What’s it like to cut the cord from pay TV? What’s working, what’s missing, and what kind of equipment does the best job of replacing the cable box? In our weekly Survival Story series, we’re asking cord cutters to tell us about their experiences. This week’s featured cord cutter is Carlos Perez, who watches all the sports he wants without paying for cable.
I’ve been enjoying my new TV experience for the past four months. I’m a big sports fan and watch a movie on the weekends and the occasional TV show every now and then. I watch all major leagues: NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA Football and Basketball and the MLS. Here is how:
NBA I was very disappointed with the US NBA League Pass Broadband service. Most of the good games are blacked out (those broadcast on TNT, ESPN, ABC and NBA.TV), and let’s not forget about the local market blackouts. I’m a big Celtics fan living in San Diego so blackouts don’t really apply to me, although games on major networks could affect me. Games blacked out can’t even be watched as a replay. Moreover, the streaming quality is standard definition, but it won’t fill your screen thanks to a score bar that covers 20 percent of the video. As a fan, it was better than nothing, as having the Celtics game through my cable provider would be much more expensive (having to pay the monthly subscription + NBA League Pass).
During the holidays I went overseas, and NBA.com had a trial offer for the International League Pass Broadband Service. It turns out that International League Pass is the service I (and many others) would expect from a league like the NBA. The broadcasts are in pure HD (up to 3Mbps), the scores are hidden and there are no bars blocking your video. It is the real deal. However, it’s not possible to use it in the States. The difference between U.S. and International was so huge that even though I bought the full season of NBA League Pass I decided to buy the International edition as well. I pay for a VPN service that allows me to watch this content by letting me have an IP of another location (Europe, or another US city).
NCAA ESPN3.com is no secret to any sports fan. The streams are somewhere between SD and HD. If the college game is not on ESPN3.com, it’s not relevant or available on public broadcast.
MLB It probably has the most advanced streaming service on the Internet. Audio and away broadcasts, pure HD streams, available on almost any device and so forth. The price is right too. If you are able to avoid the blackouts of your favorite team, it really can’t get any better. Although I’m a Red Sox fan I use my VPN service to have access to my local team, the Padres.
MLS Yes, even the MLS. The broadcasts service is as good as the NBA International League Pass.
NFL Most games are available on public broadcasts channels. If you have not noticed, local channels (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX) are carried for free by all cable providers in HD. I subscribe to Cox in the San Diego area and only have Internet access, but can watch 8 unscrambled channels in HD (the same I would get with an antenna).
The rest I alternate between Hulu Plus and Netflix depending on my mood. Right now I’m subscribed to Hulu Plus to watch Family Guy and other TV shows every now and then; I use the Hulu Desktop application, which is phenomenal. For movies, I usually rent from Vudu and watch it through their excellent Boxee app. From Boxee I can watch and stream TV shows. For example, TBS has ad-supported streams of their TV shows, including Seinfeld!
I don’t know how much I would have to pay the cable company to have access to all this, not only special subscriptions for sports seasons, but also many channels I do not watch. It would be a lot. My ‘entertainment’ bill is $26.00, and this includes MLB.tv, NBA League Pass, MLS, Hulu Plus (or Netflix) and my VPN service.
I have a dedicated computer connected to my HDTV (I bought a screenless MacBook on Craiglist for $210). I access my content using my Apple Remote (I take maximum advantage of it using Remote Buddy, it’s worth the price). I also use Rowmote on my iPhone, it has an air mouse and virtual keyboard feature, which are very useful to access streams only available through a browser (NBA, MLS). And sometimes I connect through VNC from my main computer to control the screen of my TV-MacBook.
I don’t mind paying for what I want, as long it is at the right price. At the end of the day, I have way more content with the same quality for less. It does require an initial investment (buying the computer) but it will get paid off in less than a year or even less depending on your cable TV bill. The only thing I don’t have access to is SportsCenter, but I have access to all the games.
Carlos Perez is a telecomm engineer living in San Diego, California. You can follow him on Twitter @CarlosJPG. The views expressed in this guest column are entirely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of GigaOM. His story should not be understood as a how-to. Using a VPN service may violate the terms of service of some online video offerings. Please also check with your cable company on its policies about accessing OTA content as part of your Internet subscription before doing so.
Want to ask Carlos a question? Then fire away in the comments! Send us an email to cordcutters (at) gigaom.com if you have a survival story of your own to share, and please also check out the most recent episode of our weekly web series Cord Cutters: