My take on cord-cutting — Live TV services

My take on the recent launches of “cord-cutter-TV services”

After having used DirecTV Now, Sling, Youtube and Hulu now for some time I feel it is time to document my experience.

The short: Yes. I am a cord cutter and can live without high priced TimeWarner, U-Verse, Dish or DirecTV packages.

I started off with DirecTV Now in January, missing their $35 / month all you can eat offer by just 1 day.

I was not impressed with DirecTV. Streaming quality, channels offered, price, UI of iPhone app, all sub par compared to what I had been working on myself a few years back.. Now realizing how important timing is with product launches.. Sadly for me, the market wasn’t ready in 2013 for a live TV product with a kick-ass UX, DVR capability and so on, so I compare from experience with a high standard and understanding consumers needs.

I canceled DirecTV Now just after a few weeks. Don’t even try it. DirecTV is still lightyears away from a decent user experience, not even saying good..

Moving on to Sling: For Sling I also don’t like their iPhone or Android app. However the Apple TV experience is what keeps me engaged. Sling’s recently introduced DVR works like a charm, gives me the choice to record all or only new episodes of a series, UI on Apple TV is very intuitive.

Content offering is split into mainly two packages, Blue and Orange. For some reason, that only people in the industry will understand, Disney’s channels are in one package, i.e. ABC, ESPN, Disney XD and so on, while Fox channels are in the other.. So if you want to have all local channels, you have to chose both packages.

In any case, CBS is missing from either package. So shows such as Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, CSI are all missing for Sling customers. That said, reruns are of course available on many other channels.

News channel lineup is very slim. CNN is available, but not many others.

Sling does not support profiles at the moment.

Youtube TV: The long awaited “cable killer” started in early April 2017 in select markets such as Los Angeles, SF Bay area and a few others. While the service offers nationwide channels, the locals such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC are only available in select markets and not while traveling.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good: Of all services Youtube TV has a solid content lineup when it comes to local channels! Yeah.. we now have CBS included..

As for UX, the iPhone app is amazing, streaming starts surprisingly quickly. And of course the DVR has simply unlimited storage.. something I would only expect from a Google service.

Also: Youtube TV supports family profiles, however signup to profiles only possible with customer support for now.

The bad: Channels from Turner are missing, such as CNN, TBS, TNT. Also AMC channels are missing, so no Better call Saul, Anderson Cooper, Conan or plenty of reruns on TBS or TNT. 
As for the DVR that I praised so much earlier, I still think it’s awesome, however it doesn’t yet distinguish between first air and reruns.. that’s a feature I’d expect from a premium service such as Youtube TV.. Given even Sling has it figured out and it is a standard feature on pretty much every Set-Top-box from cable co’s.. it’s something I simply expect.

The ugly: NO APPLE TV APP… I get it.. it’s Apple… why would I do anything for them.. Chromecast is nice and pretty cool what you can do with it and how easy it works. But do I always want to have my phone or tablet in my hand to switch a channel? A small remote such as Apple TV changes the UX drastically.. Hopefully they make it available soon.

Lastly: Youtube TV’s app for iPad is in portrait mode only. For a TV app on tablet pretty much a big no no!

So Youtube still has way to go for me to subscribe only to their service.

Up to this point I kept both Youtube and Sling and couldn’t decide which one I wanted to keep longer term. Sling had by far the best Apple TV UI and UX, Youtube had all the local channels.. but was lacking my beloved Apple TV.

Then comes Hulu, first week of May: I immediately signed up for the free trial. Their channel list has everything I desire.. except of course AMC which is important to me only for “Better call Saul” I have to admit. It is also $5 more expensive than Youtube TV.

Hulu figured out a few things, first they have all the local channels, Turner channels such as CNN, TBS, TNT.. However not AMC.. This seems to be reserved to Sling.

For iPhone, you have to download a separate app “Hulu with Live TV”. This app replaces the existing Hulu app all together. If you are a previous user of Hulu, you can just remove the app from your iPhone / iPad and only use the “..with Live TV” app since it includes also all content from the regular Hulu app.

I have only tested iPhone and Apple TV and I must say that it is certainly an innovative approach, customized home screen, add your favorite sports teams, favorite networks, all will customize your home screen further.

What’s missing? After 3 hours, yes 3 hours, I have not figured out an easy / intuitive way with Hulu’s Apple TV app to browse a channel guide, see what’s playing along the lines of zapping with your remote.. it’s simply not possible unless you are already watching something currently, then a swipe up on Apple’s remote will let you see it. From there you can also not select another program to start recording.. That feature is truly best with Sling.

DVR: The DVR feature lets you add only from detail pages, not while watching something else. also when adding a series, there’s no option to only select ‘first air’.

Hulu focuses on family member profiles very well, I have to say.. however from there it is down hill.

Overall, not all the content in the world can make me stay with Hulu since their UX is truly not great.

As for my primary cord-cutter device, Apple TV, I like the content of Hulu with the UX of Sling.

My recommendation: It depends on what you want and like to watch.

- You watch a lot of reruns usually and like to record a few channels? and you don’t care about locals: Sling.

- You care about local channels with first air and don’t need Apple TV: Youtube is your choice.

  • You want to have simply most channels and don’t give anything about UX or how many steps it takes to find a TV show air time..: Hulu it is.

In case anyone from Sling, Hulu, Youtube or DirecTV Now is reading this: 
Sling: Fix your content issues with Disney vs. Fox.. Make sure you have CBS and you’ll win for sure on Apple TV.

Youtube TV: Apple TV app ASAP! Get Turner Channels and AMC (as was communicated at launch that these would follow soon). Fix the DVR with “first-air” and you’ll make a lot of users very very happy.

DirecTV: no comment, there’s just too much going wrong with your product.

Hulu: Fix your UI and UX, afterall this is still a live (aka linear) TV service, users expect a certain UI.. at least for the near term future, that’s what users are used to.. At least the ones that can afford a $40 / month service and are not young students.. I bet in a few years you can go back to your UI.. it will be kick-ass if you can get users to adopt it.