Paul’s Tech Makeover: TV Terribleness (Premium)

I couldn't be less happy with our TV situation, which is the exact opposite of what I'm trying to achieve at the new house. And I don't see this one having a satisfying conclusion.

Three months ago, I wrote about my decision to rethink the personal technology we use as part of the move to a new house in Pennsylvania. A big part of that original discussion was about television: We decided to experiment with cord cutting, using digital TV services rather than getting cable, and I wanted to consolidate the set-top boxes we use down to something more manageable.

Both of these initiatives can only be described as disasters. And the related addition of a soundbar to our television has likewise been unsatisfactory. This just isn't going well.

I've written about cord-cutting twice since then, first to explain the goals and then, later, in September, to provide an update on my experiences thus far. My conclusion, which was unexpected, is that we might not actually need a TV service.

We've tried three services now: PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV. Each has been unsatisfying for a number of reasons.

We've used PlayStation Vue the most so far. It is the only one of the three services to offer a traditional guide experience, where you navigate (in this case, from left to right) through a live channel listing that includes both local and cable channels. And when you select a channel, it just starts playing, live. Which is good.

But the Vue interface for watching recorded shows is convoluted and, on Apple TV 4K at least (see below), has terrible navigation. You can only skip through a recorded show in 30-second increments, so I find myself click-click-clicking on the remote to get through commercial blocks. And then because it's so buggy, the video will freeze half the time and kick us out. And then we lose our progress in the show and have to start over. It's beyond aggravating.

YouTube TV isn't on Apple TV 4K (yet?) so I have to cast the service from a phone to the TV using a (4K/HDR-compatible) Chromecast Ultra. This is OK, but I'd prefer to navigate the UI using a real remote, and I am not a big fan of YouTube TV's vertical guide navigation. Plus, there's no HGTV. Google could make my life a lot better by providing an optional remote for its Chromecast devices.

Hulu with Live TV is the least satisfying. There's no guide per se at all, no sense of a bunch of live channels you can watch at any time. It's disconcerting, with a weird topic-based layout, and we just don't like it. Worse, when you do find a live TV show to watch, it marks your location so that when you return later you go back to that time; it's terrible for sports since there's no obvious "Go to live view" option on the Apple TV 4K app (like there is on mobile). And the Hulu content has commercials, even though I'm paying so much extra for "with live TV." That's unacceptable, and I'll be killing that one first.

Regardless of the service, thoug...

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