Cord-cutting, continued

Just to further the discussion, an update to my taking the plunge....

I think I mentioned in the previous post that I'd recently cut off DirecTV and would give Hulu Live TV a shot. My first weekend of cfb didn't count since I was on the road without a chance to familiarize myself in advance, so this past weekend was my first real test.

I've seen some criticisms of the service in the past about channel menu, and I've also seen recent articles mention that in May of this year Hulu revamped that very thing. So if you've tried Hulu or seen it prior to May, it might be worth another look if that was your main hangup. It took me about 20-30 minutes to get comfortable with the menu formats, to see what all it could do and how to navigate it. It is definitely a complete paradigm shift from the world of cable/satellite, and it made me realize how those big companies sort of became the Walmart of TV experience, with a lot of things under one roof that I started taking for granted long ago. There is definitely some give and take going on with Hulu, and I suspect other services as well.

The pros, imo, are that once I got used to the channel menus, I found it pretty easy and even useful. I'm using a Fire Stick, and there isn't a way to punch a different channel in by number (though I don't think any platform, device, or service has that ability) and if you're a big user of the "previous" or "last channel" button, nothing is going to be as easy as that. However, once I got used to the menus I find changing channels pretty easy for gameday situations. The channels menu is divided into subcategories, and some of them make looking out for games easier than what I had with DirecTV. Everything I've been watching will appear in the "Recent Channels" menu, all sporting events appear in the "Sports" menu, making it really easy to find new games or switch back and forth between a handful that I'm watching at once. There's also "Kids" menu that will list everything playing on Hulu's channel lineup for kids, and a couple other menus that may fit your situation as well, but I'm mainly interested in football days. Overall, I don't have to use the "All Channels" menu very often, and when I do, it's not that much more cumbersome than the guide on DTV or digital cable back when I had it.

The stream quality is great on the Fire Stick, no issues with buffering or picture clarity, which is nice given that I didn't want to have to buy a more powerful device. I had tried Playstation Vue a few months ago on the Fire Stick and Chromecast and had severe problems with both, but Hulu has worked great on the Stick (I have yet to try it from Chromecast, because I don't really want to control TV from my phone). YMMV on this stuff....I've seen ATVSers say they had no problems with Vue, so my experience may not be an indicator of what yours would be. From what I remember, Vue had a bit more of a traditional satellite/cable feel to the interface, but Hulu is nothing I didn't quickly adapt to. If it's important to anyone, all Hulu channels except the local stations are 60 fps, which is nice for sports. I watched UGA/USC on CBS and while the 30 fps didn't really bother me, it was noticeable at times. The main thing for me has been that it works great with the Fire Stick, because it may have been a deal-breaker if it required me getting something more powerful like a Fire TV or Cube, Roku, or 4th gen Apple TV. Not an expense I'm looking for right now (and honestly, in Apple's case, you're almost certainly going to be stuck buying a new one every couple of generations or so, because that's been the case with Apple so far, and I doubt they'll change their business model).

DVRing is probably the biggest adjustment, and at first I thought I would have to know in advance what I want to watch and when, because the channels menu doesn't extend past what's playing now and what's playing next. So if it's Saturday morning, you're not going to find the afternoon and night games on the channel menu. It's not really a guide like I was used to where you can scroll to later really is mostly just a channel menu. However, Hulu has a couple of things I quickly learned in order to mitigate that hassle. You can search for teams (or other TV shows), and you can also add your favorite teams to the "Teams" menu. Whichever way you do this, it gives you the opportunity to add things to your list, and if you do that, it finds those games for you and records it. So if anybody tries out Hulu, don't waste time looking for guide menu where you can punch a "record" button, rather you can search for your team, game, or whatever, and add it to your list. It wasn't quite as intuitive as I would've liked, but neither was it hard to figure out, and it's not hard to use either. I recorded about 6 games total Saturday, and everything worked fine.

Another thing that I liked was that Hulu knows when a game is still going, i.e., when a game runs longer than its time slot. So whereas with DTV, when you record something from the Guide, you had the option to extend a recording by 30 minutes up to 1.5 hours or so. You can't do that with Hulu as far as I can tell, but it doesn't matter, as long as a game is on, it will keep recording it. I also noticed on its channel menu that Hulu updated delayed start times for weather and prior games running long, and this is something DTV never did. So Hulu knows when to start and when to stop a my limited experience so far. What it can't do is differentiate a split screen, as in when LSU started and Alabama was still playing on a split screen. Had I not been watching live, I notice Hulu only picked up the LSU recording when LSU went full screen.

