cancelling spectrum and moving to hulu tv

After I got the refunds I could for the Spectrum carriage “disagreement” with Disney, I looked into online tv. I do want “cable” in that I want the lots of channels and live tv. And I want a DVR. However, I don’t need physical cables or a box in my house. After watching *a lot* of tennis on ESPN vs YouTube TV, I learned the bandwidth I have is just fine for internet tv.

Cancelling Spectrum

Spectrum has a nice gimmick where you have to speak to the retention department to cancel. Who doesn’t seem to answer the phone. I waited on hold for 30 minutes. At that point, I looked online and saw you can cancel in the store. If you cancel on the phone, you can return the box at any UPS store. If you cancel in person, it obviously has to be a Spectrum store. Given that both are walking distance and the Spectrum store is literally across the street from the UPS store, I went in person.

First, I cancelled autopay online and paid my final bill. I didn’t trust them not to bill me. Then I went to the store. I was in there for under 5 minutes. I even got a paper receipt that I cancelled. I got an email a few hours later titled “Confirmation of Your Disconnection Request”. It told me to be sure to return my equipment to the UPS store which was funny because I had already handed it into Spectrum and had a receipt.

Choosing a new TV provider

While I read up a bunch, I found CNet’s comparison to be most useful. It shows which channels you get on each service for Philo vs. Sling TV vs. Fubo vs. Hulu vs. YouTube TV vs. DirecTV. I wanted local channels. I do have an over the air antenna, but I record a lot so want it integrated. That narrowed it down to Fubo, Hulu + Live Tv and Youtube TV. All three are roughly the same price. (Within a few dollars and prices change regularly). I liked Hulu + Live TV’s lineup better. I also had a bias against YouTube TV as Google already knows so much about me. I also like that Hulu + Live TV gives you Hulu/Disney+ with ads for a dollar more. It also includes ESPN+ with ads but I’m a very “only watching ESPN during US Open season person).

The only channel I watch that Hulu + LIve TV doesn’t have is BBC America. Given that I only watch Doctor Who, I can buy/watch that standalone when the time comes. I think Amazon Prime has it either free or paid to which I already subscribe.

The nice thing about online tv is changing is easy when the time comes.

Hulu + Live TV is $50 for the first three months (if you sign up before Oct 11). It goes up to $77 if you sign up starting Oct 12 or after the three month promotional rate expires. It’s a dollar less a month if you only want Live TV. I think a dollar a month is worth it!

Setting up the smart tv

Scott advised me to set my smart tv to app only mode which gives less recommendations. There’s still one, but at least I’m not swimming in them. I also turned off google assistant and some other settings.

Setting up the DVR

Programming the DVR pretty much requires a computer/tablet/smart phone. I’m using my iPad. It’s not TV remote friendly. Which is fine.

I strongly dislike the built in program guide so I’m continuing to use Zap2It’s guide in Spectrum mode. When I see what I want to record, I search for the show by name on the app my iPad and record the series. (There doesn’t seem to a way to advance by day on the Hulu program guide.)

Another limitation is that the Hulu DVR doesn’t allow you to see a list of what you have are recording in the future. So you have to search again for the show to see if it is in record mode. The only saving grace is that it is easy to watch and episode you forgot to record by going to the show and viewing episodes. I suspect I’m going to miss a few as I get used to this! (Only one so far)

Another difference is you have to watch within 90 days of last airing. This is good for me as I tend to be a DVR packrat.

Fast forwarding

No issues fast forwarding through commercials. A little box appears with what the “future” state is (vs on the full screen), but it wasn’t bad to time

Opening the Hulu app

Most of the time, the app opens just fine on my SmartTV. Maybe 10% of the time, it reads me a message about not having an internet connection. It has always worked on the second attempt and pressing enter is enough to trigger that second attempt.

Opening on my laptop

There’s no Mac app and Hulu needs location data to open. I decided to use Chrome (not my main browser) so I don’t have to allow anything in Safari location services access. Chrome does let me enable location services for just the one domain which is nice.

Overall impressions

I’m happy with Hulu + Live TV so far. I’ve been using it for just over two weeks. I like not having a piece of flakey equipment. (I’ve had to exchange the Spectrum box a number of times and lost stuff on the DVR each time.) I also like that I can watch on any device so I don’t have to be near the tv. (to be fair, I think Spectrum had that feature too, but I never tried it)

spectrum/charter and disney/espn

Customer support troubles

This has not been a good week for Spectrum/Charter and ESPN. I’ve been having trouble for months getting CW (ch 11) to come in on my cable box. After unsuccessfully troubleshooting over the phone, they advised me to bring in the box and exchange it. I had a lot on the DVR and don’t watch CW often. (one show I think) And it does work when watching the show on demand so I’ve been doing that. All the other channels I watch come in just fine.

Monday (the first day of the US Open) I learned ESPN has the same problem. Ok then. Time to say goodbye to what is on the DVR because I definitely want to watch live tennis. I brought the box to the Spectrum store and explained the problem. They asked when ESPN last came in. Eleven and a half months ago :). CW was more recently. They were out of boxes but getting more in the next day so they advised me to come back.

I plugged the box back in figuring I’d watch some DVR stuff. All the channels came in including CW and ESPN. So the problem was a lose coaxial cable. This should be in the phone troubleshooting checklist.

Charter/Disney dispute

On Thursday night, I was watching tennis on ESPN(2) and it suddenly went out due to the Disney/Charter lack of carriage agreement. Since I was out all day Friday and going to the US Open in person Friday night, I figured I’d wait until Saturday to deal with this.

Attempt number one – EPSN+

I paid $10 for a month of ESPN+. You can watch all the outer court matches but not the ones on Armstrong/Ashe. I’ll probably watch some of these since I paid for it. (ex: when show courts are on break), but this doesn’t solve my problem. I really want to watch ESPN

edit: I saw on social media that you can contact espn+ support and get your money back. I did this on website chat. It took about 10 minutes of waiting in the queue and then about 5 mins of chatting. They were nice about it. I guess this happens a lot. Or at least a lot this week at a time Disney/ESPN wish to be seen as the good guys!

Attempt number two – YouTube TV

YouTube TV has a 21 day free trial. Which includes ESPN and ESPN 2. I set that up on my TV and am now watching ESPN.

YouTube TV is cheaper than cable. But I’m not a fan of telling Google everything I watch. I’m ok with them knowing I like tennis. They know that anyway. My US Open tickets are in my gmail. So YouTubeTV meets my requirements for the week.

Ten year anniversary of a contract dispute affecting the US Open

Back in 2013, when the US Open had some matches on CBS, I also couldn’t watch the USOpen using paid tv. Conveniently, CBS is free network TV so I pulled out my old antenna then and was fine.