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Happy Thanksgiving Cord Cutters: NFL No problem today

For all of you that enjoy watching NFL before, during and after your big meal, this year’s schedule presents no cord cutter challenges. There are 3 games today, all of which are on major networks.

NFL Schedule Thanksgiving 2014 

Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears – 9:30 am.  on CBS (nice to see Lions winning on Turkey day)

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles — 1:30 p.m.  on  FOX

San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks — 5:30 p.m.  on NBC

All times are PST

courtesy Rachel Kramer - Flickr

courtesy Rachel Kramer – Flickr

I remember years ago when the biggest game of the day (New England  I think) was on the NFL network only. Some providers had it some didn’t. Maybe greed got in the way, but in any case I’m glad that practice has stopped.

Does watching football play into your annual event? Let us know how in the comments. Hope you are all having a great holiday.



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The Great Unbundling and the Cord Cutter: Will it drive prices higher?

This was a huge week for Cord Cutter news. Both  CBS and HBO announced new streaming services. But is this the beginning of the a la carte dream cord cutters have been waiting for? Some say no, be careful what you wish for, because in the end it will mean only less channels for higher prices.

Will we need a loan if we leave the bundle? photo: "Diaper" on Flickr

Will we need a loan if we leave the bundle?
photo: “Diaper” on Flickr

According to FierceCable and the Wall Street Journal the prices for a family that will choose several streaming services (e.g. HBO, CBS, Netflix) might end up being MORE than the typical Cable bill. Really? That doesn’t seem obvious to me but let’s do some back of the envelope calculations.

Let’s say I’m a basic basic cord cutter, with just Netflix and an Antenna and I decide to add  the new CBS and HBO streams to have those additional channels. I’ll call this the:

Basic Streaming Bundle

Service Monthly Cost Notes
Antenna $0.00
Netflix $8.99
CBS $5.99
HBO $15.00 estimated
subtotal 29.98

But I’m missing a lot of cable content, reality shows, other networks, etc.  so I’ll add Hulu to pick up some of them. And of course the cord cutters Achilles heel – SPORTS. Assume the best and that ESPN finally gives in to unbundling. We have to take a guess at the cost but assume it will be something more than any of the above services and I’ll go as others have speculated with $25 per month. I’ll call this the:


Premium Streaming Bundle

Service Monthly Cost Notes
Antenna $0.00
Netflix $8.99
CBS $5.99
HBO $15.00 estimated
Hulu Plus $7.99
ESPN $25.00
subtotal $62.97


So as you can see, making a few assumptions and guesses, we have a monthly bill of $62.97 – not  cheap but still less than the average Cable bill of $90+. Of course it wouldn’t be hard to exceed $90  just by adding another new streaming service or two.

 But there is something missing with the argument that unbundling will lead to higher prices – the market. It’s a fallacy to assume that ESPN or HBO can simply charge what they want.

One leading theory is that if you unbundle content the price per consumer goes up because the content is no longer subsidized by all those cable customers being forced to take it. Wrong! The market drives the price and if the consumer is willing to pay only $1.00  per month say for the Golf Channel, then that’s what will determine the price.I f the Golf Channel goes out of business at this rate, so be it. Or think about it another way: why is Netflix only $8.99 per month?

In a way the great unbundling does open a Pandora’s box for content providers. The internet has made every other service cheaper – consider music, travel, consumer goods, through the process called disintermediation. If Cable becomes unbundled it will be no exception.

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HBO going À la carte in 2015

This IS big news. What’s missing from the story? Price.

More to follow



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Is DirecTV Worth it? Another Case of Cord Cutter Ethics

Just as an aside I wondered: If you are a die-hard NFL fan, should you even be a cord cutter? All this talk about how to watch via some inferior stream using a VPN blah blah blah… What if you could just give up being a cord cutter from September to the Super Bowl?

courtesy MatthMatthew Straubmuller flickr

courtesy MatthMatthew Straubmuller flickr

So I jumped on over to DirecTV’s site and tried to sign up for the cheapest package that included  NFL Sunday Ticket. The process feels a little like trying to close the deal at a car dealer. Well you’ll need one of these (packages) and one of these (equipment) and oh what about this (extra channels). But I persisted.

