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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
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Oct 5, 2010
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So I've recently been paying a crazy amount of money for my Xfinity/Comcast internet & TV package and just got Frontier's fiber optic gigabit installed. They're also doing a $10/month-off promo for 12-months of YouTube TV, so I'm trying that out. Previous experience has been with TiVo.

I like the Apple TV experience for my movie collection, but don't love the YouTube TV experience compared to TiVo. When I look at the list of mostly-crappy shows my wife considers a "must", there's not a lot of them and they're nearly all on the major networks. I will say, that may wife also considers being able to skip through commercials to be very important. But $55-65/month for YouTube TV just to watch a handful of channels/shows seems like a lot, and I've been trying to think outside the box a bit.

Last night I confirmed that I could install all of the major networks' Apple TV apps, link them to my Xfinity account, and do most of what I'd want to do: watch live TV or play shows from their VOD library. I could also find the shows via the single common "Apple TV app" UX. It appears, though, that it doesn't actually play the shows from within that app, but rather jumps you over to the network's app. I haven't experimented with it a lot yet, but have been investigating this to see if it might be acceptable to keep Xfinity/Comcast but just get their "Limited Basic" package and use the Apple TV and these apps to watch what we'd want to watch.

I suspect I'll find that there are too many limitations for my wife to go for this (e.g., some shows not available in a timely manner, older shows not available, forced to watch commercials). But I'm curious if anyone has gone done this route and wants to share their thoughts.

Another thought I had was to re-think the idea of purchasing Season Passes of shows from iTunes. At first, it seems like this wouldn't make sense $$$ as a season might be $25. But $25 x 10 shows (for example) would be $250/year. Whereas, a ~$65/month subscription to YouTube TV would cost more than ($260) after just 4 months. And then you'd get a pretty nice common library Applet TV-optimized UX, etc., where all of your TV shows would be. I'd miss out on live TV, so I'd probably want to still supplement with something like my original thought (Apple TV major network apps and a Limited Basic TV subscription).
 

Khaetra

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Sep 1, 2021
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Florida
Well, I'm not going to judge your wife since I too like my share of 'guilty pleasure' shows 😃. What I will ask though is what network(s) are they on. You may be able to find what she wants for a lower price, but also be aware that if she is a 'must watch it live/new' person your options may be limited as to who to go with.

I have YTTV (came from DirecTV) and love it, especially the unlimited DVR.
 

BrianBaughn

macrumors G3
Feb 13, 2011
9,005
1,940
Baltimore, Maryland
We pay what I'd say is a LOT for Xfinity TV (and the long list of attached services) and internet but I haven't seen any alternatives worth risking a divorce.
 

ColdCase

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Feb 10, 2008
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You didn't mention the Over The Air (OTA) option that cord cutters love. If you are within reception range of network TV stations, OTA recorders are fairly cheap. Record and watch later, skipping over commercials. I like OTA as, unlike comcrap or DTV, we receive all the sub-channels which often have older shows, or shows you can't get anywhere else.

There are no subscription fees, you are in it for the appliance purchase. More than the basic guide data is available for like $20 a year. There are also appliances with more features, so your mileage may vary.

PS, I have Myth (free) running on my mini media server which receives, records, and organizes videos in an easy to use GUI. It also does a decent automatic commercial deleting job. There are others that are directly integrated with AppleTV. Lots of ways to skin that cat.
 
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mallbritton

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Nov 26, 2006
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Something to think about when using the TV Anywhere apps such as CBS, ABC, etc. is you are not able to skip those commercials. Using the YTTV DVR will allow you to skip those commercials. As you've found it is not as full featured as a TiVo, but really, since it is unlimited you don't need many features. Sure you end up with some stuff recorded you might not want, but it is easy to jump to the content you really want.

As @ColdCase has mentioned there is also the OTA option. But you don't get cable networks OTA. On the plus side OTA DVRs (I can recommend a Tablo) are not unreasonably expensive and they are a one-time expense, not ongoing costs.

