At Home with Tech

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Tag: Cablevision

YouTube TV Made Me Cut the Cord

If you’ve yearned to cut the cord with your cable provider, but feared the complexities of hobbling together your own streaming TV solution, Google has an offer I believe you can’t refuse…

I’d been waiting for this moment for years… The day I would actually “cut the cord.” And I’m here to report that… I’ve finally done it. I returned my hulking cable box and remote to the cable company and drove away. When I got home, there was a big, gaping hole in my television cabinet.

And I felt something of an unexpected hole inside of me…

I’ve Changed
It’s odd…
I’ve been a part of the cable TV universe for so long that it had become an integrated piece of my life.
(Talk about ongoing brand loyalty)

Leaving it all behind definitely felt like a significant break up.

I know that makes absolutely no sense, but when a relationship (even a business one) is ingrained into your daily patterns, and you suddenly excise it.. that change will likely be emotionally startling.
(Imagine if you suddenly stopped frequenting your favorite coffee house.)

It’s a Streaming World Now
The irony is my live cable viewing habits have shifted significantly over the past few years. The same goes for my on-demand cable consumption. More and more… I’ve followed the Netflix and Apple TV streaming trend.

The only times I’d certainly turn to my cable box was for live programming… news… Super Bowl… Academy Awards.

I was paying more for my cable service than I knew I really needed to.

I really… really… wanted another option…
(And I know that I’m not alone here.)

Hello, YouTube TV
Then, two moments intersected to create my path forward…

First, I looked at my calendar and realized that my monthly cable pricing plan was about to go up… again.
(A promotion from last year was expiring.)

And yes, I called to see if Cablevision would extend the deal… No luck.

Then, I happened to be visiting a friend, and he proudly showed me his new wall-mounted HDTV. I asked him where the cable box was, and he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye.

He proclaimed that he had cancelled his cable service.
Instead, he now had…
YouTube TV.

“YouTube TV? What’s that?!”

Cable Killer
Quite simply, it’s a TV steaming app that serves up your local broadcast stations and over 60 of the main cable TV channels. Such as…

  • CNN and FOX News
  • ESPN and ESPN 2
  • FOX Sports
  • SYFI
  • TBS
  • And yes… even Cartoon Network (My 8-year-old loves LEGO Ninjago.)

No, this one-size-only package may not have all of the same channels as Cablevision offers, but for me, it’s perfect.

There are also premium channel options like Showtime and STARZ.

$40 a month. That’s it.

  • No contract
  • And no cable box, DVR and remote rental

Forty bucks.
(I was paying over $100!)

Plus, one membership gives you six accounts and up to three simultaneous streams.

That’s a cable killer.

And so I made my decision right there to cancel my cable service from Cablevision and switch to Google.

My Breakup Call with the Cable Company
I drove home and rushed to join YouTube TV online. Then, I loaded the YouTube TV app on my Apple TV.

I took a look around my new TV universe, and all of my channels were ready for action.

My next step was to make the breakup call…






I was surprised that there wasn’t some attempt on the other end of the line to reverse my resolve. And unfortunately my new monthly Optimum bill with my remaining phone and internet service wasn’t going to fully recoup the cancelled cable price tag.
(My multiproduct ‘Triple Play’ discount would also be ending.)

But I was still saving money.

The Value of YouTube TV
Ultimately though, this wasn’t really about saving a specific amount of cash.
It’s about value.

Anyone can complain about a price point. But if you believe you’re getting value for the cost, then it’s usually okay.

If you’re not, then you should make a change…

  • YouTube TV
  • $40/month
  • Done!

As a subscriber to YouTube TV, I also have access to an unlimited DVR in the Cloud. Plus, I can watch YouTube TV on multiple platforms including my iPhone an iPad from anywhere in the United States.
(So useful!)

Still Watching
No… I haven’t entirely cut the cord with Cablevision. I still need my Optimum service for Internet and phone.
(But I think we’ll be talking about my home phone line again in the near future.)

And no, I haven’t really divorced myself from the cable TV experience.
I’ve just changed cable television providers.
(My emotional reaction to perceived loss was short lived.)

Yet Another Google Disruption
YouTube TV is just another example of technology, progress, innovation, disruption… and someone else figuring out how to take a piece of the pie.

It was just a matter of time.
(YouTube TV launched in 2017.)

I’d been waiting… It just took a friend to point me in the right direction.
(Plus, it didn’t hurt to see a live demonstration.)

The Google switch was easy…

Is YouTube TV a lethal blow to traditional cable companies? I know their past evolution to ‘broadband’ foretold this eventuality.

That said…

  • Cable networks are competitively served up elsewhere.
  • Home landline phones are quickly becoming a vestige of another century.
  • So, that just leaves Internet service….

I expect we’re still a ways away from the closing credits to this story.

For now, I’m a happy subscriber to cable television… again.

