Dish Network and the New Google Chromecast

We’ve had Dish Network at the Scalzi Compound basically for as long as we’ve lived here. Back in the day cable didn’t go all the way out to where we are in rural Ohio, and then until earlier this year what internet was available to us was too slow to reliably stream all the time. We could watch Netflix on one TV, or we could use the internet for any other thing we might want to do, but we couldn’t do both at the same time. Beyond that, getting all the streaming services onto the TV was a hodgepodge affair — some had apps on the TV itself, others had to be streamed through my phone, and still others (I’m looking at you, Apple TV+), I had to stream off a friggin’ Web page because there was no app for an Android phone, because, apparently, fuck you, that’s why. So all told it was easier to keep Dish Network for its ease of use, breadth of content, and because my Internet sucked.

In the present, however, two things have happened: One, my internet speeds have finally been upgraded enough that we can actually stream to more than one TV (in 4k, even!) and still have bandwidth for checking email. Two, Google released its “Chromecast with Google TV” dongle, which I have bought and installed on my television. And now, suddenly, dropping Dish Network is actually viable idea for us.

It’s not Dish Network’s fault, really (well, it kinda is, Dish Network gets into carriage fee fights all the time so you never know what channels will just suddenly up and disappear; we haven’t had HBO through Dish for more than a year now). It’s doing the thing it does, offering up a ridiculous number of channels, of which we watch about five. But the fact is like many people, we’ve pretty much switched over to the whole streaming television lifestyle. Much of the most interesting television is available via streaming, and it’s there when we want to watch it.

And — importantly for me — the new Chromecast does a very solid job of putting all the streaming services I subscribe to (except Apple TV+, because, once again, fuck you, that’s why) into one coherent accessibility and viewing experience. I don’t have to hunt around for the streaming app or remember whether it’s on the TV or the phone, because they’re all natively on the Chromecast (if there’s an Android streaming app for your service, it’s on the dongle). You can tool around the various services by using either an included remote or (in my case) the remote that comes with the TV; no streaming from a phone or computer required, although that capability still exists. This is important because previous editions of the Chromecast needed the phone or computer to cast from, which was not great if, say, I wasn’t at home and someone wanted to stream something from an app that lived on my Pixel. The Chromecast can stream in 4k with Dolby sound and HDR, so everything looks good — as good as it will look on satellite, anyway.

The problem for Dish is that most of their content providers are now beginning to have their own streaming services, so even the five channels we habitually watch are largely replicated at this point. The new Chromecast, has largely made navigating the streaming services as easy as navigating Dish Network was (easier, actually, since Dish hasn’t really updated its user interface since the early aughts). So, sooner or later the actual economic question will come into play, which is: Why are we paying for 300 channels we don’t watch, and replicated content on the five channels that we do?

(Also, and related: I would be personally deeply pleased not to have another penny of mine sent to Fox News; currently about $1.50 of my monthly bill goes there. Suck it, Rupert Murdoch. Less militantly, I don’t watch any sports channels and vaguely resent that they constitute the single largest percentage of my Dish Network bill, in terms of programming.)

I suspect that at the very least, we’ll soon be downgrading the Dish package we do take — or alternately, just subscribing to Sling, which is Dish’s streaming service. Even Dish knows which way the wind is blowing. Ditching Dish was not a palatable prospect before, but now it is, and all because of one little dongle (and, uh, internet that doesn’t suck). I realize that “cord-cutting” is not exactly a new phenomenon, but, living in rural Ohio as I do, it is new to me. Progress: It will have its winners and losers.

— JS

38 Comments on “Dish Network and the New Google Chromecast”

  1. Sling has been pretty good for us — I don’t know that I’m getting ‘value’ out of it (we only watch a few shows on it), but I was getting even less ‘value’ from DirecTV at about 2.5X the price. If you’re not willing to wait a season for things on BBCA, TNT, AMC, etc. to reach Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime, something like Sling, Youtube TV or one of their competitors are the only real way.
    We were particularly pleased that Sling offered a sports-free package.

