Reds - General

Cutting the cord while keeping the Reds

For more than a year, I’ve argued with myself about the money I ante up to the cable company every month to keep my favorite sports on my TV. The cost seems too much; but, I don’t want to give up my NHL hockey, British Premier League soccer, college football or most all, the Reds. Each month, I’ve moaned and groaned but paid to keep watching.

Several months ago, I became aware of emerging  video content streaming services — called Over The Top services — which offer the full range of channels carried by cable and satellite TV providers, including the sports channels, for a fraction of the cost. Like Netflix or Hulu, these content sources come into a home via the internet and ride the home’s wireless network to a streaming device (think miniature cable box) which is connected to a TV or actually built into the TV. Another major difference between OTT content sources and traditional cable/satellite is that they are pay by the month as you go. If a person subscribed to such a provider just to watch the Reds, when the baseball season ended, they could stop the subscription then resume it the following spring.  

I was interested but not quite motivated to action. Then a month ago, spurred on by recent billing and service issues with my cable company I decided to sign up for the free trial period offered by two OTT providers, Sling  (7 days) and PlayStation Vue (5 days). I chose these two because they are both supported by the Roku streaming device already attached to my TV; and most importantly, my research indicated that both offered  packages which included the Fox Sports regional networks.

Signing up was very straightforward. In less than 10 minutes, I created an account, chose the content package I wanted to try and activated the trial period. Payment information is required to start the trial. If the trial is not cancelled before the end of the free period, a month of service will be charged. However, cancelling on the provider website is as easy as signing up was (another big difference from cable).

Initially I had been skeptical about using these providers for sports programing. I didn’t trust the technology to consistently deliver live rapid motion content in 1080 HD. I also doubted deals were in place to carry the entire range of ESPN, Fox, and NBCSN content I wanted at a price significantly lower than the traditional providers. 

The free trial experience relieved me of my skepticism. All the sports content I wanted, including the Reds over Fox Sports Ohio/Cincinnati is available from both PS Vue and Sling. At my location over my internet connection and home network the video quality of both is comparable to my cable signal. However, anyone contemplating a switch to an OTT provider should take advantage of the free trial period to be sure the same is true for them. Firing up the TV stream as life goes on all around the house is probably both the best and simplest way to determine if your internet connection and home network are up to the task.

After 3 days of the side-by-side trial, I decided to cut the cable but keep my sports content. In the process, I gained significant savings. How significant? The amount I am paying the streaming provider I chose plus the amount I am paying for my internet connection, which ironically is still from the cable company, is 35% lower than what I was previously paying the cable company for a bundled TV/ internet deal. Viewed another way, the savings alone will buy more than 3 months over a year at the new rate.

Perhaps you are wondering if I severely cut corners to achieve my savings; the answer is no. To see the video package I am getting for $35 a month, check out the Core Slim package (note that prices may vary by locality) on the PS Vue website. It includes all the sports channels and networks I’ve previously mentioned here plus MLB Network, and B1G Network. It also includes major news and business channels, TBS, TNT and an array of entertainment channels. What it does not include is local channels. This is not a concern to me since I can receive them reliably over the air. One other thing PS Vue does not include, at least not via my Roku device, is the gridded programming guide most of us are used to. The guide, such as it is, consists of a scrollable screen of channel logos. I have to select a channel to view and then select programing from the channel. Since I tend to watch a limited number of channels and know what I want to watch and its time, this is not a big deal to me. For others, it may be.

For anyone who does not have access to the Reds on TV now but has a broadband internet connection, I recommend taking a look at the Sling Blue package (45 channels)  which for $25 a month includes the regional Fox Sports networks. Be sure to check that the Fox regional network offered in your area carries the Reds. If you don’t have a streaming device yet, you can download an application via Sling which will allow you to stream the content to a PC or tablet and thus test your internet connection using the free trial offer. If you decide to subscribe, this current offer for a Roku streaming device is unbeatable.

A week into my cableless era, I’m very satisfied with my decision. Anyone interested in giving OTT streaming a try should start with the free trial period. That’s the best way to find out if it will work for you on both the technical and content side; but, don’t forget to cancel the service before the end of the trial if you don’t want to keep it. As best I can, I’ll answer any questions left in the comments section below. Keep in mind what I say will be my opinion and not the opinion of RN.

42 thoughts on “Cutting the cord while keeping the Reds

    • During the trial I saw that Sling is adding what they are call “DVR in the Cloud”. Looked to me like it will be a $5 a month add in.

