The supposed tech savvy daughter has failed.
February 24, 2013 7:04 AM   Subscribe

My parents would like to get a Roku box so they can cancel their insanely expensive DishTV subscription. How do I do this? Can I get them these specific channels?

My parents are looking to get rid of their satellite television. Currently, they're spending over $100 a month on the service and I'm under the impression that using a Roku box with their wifi would be cheaper. Is this possible?

As mentioned, my parents have wifi. They'd like access to local news and weather, ESPN, HBO, Speed channel, and the ability to purchase movies. My dad would probably also like access to those channels that show things like Ice Road Truckers and what-not.

I know that I can sign them up for Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Netflix but is it possible to add things like ESPN? My dad will want to watch his races in real-time, not after the fact. I have perused the HBO Go and ESPN sites and can't find anything that would clarify this for me. I'm pretty tech savvy but I just can't seem to figure this out.

What are their options here? Are there better boxes than the Roku? Will I be able to somehow get them those channels they want?
posted by youandiandaflame to Technology (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can't get a subscription to hbo go independently of a cable or dish subscription.
posted by subtle-t at 7:10 AM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

And even if you do have an active subscription to hbo you'll find that they have oddly specific rules as to the devices which may use the hbo go service. For instance, my Samsung TV was not on the list of approved devices based on my carrier.
posted by MustardTent at 7:17 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I'm unable to get things like HBOGo then, are there other ways to stream those shows through any kind of setup? I'm assuming not but I'm really looking for any options here that would allow them the television shows they enjoy, just without the ridiculous bill.
posted by youandiandaflame at 7:20 AM on February 24, 2013

You cannot get 'live' espn, hbo or any other cable channels on a roku. That's how they preserve their monopoly. You can get old episodes of some broadcast and cable shows via netflix & hulu on the roku, check their sites for more info. I don't think HBO offers anything on those apps.
posted by mattholomew at 7:21 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

You can access the ESPN podcasts on the Roku through Nowhere TV. For HBO shows, you could buy individual episodes using Amazon Instant, I'm not sure when they're released on instant though.

For local news, you'll need an antenna (though Nowhere TV does carry the online content from some local stations).
posted by drezdn at 7:27 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

The only options I can think of are to find someone else who does subscribe to those channels and have them allow your parents to use a slingbox to view them or stream some pirate website that taps into those channels. Neither are good options, especially for non technical older folks.
posted by mattholomew at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2013

Another thumbs down for HBOGo on the Roku box - even if you can get a subscriber friend's log-in to share, the stream quality is not that great and will often stutter or just flat out freeze. It's annoying. The whole HBO situation is annoying - they don't release episodes of shows until right before the next season is ready to start. However, if your parents don't mind waiting then you can buy/stream that stuff on Amazon on the Roku. Note that you cannot do iTunes on Roku.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 7:34 AM on February 24, 2013

Roku doesn't work that way. ESPN locked down access to ESPN 360 this year. You have to have a cable subscription that provides ESPN in order to get it via online providers. Roku provides alternative entertainment options streaming online. It is not a cheaper way to procure cable TV.
posted by COD at 7:36 AM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]

If there were cheaper legal ways to get the same content on the same schedule then the cable prices would have to drop to compete. The prices stay high because there are no alternatives without some sort of compromise.
posted by jon1270 at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I cancelled cable years ago. I have a Roku, with Netflix for all these years and Amazon Instant as of a few weeks ago because Season 4 of Archer was starting, and Season 3 still hadn't come to Netflix.

There's no (legal) replacement for cable/satellite wherein you still get these premium channels. This is where your parents' high bill is coming from; they want premium content and are paying the price for it.

What specific shows do they like? Quite a few probably have back seasons on Netflix...
posted by RainyJay at 7:52 AM on February 24, 2013

As a Dish customer for the last 15 years, it isn't that expensive when you compare it to the other cable/satellite providers.

Your problem is that your parents love HBO and PPV, and there's no cheap way around that. Otherwise you could knock that Dish bill down to $45-$60 and still have ESPN and Ice Road Honey Boo Boo Bachelor Pad Season 12.

Your headaches will be multifold if you try to get them watching local stuff on an OTA converter and HBO on the Roku and ESPN on the laptop. Think of the price adder as a way to keep the tech headaches down.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

To go cable/satellite free you've got to be willing to change your watching habits. I think it's a matter of intentionally choosing shows to watch, vs watching whatever is on. If Ice Road Truckers is something they just watch because they're bored and its on, they might not miss it because they'll be watching a series they're more into.

Amazon instant movie rentals would probably replicate Pay Per View.

But as far as replicating HBO and ESPN as channels? Nope. Can't do it. It's not a matter of tech, its a hook those companies have to keep you from bailing to a cheaper service.

There are a few variously legal ways to get some programing from HBO/ESPN. For live sports theres which is essentially pirate live stream video. I use this to watch ESPN college football, and there's usually a good stream of my team's games. HBO shows usually have good torrents, but that's going to be beyond your parent's abilities. If they'er not willing to give those things up, it might not be the right choice for them.
posted by fontophilic at 8:50 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

One thing people haven't brought up is the question of where their wifi is coming from. If they have Dish for video, I'm guessing they have DSL. Bandwidth may be a problem for streaming video. If it's 3G/4G via cellular, they will bust their data cap almost instantaneously. If they have FIOS, then awesome, nevermind what I just wrote.
posted by Alterscape at 9:36 AM on February 24, 2013

They could get the roku in addition to the DISH, and use it to lower their cable bill by watching movies via Netflix & Amazon instead of HBO and PPV. But the bottom line is that cable is expensive. If they like what cable provides then they're getting their money worth. Good candidates for cutting cable are people who don't need HBO and live sports.
posted by bleep at 10:40 AM on February 24, 2013

How about getting the Roku and calling up Dish to ask for a reduced rate? You would have to call every year, but it might be worth the trouble.

I have a Roku and I like it for Netflix and Amazon Instant. If they have Amazon Prime, they can watch more stuff for free. Depending on the shows they watch, they can subscribe to seasons and watch the episodes as they hit Amazon. I also have an antenna connected to my TV for the basic network channels, there are lots of sports on that.
posted by dragonplayer at 12:37 PM on February 24, 2013

We stream our Netflix thru our Roku. Other than that (don't choke) I can get some Fox news, a lot of old movies, etc. There do seem to be more and more channels (we have had ours two years) so it isn't a bad investment in my opinion, but it isn't a total replacement for cable.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2013

We do 90% of our watching through Roku/Netflix/Amazon Prime, but it's live sports that keeps us hanging on to the bottom tier cable package Time Warner offers -- which still costs us $75 a month.
posted by anastasiav at 1:02 PM on February 24, 2013

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