Posts Tagged ‘OTA’

Every day you hear and read about cord cutters and how happy they do not have to pay for cable TV. Whoops! They still have to pay for internet access, which makes sense. When you think that most people leave their TV’s on for the noise factor even when they are not watching but listening to TV; streaming content is the de facto standard of video delivery. What most people do not think about is the cable companies realize what’s coming and have postured themselves to never having to reduce revenue. How can that be?

Easy. There are three elements to the “bundle” package most people subscribe to with their cable company. Phone, TV and internet. As the demand for 40 good channels on cable, they end up paying over $200 a month for those channels, a phone (which is becoming more irrelevant due to cell phones) and the ubiquitous internet connection.

If you look at any cable TV companies web site, they offer internet only services for around $50 a month. Wow. That’s a lot for something that just sits there until you use it. And you’re right. Where there is competition and adequate regulation you can get faster internet for about half the price if you lived in Europe or Asia.

As people look to dump the TV part of their package, they find that they still pay a high amount to stay in the internet streaming game. Add to that that companies like Comcast are starting to limit the amount of data you can use each month with your internet connection, we are headed right back to where we started. Comcast is offering an unlimited internet connection in markets with data limits (like your cell phone data plans) for an additional $30 a month. $50 + $30 = $80, ouch!

So let’s look at online streaming. First, there is no one content provider that offers you all your local stations and a few more. There is no one out there that can put this simple package together. Then you have to pay another $30 on top of the $50 for internet connections, because streaming all day will bust your monthly cap.

Should you decide that you can change your viewing habits (yeah right) you could still cut the cord and have almost everything you have today regarding TV content. Moving to an over the air option (OTA) gives you FREE local TV in 1080p HD.

Let’s compare OTA to the “bundle” and see:

Now Instead try this:
Cable provided phone Cell phone
Cable channels A regular in attic TV antenna
Cable DVR Tablo DVR

It’s really not that hard to make the switch if you change your “viewing habits”. I used to record 6 or 7 shows I loved and went crazy finding the time to watch it all. So I stopped watching all of them and spent time with my wife and dog every day doing stuff. Real life stuff. You can do this too.

It is true not everyone can put an antenna in their attic or on their roof and get a good TV signal, but it doesn’t cost much to try. There is also websites you can search for that can tell you before you spend any money on an antenna (ex. http://antennapoint.com/).

Tablo.tv makes great DVR’s to hook your antenna to and record all your favorite shows.

This approach leaves you with only a monthly internet bill much lower than you pay now for the “bundle”.

Let’s look at some numbers:

Cable Bundle Number of Channels Internet, TV, Phone Cable Boxes 1DVR & 2 Boxes Taxes & Fees Monthly Total
Introductory Price 400  $              89  $               25  $   20  $        134
Normal Price  $            225  $               25  $   20  $        270
     
     
Cable Internet Only 0  $              50  $                –  $   12  $          62
Streaming content        
Sling TV 23  $              29  $                –  $    –  $          29
Netflix 1  $              12  $                –  $    –  $          12
Amazon 1  $              12  $                –  $    –  $          12
Monthly  $        385
One Time Cost  $           –  
Over the Air Live TV Number of Channels Internet, TV, Phone Cable Boxes 1DVR & 2 Boxes Taxes & Fees Monthly Total
Antenna 20-40 $50 – $100  $                –  $    –  $           –  
DVR (Tablo & Roku 3 TV’s) $550  $                –  $    –  $           –  
Phone (Use cell phone) $0  $                –  $    –  $           –  
Internet only $50  $                –  $    –  $          50
Monthly  $          50
One Time Cost  $        650

Take a few minutes and think about how much TV is a part of your life and the money you spend on video content. Then decide. Good luck.

Homemediaguy

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Theverge.com has a Cord cutting calculator they published this week (http://www.theverge.com/a/online-tv-stream-price-guide) that lets you see what channels you get and how much their respective services cost. It’s real handy to determine which provider CBS all access, HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue) gives you what you really want to watch. I have included screen shots below.

Blog Amazon Services w Price 031915 Blog CBS Services w Price 031915 Blog HBO Now Services w Price 031915 Blog Hulu Plus Services w Price 031915 Blog Netflix Services w Price 031915 Blog Playstation Vue Services w Price 031915

Homemediaguy

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One of the most annoying aspects of IPTV is when you are watching a movie and all of a sudden you see a message that says “reestablishing connection” or your TV screen turns black with a progress bar showing that your movie is reloading. This terrible event is called buffering. It doesn’t matter if you are using a computer, Roku box or any other IP device to get your content. And to top it off sometimes the progress bar gets stuck and you have to restart the movie. UUUGGGHHH!!!

