My Failed Experiment to Cut the Cable Cord (Comcast Xfinity vs. Sling TV, Hulu & CBS All Access)

Good morning everyone.  My wife and I have Comcast Xfinity internet and cable TV at home and I was considering cutting the cord to save money on our cable TV subscription.  I don’t really watch live TV (news or sports), but I do love watching recorded TV shows from our DVR (mostly reality TV and sitcoms).  I have the Comcast Xfinity Stream app on my iPhone and love that I can download any show from our DVR onto the app (also works great on our iPad).  I can watch TV shows on my commute to work (on the train and ferry) and when I travel on a plane.  Having the shows pre-downloaded vs. streaming to my iPhone is really important to me since I do not have unlimited 4G/5G data, WiFi on my commute and on planes is slow, and some spots have no cell or WiFi signal at all.

In my experiment, I tried to replace Comcast Xfinity cable TV with Sling TV, Hulu, and CBS All Access.  My experiment did not go as smoothly as I had hoped, but I will show you what I learned from these 3 streaming services and apps (and their shortcomings, from my perspective).

On the Comcast Xfinity Stream app, I can view all of our DVR recordings (except for TV shows that were recorded more than a month ago). I can download the TV shows to the app and I have 1 month to watch the shows on the app before the shows will be deleted from the app and returned to the DVR (I cannot watch TV shows on my DVR if they are currently downloaded to the app).  As you can see, there are 12-15 TV shows that we watch on a weekly basis (some with more than 1 episode).

I then created a spreadsheet to see all the TV shows we watch (some are not in-season right now) and grouped them by TV network.

There is a great website called JustWatch that will tell you which streaming service you can use to watch a particular TV show or movie.  Just type the TV show or movie into the top search box to get started.

One of my all time favorite TV shows is Survivor.  When I searched for Survivor on JustWatch, it shows a total of 40 seasons (I’m not sure why, since they are currently airing season 39).  But as you can see, Hulu has 34 seasons and Amazon Prime Video has 19 seasons.  When I click on Season 39, it says CBS All Access has the first 3 episodes (episode 3 just aired).  There are also a few other services like FandangoNOW and VUDU that can be used to buy the whole season, if you want to own the whole season.  I repeated the process for the other CBS shows I watch and they were all available on CBS All Access.

I did more searches for the rest of my TV shows.  Modern Family airs on ABC and is available on Hulu.  Saturday Night Live airs on NBC and is also available on Hulu.

Last but not least, Million Dollar Listing New York airs on Bravo and is available on Sling TV.  90 Day Fiance airs on TLC and is also available on Sling TV.

I then added a section to my spreadsheet that showed which streaming service worked with each cable network.  There is some overlap between networks (Hulu and Sling TV, Hulu and CBS, etc.) but it looked like I definitely needed these 3 streaming services to watch all of our favorite TV shows.


I checked my Chase and American Express account to see if there were any Chase Offers or AMEX Offers for these 3 streaming services and found offers for Sling TV and CBS All Access (a Hulu AMEX Offer comes around every few months).  Luckily, there is a Sling TV AMEX Offer that is good for $10 off $25 and can be used up to 3 times before December 31, 2019.

To make things a little complicated, Sling TV offers 2 packages: Orange and Blue.  Some network channels are on the Orange plan and some are on the Blue plan.  If you want all the network channels, you can get the combo plan.  They also have add-on packages like sports, news, movies, Cloud DVR, etc.

Because Bravo and TLC were both on the Blue plan, I just got that plan.  I downloaded the Sling TV app and was excited to use the Cloud DVR (50 hours of Sling TV recordings).  I assumed that I could download the Cloud DVR recordings from my Sling TV account to the Sling TV app, just like my Comcast Xfinity app.

I set up my Sling TV Cloud DVR and had several TV shows scheduled (see the Scheduled tab).  After the TV shows were recorded, I could watch them in my Recent tab.  Unfortunately, I could only stream the TV shows from my Sling TV account, not download the TV shows to my Sling TV app.  This was a major bummer and deal breaker for me :(


Hulu has been around for years and was the streaming service I was the most familiar with before this experiment.  Hulu recently launched their Hulu + Live TV plan, but that plan is $44.99 / month.  Besides that plan, Hulu has 2 streaming plans to choose from (Hulu with no ads for $11.99 / month and Hulu with ads for $5.99 / month).  I decided to go with Hulu with no ads.

I downloaded the Hulu app and was excited to see that Hulu with no ads offered TV shows that could be downloaded to the Hulu app. Sweet!

I spent a few minutes liking TV shows on Hulu to build the My Stuff library.  I liked Saturday Night Live, 20/20, Bless this Mess and many other shows.  Strangely, I was able to download Saturday Night Live to the Hulu app, but I could not download 20/20 or Bless this Mess.

After looking at the Downloads tab, I learned that only certain TV shows are downloadable.  Unfortunately, not all the TV shows I like are downloadable. This was a major bummer and deal breaker for me :(


Last but not least, I decided to check out CBS All Access.  Luckily, there is also a CBS All Access AMEX Offer that is good for $5 off $9 and can be used up to 2 times before October 31, 2019.