There are so many options out for you, and pretty much all of the streaming services come with a limited free trial. So don't be afraid of trying them out and canceling at the end of the free trial.
 

wilberforce

macrumors 68030
Aug 15, 2020
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SF Bay Area
It took me a lot of work and about an hour of arguing with their retention department, but I was finally able to cancel all cable and TV packages from Comcast/Xfinity (with their hundreds of garbage channels), and keep only their internet service (300 mbps). Despite cancelling, they still insisted on sending me their "free" DVR, which I refused delivery.

This was a massive reduction in cost, partly because I now have zero add-on fees and taxes. This enabled us instead to sign up for most of the premium (no ads) streaming services (Apple+TV, hulu, paramount, Netflix, etc) for less cost. I run most of this via an Amazon fire TV stick. I still have TiVo OTA (in a major metro area, with a big antenna, get perfect reception of all major channels), but now hardly ever use the TiVo, the streaming services are so much better. Another advantage is you can watch whatever you want on Mac, iPad, away from home, etc.
 
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mallbritton

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Nov 26, 2006
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This was a massive reduction in cost, partly because I now have zero add-on fees and taxes. This enabled us instead to sign up for most of the premium (no ads) streaming services (Apple+TV, hulu, paramount, Netflix, etc) for less cost. I run most of this via an Amazon fire TV stick. I still have TiVo OTA (in a major metro area, with a big antenna, get perfect reception of all major channels), but now hardly ever use the TiVo, the streaming services are so much better. Another advantage is you can watch whatever you want on Mac, iPad, away from home, etc.
This is a good point. When I decided what services to sub to I looked at what I might have been paying to DTV (I would have wanted Sunday Ticket) and use that amount as a reference for what my "streaming budget" would be. I sub to YTTV and a handful of streaming services (sans commercials) and I'm still not over that budget.
 

hipnetic

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Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
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As @ColdCase has mentioned there is also the OTA option. But you don't get cable networks OTA. On the plus side OTA DVRs (I can recommend a Tablo) are not unreasonably expensive and they are a one-time expense, not ongoing costs.
Thanks for all of the replies so far. How does Tablo compare to Channels, which is another service I've heard a lot about.

I worry about OTA reception. Any recommendations for an antenna that works well and can be inside the house (and ideally discrete - like behind my TV)? If reception is problematic, that's obiously a deal-killer.

Also, FWIW, I have two HDHomeRun Prime units (from way back when Windows Media Center was a thing), which use cablecards. I have one cablecard in my TiVo which I could possibly move over, though I don't know if Xfinity would allow me to keep the cablecard (or might charge extra) if I downgraded to "Limited Basic."

At this point, I'm most likely going to stick it out with YouTube TV (or possibly pay even more for Hulu Live if the YouTube TV UX really bothers us and Hulu's is better - which it may not be). At least while we're both employed and don't really need to be too cost-conscious. We'll already be saving quite a bit compared to the old Xfinity Internet & TV plan we've been on.
 

mallbritton

macrumors 65816
Nov 26, 2006
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I can't speak to Channels, as I have not used it. But, based on my experience, I think Tablos stack up pretty well against the TiVo you're used to. One of the advantages is having more control over what is being recorded.

If you do have the option for a roof-mounted antenna I'd suggest going that route. I do realize that may not be an option for you.

Lately, I haven't been using my Tablo as much since YTTV does what I want, and gives me all the channels I want. My suggestion is to give yourself 30 days with YTTV and that ecosystem. Use the DVR; use the TV Anywhere apps. See how your family likes it. If you don't like it, go with something else. If your family does like it... problem solved. The great thing about these live TV and VOD streaming services is there are no contracts.
 

wilberforce

macrumors 68030
Aug 15, 2020
2,703
2,900
SF Bay Area
I worry about OTA reception. Any recommendations for an antenna that works well and can be inside the house (and ideally discrete - like behind my TV)? If reception is problematic, that's obiously a deal-killer.
OTA is highly dependent on where you are. Antennas that go behind or on TVs are lame - because physics - unless you are close (like less than 5 miles with no intervening hills) from transmission towers.

