps / videos from our iPhone(s) / iPad(s). This allows us options to watch content from ESPN 3, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and my favorite, Twitch. In the family room we have a Raspberry Pi that is running Kodi, formerly XBMC to also play content from the network. This TV is also a smart tv with Netflix & YouTube connected. Lastly, the office has a Raspberry Pi & a Chromecast to provide the same options as I previously mentioned.
How does the Windows Home Server work for us? I’ve taken all our DVDs / Blu-rays in our home and converted them to 720/1080 MKV files. With children, a disc of any kind is begging to be covered in fingerprints, to be scratch or even broken. When I moved into our home six years ago I hard wired ethernet to all of the rooms in the basement. Some of the rooms were harder to reach so I use a pair of D-Link Powerline adapters to run ethernet over our electrical lines.
Lastly I have a HD Antenna mounted in my attic that feeds to all of the televisons. This allows HD content from NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, CW & PBS. Also some more obscure channels and programming but, free is free right?
What other options are there?
The other main set top box is the Roku 3 which offers Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Go & Youtube. It offers a couple different options compared to the Apple TV and is on my list of devices to pick-up for our family room television. There are other streaming sticks, the Roku Stick, the Amazon Fire Stick, each one offers just a little bit different content.
Being a website about everything in gaming, I have to mention the Xbox as a media center. The Xbox 360 & Xbox One both offer many of the same apps as the set top boxes. You have more specific options (like the Roku) with Crackle, Nerdist, Rev 3, IGN & Twitch to name a few. With the world of YouTube content, Twitch subscriptions & channels this provides another option.
Other options I didn’t cover, Plex.Tv, Sling.com (online television service), Amazon Fire Box, Playstation Vue and many many more.
The above option works for us, it allows us the freedom we need with our busy lives to watch the entertainment that we love. With over the cloud / internet tv, television ala carte options, the way in which we watch tv is changing, it has been for years. With gigabit / gigblast internet coming into more homes it’s only going to continue to change in our on demand world. Let us know what your setup is like. If you have any questions, please contact me!