Cable Cutting in 2016
When I wrote my first set of articles back in 2013, so-called “cord cutting" was just gaining momentum. In the original series, I spoke about what it means to cut the cord, an overview of different content providers as well as some guidance on how to set up your own DVR. As the number of people who cut the cord continues to grow, technology has changed a log in the last three years. Let’s take a look and see what it’s like to cut the cord in 2016.
Back in 2013, I suggested coming up with a list of must-have shows and then instructed you to figure out which of those were available with whichever service. What I didn’t tell you back then was that it was a pain to figure out how to get your favorite shows legally. Today, numerous sites popped up that let you do just that. Type in a name and the site will tell you available options to stream or purchase episodes (and movies). My favorite site to use is JustWatch. Type in your favorite show and watch the results (Figure 1). Unfortunately, JustWatch does not cover every streaming site available so you may need to use a few searches to find your favorite show.
Another big change in the last few years is that content creators and distributors realize this is the future. Ala carte is now a thing when it comes to getting access to content. If JustWatch cannot find your show, be sure to check whether the network broadcasting the show has its own streaming plan. For example, if you want to catch episodes of “NCIS Los Angeles,” the only streaming option (without purchasing) is to get the CBS All Access service. Many networks now offer similar plans so be sure to check them out.
In 2013, I recommended setting up your own digital video recorder by using a mish-mash of components. It works well, but was not very user friendly. Today, with some inexpensive tools, you can have a great DVR right in your own home without much effort.
I especially like the home media-streaming tool Plex. Think of Plex as Netflix for your content. Record home movie or take tons of pictures? Toss them into Plex and watch them on the big screen. With the recent update of Plex, you can now use the HD Home Run device I suggested back in 2013 to record live TV and add it to your Plex server. There is a small subscription fee to gain access to this functionality in Plex, but if most of your TV shows air live, this may be a cheap alternative to paying for ala carte streaming services. You can check out the Plex DVR features here. Heck, if you have a modern game console (Xbox, PlayStation), you can download and use Plex from there with no need for a separate computer.
Problems Still Exist
Cord cutting still is not for everyone. It takes a DIY mentality and knowledge that things can and will break. If your internet connection is slow or unreliable, streaming isn’t going to be a viable option for you. Likewise, if you don’t like tinkering with technology, you may still not have a great experience. Things are definitely easier than they were in 2013, but services like Plex still have a way to go before they will be mainstream.
Here’s the great thing though. If you want to dabble in these services, there is no risk to you. Try a few streaming services out and see if you like them. Can you live without the few shows you cannot get from a paid service in order to save some money? If you find you can live without everything, cutting the cord may be right for you.