  1. Thanks Jim for sharing this. I’m curious what you do for local. Do you use an HD antenna? My wife can’t live without Dances With the Stars. :/

    • PS Vue in Louisville gets CBS in the package, but it also has on demand channels of the locals. So if she can wait until the next day she’ll be fine.

      • And thanks for bringing up the on demand availability with PSV. I tried to work that in but that paragraph ended up on the cutting room floor so speak. There is just so much to talk about; and, I had to try to limit myself to the core stuff. This is one of the reasons I kept coming back to saying, if you are interested, do the free trial.

      • Sounds good. We are in Louisville which foiled my attempt to get the Reds through my T-Mobile-sponsored free mlb.com—just within blackout range.

    • I’m able to get our locals in Dayton with just a traditional rabbit ears antenna set up. I’m about 10-15 miles NE of the TV antenna farm SW of downtown Dayton.
      Some stores are now selling digital antennas with a listed effective range (and the caveats too).
      Try looking at http://www.antennaweb.org for more info. The site was actually listed on the box of an antenna I was looking at because I wanted to see if I might be able to get any Columbus channels with a better antenna.

  2. I did this two weeks ago and also went with PS Vue. We are 100% satisfied. We are saving $110 a month. I picked up an amazon fire tv. PS Vue has a guide on it.

    • Actually I notice just this morning that PSV on Roku has added a “live now” line of logos and a scrollable screen of all currently playing programs can be displayed. Still not a guide but a step forward.

  3. Jim,

    Kudos for a well-written article on cutting the cord and finding a solution that suits you.

    I have had Sling Blue for a while and can recommend it. The package has Univision, which has triple header Mexican League soccer most Saturday nights. Even if you don’t speak Spanish (I don’t), if you like EPL soccer, the passion and rivalries are just as great.

    Blue has most everything but Fox News and ESPN, but people who know me as an ardent cord cutter list those 2 channels the most as the ones they longer wish to support financially, for whatever reasons.

    • Thanks for the Kudos.
      For anyone who feels like they can’t live without having both ESPN and the Reds, Sling bundles their Orange package (ESPN based) with their Blue package as “Sling Orange+Blue” for $45 bucks a month where I live.

  4. Another article that I thought was gonna be about something else. I thought you were gonna draw comparisons between what you did with your TV providers and the Reds rebuild. As best as I can understand what you were talking about, it seems as if you are basically saying that, you get the same quality programming you are used to at a cheaper price. Now, granted the quality of Reds baseball right now (and over the last several seasons) isn’t what we were used to from the ’10-’13 teams, but the expectation is that the Reds will sometime soon get back to playing winning baseball…. and it will be at a fraction of the cost of the ’10-’13 tms (supposedly).

    • seat101, who exactly are you saying God Bless You to, me or Jim? It’s a little unclear.

  5. So timely for the Old Cossack. Mrs. Cossack has been hounding (gently nudging maybe) to migrate away from cable and onto an OTT mode for our TV needs. This article pretty much catalyzes the switch. We have some specific requirements that can apparently be met to accomplish the transition, but probably requires one of the enhanced packages.

    I just forwwarded your post to her and told her to ‘git ‘er done’!

    • If it was like at my house, Mrs Jim saw the cable bill several months ago and asked how much was for the internet, which she uses as much (or more) as me and how much was for the cable which she watches very little (she is a confirmed sports nonfan) . Of course from there it became was it really worth that much for me to be able to watch the sports…… 😉

  6. Baseball’s revenue explosion over the past few 15 years was driven by new stadiums, MLBAM and local/ national cable deals. Moving forward, there won’t be new stadiums, MLBAM still hasn’t been able to consistently monetize its “value” and the era of outsized cable deals is over. The blood letting at ESPN this week is just another example that cable revenue is declining and baseball’s revenue growth will slow dramatically.

  7. MLBAN spun off its streaming operation into BamTech. Disney bought about 1/3 of BamTech for $3B about 8 months back. Disney is among other things, ESPN. The day is coming when MLB baseball and ESPN are streamed as subscription channels on Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and the like to anyone who has broadband internet thus cutting out the middle men, i.e. the cable and satellite providers.

    Check out this link if you doubt this is plan:

    https://thewaltdisneycompany.com/the-walt-disney-company-acquires-minority-stake-in-bamtech/

    And here is a link with more background on BamTech
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2017/02/21/bamtech-takes-next-step-in-growth-by-naming-former-amazon-exec-michael-paull-as-ceo/#2236ddf73bd7

    • The current cable deals are predicated on every subscriber in a given market paying “x” amount per month as a subscription fee for the RSN. There are about 800k cable-sattelitte HH’s in the Cincinnati-Dayton market.