I have this 4 foot long directional antenna mounted on the ceiling of my garage, pointed at the big TV tower on Mount Sutro in SF Bay Area, about 10 miles away. Not as effective as on the roof, but a whole lot less ugly. Now that TV transmission is digital, it gets perfect reception (zero interference)

IMG_1646.jpg
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
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More frustration with YouTube TV:

1) My wife and I were watching a show earlier (HGTV's "Love it or List it") and she needed to run an errand so she asked me to record the rest of it. It wasn't a show in our library, so I navigated around the on-screen menu and it looked like the only option was to "Add to Library", which adds the entire series to my favorites, and isn't necessarily what I wanted to do, but I guess that's my only option? Ok. Later, I go in to play it but it's not listed under the top option (New in Your Library). Under "Scheduled" I see the show mentioned, but it's for a currently-in-progress episode, not the one we were watching. Farther down under "Shows" I see "Love it or List it" but choosing that brings up the entire series, with multiple seasons, every episode. That seems great to have, but I have no idea which episode we were watching earlier in the day, and the YouTube TV UX doesn't seem to be giving me any way to easily identify that. And, of course (as I've recently learned), most of the seasons/episodes are VOD, which means it will force me to watch commercials.

2) Earlier in the day I pre-selected for it to record the Chiefs/Raiders game. I go to start watching it about 30 mins after it started and I see it listed under "Home" but it's Live. Navigating around some more, I see the show listed in a variety of places. Some of them give me a choice of watching it from ESPN or ABC (the latter is the channel I chose to record it from initially). Experimenting with various places I see that my recording is there and in-progress, but if I choose the wrong one I get kicked into the live in-progress show, which for a sporting event where you don't want to know the score yet, that can really make you mad. Why do they make this so complicated and confusing?
 
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mallbritton

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Nov 26, 2006
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More frustration with YouTube TV:

1) My wife and I were watching a show earlier (HGTV's "Love it or List it") and she needed to run an errand so she asked me to record the rest of it. It wasn't a show in our library, so I navigated around the on-screen menu and it looked like the only option was to "Add to Library", which adds the entire series to my favorites, and isn't necessarily what I wanted to do, but I guess that's my only option? Ok. Later, I go in to play it but it's not listed under the top option (New in Your Library). Under "Scheduled" I see the show mentioned, but it's for a currently-in-progress episode, not the one we were watching. Farther down under "Shows" I see "Love it or List it" but choosing that brings up the entire series, with multiple seasons, every episode. That seems great to have, but I have no idea which episode we were watching earlier in the day, and the YouTube TV UX doesn't seem to be giving me any way to easily identify that. And, of course (as I've recently learned), most of the seasons/episodes are VOD, which means it will force me to watch commercials.

When you're viewing YTTV's Home Screen, scroll down a little and you should see a "Resume Watching" section with stuff you have recently been watching, but didn't finish, or have been recording. It might look something like this:

Screenshot 2023-01-07 at 4.38.44 PM.png

I was just watching the Chiefs vs Raiders game (and it was recorded), and I have all 20 seasons of Law & Order that I've been working my way though. When I'm ready for the next ep of L&O I just hit that "Resume Watching" section to see the next one.

2) Earlier in the day I pre-selected for it to record the Chiefs/Raiders game. I go to start watching it about 30 mins after it started and I see it listed under "Home" but it's Live. Navigating around some more, I see the show listed in a variety of places. Some of them give me a choice of watching it from ESPN or ABC (the latter is the channel I chose to record it from initially). Experimenting with various places I see that my recording is there and in-progress, but if I choose the wrong one I get kicked into the live in-progress show, which for a sporting event where you don't want to know the score yet, that can really make you mad. Why do they make this so complicated and confusing?
I will often time shift content as well. When you clicking into the game you should have been prompted for which channel to view it on (ESPN or ABC), and if you wanted to join live or start from the beginning. At least, that's how YTTV has been working for me.
 

