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Cord-cutting/streaming TV apps, 1Q 2020 edition

jhaider

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#1
AT&T wants to raise my TV bill by $40 next month, so I’m looking at just keeping gigabit fiber from them (or switching to Google Fiber after the pandemic subsides) and going with streaming TV. Even for an A/V savvy person, streaming TV is very confusing landscape. Looking for recommendations.

Here are my priorities:
Must have “basic cable" channels:
-Locals (prefer not not mess separate OTA and streaming box, or buy a separate DVR just so we can fast forward through commercials on Colbert)
-AMC
-Comedy Central (this one seems oddly absent from streaming services, i.e. not on YouTube or Hulu)
-MSNBC

Must have features:
-AppleTV app, that works well with a Harmony elite remote for control
-DVR
-Commercial fast forward with some indicator of the content being skipped (i.e. to FF through commercials)

Strongly prefer to have features:
-≥5.1 channel audio
-4K resolution on relevant programming

Does anyone use a streaming service that fits the above and otherwise doesn't cause excessive hair-pulling because of stupid UI, bizarre DRM based restrictions, or other idiocies?

(Note: even if we do switch to Google Fiber, they no longer offer a standard TV STB. Streaming only.)
 

Blumlein 88

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#2
Youtube TV by far meets all your requirements best except they are mostly stereo no 5.1 channel. (they do have it for some on demand stuff).

I trialed it and picture quality was good, the UI is very good, you can skip commercials, the DVR is not far from having the real DVR in home though it is streamed.

Don't know about the Apple TV app, but you'll be able to tell easily enough.

What killed it for me was sound quality. I've a thread about it. Horrendous yucky sound. Not simply not good, but actively headache inducing bad. Apparently others didn't experience that so take it with a grain of salt. In any case, you can very easily do the one month trial free with all features.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...utube-tv-sound-quality-or-lack-thereof.10905/

Next best in my estimation is Sling TV followed by Hulu TV. But give Youtube TV a try first and see how the sound quality hits you.
 

Cahudson42

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#3
Possible partial pieces to your puzzle:
Local Channels:

1. If you live in a city served by LOCAST you can stream a selection of local Channels for $5/mo. (When I signed up). No DVR to my knowledge, but for another $5/mo you can watch your LOCAST channels via FITZY tv, and use their cloud DVR.
2. If no LOCAST (or even if it is available) reconsider going OTA for locals. With an old Windows notebook, a Silicon Dust Homerun Extend, and PLEX media server, it's not going to be too annoying for anyone frequenting ASR to setup a PLEX software DVR ($5/mo) - useable by any of your TVs, in-house or remote.

Core Streamer:
I use an Amazon Fire stick. Every app (including LOCAST, FITZY, and PLEX) run on it. Wife insists using ROKU on her 2016 ROKU tv. I'd avoid ROKU, and bite the Amazon Prime bullet instead. (I'm all Amazon and M$, only Apple is the $9 dongle:))

When you go Fire stick, free apps you might consider:
Kanopy (provides unlimited access to The Great Courses. Really great!)
Hoopla
Pluto tv (may have Comedy Central)

Pay - maybe look at the Sling packages (another possible way for locals perhaps - but I don't use or need Sling, so know nothing about it)
Netflix - the one 'expensive' general service I do use.
Criterion Channel - if you are, or want to consider, becoming a film buff. Sorta expensive. But if you are into TOHO Godzilla, Kurasawa, film 'classics' (a bit like AMC maybe, or TCM) - you can give it a trial

Good Luck!
 
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Webninja

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#4
Not sure one service can cover all your requirements, but Hulu+Live TV might fit what you’re looking for via Apple TV.

At one point Hulu would only do 4K via the TV and not the Apple box, but I think they fixed that last year.
 
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #5
Youtube TV by far meets all your requirements best except they are mostly stereo no 5.1 channel. (they do have it for some on demand stuff).
YouTube doesn’t have Comedy Central. Basically outside of NFL season we only watch 5 things on cable when we watch cable TV: Daily Show (CC), Colbert (CBS), SNL (NBC), Hayes and Dr. Maddow (MSNBC).

(As for NFL, I stream it already.)
 

BDWoody

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#6
OP
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #7
When you go Fire stick
Please read "Must have features" above. AppleTV seems the least intrusive in terms of spying, so that's what I will stick with. It's also convenient because we have MacBooks and iPhones. The 4k Roku has basically been idle since Amazon Prime Video finally introduced an AppleTV app.

But if you are into TOHO Godzilla, Kurasawa, film 'classics' (a bit like AMC maybe, or TCM) - you can give it a trial
I doubt we'll watch anything on AMC again until Better Call Saul's final season...
 
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #8
Youtube TV by far meets all your requirements best except they are mostly stereo no 5.1 channel. (they do have it for some on demand stuff).

I trialed it and picture quality was good, the UI is very good, you can skip commercials, the DVR is not far from having the real DVR in home though it is streamed.

Don't know about the Apple TV app, but you'll be able to tell easily enough.

What killed it for me was sound quality....
The trial is 2wks now.

