Friday, January 26, 2018

The Cord Cutting Disconnect

I've been thinking about getting rid of cable TV for awhile.  I wanted a more on-demand experience with, hopefully, a reduced cost.  The one roadblock in the way was Sports.  I am not a sports fan but the Wife is and any replacement for our cable TV had to satisfy her sports habit.  Until recently, there was no such replacement.

Last year Hulu announce the launch of Hulu with Live TV (HLTV).  It would take the on-demand Hulu service and add fifty channels of live television.  Looking at the initial network lineup I saw that it provided most of the networks that we watch regularly and, notably, more sports networks than we get now on our basic cable package.  It came with fifty hours of cloud DVR service, more than the thirty-seven hours out current cable DVR provides.  Its was exactly what I'd been looking for.  An added bonus: HLTV was about forty dollars a month cheaper than cable TV.

I would have tried it out last year but they did not have a Roku app that supported HLTV yet so I waited.  The updated Roku app was released last September but I didn't realize it was available until a couple weeks ago.  A week ago we started the free trial and began watching live TV on Hulu.

At first everything seem awesome but over the first forty-eight hours a couple things became apparent.  The first was there was no grid guide for the live TV.  We soon discovered that it was hard to figure out what was on TV without a guide.  While a grid guide was not necessary for on-demand shows it is a necessity for live TV.  NOTE: after the Wife pointed out this issue I Googled around and, by coincidence, found an article published two day before.  The article was an interview of a Hulu honcho announcing that Hulu was developing a guide for their live TV service.  Seems we weren't the only ones wondering where the guide was.

The second issue was the occasional stuttering/freezing/buffering of live TV.  On-demand shows played fine.  By occasional I mean four or five times in a half hour maybe.  Sometimes it was worse ... sometimes it didn't happen at all.  The killer was when you watched sports.  A two to three second freeze means you miss an entire play on the field - unacceptable.  I thought it might be a slow internet connection but, after some more Googling around I found some people with internet connection speeds up to twenty times faster than ours were having the same issues.  It looks like the issue is on Hulu's end when they encode the live TV.

So, after watching a few Hulu exclusive shows (the incredible "The Handmaid's Tale" and, for my Marvel fix, "Runaways") I canceled the service before the free trial period ended.  HLTV is not quite ready for prime time yet.  It is still considered a beta service so it is still having some growing pains.  We will try again in six months or so to see if things improve.

Someday we will cut the cord but not quite yet.

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