ColdCase

macrumors 68040
Feb 10, 2008
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NH
I worry about OTA reception. Any recommendations for an antenna that works well and can be inside the house (and ideally discrete - like behind my TV)? If reception is problematic, that's obiously a deal-killer.
OTA signal reception is a black art. A difference of two feet in antenna hight or a pointing error of 1 degree can kill otherwise useful signals. VHF is more of a problem than UHF. There is much data out on the interweb on best practices. DigitalTV is designed for large open spaces, long range, but is severely affected by multipath (signals bouncing off objects and canceling each other) and trees. So even being 5 miles from a tower does not guarantee a good signal. Signal levels also vary from station to station (lots of electric is needed to broadcast and stations are licensed differently)

My situation is there is a cluster of 3 towers about 40 miles south and another 2 about 15 miles north. Omnidirectional antennas did not provided reliable signals. I ended up with two of these mounted on the roof, one pointed to one set of towers, the other pointed to the other. They are about 2 feet high and mounted low enough to not be visible from the street. I didn't feel like dealing with the black art of signal combining so I connected one antenna to one homerun, the other is connected to a second. I attempted using a high gain antenna mounted in the attic with unsatisfactory results.

Both pointing and height are tweaked for best signal, I get better signal from the towers further away... did I mention the black art part?
 

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w5jck

macrumors 65816
Nov 9, 2013
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I use my Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Recast (DVR) to receive and record OTA TV, and I stream Philo TV for cable type of programming. Philo TV has most of the popular cable channels, but no sports, no news networks, and no local programming (hence the OTA). Philo TV costs between $20-$30 per month, and it comes with recording service included. OTA cost nothing, but you need a DVR to record.

Hulu Live TV and Sling TV are too expensive, IMO.
 
OP, get an antenna outside and above the roofline. That will resolve many reception issues vs. any "hide it inside" option. If you have some kind of worries about HOAs or similar, there is a law from way back in about 1997 that overrides all HOA restrictions. Basically, citizens have a right to OTA signals. If it takes an outside antenna to get those signals, you use an outside antenna. HOA can have a little say in placement, but they can't refuse you from picking up signals (not meaningfully delay you installing an antenna to get signals). If that takes an antenna to tune signals, then that's what it takes. Don't be bluffed by HOAs if that's the case here. The law is very likely on your side, they know it, but get away with bluffing anyway.

Pair that much better reception with the Channels app you already have for tuning. Another box from Silicon Dust will grab the local signals. They have several for OTA- including one for 4K OTA- so have a look. If money is tight, check their refurb store.

For the DVR/time shifting side of things, set up Channels DVR. I like it on a Synology but there are many options. That becomes your whole home DVR on your own personal cloud that doesn't require paying for-profit middlemen for access to what you store there.

You reference already having a TIVO, so maybe fire that thing back up as another DVR option. That would be its own thing, separate from the Channels setup... but if you already have it, use it. Maybe that becomes a DVR for the kids so the main library doesn't become packed with children's recordings? Or maybe it becomes a DVR for the adults, so that the main DVR doesn't include anything not intended for your young eyes? Or maybe you just have a spare TV with no AppleTV and would like some tuning & DVR'ing on it too?

Install Channels on your AppleTVs, and iDevices (watch on computers with a browser) and watch anything recorded and/or live via that app. Time shift with its time shifting tools. You can even watch things stored on the home DVR when away from home and/or tune in to live local TV from afar through those apps or a browser.

If you use those PRIMES, the cablecard will only be able to deliver the channels in that XFinity limited package. I thought Limited Basic was pretty much the local channels. If so, then you could dump it completely and just use your OTA if you are able to get the same channels by antenna. It's likely that OTA will be higher resolution anyway.

Any shows not on the local networks- like that home & garden show- might be realized by rentals on iTunes or other services. You might also check the Discovery+ service. It has shows that are the mix of that kind of channel for under about $7 or $8 per month. Starter rate with commercial is $5 as I type this.

You might also want to install both PlutoTV and Stirrr apps as both have a ton of mostly classic TV channels for free (ad supported). If you like anything from the past, you might find that you can get it on those. If you dig into Channels, you can merge those into the same guide so you have your local channels and all of those channels in a single guide.

Conceptually, you could completely get rid of television from Xfinity and solely stream Pluto & Stirrr, plus pick up all of the locals and their sub channels OTA for free. Channels does the DVR'ing and time shifting. Discovery+ might grab Home & Garden, Food, etc type shows popular with the wife.

Key to success to this one is reliably getting them local channels, which- again- will be easiest if you don't hide the antenna. Get it high and outside and signals have a good chance of being strong & stable.