In the end I was presented with something that would cost me $92.98 per month and $99 due at check-out. The NFL Sunday Ticket portion of that was $39.99 per month. Well OK fine. Going to just one game live easily costs $100 these days, so perhaps 6 months of TV football is not such a bad deal. Then I’ll just turn it off.


Well no, unfortunately, DirecTV is smarter than that:

ALL OFFERS REQUIRE 24-MONTH AGREEMENT Offers valid through 10/1/14 and are based on approved credit; credit card required, except in MA & PA. New customers only (lease required). Applicable use tax adjustment may apply to the retail value of the installation. Programming, pricing and offers are subject to change and may vary in certain markets. Some offers may not be available through all channels and in select areas. Customers activating the CHOICE™ Package or above or the MAS ULTRA Package or above will be automatically enrolled in the 2014 season of NFL SUNDAY TICKET at no additional cost and will receive a free upgrade to the NFL SUNDAY TICKET MAX for the 2014 season.

TWO YEARS? Many marriages don’t last that long. I’m not signing up for that. But what if there was some legal/semi-legal way around this 2 year thing?

Well to do it legitimately would cost you penalties:

If you cancel before your contract ends, you will be charged a deactivation fee of $15 plus a prorated early cancellation fee of up to $20 a month.

Let’s see, that’s about $15 + 12 months x $20 or about $255 to cancel. We’re up to about $812.88 for the season now. That cancellation fee really hurts. But what if you could get out of it? Well it turns out some people have found ways around the cancellation fee. These techniques are basically about providing some sob-story to customer service until they relent.

So in another case of cord cutter ethics we found a way to (maybe) get NFL Sunday Ticket for just the 6 months of the season then turn it off.


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NFL 2014 and the Cord Cutter

Sorry that I’ve been off busy with my day job but checking in quickly with a look at the season which officially kicks off tomorrow.

Well not much has changed. For the casual football fan, you’ll still be able to watch most of your games. The exception will be Monday nights, which belong to ESPN. Or if your team sucks this year you might suffer an unfortunate blackout or two.

Stay tuned – more to come.

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Getting NFL Sunday Ticket Streaming without DirecTV

photo courtesy Anthony Quintano Flickr

photo courtesy Anthony Quintano Flickr

One of my most popular posts last year discussed how to get NFL Sunday Ticket by buying the Madden video game and a Chromecast. Looking back at it, $99 to get NFL Sunday Ticket was an incredible deal and no wonder the game quickly sold out. Unfortunately for cord cutters there will be no repeat of the Madden NFL Sunday Ticket bundle this year.

DirecTV is however, introducing a streaming service called NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV.

The new service does offer a streaming version but note these new nit picky eligibility rules:

“… if you live in a select apartment building where DIRECTV service is not available, attend one of these universities, or live in one of the following metro areas: New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.”

What’s different? That phrase “select apartment building” among other things. With the Madden deal the restrictions merely stated something about living where the DirecTV satellite signal was not available. That could have been your house. This time they look a bit more serious about the restrictions.

not elig

I experimented with the Check your eligibility  page. I put in my real name and address to start and got the rejection banner shown here. Then I thought I’d be clever and claim to be a college student. Whoa – they actually run your name and birthday through a service that checks student ID’s!

OK, so I try another idea – a phony name  but an actual address for an apartment building down the street. Success!  “Congratulations, you’re eligible! Choose your package” appears on the next screen.

Next I am  taken to the checkout page to both pay and setup my online account. So clearly it is still possible to loophole your way around the new restrictions. If you are uncomfortable with all this subterfuge, perhaps you purchase the service for a friend that really lives in an apartment building , goes to college, or even lives in San Francisco.  But then your friend doesn’t have time to watch and gifts his account to you. I’m guessing that would be perfectly legal.

Better ideas? Let me know in the comments below…

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What’s next for Aereo?

As the dust settles on ABC vs Aereo, a clear cord cutter loss, I thought it might be fun to speculate on conversations going on at Aereo headquarters right now. Here are some ideas – admittedly not all of them good ones – on a possible “Plan B” for the company. Feel free to let me know if you think of some I overlooked.