Thank you, Google!

My Cable Box Blurred my Political View

Pop Quiz: You’ve got 60 seconds to figure out how to fix your cable box so you can watch the big debate. Here’s a hint… pound away!

It was 8:59pm.
And I sat down in front of my Panasonic 42” Plasma TV as a proud citizen of the United States of America.

That moment could well mean one of our recent political smack-downs was on the immediate horizon.

Or “Dancing with the Stars” was on.

But in fact, the Vice Presidential Debate was about to begin.
Of course, my TV’s picture should have been perfect, as it was powered by Cablevision’s Optimum DVR box.

I Can’t Take My Seat in the Audience
As my TV’s glow grew brighter, and the image of Wolf Blitzer appeared, I noticed the typical text box at the bottom of CNN was partially cropped off.

I looked closer at the entire picture, and all four edges were actually cropped off, as if the entire frame was zoomed in a bit.

That was really bad.
I didn’t want to watch the debate with half of Biden and Ryan’s faces cut off.
I wanted a full-on view of the spectacle!

So I immediately jumped into emergency diagnosis mode.
I ran over to a small glass case mounted on the wall next to the TV, smashed in the glass with my elbow, and pulled out a small piece of paper with the code-red check-list.
(That’s how they do it in the movies, don’t they?)

  1. I quickly looked at a few other channels to make sure CNN wasn’t just fritzing out.
    They were all displaying in the same zoom mode.
  2. I checked the Blu-ray input on the TV. No problem there.
    So the cable box was clearly the culprit.
  3. I reviewed the cable box’s set-up menu.
    All was still good. I even adjusted a few of the box’s output settings,
    just in case.  No luck.
  4. I stared at the last item on the list.
    “Pull the plug.”
    Sometimes rebooting just does the trick.

Optimum, We Have a Problem
Then my wife walked in and sat down. She observed my poorly masked frantic state and asked what the problem was. The debate was about to begin.

“Problem? What problem?”

I was stuck.
The proud home IT guy had to fess up that even though we were funding a small country’s operating budget with our monthly cable bill, I couldn’t get the cable box to behave.

She let me off easy.
“How bad could it be?” she said as she invited me to sit down.
(Even the home IT guy needs a break occasionally.)

So we watched half the debate.
We actually stuck it out for the full ninety minutes, but remember, we could only see half the picture.
Since the split screen of the two candidates exaggerated the zoom problem, I felt we really didn’t get the complete experience.
(I’ll have to assume the other half of their faces mirrored the portions I could see.)

Get to Know Your Remote Control
A few days after my humbling (hobbling?) tech glitch, I figured I’d better fix the problem. I figured I would likely have to replace my cable box.
I wasn’t too excited about this, because there were still twenty unwatched shows on the DVR, which would be lost after a box switcheroo.

But I had no choice but to call Cablevision tech support and so I dialed away…

I explained my problem to the friendly customer service representative.
I asked, “Have you ever heard of this problem?”
He replied, “Oh yes. Many times.”

He then told me to go to pick up my cable remote and press the “#” button on the bottom right.

What?! The pound button?
Bingo. The TV’s image returned to normal size.

“Do you have any other questions I can help you with at this time?”

I thought, “Why would anybody know about this button?!
It’s not labeled at all!
Why does it even exist?
There’s already an official screen set-up section in the cable box’s menu!
Are you just thinking of ways to ruin my cable television viewing experience?!!”

But I said, “No thank you. I’m all set.”

He said, “Please hold for a customer service survey.”

And then I hung up.
(Is that wrong?)

He was actually very nice, and I know he had nothing to do with the decision to create this disruptive remote control button.

And there was a silver lining. I got to keep all my DVR recordings.

Read the Manual
But I was really cranky that this simple problem had derailed my election central viewing experience. I just couldn’t accept that it was my fault. The blame had to lie elsewhere.

So I went online to see what education support Cablevision offered for their remotes.
On Optimum’s website, there indeed is a section that displays my infamous DVR remote and each button’s functionality.

And when I hovered over the “#” button, the following words popped up:
“Size the picture for some HD television models.”

All right.
So by the book, Cablevision is technically covered, and I’m the Luddite.
But come on!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s fallen into this trap.
(My Optimum buddy pretty much admitted that.)

Throwing Stones in Cyberspace
But we’re not quite done yet with my story… are we?
Yes, I’ve left out one important detail.

When I later explained to my wife that I had fixed the cable issue, she asked me how the problem began in the first place.

She correctly reasoned that someone must have accidentally pressed the “#” button to create my “zoom-gate.”

Well, I knew it wasn’t my wife.
She’s already joined much of today’s digital consuming population, finding most of her desired content on her laptop.
The operation of our hulking and under-watched TV falls under my watchful eye.