Which antenna? Take a walk or ride and take note of antennas on other, nearby roofs in the neighborhood. Those will likely give you a sense of size to pick up reliable signals from the local stations. Take note of their direction too so you can aim yours well when you install it (or have someone else install it). There are also online tools like AntennaWeb.org & rabbitears.info to help you see the channels you should be able to tune and identify the type of antenna you likely need.
 
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hipnetic

macrumors 65816
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Oct 5, 2010
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OK, so I've been experimenting over the last couple of days with YouTube TV as well as the Channels app (getchannels.com). As someone who's been a fan of TiVo over a number of years, the YouTube TV UX is quite poor. I can work around it (unhappily), but my wife has been more vocal about how much she hates it. :)

So last night and today I blew the dust off an old MacBook Pro, reformatted it, and installed the Channels DVR app on it. Combined with the Channels app on the Apple TV it provides a much nicer UX, and certainly one much more like the TiVo experience.

But do I really want to have a DVR server running 24/7 in my house for a few shows we like to watch? And having to worry about a hard drive failing (which *definitely* wouldn't go over well with my wife)?

And while I don't love the Apple TV remote (mostly the touchpad aspect), I will say that the native developed-by-Apple streaming apps (e.g., Movies) work very well with the remote, offer a great UX, and the PQ (picture quality) of the shows are great.

So I'm finding myself thinking again about the idea of not having *any* streaming service and instead purchasing TV shows by the season to watch via Apple's "tv shows" Apple TV app. At first blush, this sounds pricey because, hey, $25/season for an ABC TV show? Really? But if there are 10 shows we like, that's $250/year, versus $60 (or whatever) per month for a streaming/DVR service, which works out to be about 4 months.

The only thing we'd be missing out on is truly live TV. For us, the only live TV we'd really care about would be the local news when there's a big storm hitting our area (which we could monitor for free via updates on the major networks' websites), and possibly the NFL (which I honestly haven't cared much about over the last couple of years - and if I did care more about it, I could buy NFL Sunday Ticket to stream).

So I'm posting this here because I'm curious if there are any other folks out there who are doing this (purchasing TV shows by the season via iTunes). Let me know what you think.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
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Bumping this thread (and changing the title) to re-focus the discussion (and hopefully get more/new participation) on the idea of purchasing TV shows from iTunes and doing without a cable/streaming TV subscription altogether.
 

A1423

macrumors member
Jan 18, 2023
32
6
I looked into it a few years ago and it really wasn't worth the very marginal cost savings not to have live TV like news and sports. OTA here only gets local news. I'm pretty happy with Hulu with live TV, but if you fully load it you are similar to cable.

I have pretty much all the streaming services out there and pay about $60-$100 less than I was paying with DirecTV and that is including FTTH. I refuse to use Comcast. I hate their picture quality.
 

mlody

macrumors 65816
Nov 11, 2012
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Windy City
Also Remember just realized in America was a new Standard for Over the Air for 4K channels, so you'll need a HDMI 2.1 cable for new Apple TV!
This tech is still in its infancy and most major stations still don't bother to upgrade their transmission to that quality, so I wouldn't hold your breathe just yet.
 

mlody

macrumors 65816
Nov 11, 2012
1,436
1,100
Windy City
Bumping this thread (and changing the title) to re-focus the discussion (and hopefully get more/new participation) on the idea of purchasing TV shows from iTunes and doing without a cable/streaming TV subscription altogether.
I am personally not a fan of buying movies or TV shows as there are only few that I could ever see watching over again after few years. Have you considered a local library? We like to go to our local library to pickup mostly new movies as they have a very decent selection. the stuff that is not available, we can place a hold and they will grab it for us from a nearby library that is part of the same system, so we don't have to drive around to find something - just wait till it gets delivered to our local library. For instance last week we watched Top Gun Maverick!
 
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OP, your more recent posts read like you've decided you want season passes and all of these other suggestions are not mostly supporting what you want. If that is what you want, you already have your solution, so run with it.

Channels DVR is terrific. If you are worried about HDD crashes due to using it as DVR storage, make that an external so that replacing it will cost what external HDDs cost these days- nearly nothing. Think of it like going all TIVO except now you are buying only the hard drive portion instead of the whole box. If you want a DVR that is your own, you will have to invest a bit of money in it... just like if you go the season pass way, you'll be investing a bit in that.

