Craig Newmark Cuts The Cord

Dave Zatz —  November 5, 2018 — 21 Comments

You may recognize Craig Newmark as founder of the eponymous craigslist and noted philanthropist, but I know him as a TiVo aficionado and television buff… who just cut the cord and dropped the hardware DVR. Which reinforces for me that cord cutting isn’t always about saving a few bucks but, rather, convenience — including access to top shelf content… that doesn’t always originate via traditional channels.

Craig tells me he subscribes to a number of streaming services and picks up series here and there which, incidentally, is also how my household largely functions. He generally uses the native apps on his LG OLED but also periodically beams to a Chromecast Ultra given the convenient Google Assistant vocal control. For comparative purposes, the primary Vizio television in my home can be voice-controlled by both Alexa (decent) and Google (stellar) — and, as Craig suggests, both the space and our personal approaches are evolving.

21 responses to Craig Newmark Cuts The Cord

  1. I am in the process of switching to YouTube TV. But I find the forced use of VOD for ‘recorded’ shows based on the network a little annoying. But the savings makes up for it, so I am pot committed at this point

  2. I’m a tivo user who went to yttv a couple months ago. The forced vod is only on cbs and it’s affiliate channels. Everything else is no longer forced vod, as of a couple weeks ago. The switch has been great, but the usability isn’t Tivo. Telling everyone to hit the tivo butting, and there is everything you are looking for was great. Finding my recorded content, what did I watch already, what have I partially watched, marking things as watched, it’s all missing.

    Unlimited DVR, really nice. Not being able to record a specific time, not as nice. Monday and Thursday night football don’t have a show “name” so I can’t just record all those games without recording every NFL game that comes on tv.

    It’s getting better, and it has it’s advantages, and disadvantages. I also didn’t switch due to price, but due to Plex sucking so bad on Tivo, I started looking at driving everything through a Roku.

  3. Yeah, I feel like it will keep getting better. The price was the cable box charges that we really getting to be annoying.
    I noticed it on CBS and SyFy on Futurama repeats. Not sure who else may do it. Also I wish they had Nick and Comedy Central. But all life is a trade off and this was worth it

  4. Our TiVo is primarily a library of children’s content these days. But the Nick Jr ads are awful, which pushes us more towards the app. I think we only have one or two adult season passes these days (The Good Place) and pick up the occasional special event like Mickey’s 90th last night. Everything else is streamed – we have Hulu, Netflix, Prime, YouTube. And streamed to devices other than TiVo like Apple TV and Roku. We receive FiOS TV through our HOA and haven’t been forced to make a decision.

  5. I’m curious to read about the specifics that label Alexa’s voice control of your Vizio TV as merely “decent” whereas Google Home’s is “stellar.” I say this because my 2016 Sony Bravia TV has built-in Alexa Assistant support that works pretty well, whereas my Google Home doesn’t work nearly as well to control it. It feels decidedly half-baked. Which is baffling, considering this Sony is powered by Android TV!

    So, yeah, a head-to-head comparison on the specifics of this are interesting to me. It’s looking like my next bigscreen TV may be an LG or a Vizio, and these are the sorts of things that even in-depth reviews rarely dive into, or explore.

  6. Serious question – do any of the OTT services have the ability to pause/rewind live TV content?

    I have DirecTVNow, and that alone is a painfully missing feature. What did they just say? Oh let me see that play again real quick….nope. It’s like going back to before DVRs.

    If I’m watching any content that can be obtained OTA, the TiVo is still a BY FAR superior user experience for both watching live and recorded content. The skip feature alone is worth the price of the hardware.

  7. Bryan, no ‘skip’ on TiVo-ed Nick Jr content. ;) Pausing live TV varies by streaming service and their agreements with the various providers. Yours may be the least favorable.

    Josh, the Google integration is deeper as the television is basically a Chromecast endpoint. However, in practical terms, I usually only use voice (either service) to turn off the television or adjust the volume.

  8. I just keep wondering at what point does the need for numerous streaming services, on top of using an ISP add up to more than cable? I mean, yes, cable is expensive — but needing multiple services also adds up.

  9. Many cable customers, such as myself, already pay for them. If I want original Netflix content, I have to pay up. If I want YouTube without commercials, I pay up. I assume many cord cutters have exceeded their cable bills – however, the hardware is now under their control and they can toggle services on/off as needed without contracts, frustrating phone calls, etc.

    YouTube and Netflix and Prime are year round expenditures in my household, whereas we usually do Hulu a couple months at a time for something specific – bonus: Doc McStuffins! CBS is a frustrating outlier in all of this and with Disney preparing a service to launch next year, it’s going to get messier. Turns out bundles were a good thing ;) but so is freedom of choice.

  10. “Serious question – do any of the OTT services have the ability to pause/rewind live TV content?

    I have DirecTVNow, and that alone is a painfully missing feature. What did they just say? Oh let me see that play again real quick….nope. It’s like going back to before DVRs.”

    Absolutely agree. Even for on-demand I greatly miss these DVR features like fast forward and back (while still being able to monitor what’s going by on the screen), frame-at-a-time, ten second skip back, slow motion, etc. This is a big annoyance for me all the time, and an absolute show stopper when it comes to sports. Until the players/apps have these kinds of features, streaming/cloud/OTT is never going to replace a DVR with local storage for me.