What kind of center channel were you using? The sound definitely seems more mono than stereo, at least based on a brief sample of an earlier show on MSNBC and Chris Hayes now. It doesn’t sound terrible in stereo in my office, though my work Thinkpad has an insanely loud fan (can’t use personal Mac for client matters unfortunately) and I’ve been using speakers rather than headphones
 

Bcarroll

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#9
Been using at&t now for about 8 months on ipads, appletv, and a roku. It may check some of your boxes, don’t know about 5.1 though.
Started out at $50 / month, now it’s about $70. Still cheaper than direct tv for a comparable package. Includes all local atl channels, except pbs.
Stream quality is good enough, we won’t be going back to direct tv.
service includes 3 simultaneous devices, plus a dvr feature ( maybe 20 hours ).
BTW, enjoy your reviews.
bill in loganville
 
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #10
Been using at&t now for about 8 months on ipads, appletv, and a roku. It may check some of your boxes, don’t know about 5.1 though.
Started out at $50 / month, now it’s about $70. Still cheaper than direct tv for a comparable package. Includes all local atl channels, except pbs.
Stream quality is good enough, we won’t be going back to direct tv.
service includes 3 simultaneous devices, plus a dvr feature ( maybe 20 hours ).
BTW, enjoy your reviews.
bill in loganville
Thanks for the perspective - doubly so given it’s local! $70 for streaming would also be cheaper than my current U-verse package, and a lot cheaper than they want to charge me next month!

How does forwarding through commercials work? Is there some sort of preview.
 

Bcarroll

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#11
I’m not sure it’s possible with live tv, haven’t played with it.
I will give it a try and report back-
 
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #14
Update: did a trial of YouTube TV and a trial of AT&T Now. I wanted AT&T Now to win, because it has Comedy Central and includes HBO for $65/mo. It didn’t. No fast forwarding unless you’re watching a recorded show from your library! If you go to the live show it also doesn’t know you’re recording it. You literally have to click on the version in your library. Even then rewind/ffwd is super slow. Waiting 6-9s to jump ahead 15s is not acceptable. The kicker was today it said we have “network issues” (AT&T Fiber 1gb connection!) and kept resetting to the beginning of a show (All In with Chris Hayes). The AppleTV is hardwired in. When I ran SpeedTest on my Mac mini on the same switch, it was showing almost 800mbps and negligible latency. It wasn’t me...

I haven’t tried Philo but just signed up for a trial.

Worst case we could go YouTube+Philo+HBO and come out about where we are now cost-wise. If AT&T is willing to offer our current U-verse package at our current price or less it’s still the best fit for our actual use. But if they don’t, unless Philo’s Comedy Central is terrible I think three (ugh) streaming services is the ticket for us.
 
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rebbiputzmaker

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#15
YouTube doesn’t have Comedy Central. Basically outside of NFL season we only watch 5 things on cable when we watch cable TV: Daily Show (CC), Colbert (CBS), SNL (NBC), Hayes and Dr. Maddow (MSNBC).

(As for NFL, I stream it already.)
No love for Lawrence O'donnell and the last word?
MSNBC live stream?
https://www.msnbc.com/live
 
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #16
No love for Lawrence O'donnell and the last word?
I loved the West Wing :)

But no, we watch his show less regularly than Hayes or Dr. Maddow. On the wonk - to - hack continuum we’re pretty far on the wonk end, so Hayes and Dr Maddow > O’Donnell in our house.

If I get wind that he has a superior guest (e.g. Sen. Warren or my second favorite Congressperson, Rep. Katie Porter*) I might stick around.

live-streams imply watching when things air, with commercials. No time for that here!

*Rep. Porter is the smartest person in the House, but I still have to give my “favorite” nod to my own district’s Congresshero, Rep. John Lewis.
 

Blumlein 88

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#17
Update: did a trial of YouTube TV and a trial of AT&T Now. I wanted AT&T Now to win, because it has Comedy Central and includes HBO for $65/mo. It didn’t. No fast forwarding unless you’re watching a recorded show from your library! If you go to the live show it also doesn’t know you’re recording it. You literally have to click on the version in your library. Even then rewind/ffwd is super slow. Waiting 6-9s to jump ahead 15s is not acceptable. The kicker was today it said we have “network issues” (AT&T Fiber 1gb connection!) and kept resetting to the beginning of a show (All In with Chris Hayes). The AppleTV is hardwired in. When I ran SpeedTest on my Mac mini on the same switch, it was showing almost 800mbps and negligible latency. It wasn’t me...

I haven’t tried Philo but just signed up for a trial.

Worst case we could go YouTube+Philo+HBO and come out about where we are now cost-wise. If AT&T is willing to offer our current U-verse package at our current price or less it’s still the best fit for our actual use. But if they don’t, unless Philo’s Comedy Central is terrible I think three (ugh) streaming services is the ticket for us.
I think you can get a subscription to Comedy Central via Amazon Prime. It would allow on demand and live streaming. Then can you get everything else with Youtube TV allowing you to drop Philo? Or did I miss something? I know you can get HBO via Amazon as well though it is the same price either directly from HBO or Amazon.
 
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jhaider

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Thread Starter #18
I think you can get a subscription to Comedy Central via Amazon Prime
Thanks! I was unaware of that option. Will look into. Thanks to your post I also discovered Apple has a similar option. We have Prime, but I’d rather Amazon (and Google) harvest as little data on me as possible. Apple at least gives lip service to privacy.
 
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