Well, then there’s my toddler.
Coincidentally, he’s done some other tech damage of late.
And he loves picking remotes up and pressing all the buttons.
But this one has typically been placed out of his reach.
I’ve considered blaming him, but under the circumstances (no proof)
I’ve decided it would be uncool to blame him.

So that leaves only one person.

Somehow… Mea culpa.
Wow, that hurts.

To dull the pain, I’d like to help others avoid my little ‘tungle.’ (tech bungle)
Please heed today’s tech tip:

TV Tech Tip for Watching Politics
Don’t press the “#” on your Cablevision DVR remote control.
Don’t lean on it. Don’t point at it. Don’t look at it.
And keep it at least five feet off the ground.

You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve got the whole picture back in focus on my TV, I’m wishing the political picture could be so simple.

Fortunately, that’s a question for someone else’s blog.
I’ve got a few more tungles to work through…

Cancel the Cable TV Mutiny

Do I need to hold onto my Cable TV provider just to watch Avatar again for the fifth time? I just might want to, but not to see Pandora. Instead, I’ll be looking for CableWiFi.

Do you love your cable service?

Do you happily write out your check to the cable company every month with the confidence that you’re getting your money’s worth?

Or are you secretly planning a mutiny to move your media consumption to the a-la-carte online world and save a chunk of money?

Before I continue, I need to offer up a disclaimer by saying I was once employed by the cable television industry. So let’s continue…

Time to Cut the Cord?
Yes… I imagine there are many of you out there who think about the specific content you consume on cable and wonder if you could just go out there and pay for it on the web via iTunes, Hulu Plus, or NetFlix. All that other bundled content and channels you never watch on cable…lose it! Break out the digital rabbit ears for live news and you are set!!

That depends on what you’re watching, what additional hardware you want to buy to collect the content, how much sports you consume on cable that’s not available elsewhere, and how good the digital airwaves are by your television.

There have been some great articles on this-

The Cable Paradox
And though a cable-free life does indeed seem to be a viable, more highly evolved step today in your media consumption strategy, there’s one problem.
All of the stories talk about how much a pain in the butt it is to cut the cord.

You’ve got to manage multiple platforms and technologies. And that takes some time and a lot of patience.

No one likes the cable company, but those cable barons sure do make it all so easy. You pick up the remote, move your thumb once, (maybe twice) and you’re watching your favorite show. So far, nothing beats that convenience.
I know. It’s a paradox.

And I think that’s still cable’s big selling point today. When things are working right, it’s so darn easy. We didn’t really understand that dynamic years ago before the web revolution, which face it, is still ‘kinda complicated’ on a day-to-day basis.
(Notice my blog isn’t called At Home with Cable.)

The Big Announcement
So I was pretty psyched when the cable industry announced this week at their big annual NCTA convention that five cable companies including Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast are going to start sharing their metro Wi-Fi services throughout the nation, calling it CableWiFi.

Wait a minute. I thought we were talking about cable television, and not their bundled home broadband Internet service.

Well, the cable industry has also been building up a value-added service to their Internet. It’s free roaming Wi-Fi hotspots for their subscribers who are out and about.

I first heard about it a year or so back from Cablevision, my cable provider, but honestly, it didn’t move the needle much for me, because I don’t hang out in my town during the day, as I normally commute into New York City.
(I think I used it once at Dunkin’ Donuts off of Route 1.)

Yes, there’s Wi-Fi on the train platform, but how long is that good for?
(If I make it to the platform with ninety seconds to spare,
I’m having a good day.)
But, if Wi-Fi were on Metro North trains all the way in, I would really dig it.

Anyway, I’ve got my all-you-can-eat legacy data service on my iPhone, which covers most of my email and web surfing needs while I’m mobile.

I think the big gain would come for my family’s Wi-Fi only iPad, which doesn’t travel as much with me, because it’s not connected.

Last weekend, I tried using the iPad on Amtrak’s Wi-Fi service on a trip up to Boston. And quite frankly, it was an amazingly frustrating experience. The connection was way too slow, even just to read simple stories. Nevertheless, the idea of using the iPad on the road really appeals to me. I just didn’t want to pony up for the cellular version with the monthly data service plan with AT&T.

Welcome to My Personal Hot Spot Network
So it’s about scale. If suddenly I had access to a whole bunch of healthy Hot Spots in other places where I actually might spend some time, other than Starbucks, then things would suddenly get a whole lot more interesting.
And we’re talking 50,000 free Hot Spots coast to coast.

I’ve previously talked about the fact that I’m a
mobile media-consuming warrior.
And I think there are more and more of us out there like that.

I once thought that my five-year-old 42” 720P Panasonic Plasma TV would age quickly, and I would quickly covet a 55” 1080P 3D model.
You know, not so much.

Anything that allows me to consume digital content more easily on the road is where my head is focused.

And today, it looks like the cable companies have taken a big step in that direction.
And there’s no additional cost!


I think I’ll call off the mutiny for another day…

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