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Cord Cutter's Diary

An experiment in living without a cable TV subscription, by @zseward

Posts tagged network tv

Aug 31 '12

Deciding on my network TV solution

Aereo, the service I use for free network TV over the Web, just sent me an email with good and bad news:

  • "In the next several weeks, we’ll be rolling out support for PC’s."
  • "Remember, your free trial ends in one week."

Aereo has been deliberately vague about the length of my free trial, so the word “remember” is, well, bullshit, but I guess it’s about time that I paid for it. But the company recently changed its pricing structure, so I have a choice.

I was signed up for the $12/month plan but definitely don’t need 40 hours of DVR space. (When I use Aereo, it’s almost always to watch live programming.) And the other options — $8/month or $80/year — are similar in assuming that I use Aereo regularly.

The reality is that I only use it when I really need access to something that’s airing live on network TV like the Olympics or the conventions. When Ann Curry gave her tearful goodbye on Today, it was great to be able to flip on my TV and watch, but I don’t need to watch that show every morning. Which is why I’m choosing Aereo’s most interesting pricing option: pay $1/day only on days when you want to watch. I think that will come to about three or four days a month, but if it’s more frequent, I should consider the other plans.

So after a long trial period and considering some other options, that’s how I’m solving my need for network TV. Not bad.

On another note, Aereo could really use some help in the marketing department. All of their communication, from customer emails to tweets, is so restrained and devoid of personality. For instance, here’s a very typical tweet they sent after the Olympics ended:

May 16 '12
I’m trying Aereo for network TV over the internet, and so far, I’m really impressed. I can watch live or recorded programming at excellent quality on my iPhone, iPad, and Roku XD. The interface for flipping channels and setting recordings is a stunningly crafted web app that works almost as smoothly as a native app would. (At my day job, we’re also building a web app, so Aereo doubles as inspriation.) When watching on Roku, your iPhone or iPad serves as the remote, which is a little convoluted but ultimately makes sense. And there’s something a little magical about pulling up the “Today” show on your phone while walking to work.
The downside is obvious: I don’t really need to watch “Today” or most network TV fare. I assume my use of Aereo will be limited to live events like the Oscars or sports playoffs and a few network sitcoms and dramas. (I do watch “Gossip Girl” religiously, but there are other ways to watch it.)
Right now, while I’m in my free trial, it doesn’t matter, but I’ll ultimately have to decide whether Aereo is worth $12 a month. I’ve started a cord-cutting balance sheet that should be of help here. It calculates my costs over two years, which I think is a reasonable timeframe that smooths the difference between one-time and recurring payments while assuming new technology will render much of my setup obsolete every 24 months. It’s sort of a Moore’s Law of streaming media, but honestly, I think these things will turn over even faster than that. I mean, Aereo is two-months-old and only works in New York City but already faces several lawsuits from broadcasters.
So… Aereo would cost $288 over two years. And I’m definitely getting network TV somehow. Alternatives, discussed in my previous post about Aereo, include a one-time payment of $30 to $50 for a plain-old tuner or up to $400 for a tuner with DVR. So if recording network TV is valuable to me, Aereo starts to be cost effective.
But I should also consider how much I value accessing this programming from anywhere and without any additional devices or cables. In other words, can I put a price on elegance?

I’m trying Aereo for network TV over the internet, and so far, I’m really impressed. I can watch live or recorded programming at excellent quality on my iPhone, iPad, and Roku XD. The interface for flipping channels and setting recordings is a stunningly crafted web app that works almost as smoothly as a native app would. (At my day job, we’re also building a web app, so Aereo doubles as inspriation.) When watching on Roku, your iPhone or iPad serves as the remote, which is a little convoluted but ultimately makes sense. And there’s something a little magical about pulling up the “Today” show on your phone while walking to work.

The downside is obvious: I don’t really need to watch “Today” or most network TV fare. I assume my use of Aereo will be limited to live events like the Oscars or sports playoffs and a few network sitcoms and dramas. (I do watch “Gossip Girl” religiously, but there are other ways to watch it.)

Right now, while I’m in my free trial, it doesn’t matter, but I’ll ultimately have to decide whether Aereo is worth $12 a month. I’ve started a cord-cutting balance sheet that should be of help here. It calculates my costs over two years, which I think is a reasonable timeframe that smooths the difference between one-time and recurring payments while assuming new technology will render much of my setup obsolete every 24 months. It’s sort of a Moore’s Law of streaming media, but honestly, I think these things will turn over even faster than that. I mean, Aereo is two-months-old and only works in New York City but already faces several lawsuits from broadcasters.

So… Aereo would cost $288 over two years. And I’m definitely getting network TV somehow. Alternatives, discussed in my previous post about Aereo, include a one-time payment of $30 to $50 for a plain-old tuner or up to $400 for a tuner with DVR. So if recording network TV is valuable to me, Aereo starts to be cost effective.

But I should also consider how much I value accessing this programming from anywhere and without any additional devices or cables. In other words, can I put a price on elegance?

May 14 '12

I still need to figure out how best to access free, over-the-air, network television. One friend recommended a Terk Technologies tuner for $40, and others are partial to the $35 Leaf antenna. If I want to record the programming, I could go with something like the $400 Channel Master HD DVR or a $99 HDHomeRun with DVR software I’d have to run myself.

But while I consider those and other options, I think I’ll try an intriguing new service called Aereo. The IAC-funded startup, which has already been sued by broadcast networks, is grabbing over-the-air TV signal in Brooklyn and redistributing it to users across New York City over the Web. So you can watch and record network TV on your iPhone, iPad, Roku device, or Apple TV. BTIG’s Rich Greenfield, the analyst who knows more over-the-top programming than anyone else, demos Aereo in the video above.

Aereo costs $12 a month, which seems a little stiff, although the price starts to make sense if I value the DVR functionality. In any event, they offer a one-month free trial, so I’m giving it a whirl starting today. For now, my network TV problem is solved without a single wire or new device.