Trials of Cord Cutting

As you can see from my previous post, I’m fed up with Dish Network raising prices without providing any better features. For an account with local channels and a DVR, the base price is apparently over $100. Sure, you might get a “Starter Discount” but I’ve had my service for more than a Decade. $1200 per year is too much. Time to be a Cord Cutter.

So, let’s naively try to Cut the Cord and see what happens. But first, as all good engineers know, we develop a list of requirements:


In no particular order:

News – Keep up with this crazy world, and find out, within an hour or two whether POTUS has been tossed out, or an earthquake or volcanic eruption has started nearby.

Entertainment – I get most of my entertainment from Netflix and [Yeah I know it used to be called Netflix too, but they really want you to forget that they ever shipped you a DVD or BluRay.] for the movies that I can’t stream. But if I’m going to cut the cord I’ll need to get at least one more entertainment streaming service.

Use my new fancy Sony TV. A couple of years ago I got a Vizio P65, and it failed and then after they fixed the power supply, it decided to reboot itself a couple of times a day for no reason. Anyway, I now have a new Sony XBR-65X950H Bravia TV, and I love it. It works just fine and it supports “Android Apps” of course.

So how do we “Cut the Cord” and satisfy these requirements?

Current News Practices

My current news fare includes mostly MSNBC. Your politics may vary, but that’s the way I rock and roll. I watch the following shows:

Currently these shows are recorded each day to the “Hopper 3” with the last 3 days kept. I rarely look back to previous shows and sometimes skip watching them. Of these shows, if I have to give them up, I’ll miss Rachel, Lawrence and Ari the most. But all of these anchors and their guests often provide me with interesting and informative insights into what is going on.

On YouTube I watch “The Damage Report” – the pre-show, sometimes the whole show, and often the snippets that they post each day. And of course this is already a cord cut offering. I watch it on my Linux Mint media system.

Entertainment Diet

I use mostly Netflix currently – streaming and DVDs, with some movies that appear on SciFi channel [Dish] and some Cartoon Network [Robot Chicken].

I won’t really miss any other channels on Dish. And Netflix looks and works amazingly on the Sony TV, so no loss there. Netflix on the TV looks like it is actually 4K and the Dish hopper was only providing Netflix in 1080.

I have looked at Amazon Prime and it looks like I will get a ton of movies and shows with Prime Video. That looks like a reasonable addition for both Entertainment and better Amazon delivery.

I’ll probably look at another streaming service, but I’m not sure which one yet. I have set a budget of up to $50/mo for additional streaming services. I am willing to spend up to Half of my Dish bill to enhance my experience if there is benefit.

Cord Cut the News

So, let’s try to Cord Cut the News. MSNBC? There’s no App for that. Oh. It’s the NBC app. Ok.

So fine. NBC owns all these channels and they put them all under the one App. No problem. Let’s look at the MSNBC app. Oh there’s Rachel and we can watch a show. Not 3 previous shows, but one previous show.

Oh. Ok. Sign up with an Email on NBC. Read the Streaming policy.

Congratulations. You are ready to Stream.

FAIL. It doesn’t work. I don’t know why exactly, but it probably has to do with my not having a Cable TV license with my Spectrum Internet account. So. Nope. You can’t really cut the cord and watch NBC, because you don’t have some cable or satellite service somewhere. Maybe I could sign up at NBC with Dish Network, but that would defeat the goal wouldn’t it.

News on YouTube on the TV?

Let’s go look at Youtube on the TV and see what is up.

So on the TV, there is a YouTube app and it shows some news. But they fail too. There is no way to Authorize the YouTube app of course. And I did click the button to report the error. But YouTube works fine on my Linux Media box.

YouTube on Linux?

Works fine and has for years.

I’ve been watching YouTube for years this way.

And today because there is a special event going on, I was able to stream MSNBC all afternoon. And Rachel and whatever else, but only snippets of Rachel and other shows. Not the whole shows.

Big Media Tries to Prevent Cord Cutting

Apparently Big Media would like to prevent you from cutting the cord and getting their News Programs without first paying the Cable or Satellite providers their pound of flesh. I recall hearing years ago about outdated license agreements or franchise agreements or whatever with local affiliates. It’s been decades now, but these are apparently still in place.