If you don't want that dusty Mac running 24/7, Channels DVR runs great on several NAS options. I like Synology myself. Those are designed to be ON 24/7 and offer a lot of nice options beyond only this one use. For example, Synology is a great Time Machine backup option and is basically your own "cloud" that doesn't require ongoing subscription fees to use. Again, think of this purchase like buying a few TIVOs 10+ years ago for your household to have "whole home" DVR. Instead Synology will be the DVR hardware and Channels DVR will be the software. Devices like AppleTV will customize watching and DVR usage for each TV.

Again, Pluto, Stirr, and similar apps + Over the Air will get you a LOT of completely-free TV (supported by commercials)... more than you and your wife could possibly watch. However, for select things that you or she "must have," you have the options of binging favorites by quick hit subscriptions to select streaming services and/or iTunes or similar passes for THAT show(s). Jump in at opportune times, quickly watch all episodes of "must see" show(s), then jump back out again to minimize the subscription cost.

Lastly, if your situation is really that you want to keep cable but don't want to pay as much for it, FIGHT for better rates either by quitting, waiting 30 days and then getting the "new subscriber" offers or by threatening to cancel with competitor offers and being prepared to actually do it. With so much free on Pluto, Stirr, Over the Air, quitting cable for 30 or so days is not exactly difficult anymore. Find the amount of time they will invite you back with new subscriber rates and then come back at much lower rates. I simply FIGHT every year with the threat of quitting them for competitors and generally get close to new subscriber rates every year. Should they ever call my bluff, I'll simply walk. Competition is gooooooooooood. Consumers flexing competitive options is the way to police pricing robbery. Our part of making a Capitalism system work is striving for the most value for our money, not just rolling over and paying whatever sellers want to charge.

And within the Channels option, you can get your own "cable box" too with HDHomeRun Prime which leans on cable card. Cutting leases for rented boxes makes a big difference in total cable bill too. I use Prime with Xfinity so I have no box lease fees. Channels serves up the "must have" cable channels mixed right in with over the air + Pluto + Stirr, all in one guide. I use Channels options to create custom channel lists to basically ignore the fluff channels and only display the favorite channels in the order that I would like them displayed in the guide. I set the same up for other members of the household so that their favorite channels are grouped together in the order they want.

I purchased my own modem too to get rid of THAT Xfinity rental fee too.

Flex your consumer muscles to get what you want. Else, you have plenty of good options besides only season pass options.
 
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ftaok

macrumors 603
Jan 23, 2002
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I haven't followed this space in a long time, but if most of the shows are on the OTA Networks and you have the capability of pulling the signal over an antenna, you could get most of your shows for free, using an ATSC DVR. You'll either need a dedicated device, or an ATSC tuner and an app for your Mac/PC. It may or may not integrate your recordings into your AppleTV, but there are other apps that could work.

A few years back when I was looking at this, there was an iOS/AppleTV app called Channels and it would work with a device called the HDHomeRun. The HDHomeRun is an ATSC/QAM tuner that allows you to use your computer as a DVR. I guess you could combine that with a NAS on your network and use an app like Plex or Infuse to access it on your AppleTV.
 
ftaok, Channels runs just fine on AppleTVs (and iDevices too), leveraging HDHomeRuns to convert over-the-air signals (or cable signals via Cablecard in HDHomeRun Prime) into streams recordable with Channels DVR and/or "watch live" via the app. No need for Plex or Infuse unless someone wants to use those other options too.

And yes, some NAS boxes- like Synology- can run the Channels DVR app so that that part of things can be pretty much detached from home computers.

Incidentally, I just upgraded one of my HDHomeRuns to their FLEX 4K version so that I can pull in the latest ATSC 3.0 signals (capable of 4K over the air). Just like any other HDHomeRun, it scanned right into the Channels "Sources" list too and works just fine.

Channels is the most-used app on AppleTVs in my home. In effect, it transforms AppleTV into a quality TIVO DVR-like cable and over-the-air box for each television and works very well. Since it runs in browser on Macs and via dedicated app on iDevices too, every screen in the house can become a television, record shows and/or watch anything that is DVR'd.
 
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