There are a number of factors that contribute to buffering. They can be divided into two categories. The first category includes items you can control. That is your home network. The second category includes everything that you may influence but cannot control.

What you can control – Your Network

WIFI vs. Cat 6 direct connection to your router:

WIFI has about half the speed a direct connection with a network cable has. It is recommended that you use newer router meeting the “802.11n” standard. Run a test. Using your browser go to http://www.speedtest.net/ and run a speed test if you are using a computer, which will tell you what your actual upload and download speeds are at the time of the test. Rerun this test just before you start your movie and you will see it may be different depending on the time of day and day of the week. Run this test using our WIFI connection and again with you network cable connection. If you have a Roku box, there is a speedtest channel you can get for free that will give you the same information from your Roku box (see screenshot below). Roku and Netflix offer the following as a guide for video content:

  • 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
  • 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
  • 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for DVD quality (Roku HD quality)
  • 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
  • 7.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Super HD quality
  • 12 Megabits per second – Recommended for 3D quality

I recommend 3.0 Megabits per second as an acceptable minimum. My test results from my wireless computer are shown below. Keep in mind that this test gives you an average over the time the test was performed. I would add a 20% safety margin onto the numbers. So my numbers would be 99.2 download and 154.4 upload. The screen below shows speeds from my laptop computer with a wireless connection. As you can see, I don’t have a speed problem.

Speedtest PC

If you are using a computer to get video to your TV directly with an HDMI cable:

  • Make sure hardware acceleration is shut off
  • Make sure no other software is using up your bandwidth. Programs such as anti virus, or background processes can eat up band width.

Now take a look at the next picture and you will see the upload and download speeds using the Speedtest channel on my Roku 3 device. Note they are significantly lower than my laptop.

Speedtest Roku Screenshot

You should also note that there are multiple results displayed. I would note the slowest download speed of 1.34 Mbytes/sec and 2.27 Mbytes/sec which may give you some buffering. However the slowest speeds were the initial ones. I should be OK with not having buffering issues due to my network or equipment.

Once you have checked your equipment and connection speeds there is not a whole lot left to adjust on your end. One thing to keep in mind though is that if you are streaming different content to you TV’s you need to understand that each stream requires the same 3.0 Mbytes/sec of bandwidth.

Also keep in mind the bandwidth tests you ran are specific to the time of day and day of week you ran the test.

You should not have to check your network or calculate movie file sizes to enjoy streaming movies at home. So the simple steps are:

  1. Check your PC to make sure no spyware, or other applications are running that use bandwidth.
  2. Run Speedtest to make sure you have at least 3.0 Mbytes/sec of bandwidth to your device (Roku, PC, etc.)
  3. Make sure no one else at home is streaming anything

Once you have done all that and you still get buffering, it is most likely coming from the source (the website providing the video). Remember that at the source end, different videos can reside on different servers. So if there are a ton of people hitting the same server your movie is on, then you may have problems.

There is no gauge, guide or indicator that shows you on screen or otherwise how hard a providers server is getting hit; and it can vary over the length of a 3 hour movie. That is why buffering is so hard to avoid. There is an alternative to streaming that most people will not run to right away. That is to host your own movies on a media server at home. Acquiring all the movies you want to watch (many only once) is not an option for everyone.

How can you stop or minimize buffering?

  1. If your network is running properly you might be able to adjust your resolution from 1080p to 720p
  2. Connect your streaming device (PC or Roku) to your router with a CAT 6 cable
  3. Watch streaming content when there is less load on the providers servers (early in the day)

By the way if you are ready to jump into 4K quality content, remember 4K consumes twice the bandwidth of 1080p HD.

Also keep in mind that video content streaming over the internet is at its infancy. Adjusting your expectations for occasional buffering vs. a ton of commercials may be a new acceptable standard. Also remember that content providers server demand and bandwidth is right now the biggest factor in causing buffering. Pick your streaming sources carefully and keep score of which content providers have more buffering than others.

How do you calculate how much bandwidth you need for video streaming?

