Streaming DVR annoyances, free Apple TV+

This week on TechHive: Streaming DVR frustrations

Say what you will about cable TV, it at least it got the DVR right.

With traditional pay TV service, it was easy to record a show, access that recording from a dedicated DVR menu, skip through the commercials, and get rid of the recordings you no longer needed. This straightforward DVR experience is why some folks still cling to cable despite constant price hikes.

Meanwhile, cable-replacement services such as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV continue to botch a couple of those basic features. While these services do offer cloud-based DVRs, some of them mix recordings and on-demand video into one menu, so it’s hard to tell when you’re allowed to skip through commercials. Some services also don’t let you delete individual episodes or mark them as watched, which makes keeping track of your shows more difficult.

These issues aren’t new, but they’re fresh in my mind after updating TechHive’s reviews for every major live TV streaming service. After all these years, some providers still don’t understand how DVR should be done.

Read the full column on TechHive →

Weekly rewind

New lows for bloated bundles: Data from MoffettNathanson shows that just 58.5% of U.S. homes now subscribe to a big bundle of pay TV channels, the lowest level since 1992. That percentage includes live TV streaming services such as YouTube TV and Sling TV, which collectively lost 264,000 subscribers last quarter. (YouTube TV itself grew, seemingly at the expense of most others.) The entire pay TV business, including cable and satellite, lost 2.3 million subscribers in Q1.

TV networks decided long ago that TV bundles aren’t worth saving. Their plan now is to keep raising prices on a shrinking subscriber base, so that anyone who’s hooked on cable news or live sports will pay dearly for it. That in turn is driving even more people away. If you still have a pay TV bundle—even a streaming one—and are fed up with the endless price hikes, I’ve written a guide to getting rid of it.

Peacock’s NFL playoff game: In the past, every NFL playoff game has been available for free with an antenna, or as part of a pay TV package that includes local channels. That’ll change in 2024, when Peacock will carry one wild card round game as an exclusive. Presumably you’ll need a $5 per month Peacock Premium subscription to watch it, as Peacock no longer offers free plans to new users.

Maybe someday, football fans will get an all-in package that streams every game with no blackouts, like what Apple’s doing with Major League Soccer. But right now, the NFL stands to make billions more dollars by carving up its rights piecemeal. Between exclusive streaming deals and YouTube’s out-of-market-only Sunday Ticket offering, watching the games you want will remain a hassle for years to come.

YouTube’s elongated ads: Later this year, YouTube plans to start showing unskippable 30-second ads on TV devices. YouTube is reserving these ads for the top 5% of its most-viewed and most-engaged videos, and pitched the new format to advertisers this week. The site will also experiment with ads that pop up when you pause, something Hulu has also tried.

To be fair, YouTube already offers back-to-back 15-second ads, so the total ad time per video may not change. Still, I won’t be surprised if this ultimately leads to longer commercial breaks on YouTube as the tech companies try to squeeze greater profits from their products.

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Save more money

Apple TV+ for free: Through July 7, new and returning Apple TV+ subscribers can get two months free, so you’re eligible as long as you don’t currently have an active subscription.

Target and Best Buy continue to offer three-month Apple TV trials as well, and I’ve had luck redeeming each of them numerous times. By cycling through these offers, you might never have to pay for Apple TV+ at all.

More free baseball: If you missed T-Mobile’s free MLB TV offer, it’s coming back from May 23 through July 17. T-Mo customers can redeem it to get out-of-market baseball for the full season, watchable on any device.

Verizon’s new plans: Verizon overhauled its wireless plans this week, and is no longer offering any streaming services for free to new subscribers. Instead, its new “MyPlan” offering lets customers save $5 per month on the Disney bundle or $7 per month on an Apple One subscription.

If you’re already a Verizon subscriber, you may still be eligible to get Disney+, the Disney bundle, of Apple TV+ for free, depending on your plan. My big list of streaming deals article has more details—and more ways to save.

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