Cutting the cable TV cord: Roku private channels and fully loaded Kodi box

Lessons I learned after cutting the cord to cable TV and my opinions on streaming devices

cord cutting cable cut
Credit: Thinkstock

It’s been a year since I joined the ranks of cord cutters, so I thought I’d share a few tidbits learned along the way and opinions on streaming devices.

Chromecast

I first dipped my toe into the water by starting out with Chromecast; it was a first-generation clearance item, making it an inexpensive experiment. While it was easy to use, the device would overheat and lock up within 25 to 45 minutes of using it. Since it was plugged into a TV that was mounted against the wall, I moved Chromecast to another TV that has better airflow around it. The device would still get hot, but it took longer to do so. Newer Chromecast models are supposed to be decent devices, but I can’t say that firsthand, since I switched brands.

Roku 3 and Roku 4

Next up, I tried Roku, plugging a Roku 3 and Roku 4 into different TVs. Like Chromecast, a Roku can be moved from TV to TV. The Roku 3 worked well. Occasionally, about once every two or three weeks, it would lock up, become unresponsive and need to be rebooted; that’s no biggie, though.

The Roku 4, which was considerably more expensive because it was new to the market, is good for 4K content—if you can find it. Maybe the Roku 4 I purchased was a flawed exception, but it locks up about every day or every other day and needs rebooted. Additionally, since it would frequently lose wireless connectivity—even though it’s right next a router—I changed it to a wired connection. If 4K content becomes available, then the Roku 4 might be the way to go. Otherwise, the less expensive Roku 3 was more dependable.

It’s up to you how much you want to spend for content from Netflix, Prime, Hulu or whatever and whether or not to go with annual or monthly subscriptions. Being a Game of Thrones fan, I paid monthly for HBO Now and then canceled it after the season ended. I will subscribe again when the next season starts.

Private Roku channels

Private hidden channels are some of the best Roku options. Unlike public channels, which are reviewed by Roku before appearing as official options in the Channel Store, private channels require a code. You add a private channel by logging into your Roku account. Go to “Add a Channel” under “Manage account.” Enter the access code, and the channel is added. Update your Roku system if you want the channel to appear right away.

roku add channel

There plenty of private channel options to try out, although it is hit or miss as to whether some of the channels continue to work after you enter the access code. Many people enjoy Channel Pear and Nowhere TV. If you are in the U.S. military and live overseas, or perhaps use a VPN that makes it look like you are overseas, then USTVnow is an option for watching “live” TV from some of the big TV networks. It does not offer the same “live” TV choices as paying for SlingTV, but it is a free option for those who qualify.

Fully loaded Kodi box

While I use Roku the most, Kodi, without a doubt, is my favorite box. It can be installed on a variety of devices—even a Nvidia Shield. I run a Linux flavor; the device only needs rebooted about every two months. It also has never suffered from any bouts of losing wireless connectivity. If I get another one, I will spring for the inexpensive Raspberry Pi option.

A word of warning, if you see a company selling overpriced versions of a “fully loaded” Kodi box so you can watch TV shows and movies, don’t fall for it. You can do that yourself, although the makers of Kodi feel strongly that piracy box sellers are killing Kodi.

However, it’s your box to decide what you want to do with it and if you want to install add-ons such as TVAddons.Exodus is currently dominating as the best working Kodi video add-on.

I don’t regret cutting the cable TV cord. Does it end up costing more? That depends. In my case, the cost of my internet increased when I broke out of the bundle. Some ISPs have data caps, and streaming without using their streaming options might cost a fortune.

It also depends upon how many channels you were paying for with cable and if you already pay for subscriptions such as for Prime or Netflix. I was, so even with the increase to pay for internet connectivity without a bundle, it was still less expensive. Paying for the devices this first year means I came out about even. Next year, it will be less expensive annually.

Some people opt for shades of gray and the all-free streaming options via add-ons, which end up running everything, including original shows from the biggest paid streaming services. On the other hand, not everyone cutting the cord is a pirate.

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