Suppose the video you’re streaming is one hour long, and the file size for that video is 6 GB. While a broadband connection of up to 10 Mbps lets you easily stream a lot of video content online, you’ll want 15 Mbps or more for this six-gigabyte HD video. Here’s a quick look at the math:

  • Approximate megabytes: 6 GB = 6,144 MB (1 GB = 1024 MB)
  • Approximate megabits: 6,144 MB = 49,152 Mb (1 byte = 8 bits)
  • Number of seconds per hour calculation: 60 x 60 = 3,600
  • Megabits per hour calculation: 49,152 / 3,600 = 13.65 Mbps

When you’re streaming HD content, also consider whether the connection jumps over a wireless router. If so, note that the connection speed could drop over the connection if the WiFi standard isn’t fast enough. You’ll want to avoid slower 802.11b connections, and the newest 802.11n is the ideal choice to keep up with faster broadband services. I got this information from Howstuffworks.com (http://bit.ly/1A69R5I).

As the personal media and IPTV industry starts to mature, there is always hope that we can migrate away from computers that boot up and require updates to something more sexy like the Roku box solution. Seagate has just taken a major step for those who want to watch their movies, pictures, or home recorded video anywhere and share with anybody.

Seagate has just come out with a line of Personal Cloud Home Media Storage devices that include an operational Plex media server. Holy Cow Batman! That’s right. You now do not need a full blown PC to run Plex at home. The best part is the basic unit is scheduled to retail for $170 (3 TB device). Cheaper than a decent tablet. Are they nuts? No they are smart. The future for home media consumption should not require a PC or daily maintenance and having to worry about viruses. It should be simple and reliable. Like the complementary Roku and Tablo devices are designed to be.

In addition to the Plex capability, you also have your own personal “private” and “secure” cloud storage capability without having to rely on some big corporation peeking into what you store on their cloud storage services.

So click on the link (http://www.seagate.com/products/network-attached-storage/home-network/personal-cloud) to check out this really cool non-PC Plex and cloud storage solution.

Homemediaguy

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Tablo is well known as the go to company for over the air DVR solutions. They offer two devices which can allow you to record and watch up to 4 channels simultaneously. At the big consumer electronics show this year they introduced a new feature sorely missing from many solutions. Antennas. That’s right plural. The new Tablo “Metro” comes with two antennas and has the ability to pull signals from two separate broadcast antennas up to 25 miles away (http://www.cnet.com/products/nuvyyo-tablo/). The results are broadcast images better than Aereo and Simple.TV. The device sells for a little over $200. A steal to get live HD local programming with DVR capabilities. Tablo has a program guide for $5 a month but you can just knock that off the $200 a month you pay for cable.

Add a Roku box to each TV to tie into the Metro box and you are up and running. Add a number of FREE Roku movie channels like “Directors Cut”, “Archive TV” and a half a dozen others and you won’t miss cable.

homemediaguy

Youtube: http://bit.ly/1xXdbUd

There are two ways to find the antenna that will get you FREE local HD reception. The easy way. Go to Best Buy and spend a few bucks on an indoor antenna and try it. If it doesn’t work take it back for another one. If you have only two or three TV’s, buy one antenna for each to find out what channels you receive. Let’s say you get all the channels you want but also need a DVR. Simple, jump down to the section in this blog entry called “Can’t Live Without a DVR!”.

The second way to install an antenna, is doing some homework and fine tuning your TV reception with the best antenna for your location; which may cost the same as the easy way method. These are usually installed in your attic or outside.

But first, go to http://antennaweb.org and fill out a form with only two pieces of information. You will then find out what the signal strength is at your location for Over the Air (OTA) TV. The results come back using green, yellow and red codes (see below). Click on one of the sponsored antenna suppliers and click on the color you want (number of stations).

You will be directed to a specific antenna you can buy. HOWEVER, click on the specifications tab and print it out.

Antenna Selection

Legwork

With the specifications you got, you can find any number of manufacturers who meet the same specification. Yes, it takes time and effort, but don’t forget, you will save a couple hundred bucks a month!

Can’t Live Without a DVR!

No problem. Go to www.tablo.tv and buy a DVR that hooks up to your antenna and uses WIFI and Roku boxes to distribute your recorded shows to all your TV’s. You will need one Roku box for each TV. The Tablo box cost $200. The cost of one month of cable.

Final Note

If you buy a whole house antenna using method 2, you will have to install it in your attic or outside. The connection to your cable wires in the house will be at the cable company box. There may be an additional connection in your attic. Check before you go buy all this stuff so you know what to do when it gets to your home.

Happy cord cutting.

Homemediaguy

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Stay tuned for my new YouTube channel coming soon.