CBS All Access has 2 streaming plans to choose from (limited commercials for $5.99 / month and commercial free for $9.99 / month).  I decided to go with the commercial free plan.

I downloaded the CBS All Access app and was excited to use the app because it said you can download TV shows with the commercial free plan.  Sweet!

Things started out great, I could download the latest episodes of Survivor, but I was not able to download 60 Minutes or CBS Sunday Morning from the CBS All Access app. This was a major bummer and deal breaker for me :(

At the end of this experiment, I felt like I was lied to and dissapointed by Sling TV, Hulu & CBS All Access.  All 3 streaming services and apps had the ability to download some TV shows, but none of them could offer downloads on all the TV shows I wanted.  After this failed experiment, I decided that paying a premium for Comcast Xfinity was worth the money for the convenience.  If you are fine with streaming TV shows directly to your phone, tablet, computer, or TV, then these apps can be great and save you a ton of money.  But if you are like me and like to pre-download your TV shows to the app, then these apps will leave you dissapointed.  If you have any questions about using Comcast Xfinity cable TV, Sling TV, Hulu, or CBS All Access, please leave a comment below.  Have a great day everyone!

22 thoughts on “My Failed Experiment to Cut the Cable Cord (Comcast Xfinity vs. Sling TV, Hulu & CBS All Access)

  1. Kalboz

    We have done this several years ago. Currently have Hulu ($1.99/month special offer for 12 months) + Netflix (free with T-Mobile service) + Amazon Prime (annual fee of $120 including video streaming). Internet service through Time Warner (Spectrum) for $20 monthly fee. Air antenna reception is free for local channels including 10 PBS channels.

    Word of caution, avoid Sling TV, it’s a racket! My experience with them started when I got a free month offer when I bought my Amazon Fire stick. Kept it for an extra month to which I was charged $25. Canceled due to reception issues and got a confirmation email and yet was billed again for $25. This is a lousy service with double commercial time, one for the regular cable programming and the 2nd for the benefit of Sling TV. For what I was getting it was way overpriced. Their website would not let you remove credit card info from the account and thus you have to call the credit card to do a block and then change your CC number because the billing continues! Which is a hassle!

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Sounds like you got a great setup with the various streaming services. I prepaid for 2 months of asking TV, so I will keep my eye on the bill and make sure the service does not bill me after the 2 months end.

      Reply
      1. Kalboz

        Indeed, but I will just be content with the air antenna as PBS evening programing has an amazing lineup from Henry Louis Gates’ Finding Your Roots to Ken Burns’ latest moving documentary about country music. Not to mention quality drama like Les Miserables, Poldark, etc. in addition to news, nature, current affairs, and live shows. My kids like to watch movies so keeping the streaming services compliments the air antenna reception.

        Reply
  2. Erik

    Look up “how to install Kodi on fireTV stick” on YouTube. Kodi has all the shows and movies you ever wanted and it’s free. I’ve been using it for 4 years now. You can install that on any android tv or smart tv.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      I’ve heard of Kodi, but my issue is getting TV shows downloaded to my phone, so I can watch them on my commute and on planes. Does Kodi offer anything like that?

      Reply
  3. Zooter

    Why do you care so much about being able to download versus stream? Because your wifi is unlimited but your mobile data has a cap when you’re on the go?

    My mobile data is unlimited and doesn’t get throttled at high usage so the only time I need to download a show is if I’m prepping for a flight.

    Reply
  4. Mike H

    We have used Directv Now, now called AT&T TV, successfully for over a year, with HBO, for $50/month. It’s perfect for our viewing which includes Most all local extended service cable stations, locals as well. We also use Netflix and Hulu (free w Spotify), but always have had them before we cut. I do pay CCast $50 a month for 250/25 service. Went from $225 to $100. That’s winning to me.

    Reply
  5. The Masked Poster

    What’s the difference between “pre-download” and just plain old download? Pre means before, so are you downloading before downloading?

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      To me, pre-download me downloading ahead of the time I want to watch the TV show. It’s just semantics and I’m probably wrong.

      Reply
  6. Robert

    I built my own DVR computer about 10 years ago. With the dual-tuner card in it and wired into my OTA antenna we’ve enjoyed full OTA dvr service for a decade. I quickly dropped DirecTV.

    Add in Netflix (via TMobile), Amazon Prime, and SlingTV (my brother works there so I’m using his $5/mo offer) we’re very well positioned. Maybe so well that I’ll add in Disney+ to the mix… The only downside to these is not being able to DVR them locally. But add the app to my phone and downloadable Netflix titles I’m in great shape for hardly any money at all each month.

    Now to figure out a cheaper streaming music option :)

    Reply
  7. Cutter

    Wow… I could not keep up and got lost about 5-6 paragraphs in.

    Trying to watch all these shows while trying to cut the cord is confusing and frankly crazy. I started to realize…you’re addicted to TV for entertainment and you made me realize we all are addicted in some sort of way.

    What you have written for trying to successfully cut the cord is like an alcoholic trying to successfully own/operate a bar!

    Just get a long range antenna (realizing that some don’t have this option) & high speed Internet and damn the rest of TV entertainment…find some other ways to pass the time and lay off the bottle!

    Reply

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