Trying to loosen and/or remove the satellite TV noose. - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-14, 10:24 AM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: St. John's, NL
Posts: 38
Trying to loosen and/or remove the satellite TV noose.

I've spent hours researching potential methods to try and get rid of our satellite TV subscription (Shaw Direct), to try and save a fi****ll of cash each month, but still be able to watch most (hopefully all) of the programs we watch on a weekly basis.

I expect this to be a rather long post, so I apologize in advance and understand if anyone would rather not read through it all. I'll try to make it as easy to read as possible.

Thanks to the information I found here, I've so far managed to get a Netflix subscription (still in free trial month), unblockus subscription (trial period) and hulu plus subscription (trial period as well). I want to thank everyone here who has contributed their time and knowledge to allow me to do this without much difficulty at all.

Now, comes the fun part. I would like to have this set up so that the interface is as easy to use as possible, mainly for those in our household who are quite happy with the TV service as it is, and are somewhat strongly opposed to changing it. If the streaming selection and ease of use is similar to the Shaw Direct channel guide, we may be able to switch off the satellite service. I myself, am quite content and able to pick up an inexpensive laptop, then run a HDMI cable to the TV and a coax cable (for 5.1 digital signal - really need to upgrade receiver), and get what I want from there.

The equipment we have so far is:

Panasonic TV (THC50FD18)
A few older CRT TVs that won't die.
Kenwood VR-409 Receiver (I'd certainly like a newer one with more power and HDMI inputs, but this one still works fine, and just won't die already)
DSR 530 Receiver (probably doesn't matter, but I guess there's no harm in listing it)
PS3 (finally)
Wii
Acer Aspire Desktop (AM1100-E1203A) running Vista Home Premium (32 bit) and Ubuntu dual boot
Cisco modem/router from Rogers (will very likely have to switch to Aliant FiberOP for bandwidth freedom)
Linksys WRT54G router (currently not in use)

The main things I want to address are (in no particular order):

1 I can get most of the US network stuff I can think of from Hulu, but it doesn't carry CBS, so I'd need a way to get a good quality video signal to the Panasonic TV, as well as multi-channel audio to the receiver. Right now, I've briefly tried streaming a few shows on Hulu via the PS3, and it seems to work fine. I'll also need to get CBS to the other TVs in the house, but none of the others are high-def, so picture/sound quality is not as important on those.

2 I'll also need to get our Canadian Networks (CTV, CBC, etc., plus NTV - local).

3 Some Hulu plus shows will only play on the PC, so I'd need a way to watch those shows on the TVs.

4 I'd like an interface on the smaller TVs that has everything together, so the other family members can scroll through various television networks and pick what they want to watch with relative ease. I have the Wii hooked up to the CRT TV in the bedroom, but haven't tested it much yet - just watched some Netflix so far.

5 I would need an extra device to use on the CRT TV downstairs (mother in-law) that has a simple interface that causes little frustration and is reliable. I've checked out the Roku box, but am not sure how I could get it to allow streaming of CBS or Canadian network shows. I still have more research to do on that.

6 I've tried playing with WMC and WMP, but haven't had any success yet, getting the PS3 to find the shared data in WMP. It is my understanding that WMC won't play nicely with the PS3 at all. I've also tried to add Netflix and Hulu to WMC, but had no luck.

7 If anyone has any advice on trying to get the non-interested family members to try out these services and see if they can start getting used to them and possibly continue their use over satellite, it would be greatly appreciated as well. Like I said a while back, I'm ok with just hooking a laptop to each TV and going from there, even if it may take a bit longer to get the TV show playing, especially when I consider that I'm saving close to $100/mo in doing so.


I've done some reading about Playon and Plex, but haven't tried using either of those yet. I am concerned about Playon only providing 480p picture quality on the Panasonic. I've also briefly checked out the PS3 Media Server software, but haven't gotten too far with that yet.

In the interest of not having one single post take up a full page, I'm going to stop here and thank anyone who has read thorough it all in one sitting and hope that it made some sense. I'm sure I'll have other questions that I haven't thought about yet, or forgot to include.

I look forward to and appreciate any information that can be provided.


