My Experience Cutting the Cable Cord and switching to Youtube TV.

I like watching TV. There is no shame in that. But I have grown to hate cable TV companies. I’ve been OK with their services, but their constant price increases have just been too much. I can’t say how many times I’ve been promised a price would not increase for a period of time, only to see an increase in my bill shortly thereafter, and then another one, and then another . . .

But they had me. I only had a couple of reasonable options in my area, and they both did the same thing. For years, I’ve been forced to call them once a year to get another promo offer to keep my bills a little more reasonable. Then, last year when I made the call to Spectrum (my Cable company for several years), I was surprised when the person said there was nothing they could do for me. Yes, they couldn’t offer me any way of reducing my bill without reducing services. But I had looked at these options before, and the end result would still be paying a lot of money and not having the channels I wanted.

What has always irked me about the way cable companies do business is I don’t think it’s very good business in the first place. I was always fairly happy with the cable services I had. The only reason I switched was that they priced me out. Had they been reasonable with their price increases, I would probably never switch. I had been with Time Warner for more than 10 years (actually, I think it was more than 20). Then I switched to Uverse and was with them for at least 5 years, and finally Spectrum for another several years. So they could have been getting money from me for decades. They didn’t even need to be the cheapest, just reasonable. But they couldn’t do that. My guess is they assume they will make more money by overcharging those customers that won’t take the initiative to switch.

I experienced a similar approach of overcharging years ago when I registered my first website domain in 2000. Back then, I think it was $35 a year for a domain, and I don’t recall there were many other options. But in subsequent years, many more players entered into that market, and prices were reduced quite a bit. But my original registrar kept charging $35. I suspect they were probably selling under another name with a more competitive price, but they were going to keep overcharging their existing customers as long as they could get away with it. So that’s how they treat their existing customers. Again, if they were reasonable with their pricing, they would still be getting renewals from me.

Back to TV. I had looked at cord-cutting before, but I didn’t like the limitations of services at the time. As I said, I like watching TV, and I knew I could get many of the channels I wanted through alternate services, but I didn’t want to have to negotiate all these different services to just to get all the channels I wanted. Plus, I suspect the user interface(s) would not be to my liking. I liked the way Cable TV worked; I just didn’t like the way they did business.

So now, I was motivated to find an alternative to Cable, and fortunately, there were better services now available. So I signed up for YouTubeTV.  My main reason for choosing YoutubeTV above others was simply because I had been using Google FI for Cell service for several years, and it’s been a good experience. I don’t think they’ve ever raised their rates, or if they did, it was very minimal. So I had some level of trust in a service provided by Google.

With Youtube TV, I got a good selection of channels, including my local channels, at a fair price.

As a side note, when I called to cancel my Spectrum TV, they suddenly had a good offer available. But I was done with their games at that point. 

My Experience with Youtube TV.

I already had a smart tv that was capable of streaming YoutubeTV, but I had concerns about the user interface, and I wanted the best shot at a usable interface. So I ordered a Chromecast with Google TV HD streaming stick (as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases). It comes with its own remote control.

My main concern with streaming devices was I didn’t want to deal with cumbersome user interfaces. I wanted to be able to just turn on the TV and start watching. But I guess that is asking too much. I’m not a youngster, but I am tech-savvy. One thing I have learned over the years is that sometimes, a fancy new user interface is more cumbersome to use than an antiquated one. I first noticed that with business software many years ago. Originally, we were using mainframe systems with terminals (you may know them as Green Screens). There were no computer mice, only a keyboard, and you had to accomplish everything with keystrokes. Then came the wonderful Graphical User Interface (GUI) systems like Windows and Mac. And while they were more intuitive and easier to learn, from a productivity perspective, they were slow. When we had to do everything with keystrokes, we had to learn more, but once you know the keystrokes required to navigate the programs, you can do it very quickly.

But now, with our pretty GUI Interfaces and mouse, we would have to click this, then click that, then another, and so on. It was a lot slower.  Fortunately, there were some keyboard shortcuts that helped you move quicker, but people prefer to be slow and stupid, so they just point their mouse and click rather than learn shortcuts.

So what does this have to do with streaming TV? Exactly the same thing. As I said, I wanted to turn on the TV, and start watching. But with a smart TV and streaming service, you need to turn on the TV, then wait for it to boot up, then select a program from a series of Icons, possibly wait for that to boot up, then select a channel from a list just to start watching. Some services will at least remember the last channel you were watching and take you there quicker.

Well, the Chromecast stick I got was a little better. You turn it on with the included remote, and it turns on your TV at the same time. Then, you can set up one of the buttons for Youtube TV and just click that to get to Youtube TV, and it has the last channel you were watching ready to watch.

But then, when you want to change channels, you need to scroll through the channels in the guide, to select the one you want. Remember the old days when our remotes had numbers on them, and you could click a number and go directly to a channel? Well, you can’t do that anymore because “Streaming” doesn’t work that way. You honestly can’t expect these hip new streaming services to work like your grandpa’s TV, can you? I think this is how all the streaming services work, so it’s not a reflection of YoutubeTV. But come on; it’s not like the people designing these interfaces don’t know how a TV remote control has worked for 50 years. This is the exact same ignorance that gave us cumbersome GUI computer interfaces. I’m sure at some point, a streaming service will add functionality for “shortcuts” to channels on the remote, and they’ll call it “New”, and people will think it’s exciting until they realize they need to memorize the shortcuts, or worse yet, they need to set them up.

To be fair, there are features I like. The cloud-based DVR is nice. It didn’t take me long to put way more stuff on that than I’m able to watch (there is no storage limit). And I have access to it anywhere. I can set my favorite channels to appear at the top of the guide to make things a little easier. And, I can watch all the Youtube TV stuff on a computer screen. I think I can watch it on my phone too, but I don’t see why you would want to do that.

There isn’t exactly a “previous channel” button, but there is a top picks listing of channels that always seems to include the previous channel, so you can get back with a couple of clicks. Unless, the previous thing you were watching was something from the DVR, then you have to go all the way back and find it again. And the DVR (called your library) doesn’t have a lot of organization tools; if you get a bunch of movies in your library, there isn’t a great way to prioritize some of them to watch. There are a few sorting options, but they aren’t all that useful. Since there is no storage limit on what you record, you can end up with a lot of stuff, and it would be useful to have more tools to sort through all this stuff. And there are some idiosyncrasies to the DVR. You can’t set it to record just one episode of a show or only new episodes. If you add a show, it records everything (all episodes), and if there are any available on demand, it will list those as well. In fact, if there is a movie available on demand, it will show that in the library, but also record the movie every time it is available. That’s not a problem since they give you unlimited storage, but it seems a little wasteful. Now it does tell you if you have already watched it or not, which is handy.

It does have a search; in fact, with the Chromecast remote, you can use your voice to search. I haven’t played with that too much, so some of what I’m saying here may not be entirely accurate. It seems to search everywhere, so it will return things like Youtube Pay movies or Youtube videos when you are looking for something more specific. The pay videos have been a little problematic for me since I kept adding things to my library only to later find I would have to pay to watch them. I’m assuming it noted that when I added them, but it wasn’t significant enough for me to notice. Either that, or it was free when I added it and later turned into a pay item, but I have nothing to back that up.

Picture quality has been very good. I'm just using regular HD.