I’ve had some time to adjust to life without cable and I think I’m finally ready to put thought to keyboard. Almost a month ago Dayle and I came to the conclusion that we watch far too much television without actually watching television. Somewhere between my checking twitter on my iPad and her reading on her Kindle – all of this while Chopped was on in the background – we realized enough was enough. I had had plenty of conversations with friends and colleagues about “cutting the cord” but up until that moment the idea of putting that theory in to practice was not something I had seriously entertained. A few hours later and some mild spreadsheeting to confirm – I was convinced this was something worth pursuing. Logistically, this could work.
Cutting the cord works for us logistically because we spend most of our time watching shows off the DVR. We watch Jimmy Fallon the day after it airs. We tape Modern Family and the Thursday night lineup on NBC and watch it later because our jobs and commute leave us with enough energy to make dinner and not much else. Watching live television basically boiled down to Football and Hockey – more on that in a few sentences. Outside of the DVR our media came from a handful of familiar streaming services: Netflix, Amazon and HBO Go. If you add in Hulu Plus, Roku offers the ability to consume all of those streaming services through one handy device.
Simply put: Google Reader : RSS :: Roku : Streaming Television Services. Rather than go to each service individually through an iPad or Xbox or through your laptop’s HDMI output, Roku functions as a central hub for all your streaming needs. After a few minutes of configuration and account verification, you are ready to watch all your favorite programs online. Legally.
Jimmy Fallon, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, Saturday Night Live? Hulu.
Top Gear (the BBC version, not that American nonsense)? Netflix.
The Wire? HBO Go.*
Downton Abbey (Season 2)? Amazon.
*There is a huge caveat with services like HBO Go or EPIX (also available on Roku). You must have a current subscription to HBO for HBO Go to work. Thankfully my dad was kind enough to not change his account password. (Kidding, I asked for permission to use his account.) In theory this same set up could work for you, assuming you know and trust someone who currently subscribes to HBO one way or another. It’s not cheating the system. HBO gets their cut and that paid account accesses a service it is entitled to. I’ve rationalized this plenty in my head, so please don’t try to convince me otherwise.
Again, live sports is the biggest drawback to cutting the cord. If you don’t have a friend that you enjoy watching the game with or a bar-type place you can loiter at from 1-8pm every Sunday, this may not be for you. Of all the major sports, Football does not offer any kind of paid streaming service for displaced fans. NHL, MLB and NBA have stepped into the modern age but not the NFL. And if you think about it, their revenue stream is so profitable that they don’t need to consider it. It’s a shame, but it’s reality. For the regular season I can stream NFL RedZone off my phone through mini-HDMI to my TV, so we aren’t completely cut off. As far as NHL, I had a master plan that we’ve yet to implement. But I’ll let you in on the secret anyway.
NHL GameCenter primarily serves displaced fans in out of market areas. Bruins fans living in southern California. LA Kings fans in Maine. That kind of thing. But Capitals fans living in Sterling are out of luck. Technically. But I had set up a deal with Dayle’s sister, who lives in Tennessee, to take my money and set up an NHL GameCenter account in her name, with her address tied to it so the Capitals would be out of market for her. The only games she (“this account”) wouldn’t be able to watch from the DC area would be when the Caps play the Nashville Predators. 2 games out of the entire regular season? I’m okay with that. Ultimately we decided not to go forward with the NHL set up, but I felt confident in my master plan.
At the end of the day Roku was the right choice for us. Our viewing habits match well with how content is made available on the services Roku can access and we have enough external options for live TV if we absolutely need to watch something as it occurs. Ironically we’ve gotten a lot more reading done in the past two weeks since setting this thing up. With less time spent channel surfing, I’m finally making progress through the Stieg Larsson books. Dayle read the Hunger Games trilogy in a week. And my Comcast bill was halved (after returning all the gear and getting my own modem instead of the rented one they supply. Forget that noise).
If you still have questions about Roku, Boxee or any other streaming hub let me know. I’m here to help.