1. Go out of business completely.

Start-ups come and go, and investors know it, but Aereo made it well past the typical market trial phase – they had paying customers in 11 cities. It would be a shame to simply walk away completely. As of this writing CEO Chet Kanojia has announced that Aereo is turning off but calling the shutdown temporary.


2. Become legal, pay the broadcasters, and become a real cable operator.

There are some intriguing concepts here including becoming the first nation wide streaming cable operator. Of course this is no longer a cord cutter thing. But no other cable operator today can (or is willing to) offer Pay TV services to anyone with an internet connection. Another sub-option would be to offer a la carte. This is no doubt technically possible – Netflix for example could do it. Bu the economics of content fees could be a deal killer.


"Individual" antenna? Aereo's fate depends on this

The infamous “dime sized antenna” may become history.

3. Move off-shore.

Internet gambling companies have tried this approach with some success. The problem here is your company might be legal but the activity is still not.


4. Forget about streaming broadcasts  - focus on cloud DVR.

If Aereo offered a cloud  DVR service for your own personal recordings, there might be some takers. This would be pretty close to the Slingbox model. But Slingbox stores your data in the box. Perhaps there would be some appeal of having it in the cloud.


5. Focus on alternate legal content.

If Aereo had millions of subscribers they might have a stronger position bargaining with content providers. Aereo has been silent on subscriber count but  one report that New York had 100K hints that  the total number might be under 1 million. That being the case they night consider offering something cheap or free while building up their cord cutter loyalists. Unfortunately it’s hard to come up with free content these days. At least that’s not already easily streamed.


Well that’s all I could come up with, and the only two that seem even mildly attractive are # 2 and #4. Better ideas anyone?





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Aereo Loses

I knew it. Update soon.


Supreme Court rules against Aereo


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AT&T, DirecTV and the future of NFL Sunday Ticket

Considering today’s merger news and  then looking back a year, it was really stunning that purchasing a $99 video game would provide access to NFL Sunday Ticket without a DirecTV subscription.   Now we hear that AT&T plans to buy DirecTV –  but only if the NFL Sunday Ticket is part of the deal

DirecTV currently pays the NFL $1 billion per year for the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket.  That’s approximately $49.51 for each of DirecTV’s 20.2 million subscribers.  According to estimates by iStockAnalyst approximately 15 to 21.6 % of these also take NFL Sunday Ticket.

Will AT&T taking control of NFL Sunday Ticket benefit the consumer in any way? Don’t count on it. AT&T seems to be extremely good at growing market share through brute force tactics. Think back to the launch of the iPhone – an AT&T exclusive at the time - which paid off. AT&T is likely to use NFL Sunday Ticket effectively to compete with Comcast for market share. It’s a good bet that AT&T will kill any cord cutter friendly ideas  like offering NFL Sunday Ticket via Playstation or  including it with the Madden  video game.

If AT&T/DirecTV/NFL Sunday Ticket goes through it will be bad for consumers for multiple reasons:

The YouTube video above captures precisely my experience with this company. In the video the customer has spent hours on the phone trying to get a simple issue resolved. Several years back I used AT&T’s U-verse and  then later AT&T’s DSL. Somehow AT&T managed to mix up my payments so that one account accumulated a credit and the other kept going past due. It took hours to resolve.

Where I live the Pay TV market consists of the following:

  1. Time Warner Cable
  2. AT&T U-Verse
  3. Dish
  4. DirecTV

Unlike the Comcast/TWC deal, AT&T/DirecTV truly eliminates a competitor.  And NFL Sunday Ticket is the tool that will help them do that. Many happy DirecTV customers will reluctantly switch over to AT&T to keep NFL Sunday Ticket.

Back in  2011 AT&T attempted to purchase T-Mobile but the DOJ nixed the deal because it would eliminate competition. I can’t see any reason why  AT&T/DirecTV should be approved by regulators. Can you?



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Cord Cutters vote NO on AT&T DirecTV Merger

Unlike the Comcast + TWC merger,  AT&T’s  plan clearly takes one of Cable’s choices away. There are places (e.g. where I live) that the choice is :


AT&T U-Verse



Congress said no to AT&T on T-Mobile. Let’s see what happens this time. More to come.

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