My family has been without cable since early 2012 and when we made the switch we actually didn’t drop cable completely for an extra month and a half until we knew we would be able to get all our favorite shows and programs without problems.
By far the most difficult thing for us to get on our cable-less home TV setup was our favorite CBS shows like “How I Met Your Mother”, “CSI”, “The Mentalist”, and “Person of Interest” among others that we also watched on occasion (The Amazing Race).
For some time (a few years) we’ve had subscriptions to Netflix streaming which has a ton of shows and movies from a few years back, we figured that if we added a Hulu Plus subscription we could get most TV shows a day or so after they aired live. Because we used DVR exclusively with cable this didn’t matter to us.
If you are reading this then you probably already figured out like we did that most CBS shows aren’t available on Hulu but they are available on CBS’s website not long after they air live. I figured a good way to pick up these shows would be to buy a Google TV box or something similar that had a built in web browser. My thought was that if Hulu could pick up the show then we could navigate over to CBS site and watch it over the browser on our TV.
Before we ended up paying for a fancy set-top internet browser box for the TV we did some more research and found that websites like CBS tracked the browser and system used to navigate to their site and they blocked TV or set-top box browsers from streaming their shows. In essence you could sit at your desk on your laptop and watch shows on CBS but you couldn’t sit on your couch and navigate to CBS’s website to watch your shows from the net on your TV.
Dismayed we actually considered forgetting about dropping cable. We obviously considered just buying a really good TV antenna to get our CBS shows but this would have required us to watch all our shows live which just wouldn’t work for us – seriously, this isn’t the 90’s any longer.
How We Finally Got CBS On Our Roku Box
Credit: PlayOn.TVAfter doing a bit more digging I ended up finding a company called PlayOn.TV which you may or may not have already heard about in Google. I hadn’t heard about the company before I was researching this problem but the more I learned the more I started to think they could solve the problem.
Basically this company’s primary product is a small piece of software that you load on your computer that streams internet TV content from around the web and allows you to view that material through your Roku box (or other popular boxes like the Xbox, Wii, or PS3) via your home network.
Here is a more detailed review of PlayOn that I wrote 13 months after buying the software myself.
I was skeptical at first – I was unsure if I had the technical skills to set this up too, but I figured I’d give it a shot with their free trial offer. After signing up I was a little amazed how I was able to get everything going so quickly; it wasn’t that difficult at all. You just install the software from PlayOn’s website and then load the PlayOn Channel onto your Roku. The PlayOn website offers these simple instructions for adding their channel to your Roku box.
In order to get the PlayOn channel on your Roku, go to https://owner.roku.com/Add/MYPLAYON and add the private channel code MYPLAYON. Follow the simple instructions that will be provided once the code is entered and that's all there is to it. Now sit back and enjoy PlayOn on your Roku!
I said the process was easy enough but having said that I would probably have to set it up on my dad’s network if he bought this thing – I wouldn’t expect him to figure it out alone seeing as though I always have to fix every piece of computer equipment in their home every time I visit – but you get the idea. It’s manageable for the average person but it might be over the heads of only the most low-tech people out there.
Here’s a short video overview of using PlayOn with your Roku box. It’s totally a commercial video but it does clear up the concept of how this works.
An Overview Of How PlayOn Works With Roku
One last thing to mention is going to be very important to some people and only a passing thought to others. Because using PlayOn to stream CBS shows to your Roku box means that you are loading internet content on your computer and then streaming it through your home network the quality degrades just a bit. Basically you are not going to get your shows in HD quality – there will be a noticeable degradation in quality if you are anything like me.
I thought it was perfectly fine as it would only be for a few shows that we watched weekly and it saved us from getting cable or watching TV live through an antenna but the final say went to my wife who was – at the time – a nut for The Amazing Race.
We watched a single Amazing Race episode through PlayOn on the Roku box and she said that after watching for a few minutes she stopped noticing the lower quality and in the end it was worth buying and dropping cable and the DVR.
In any event we upgraded from a free trial offer to the lifetime software license after about a week and we haven’t looked back since. We haven’t had a cable bill since either. The lifetime license cost us somewhere around $50 or so at the time but that is a small price to pay in my book for a future of $0 cable bills.