Monday, May 10, 2021

Cutting the cord is not about saving money. It’s all about control

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Point of cutting the cord was saving money. Pick the lineup that matters to you and throw the rest away. Then broadcasters, streamers, and studios all severed their little content wells, and services like Hulu, Youtube TV, and SlingTV homogenized their offerings. Now i can pay less for a Spectrum subscription than I would if I subscribed to any of the other live TV services. But as I shaved, trimmed and trimmed my cords to save just a few dollars when I could, I realized that it was never about saving money. It was always a question of control.

Television in the United States began with a sort of social contract. Broadcasters would have access to publicly owned radio waves and all they had to do was provide free content to viewers. “This social contract has eroded,” says David Goodfriend, founder of the non-profit organization Locast and a former White House and FCC lawyer. He founded Locast, which provides Internet TV shows for a monthly donation, because he wanted to “preserve the social contract in the age of streaming.” Goodfriend is not alone. Cord cutters, razors, and even many of us who are still cable subscribers are looking for ways to maintain the social contract between us and the people who provide us with television. Cable companies, content providers and broadcasters don’t make it easy.

Over the past three years, nearly every major content producer in the United States has launched a streaming platform loaded with all of its old content and a handful of new movies and shows designed to earn subscriptions. Even HGTV and its varied properties have followed the trend with Discovery +. At the same time, traditional cable companies have gotten worse and worse by allowing you to watch content you pay for digitally. Spectrum, the second largest cable supplier in the United States, a fired its application of the Roku smart TV platform, itself the largest smart TV platform in the United States. Comcast, the largest cable operator, has just made available its streaming application on Amazon Fire TV in December. Locast, meanwhile, works on all major set-top box platforms, including Amazon, Apple, Android, and Roku. “Locast works on the principle that delivery always matters,” Goodfriend told me.

And Locast, which offers TV shows for a monthly donation of $ 5 (which it often gives up for those in need), isn’t the only company trying to give users a little more control. Silicon dust manufactures digital TV tuners that convert the signals you get from an antenna into a video stream that you can watch on your TV and can record those shows to watch later on their TV or other devices you own. It has been committed, for years, to giving users more control than their cable companies can provide by essentially replacing their set-top box and DVR. He even briefly offered a similar for-profit service to Locast before the the threat of lawsuits forced the company to shut down the service.

HDHomerun DVRs are not subject to any kind of legal threat at this time. But unlike Locast, HDHomerun DVRs aren’t really easy to set up and use. “It’s mostly the hardware costs,” says developer Jon Maddox. He has developed an application, Channels, which can work with HDHomerun DVRs, and he is well aware of the difficulty of the initial setup. To run the HDHomerun app, or even the Channels, you first need a network attached storage device, which can cost at least $ 300, much more if you start exploring additional features. Then you have to choose which DVR you even want to invest in. There’s one for people who just want DVR content that they lower with an antenna, and there’s one for people who want to replace their cable box, but they can only use it to replace their box. if their cable company allows it. My cable company, Spectrum, does not.

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