By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.
Labor Day Weekend
Labor Day weekend is a college football fanatics wet dream. Games start Thursday and run all the way thru Monday night. Lately, more teams have chosen to play tougher/big named opponents as opposed to the “cream puffs” they’ve scheduled in the past which means that there are very few games you want to miss. It used to mean that you held your couch down for a couple of days but now you can be mobile and still watch the games at a high quality. It can be cumbersome but it’s also cheaper.
Over The Top (OTT) providers have a lot of variables to consider. The client side device (phone, tablet, laptop, etc) and bandwidth are the two major variables. While at a Starbucks eating breakfast I was able to stream ESPN via Sling TV and get a very clear picture. I jumped between a couple of channels on Sling and didn’t see a drop off in image quality.
When I switched over to ESPN3 to watch the Oklahoma vs Houston game, the video was throttled way down and the picture was very pixelated. After a few minutes the picture improved but there still was a noticeable difference between Sling’s compression and ESPN3’s. It wasn’t bad enough to discourage you from watching the game but it could sway a user from watching the game if they are really retentive about that kind of thing.
Another issue for OTT providers to solve is how cumbersome it is to switch between apps and ever within the app itself. What this does do is prevent you from flipping back and forth between games, a practice some remote control specialists like myself are all to accustomed too. You in sense become forced to watch the game you select and sit through any and all ads. I doubt that the content providers thought of this because they have enough to worry about with their own application much less how easy it is to switch between video apps.
The biggest downside of course is that not all networks offer games online. Or more specifically, they do not have a lot of providers streaming the channel.
Perfect example is CBS Sports Network. An underrated channel that carries Conference USA, Army, Navy and the Mountain West games. If you are a cord cutter like myself then you are kind of out of luck when it comes to streaming this channel. They had three cable providers with the authority to stream games and unless you know someone with a cable subscription to one of those three providers than you were up the creek without a paddle. At which point you have to make the decision, ‘do I go to the sports bar and ask for them to turn on the Northern Illinois vs Wyoming game or do I just listen to the radio call?’
While being able to watch games wherever you want like on your home wifi while cooking dinner or via the Verizon LTE network while walking home from dinner. The resolution via Sling TV was pretty impressive. It didn’t waver although you might get a black screen.
Cord cutting does still involve, and probably always will, a lot of password sharing. Some OTT providers work around this with a limited number of users at a time. Others don’t seem to care. It is an issue that may never be solved because at some level it’s just un-American.
Yes you can safely and reliably watch college football while being a cord cutter. It’s cumbersome at times but much cheaper than the current alternatives. Not all the channels are available and you may have to sweet talk your family members into giving you their password so you can get other games. Overall the initial weekend of college football viewing was a success but there are still 16 weeks left in the season. Let’s see if this holds up.