      FSO likely receives around $4.00 per subscriber per month…so $3.2million per month or about 38million per year. On a given night, a bad Red’s team is watched by about 80k HH’s….at least in part.

      Are there 1,000,000 people willing to pay $38 per year to watch the Reds on tv? Is there a pay to view market out there that is 12x’s their average viewing audience? Steaming is great for the consumer, but ESPN learned that it doesn’t enable you to grow. The people who were paying 100 per year to watch ESPN are the same people who pay a fraction of that to steam. Along with that, ad revenue is hit becaue the remaining audience is smaller and older.

      Baseball isn’t going to go broke, but the growth will be curtailed

      • I agree that your last sentence is likely correct. MLB is already behaving like they are alert to this possibility too. Despite what the players’ association may say publicly, the latest CBA seems to have ushered in a de facto soft salary cap with the changes in the overage tax and severe limitations on spending for international signings.

        I don’t follow the NFL at all; but, their next round of TV negotiations really interest me. I think all the major networks are experiencing heartburn there. What gives will be really interesting.

  8. Good stuff – I cut the cord last fall, when my cable provider temporarily lost rights to BTN right before college football season was starting. I also chose PS Vue and have been very pleased. A couple of additional things people might be interested in knowing:

    – On Amazon Fire TV (which I have, rather than Roku) the channel select for PS Vue is very similar to a real cable listing. Across the top you have the channels, along the side are the different times, and then the different shows are shown in a grid format and you just select what you want to watch. It’s not quite as fluid as a real channel guide but it’s close enough.

    – PS Vue counts as a “real” provider for the purposes of “Go”-style services like BTN2GO and FXNOW. You go to your app or the website and select Playstation Vue and enter your credentials just like you would if you had Comcast or Cox or whatever.

    • Thanks for the more detailed info on the Fire interface of PSVue. When I told my wife about the earlier comment that the Fire interface had a guide, she went online and ordered one! The TV she watches has a very old Roku on it which I had planned to update soon anyway. I had been trying to decide to to get another Roku stick like I have on the “sports” TV or whether to get a Fire. Now that’s settled and she’s paying 🙂

      Also thanks for getting it said that the content producer apps work with PSVue. That’a another point which ended up on my cutting room floor.

  9. Sling’s DVR offering is not for every channel (ESPN is excluded right now). No dvr is the biggest pain point for me. There is also a delay in the signal (mine is about 30 seconds) from cable broadcast. Texting with friends while watching a game, I’m always behind.
    If you miss DVR for your Over the air channels, check out the ChannelMaster DVR which is like TiVo without the monthly charge. It works great!

  10. reality is TV is dying. Everyone has a computer or a “smart device” Cable companies and broadcast networks are the past. MLB.TV works just fine for the average fan. Cable companies killed themselves with over charges, random outages, and restricting content. Internet wins….. AGAIN.

  11. Thank you for this article! Please forgive my lack of knowledge in reference to this issue. I am researching all these terms to see if I can make this work. My main question is this, because I live in Southcentral Pennsylvania ( I get Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington games on TV), will I be able to get Reds games by selecting Fox Sports Ohio? Your response would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Fox sports go carries the Reds on its free app. You only need wifi,however it only covers the reds and not any other pro teams.

    • John, where I live you can’t get the Reds with the free Fox app unless you are a subscriber to cable, satellite or qualifying streaming service. You have to logon to it using your content provider credentials.

  13. I’m one of those millenials that has never been willing to pay for cable. Was watching Reds games at the ‘rents from time to time, but they just cut the cord. They said Sling is giving them Fox Sports Cinci but not FS Ohio (in Dayton). Are they missing something? Hate the MLBTV blackout rules, otherwise I’d just get that.

    • Your folks should be getting the Reds OK over FS/Cincy.

      The Fox regional sports network shown in Dayton is a mixed bag between Cincy and Ohio depending on the content provider.

      As far as the differences between FS/OH and FS/ Cincy, as far as I have experienced personally, it comes down to which team they show when there are simultaneous games. Some of the providers make an alternate channel slot available so they can show two games at the same time. In such cases, Fox gets the word out over Twitter and their website as to what game will be on which channel; also the provider guide usually has them listed correctly.