  11. “Serious question – do any of the OTT services have the ability to pause/rewind live TV content?”

    Not sure exactly what you mean here. If I’m watching live tv on yttv I can hit pause. I can rewind just fine. My old roamio had 6 tuners, so if I changed to a channel that one of the tuners was already tuned to, I would have a built in 30 minute buffer. I don’t get that with yttv, but I can pause livetv. I gets wonky if you pause it for longer then the show goes for. So if it’s a 30 minute show, and you pause it, and come back 2 hours later, things can get messy. I don’t do it often, so although a terrible description, it’s about as accurate as I can get right now.

  12. @RPJ22: Exactly! Glad someone is on the same wavelength with me. Those are all the same reasons why the networked attached solutions like Amazon’s new box seem far inferior as well.

    @Dave, thanks, bummer on no skip for those shows! Skip works on pretty much all prime time things on the main networks and randomly enough, even on some syndicated re-runs like Seinfeld :)

    Based on what I can tell, any semblance of the “DVR experience” that the OTT providers may have, have all kinds of caveats, are clunky and laggy, or just don’t exist.

  13. I tried cutting the cord with Sling (with TiVo switched to OTA) for two months, but when Spectrum offered a deal to return, I practically danced a jig to their office. Cloud DVR vs local storage is like night and day, and it’s going to take a lot for me to give up the convenience of TiVo. Hopefully Spectrum Choice will stick around as it seems to be my only real lower cost alternative.

  14. @George

    That was exactly what I was asking. DirecTV now lets you pause for about 5 seconds and thats it. The information I found on Sling TV on this sounds like it has all sorts of caveats and is limited to certain channels and/or only shows that you have pre designated to record, not any live TV.

    It sounds like maybe YTTV lets you actually pause and rewind to some degree, but without the sophistication most have come to expect with native DVR hardware.

  15. I only use my TiVo to watch sports. Everything else I stream via my Apple TV. For me the reason is quality. Most shows look better streaming these days and sports look tbetter on the TiVo. I would gladly pay extra for ESPN HDR with Atmos sound, but most streaming sports has stereo sound and looks worse that cable.

  16. Lots of comments on the deficiencies of cloud ‘DVR’ which reminds me of those who suggested ‘DVR’ is a transitional device, including Anthony Wood – the guy who founded ReplayTV and now at the helm of Roku. I don’t DVR (verb) much these days. Instead, I more frequently grab series from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu. Commercial-free and no pre-planning.

    Live television is limited to sports (like Ben) or other events and news. Having said that, a live television buffer is pretty key to pick up missed dialog or take a bathroom break (or toddler redirection). We’re looking to move again and thinking about what we might do on the other side without a cable television subscription – Roku TV itself gives you a buffer for OTA:

    https://support.roku.com/article/115005649508-how-to-pause-live-television-on-your-roku-tv-

  17. @Dave That Roku live TV buffer option is actually fairly cool, and you may be able to get by with that as a TiVo replacement for the live OTA television watching. Does it give you a live guide, etc.?

    However, I think I still prefer the full featured experience you get with a one-time TiVo hardware purchase for OTA content.

  18. Manda said it best for me. I’ve tried Sling, DirecTVnow, OTA. Just give me the calble, a Tivo and I’m mostly happy. I use an Amazon Fire for the OTT stuff Tivo doesn’t provide.

  19. Dave, pairing an HDHomeRun OTA tuner with the Channels app on Apple TV (and other devices, I assume) lets you pause and rewind live TV. Trick play is very nice, even more responsive than my old Roamio OTA was. It’s a pretty generous buffer. Unfortunately, the program guide only goes 2-3 hours into the future, though. Still, it’s a good solution for me. Nice to have all my sources integrated together on the Apple TV. Would be even nicer if Apple’s upcoming redesign to their TV app would tie in live OTA TV functionality from network tuners (seriously, they could buy Channels for relative peanuts, I’m sure), although directly supporting OTA TV seems like a pretty un-Apple thing to do.

  20. @nashguy

    Good points. Do you find the responsiveness of channel surfing, pausing/rewinding etc. to be acceptable? My presumption with the networked attached solutions is that the a/v quality and responsiveness of the experience would take major hits.

    And you are right, Apple having an OTA solution would seem to fall into the overly complex realm of user experience that they would not want to deal with.

    TiVo frankly is the only one positioned to do everything right and have the one box to rule them all if they could offer a streaming bundle that could integrate along side OTA. But, as Dave has said, unfortunately they are too in bed with cable companies to offer something like that.

  21. I’m a long-time TiVo user, but I’m finding myself using my Apple TV more and more these days. I do prefer the ability to pause/rewind and skip past commercials, whereas watching certain things through the Apple TV might force me to watch a commercial.

    But I could probably live without the TiVo and cable TV subscription and save some money by just upping the Sling TV (or whatever) package I already play with (my cable TV package lacks ESPN and NFL Network, and there’s a rare occasion that a game was being broadcast on one of those channels).

    One concern though: If I go internet-only, don’t I have to worry about hitting Comcast’s monthly max bandwidth cap?

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