Finding a Cable Alternative

Dumping DIRECTV for Tivo

Guest post by Chris Sully

Tivo Premeire


About this time last year I decided that enough was enough!  The latest DIRECTV bill had arrived and I opened it to find yet another price increase.  I looked back at some old paperwork and found that my monthly bill had ballooned from $51 (May 2002) to over $112 (May 2010).  Sure, I had added a second TV and DVR to my package, but a 220% increase!  Compound that with the fact that my beloved TiVo DVR had been replaced with a horrible DirecTV DVR somewhere along that 8 year span and I simply couldn’t take it anymore.  I headed straight to Google and began to research my next move. It was time to cancel cable.


Research – The First Step to Cable Freedom

The idea of dumping cable simply scared me and completely frustrated my wife.  We are dedicated television and movie fans that spend at least 4 hours a day in front of our TV.  Her first reaction when I brought up canceling cable was not something I care to repeat in this article.  It was very clear that I would need to make a decision that would work for both of us, so I began to compare the options:

  • Season Passes – With DIRECTV gone, we would need a way to get our weekly fix of House, Supernatural, Smallville, Lost (remember this was last year) and all of our other favorite TV shows.  iTunes and Amazon both offered season passes for these shows, but when I did the math the results were scary.  The season passes would cost more than my monthly cable bill.  I would also need to purchase a device to stream all of this info and AppleTV was simply a myth at the time.
  • Home Theater PC (HTPC) – I could use my technical skills to build a home theater PC and download all of our favorite TV shows from the internet.  That would be great if it were only me, but my wife really isn’t all that technical and I could see this option requiring a lot of my time.  The savings were tempting, but it’s not worth the hassle.
  • Over the Air via Antenna – Since most of the shows we love are on broadcast television, this seemed like a great way to go, but we detest commercials!  A DVR would be an absolute necessity with this option, but that still leaves us in the cold on our favorite TV shows from SyFy, FX, HBO and the other cable networks.
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Sling Banner 2


TiVo to the Rescue

Of course!  It was about this time that the TiVo Premiere ( link) was released and information was flying around the internet about the latest DVR from the company that popularized it in the first place.  I began researching the new hardware and it was beginning to look like I had found the solution to my problems, but would it meet my checklist of demands and would it really end up saving me money?

  • Low Monthly FeeYES – My monthly subscription fee would be about $20 for both boxes
  • HD Capabilities – YES – Through the use of an HD antenna I could pick up all of the local stations in HD
  • Season Passes – YES – Via I could purchase shows that didn’t broadcast locally and download them to my TiVo Premiere (for an additional cost)
  • Sharing YES – Easily transfer recorded programs from one room to the next within seconds.  Pick up where you left off in the next room.  DIRECTV did not offer this at the time.
  • Expandable – YES – TiVo setup is easy. External hard drives could be added to the units to increase storage capacity.
  • Purchase Cost – YES – The purchase cost (at the time) was high but after doing the math I realized that it would still end up saving me a ton of money in the long run.

A Year Later – Did Dumping DIRECTV Really Work?

Here we are, almost a year later and I really could not be happier.  The TiVo units have performed almost flawlessly (meeting all of the requirements listed above) and there have been some added benefits to making the switch.

  • HD Awesomeness – As it turns out, over-the-air HD is actually better than the HD provided through any cable or satellite provider and I NEVER lost my signal!
  • Commercial Freedom – DVR units make it easy to skip commercials, but there is nothing like downloading an HD program from Amazon and putting the remote down.  HD quality and all of the commercials have been removed. Skipping commercials made Easy!
  • Netflix is Amazing – I already loved my Netflix Queue, but no other experience has touched the quality that is delivered to my TV by my TiVo Premiere.  I’ve tried XBOX 360 and the Playstation 3 and they did not compare.
  • TiVo Customer Service at its Best – A few months ago, my living room Premiere XL did crash.  It must have been from a power outage, but that didn’t matter to TiVo.  All it took was one phone call and a new unit was sent to my house in just a couple of days.  They stood behind their product and even credited me a month of my subscription cost for the trouble.   Side note: I have since added a UPS with battery backup and surge protection to prevent future issues.
  • The iPad App is Here – Just after the new year, the iPad app for TiVo was released.  I’ve used it a few times and it really enhances the TiVo experience.

If there was any debate that dumping DIRECTV was an option, I have three words for you “Just Do It!”


Additional Resources:

If you have a Media Center PC and are interested in building your own OTA DVR – check out “Using a TV Tuner Card to build a PC based DVR for Recording OTA Free TV”. If you want to learn more about the different TiVo options out there, click here to read their full product list overview; or get an in-depth overview of TiVo Roamio OTA by reading “Is TiVo Roamio OTA a True Cable TV Alternative?“. To see a full list of OTA DVRs, and to figure out which model is right for you, read Recording Over-the-Air Channels with a Set-top Box.


As always, comments are welcome and encouraged. Cheers!
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