John
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-15, 01:43 AM
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Calgary - Shaw phone/internet, OTA attic / Pigeon Lake - CCI Wireless, VoIP.ms, OTA, FTA, LTSS
Posts: 810
John,

As someone who has cut the cord on Shaw cable and Shaw Direct in the last year, and only has one other person in the household to satisfy...

Quit now.

I know that was kind of a facetious answer but, there is no holy grail today. There are just way too many variables in your post and many, many strategies.

Prioritize your needs. What interface(s) will satisfy the most number of people in your household, give them most of what they want to watch, where they want to watch it, most of the time?

How tech savvy are the individuals? My 75 year old mother is fine with her Sharp LCD TV and her external Shaw digital box, while my wife still laments not being able to channel surf with a single button. My 85 year old aunt who is going blind presses the Shaw VOD button half the
time... Fortunately she has many TVs in her house and can just go to another room until someone can help her out.

Do you really, really need individual control of source material at the crt's? If so, in my opinion, stay with a cable/satellite subscription. Issues include - 4x3 versus 16x9 interfaces on the various media players, different aspect ratios of source material, composite/component/svideo/hdmi on the tv versus the media box, yada yada...

If not, consider just using the crt's as display only devices and distribute a modulated signal from sources at your av receiver.

My opinion is you need to have a real good idea what is going to satisfy your users. If they are not as invested as you are in the idea of saving money, there is nothing out there today that will satisfy them.

Possibilities...

Desktop connected to the av reciever and plasma display - list some requirements, try one media portal app at a time to see if it meets your needs.

Keep the 530 for now, cut it back to the lowest poverty vision package available today. Distribute to the crt's over cable in your house. I know I will get beaten up by others for even suggesting that - Make Sure You Understand How Not To Send The Signal Outside Your House.
Use the UHF remotes to control, on other TVs

Wii hooked up to CRT, run Netflix client.

ps3 hooked up to a CRT run a upnp or dlna client to xbmc or some other server / portal on the desktop
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-16, 01:20 AM
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: King George, VA
Posts: 358
You can stream CBS shows at CBS.com, but that requires using a browser on the PC.

OTA, it's a beauty way to go!
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-16, 10:05 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: St. John's, NL
Posts: 38
Thanks envirogeek and Dave, for taking the time to read the whole thing and reply.

Dave,

I'll respond to your reply first, as it will be quick and easy. I have tested the CBS website to see if I can get content from there (on my desktop PC) and it seemed to work fine (after taking a few minutes to set up a particular DNS service). If I was single, or had my own man-cave, I'd have absolutely no problem setting up a laptop near the TV and stereo to do all my TV/Movie watching (from Netflix, CBS, CTV, or wherever). But that would be too easy and no fun at all!

Unfortunately, I have to try and make this easy for others to use on different TV sets as well. Otherwise, I'll never hear the end of it.


Envirogeek,

Believe me, throwing in the towel crossed my mind a few times already - and it still may be the best option. But I at least want to try and see if I can get something to work that everyone is OK using.

So far, the current setup will make the majority of people happy (2 out of 3). I'm ok with the current setup (have been using it for 10+ years), but am becoming increasingly dissatisified with the cost of it, especially when I'm quickly learing that we can get most (if not all) of that content for a fraction of the cost, by streaming it from various websites, instead of paying a small fortune to Shaw Direct for it.

Everyone in the house can adequately use a computer, but I am the most tech savvy.

Yes, individual television control is mandatory. We have the Panasonic set up in the living room, with full surround (well 5.1 anyway). That is our (myself, spouse and son's) main TV watching location. The second TV is in our bedroom and is watched occasionally if there is a program conflict, or sometimes our son will watch TV in there befrore he goes to sleep. The third TV is downstairs, and is watched by the MIL. Adapting the media box interface to the CRT TVs probably won't be a big deal, as they both can be hooked up via composite. The PS3 will need to stay hooked up to the Panasonic though.

I've moved the Wii to the bedroom TV and have watched some Netflix and Hulu content on it, but not very much. I can't stand watching the CRT TVs now that I've been watching stuff on the Panasonic. I don't think the Wii interface is very good for this and would likely get something different for it, if we did end up going the streaming route.