I know folks its hard to believe. How bad to you want to dump cable? Willing to spend a few bucks risk-free to see if this option will work for you? Why not? I post different ideas on how to dump cable and each of them costs something different. This option is the cheapest one I know except for buying an outside antenna and getting 22 channels.

Step 1: Buy a Roku box for less than $100

Step 2: Buy the entire Playon.tv package for $50 and install on a PC. This will give you basic cable, Hulu (standard definition) and more. You get 30 days free to see if you like it. Also make sure you use a newer PC. All PC processors (chips) have a rating. If you want to stream video over the internet without buffering or other transmission problems you want to make sure the processor in the PC can handle the video stream so you are not calling tech support alot. If you click on your Windows Start button then put your mouse over “Computer”. Then right click and click on “Properties”. The screen that pops up will tell you the chip that you have in the “Processor” section. Write down what you see there.

 PC Processor Menu Selection for processor typePC Processor Type for cpubenchmark

Then go to http://www.cpubenchmark.net and click on “search for your CPU model”. When the page pops up “DO NOT PERFORM A SEARCH”. Unless you type the exact character string to match thier list, nothing comes up. Look down the list and find your processor. The first column to the right is the “Passmark CPU Mark”. If your CPU is over 1,000 your streaming should be pretty solid. Keep in mind bandwidth, RAM and other stuff may impact your video quality. But if your CPU is over a 1000, give it a try. You get 30 days free with Playon.tv. 

CPU Benchmark 1308
Happy viewing.

Bill, home media guy

 

 

We all hate paying crazy monthly fees just to watch TV. Our parents and grandparents watched TV for free with a set of rabbit ears. They only had half a dozen or so channels, but there was always something good on TV. Well guess what? Despite cable and satellite companies efforts to lock us into bundled plans with not a lot of value, there are alternatives that at most will take you a few hours to implement.

I am reviewing two internet options and one OTA option. They all have DVR capabilities and no monthly fees. Best of all, the programming is all HD. These options will bring you 22 or 23 HD local channels to your living room. Playon.tv also has additional basic cable channels for no additional cost.

Playon.tv (www.playon.tv)

This company is the stealth leader in bringing local TV and basic cable to your home. I say they are the stealth leader because you do not see major internet publications espousing their value proposition to the world every day. What you hear about most is the cool hardware offerings that without content are worth nothing. So what is Playon.tv? They provide you with a PC/MAC based software package that resides on your media server at home. The server needs an HDMI port to your TV, and can be a repurposed old desktop or laptop computer. You load their software and set it up and you are ready to go.

Playon.tv also has DVR capability called Playlater and even a browser add-on called Playmark that lets you select streaming media from anywhere on the web (including foreign programs if not geo blocked) to watch and record.

One of the compelling reasons you might want to select this solution is that all three products, Playon, Playlater and Playmark with local programming and basic cable stations (over 90), is available for a onetime payment of $60. You can’t be that with a stick.

To watch all that programming in all the rooms of your house, and to not spend all day in front of a computer, you can interface with the Playon.TV products with a Roku box and its simple remote.

Aereo (www.aereo.com)

This company broke the mold in terms of trying to solve the problem of local programming available over the internet. Aereo provides 22-23 channels of local programming (select major US markets) accessible through a Roku box or similar device directly to your TV. They charge your $7.99 a month to access an OTA antenna that is geographically in your TV market area. That’s it. Nothing else to do. Sign up for the service, load the app on your Roku box, and watch local TV programs. Aereo also provides cloud based DVR services for no additional cost.

Hauppauge (www.hauppage.com)

This international company has been around for a while. They make hardware (USB based and PC cards) that allow you to provide TV programming from your cable provider or an HD antenna. Some of the HD antennas available by third parties look just like the antennas your parents had on the roof of their house. It may take you an hour or two to properly install and align an indoor/outdoor antenna and connect the cable to the same entrance connection used by your current cable TV provider.

Their USB product, the HVR 950Q, allows you to watch local HD TV in your home. Plug the USB stick into the back of your media PC and screw in your existing cable from your cable box at the TV. Hauppauge also has a software companion for their products which manages your TV guide, recording and playback features called WinTV. To extend your viewing capabilities to hand held devices they have a remote viewing application is called ‘WinTV Extend’. Hauppauge, like Playon.tv charge you only one time. The USB stick with the applications is around $100.

When you get tired of paying for programming you don’t need or want, spend a few minutes on line and decide for yourself if any of these alternatives will work for you.