PodKATT has already noted the channel lineups, but I'll reiterate it here: Hulu has all the ESPN networks, including SECN, but excepting LHN which most of you probably don't need. It has all AVAILABLE local stations except PBS in your area, meaning some deals in some areas may not have been reached, but in general you'll probably get the Big 4, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. Some markets get CW, though mine does not. CBS and ABC are big ones for us college football folks, and of course NBC and FOX are big if you like NFL.

Now the cons, and unfortunately these are pretty glaring for me. The biggest thing is something that doesn't appear to be heavily advertised, but I'll tell you here; with the basic $40 package, you can't fast-forward and rewind commercials on your recordings, or if you're watching something on a delay. If you want that capability, you have to pay an extra $15/mo. to upgrade to 200 hrs of DVR space (basic package includes 50 hrs) and it also grants you the ability to fast-forward and rewind. You can FF and RW during a game or a show with the basic package, just not the commercials. Not football related, but Hulu advertises that with Live TV you get their streaming library also. That's true, but their streaming service has two tiers, same library, but for $8/mo you get their library with commercials and for $12/mo you get their library without commercials. Unless you pay that extra $15, you'll only have the library with commercials, and that means when you stream shows you'll have to sit through commercials on those as well. IMO they advertise that Live TV gets you the best streaming package, and that's misleading. Currently I'm not inclined to add that $15/mo., as with tax that would put Hulu up in the $57-58 dollar range, and for that, DTV Now may be a better experience, but mainly I'm trying to go as cheap as possible for the moment.

I also haven't figured out how to go live when I'm recording something. I'm almost positive there has to be a way to do this, but I haven't figured it out yet and Googling the issue has so far not turned up anything useful. So for instance, I was mostly watching Clemson/TAMU, and recorded the LSU game. But I wanted to check in on the LSU game during commercials, etc. That's easy when LSU isn't recording, but since I was recording it, Hulu kept sending me back to the spot in the game I last viewed, instead of current footage. Effectively, it treated it like a recording instead of Live TV (which, it was both, but Hulu seems to conflate the two). You can FF to current, but it takes a while, and if you're trying to channel-surf, then by the time you got to live tv you'd probably be ready to switch back to another channel, and also you'd have to do that every time you switched. I'm sure there's got to be a way to easily access live TV, but I haven't found it.

Also, non-football related, Hulu doesn't have AMC or BBCA, which are channels with shows I enjoy a fair bit. From what I read, it doesn't appear those channels will be added anytime soon. Strictly for sports fans that's not a deal, but from an overall perspective, it's a downer now that I'll have to wait for one of the streaming services to pick up those shows months after a season ends.

Those channels are available on YouTube TV, DirecTV Now, and I think Vue, and also you automatically get unlimited DVR with YouTube as well. But as mentioned, my experience with Vue didn't go well, and DTVNow is more expensive than Hulu and YouTube. I haven't demo'd YTTV and there's not a ton on of info showing exactly what that user experience is like, mostly just reviews of its capability. But I know that YTTV is not available on the Amazon products, requires a later-gen Apple TV to run, and I'm not interested in running TV off my phone or computer for Chromecast. And for sports, most markets for YTTV still won't get local channels, meaning CBS and ABC games would require an antennae, if that even works for where you live, and don't even ask me how to record from an antennae.

Yeah, this was super TLDR, but hopefully it's informative for anybody researching or considering cord-cutting. Overall for $42 and some change (I think that's tax or something, I assume), the basic Hulu package is a winner for me until YTTV gets local channels for my area and works on a device I already own, like a Chromecast, but with some sort of remote or something that doesn't require me to use my phone. Then I will probably give it a serious look. Any questions about Hulu, just ask me. If you're tired of paying $100 bucks or more for a bunch of stuff you don't need and want some more heads up about these services, I totally get it. And feel free to comment your own experience with your service, if you use one. Since these all require no contracts, I have no problem ditching Hulu if something better is out there.