Of course they aren’t really preventing the cutting. They are just delaying their death for a while. Notice how all the curves are falling over the past few years.

Well Dish was nice while it lasted, but they got too greedy and crossed the order of magnitude that I’m not willing to pay. $100/mo is too much.

So after some more research, I’m expecting to call Dish Network and have them ship me a box and a label to return their Hopper 3 and sign up for Amazon Prime to go with my Netflix. I’ll just get my news from YouTube and whatever snippets and streams that the Big Networks decide to post until they wake up. It has been decades now that they have resisted making their shows available. So now you can get the shows without cable with Peacock, Disney + etc. But they don’t yet understand that news needs to work that way too.

Update – Feb 10– Maybe Sling Blue for MSNBC

I found a Best Of TV Streaming Services article at CNET. I see that Sling Blue – $35/mo – has MSNBC. I’ll give that a try. Maybe that’s what I need to get my news. I see a Sling App on my TV, so I’ll give it a try and see if it works.

So what is the budget so far?

ServiceCost Per Month
Amazon Prime$120/12 = $10/mo
Sling Blue$35
Monthly cost for all TV Services

Well that’s closer to my requirements.

Update – Feb 11 – Sling Blue Works Fine So Far

I just signed up for Sling TV Blue and it works fine on my TV. The biggest issue is typing in a long and complicated password on the TV. LastPass is great to manage passwords in both Firefox and Chrome. works great to create a credit card that is locked to SlingTV and limited to $40/month.

It seems to work fine to watch “Live” MSNBC and there is a DVR function. I have set up some recordings and will see how they work. There is a way to pause Live TV and then skip ahead past commercials once you have recorded beyond them. The navigation is a little clunky compared with the Dish Hopper where you skip ahead 30 sec and back 10 sec at a time with buttons. Here you press >> and << and Play/Pause buttons. Each press of << >> buttons speed things up. And the text on the screen of the times / speed is very small. But it appears to work fine.

As the DVR recordings work I’ll report back here with an update.

Update – Feb 12 – Sling Works Fine for a Day

I watched Live News coverage all day continuing into a couple of programs after the special programming. It all worked flawlessly. Skipping commercials is a little tricky, but it works. And closed captioning can be easily turned on and off with the button on the remote.

After 8 hours of watching live TV on one channel – today was a busy news day- I checked in on my DVR recordings and found them under My TV. I’ve started watching a movie I recorded sometime this afternoon while I was watching news. Let’s be clear, the “Cloud DVR” that Sling uses is completely unlike the DVR that Cable or Satellite services use. The movies or shows that you “record” on Sling are not transmitted to your local TV to be stored. But they are simply saved in the “Cloud Storage” on Sling servers.

With a Local DVR for cable or satellite services, the bandwidth of the transmission [Cable or Satellite converter] and processor power of the DVR machine is used to receive, convert and save the video of programs that are recorded while you are watching something else. This bandwidth is limited.

For a “Cloud” or “Network” DVR, the only limitation is the “Storage Limitation” of the cloud storage on your account. In the case of SlingTV, the default DVR storage is 50 Hours of recordings. At least they are not using a unit like MegaBytes or TeraBytes, but a unit that is easy to understand.

I presume that individual users do not get separate cloud DVR copies of the items they record. I presume that there is one copy of each video that is kept on the storage with each Sling user getting a “pointer” to the videos they have “recorded”. This means that limiting the Space of a user’s DVR is a marketing fiction rather than usage of any real resources on the Sling servers, since no individual copies are kept.

So, the DVR of the shows and movie that I set up yesterday appeared to work just fine. I’m watching the movie right now. It was recorded this morning at 6:30am. But oddly enough, when I started it up this evening, Sling showed “Resume” rather than “Start” or “Play” and it started to play the movie about 75% the way through the movie. It was no problem to rewind the movie back to the beginning, although there is a “Start Over” button.

Here are the details of the SlingTV DVR Interface on my TV. Your TV may vary.

Looks very nice and functional. And it is nice that it automatically removes older recordings as new space is needed.

So far so good.