      The Blue Jackets and Reds played simultaneously during the time I was doing my trial with Sling and PSVue. Sling had Reds on the main FS channel and despite having the alternate FS channel shown as available, did not have the Jackets on it. However the Jackets were not blacked out on Sling’s NBCSN feed which was actually shown on CNBC that night. PSVue had the Jackets on main FS channel and the Reds on their alternate which they call FS Plus.

  14. Reddit provides links for home and away broadcasts for every game. Might not be the most legitmate but its 100% free so I can’t argue with that

  15. Apologize in advance for what may sound like an ignorant question but I’m clueless about most of this stuff. Does one need a PlayStation to be able to get the Vue?

    • Hey Noel, Not an ignorant question at all; in fact it was my first thought the first time I read about PS Vue 😉

      The answer is no, you do not need to have a PlayStation Console to use PS Vue.

      You do need to have some sort of streaming hardware device to get the programming onto your TV. The most popular are probably Roku, Amazon Fire Stick (AFS), and ChromeCast (by Google). The two I am most familiar with are Roku and AFS. The entry level Roku is ~$30; the AFS ~$50.

      Google any of them to get more info.

  16. Sorry to chime in a bit late, but I have to. As a Reds fan in Nashville, I get the worst of all worlds. Cable is way too expensive, and I can’t stand Comcast anyway. I’m blacked out for MLB TV. Sling blacks out the games, too, even though regular cable customers get Reds games on Fox Sports Tennessee all the time.

    We are, insanely, blacked out for Reds and Cardinals games on Sling, and Reds and Braves games on MLB TV. So, it’s either pay $150 a month for cable, or find other methods to watch the games. This is one of many reasons I’m watching a lot of hockey these days.

    • Mike, Sorry to hear about your situation.

      It doesn’t make sense to me that the games are blacked out on Sling if FS/Tenn shows them over cable. But then do these crazy things ever make sense?

      Have you checked whether PS Vue carries FS/Tenn; and, if do they blackout the Reds games? The reason I ask is that here at my locale in Dayton, OH there are subtle differences in the FS sports offered on Sling and on PSVue because Sling carries FS/Cincy while PSVue carries FS/OH. For instance, when the Blue Jackets and Reds were playing simultaneously a couple of weeks back, Sling carried the Reds on their Fox/Cincy channel and did not carry the Fox feed of the CBJ while PSVue carried the CBJ on their main Fox/OH channel but offered the Reds on an alternate channel called FS/OH Plus.

      So, unless you know differently from past experience, you might check whether the Reds are available on FS/Tenn via Sling once the Preds are done for the season.

      One final thing I’ve noticed is that some programming which is blocked on the PSVue app for PC’s/ tablets/ phones is NOT blocked via Roku on my TV, if that might happen to apply to you.

      Hope you can get something worked out.

  17. Jim I know this is way after the fact so don’t know if you’ll even see this question. If so, here goes: I currently watch the Reds with the MLB Extra Innings package in DirecTV. Blackout and other issues aside, my big need is a) to be able to tape games to watch later or at least with some delay after the first pitch and b) fast forward through a lot of the action (and all the ads). I watch at least 140 games a year, but probably less than 10 live and in real time. I’m not clear as to whether the services your discussing (and also MLB.TV) offer these two features. Any insights very Welcome!

    • Just received word that the Amazon Fire TV stick we had on back order has shipped. By about all accounts it has a much superior PSV app/ interface than Roku. It will be interesting to see how it presents the DVR function

  18. PlaystationVue advertises that it includes a DVR function; and, Sling is in the process of rolling one out. PSV includes the function as part of the programming packages. The last I saw, Sling was offering it as a $5 or $10 a month add on (Sling just can’t quite get completely away from it’s DISH genes I guess).

    I haven’t done a lot with the DVR on PSV; bur here is how it is “supposed” to work. You mark a program as a “favorite show” and all episodes are recorded and held for future viewing for up to 28 days. There is no function to allow the viewer to “erase” it earlier or keep in longer.

    What little experience I have with the DVR function is mixed, I marked Premier League Soccer (NBCSN) once and now when I go to NBCSN all the games are listed as DVR content and available. I marked the Reds on FSOH but the games don’t seem to become immediately available as DVR content. They show up a day or so later. Then they quickly disappear to an archive area called “all seasons” which requires extra digging to access. At least that is my experience using the Roku app/ interface.

    I would say as I did in the main post, sign up for the free trial and see if the DVR function fits your needs.

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