Home > Cutting Cable, TV and Movies > Cable Cutting Fall 2015 – Goodbye Media Center, Hello Tablo!

Cable Cutting Fall 2015 – Goodbye Media Center, Hello Tablo!

September 25, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

The year was 2003, and frustrated by the terrible state of cable boxes I rushed out to the store andWindows XP MCE bought one of the very first Windows Media Center home theater PCs.  I went deep: tweaking and hacking, community support on message boards, ultimately being invited out to Redmond several times to work with the product team.  Media Center was awesome, but didn’t get the traction it deserved and effectively the platform died after the last major release in Windows 7.  Since that time, I’ve kept my own Media Center setup going because frankly there still wasn’t anything better available in the market.

In the summer of 2014 I came across a little startup in Ottawa called Nuvyyo who had come up with a new concept in their Tablo over-the-air PVR.  I visited the office, met with the CEO, and picked up one of their boxes that makes over-the-air broadcasts as simple as using Netflix.  For a full year I ran Media Center and Tablo in parallel, stayed in touch with the company via their active community page, and rode the wave of rapid iterations as a beta tester.  Last week with the new fall TV season approaching, I finally wiped my old Media Center PC and have put it to new use as a Windows 10 PC.

I am so very close to the goal that I set for myself back in 2011 to cut the cable while still ensuring that content creators get paid.  Put another way – I don’t want to pay for a ridiculously over-scoped cable package, but at the same time I don’t want to steal content.  Tall order.

Today I am happy to report that my entire family can very easily record all of the network television they want and get access to it on any TV in the house or any mobile device anywhere in the world via Tablo.  We can watch every Blue Jays game from anywhere (which in 2015 is a definite must-have) via MLB.TV.  We can get access to thousands of movies and television shows through Netflix, and we can rent first-run movies whenever we want through the many different services on Roku.
Tablo TV Web App

The only real gap here is that we aren’t always online, and I’ve had to hack my way around that a little bit so I can have access to the content I’ve paid for when disconnected – in an airplane, on a road trip with the kids, in a hotel with terrible wifi.  Tablo Ripper pulls recordings off of the Tablo, PlayOn downloads video for personal use from Netflix and other streaming sites, and the iPad app Infuse makes it super-easy to take that content with me when I’m off the grid.  My old Media Center PC has been repurposed to act as the hub for my offline tools where it collects and consolidates as much of the content possible for offline use.

So let’s sum that all up – as of Fall 2015 here is what is driving the Near household’s entertainment:

Antenna:  Channel Master 4221 mounted in the attic
PVR:  Tablo 4-Tuner PVR with WD Elements 2TB hard drive
Set-Top Box:  Roku 2 (Model 4210)
Other Services:  Netflix, MLB.TV
Offline Tools:  PlayOn, Tablo Ripper, Infuse

We’re getting close, but we are still living in a world of content silos.  Content owners are finally opening up to the idea of letting people have access to what they want when they want, but they’re all fighting to be the one place where you go to get that content.  That’s never going to happen, and they’ll wake up to it eventually but for now it’s a hunt-and-peck universe for us consumers and sadly yes it is still easier to steal content than it is to pay for it.  I have a glimmer of hope that the new Apple TV will start to pull some of this together finally through universal search, but it’s a faint glimmer to be honest.

Here’s hoping that the trend continues: that I will be able to pay for the content that I want, that it will become easier to access and consume that content, and that eventually it will be easier to pay for content than it is to steal it.

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  1. September 25, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Great post. I use Apple TV to rent some movies / tv shows, I too use MLB and I also have NHL through rogers internet. I watch my shows using apps (like Global TV) and just wait a day till they come out. I’m still a survivor fan so that’s a tough one :).

  2. November 27, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Could you do a compare between HDHomerun & Tablo?

    • November 27, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      The HDHomeRun PVR isn’t released yet from what I can tell. Based on what I can find, it looks to me like the HDHomeRun PVR will have the advantage of recording CableCard digital cable, and will require an always-on PC or server to run the software. The Tablo on the other hand can only do over-the-air and since the tuner is also the DVR appliance it does not require a PC to run. Can’t compare the actual software at this point, but looks to be similar concepts.

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