“Are We There Yet?” : Cord Cutting and Sports

That annoying, nagging, incessant rant of every impatient child is known all too well by every person who’s been on a long trip – “Are we there yet???” Rinse. Repeat. I feel the same way about my cord cutting experience. I made the move a couple years ago to Windows Media Center and freed myself from Commucast’s DVR for every TV plan. I ran across an Xbox 360 (white) for free and have been happily using it as an extender since then. I use the Ceton InfiniTV tuner card and a cable card from Commycast and have managed a robust media experience in my home, but still require cable services for content. I’ve almost gotten to where I can install the antennas in the attics (one small, new style one from Amazon for UHF and one old school one for VHF I scrounged up for free). This project has drug on long enough, but I was holding out for one last thing:

SPORTS!!!

Particularly football of the North American variety. Baseball was smart and made it easy. I use a shortcut from within WMC to XBMC and use the MLBMC plugin to watch baseball on that big screen. In the other room I use the app in the Xbox console. I have baseball available on any and every device. And for their efforts they get my money every year. The NFL and DirecTV, however, have had a stranglehold on football coverage for years and prevented such free access, but there have been some recent developments that have made cord cutting for sports fans a real possibility.

First off Verizon has taken an extraordinary step in this regard. You can now watch NFL games on your Verizon smart phone or tablet with NFL Mobile… for free! Well, not quite as it’s built into your phone bill, but it isn’t any extra, and that’s a big deal. The author of the techhive.com article raises an excellent point; why would anyone give up watching sports on a big screen in order to watch them on a tablet or phone. He talks later about the Chromecast, but there’s another contender about to emerge.

Most everyone knows about Chromecast, but not everyone knows about the HD-10 to be revealed by Microsoft in just a few days. Either one of these tools should be able to do what we need – port the live video from the NFL Mobile app onto our big screen TVs. I’m not going to get into which one is better because I honestly don’t know. I’m a Windows Phone user and while Microsoft is making great strides in catching up to iOS and Android there’s still a bit of a lag. And since I’m a WP 8.1 user I’m going to talk about how this affects my device. However, the concepts should apply to the Chromecast world as well.

New to the WP 8.1 environment is a Project My Screen (link only documents an 8.1 PC, not phone) ability and it does just what it says – projects your screen onto a display that supports Miracast in some way, either internally or with an external adapter. That’s where the HD-10 steps in. It’s an external adapter, very similar to the Chromecast, that your WP 8.1 can see (whether or not wireless will work by then I don’t know). So now that there will be a dongle that supports the WP 8.1 you’ll be able to connect your phone to the Miracast adapter, launch the NFL Mobile app, start the game, and watch it on your TV.

Now some of this is speculation. The device isn’t out yet, but based on what I’ve read this usage should not be a problem.

So here’s what you need:
1. A Windows 8.1 Phone, iPhone, or Droid phone
2. That phone (or mobile tablet from Verizon) needs to be on a Verizon More Everything plan
3. A Chromecast or Miracast dongle for your TV

Now you can have your cake and eat it, too! Cut the cable/satellite and use an antenna, MLB.com, and NFL Mobile apps to have access to your sports anywhere you have access to the internet. For me it’s time to get off me arse and get ready – I almost have my home infrastructure built so all I’ll need soon is internet only (sadly, my only provider is Comcast).

A new day is dawning, people. It’s time to rethink how we consume media.

Update: I have verified this works on a Samsung S4. You have to go into the Chromecast app, Settings, and click on Cast Screen. I’ve been told that this is only supported for specific models. Initial thoughts were that the video was grainy and choppy at times. This could be due to the Wi-Fi strength of the SSID it was riding, but I don’t know for sure. The proof of concept is there.

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