I've started the Playon trial today and have checked it out on the Wii. Again the interface leaves alot to be desired and can't imagaine anyone in the house wanting to use that. I could barely tolerate it myself. Netflix and Hulu were a bit better, but not much. For some reason, I couldn't get the PS3 to pick up the Playon server at all. I didn't have that much time to debug it though. I like the fact that Playon incorporates Netflix and Hulu, and also includes CBS and CNN, so that should cover the majority of our weekly programming. I've learned that there are Playon plugins that can allow other network websites, but haven't found much Canadian content yet.

The Playon software does seem to have some promise, as it can access the most programming from one application. The lower video quality should still be ok on the CRTs but I am concerned about the lower video quality on the Panasonic. I'll have to get that working first, to see what it actually looks like. I'm not expecting 1080p, but I can't deal with unwatchable.

I've checked out xbmc, but haven't gotten too far into it yet. I believe I've read that it is compatable with Playon, and has some access to Canadian networks through some plugins or something - again, I haven't had much time to check it out yet.

Another option I am considering is that if we decide to keep satellite, or it is a close decision, I may call up Shaw Direct to see if they are willing to give us a break on the programming price for a certain time period.

So many possibilites, so little time to check everything out and figure out what will work the best.

Thanks again for the replies.

John
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-27, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: St. John's, NL
Posts: 38
Managed to make a few changes.

In case anyone is interested in an update...

Trying to drop satellite altogether seemed to be an exercise in futility. Fortunately, I realized this fairly quickly and didn't get too far down that dead-end road. I did manage to call Shaw Direct and get the package dropped to save around $25/month on the satellite. I'm sure I could have pushed harder, but didn't really want to threaten to cancel, in fear of it blowing up in my face and having the service cancelled.

Some of that $25 gain is lost though, due to having to pay for hulu+ and the DNS spoof service. I decided to keep hulu for a while to see if it offers any significant benefit to our TV experience. It can certainly be used to check out programs that we wouldn't normally watch. It will give us the ability to check them out, without having to record them to the PVR and then keep them until we decide to watch or delete them. Some more of the overall expense has been transferred from me to the other household members, so that will make things a bit easier to deal with also.

Aliant has been called so we can drop the Rogers caps and not have to worry about how much Netflix and hulu we do stream in the future. I just need to speak to someone to schedule a good time for the install. It will certainly be interesting to see how much difference there is between the Rogers internet and FibreOP.

Thanks again for all the information and suggestions.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-28, 12:46 PM
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For those of you who want U.S. network live feeds you can get a basic free subscription to www.ustvnow.com . The free service does not ask for credit cards either.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 2012-10-30, 03:59 PM
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Loudin View Post
You can stream CBS shows at CBS.com, but that requires using a browser on the PC.
Actually most of the big CBS shows are on Canadian TV networks like CityTV or CTV or wherever. You get a decent indoor OTA antenna and it should pick up all those Canadian channels. If you get an outdoor antenna and live near the border then you can probably get the CBS from Buffalo.

However I like the fact that you're trying to take advantage of your internet and I do think you should try cancelling the satellite just to see if everyone can live without it. I know people find it tough to cancel but what's the worst? You can just call back in a week and get it back. So in terms of CBS and the internet, How I Met Your Mother is on CityTV, Big Bang Theory is on CTV, etc (I only watch sitcoms outside of sports so can't comment on other stuff). If you go to the CityTV or CTV website, you should find full episodes of all these shows on there in very good quality and you might be able to use a TV to watch those if you have a bluray or streaming box with a media browser built in (or connect the laptop to TV).

If you only watch one or two shows from CBS then maybe just download the episode and steram it over the network with something like a PS3 Media Browser. That gets tiresome if you have to do it for like 5 different shows but if it's just for one or two per week from CBS then not a problem.

I'm also confident that Netflix or Hulu or whatever in the future will add more programming from stations like CBS.

Last edited by TorontoColin; 2012-10-30 at 06:34 PM. Reason: removed reference to pirate site
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