  2. We had terrible internet access and subscribed to DirecTV . About a year ago we were able to get Google fiber and switched to all streaming. We like sports and subscribe to YouTube (they just jacked up their rates) along with Amazon prime. It’s less than half the price we were spending and it’s great to have reliable fast internet speed.
    And it was great to kick DirecTV to the curb.

  3. Too bad most of the country can’t get Verizon Fios, which has been, oh, 1000 times better than what we used to get from Time Warner (now Spectrum). Everything is better. If there is a problem, you hit a button and the television fixes itself. And when I hear from friends that their DVR is 40% or 75% full, ours has never been higher than 15% full no matter how many things I record.

    /end unsolicited testimonial

  4. We cut our cord recently. My wife doesn’t like the YouTubeTV interface, so we are shopping for other services that have the local “broadcast” networks. I like a DVR functionality for those “broadcast” shows, and YTTV is not that great for that. I may just get used to waiting a season/year for stuff to get to the services I’m already paying for. I’m really resentful that HBOMax does not have an app on the Roku. I am considering getting a new Chromecast just for that. Maybe when they start having a bit more new content–right now I get it through our PS4.

  5. I have one of these. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to stop it from recommending me what is showing on Fox News. I don’t want to know what Judge Wino is talking about, let alone any other show, but I don’t see a preferences for that. Granted I’ve had it for three days so I haven’t had a change to dig but it should be easy to get my echo chamber set up, dammit!

  6. Virtually every streaming network will give you a free peek for a week up to a month. During the lockdown I would binge one or two shows on a network, then cancel and go on to another one. Caught up with a lot of shows I was interested in, free.

  7. Welcome to the Streaming World, Casa Scalzi!

    We ourselves cut the core a couple of years ago.
    We now do the Prime thing, with Acorn & Britbox as Amazon Channels. Hulu, Netflix and Youtube.TV on the side. MUCH better than we had under DirectTV, and NO COMMERCIALS, to boot!
    Of course, there also are a whole plethora of free streaming services – if you’re willing to deal with comercials or occasional buffering.
    The whole chromecast thing was good, when we did that, but Amazon’s new 4k fire stick has our vote now – mostly because it came out earlier than the new google tv ‘thingy’ (that’s a “technical” word). Heck, we don’t even USE the whole voice remote feature.
    Call me old fashioned (or make me one, please).

    Happy streaming!

  8. We cancelled our Dish Network subscription a year or so ago and just have Netflix. I can honestly say that I don’t miss a thing. And since I live in swing state Michigan I have been spared political ads on TV. I remember growing up with three TV channels from the U.S. and one from Canada (living in metro Detroit). So I don’t mind not having access to 300 channels, most of which I didn’t bother watching.

  9. Streaming scares me. We have desktop computers, stupid phones, an all-region DVD player, and powered HD antenna to pull in the PBS broadcast station.

    If Netflix ever closes down its red envelope service we will be reduced to watching our large collection of DVDs over and over until the last DVD player breaks and is irreplaceable…

  10. The streaming is so fragmented that I feel like I’m always hearing about some new awesome show but it’s only on Disney+ or Hulu or HBO or Showtime or some other channel I don’t get.

    Right now we have Amazon and YouTubeTV and are sharing a Netflix account (thanks mom!). I wish that streaming meant no ads, but just this weekend we were watching something off YouTube TV (Good Eats, I think) and it was full of un-skippable ads. Like 7 of them in every break. Why?

    (What I really want is a way to watch the BBC4 catalog, because I want to watch all the history documentaries, but I can’t find a legal-ish way, so I just keep hoping for things to pop up on YouTube for a bit.)

  11. What do you do for network programming? Do they all have a streaming service now? I’m thinking that in our case, to get all the streaming shows we’d want, the price wouldn’t be competitive to our Dish package.

  12. Uh oh. About anything Chrome: Beware of having Google track everything you do on its devices. There’s a reason Google is being looked at by the DOJ. Roku is a better choice for streaming, from what I’ve read, but so is the Amazon Firestck.

  13. I admit that Dish is a pain in the patooe, but when the last hurricane brushed us, it came right back, after the clouds cleared some.

    Everyone attached to a cable stared at blank TVs for about a month, unless they cam to our house.

    I don’t stream stuff, so I’ll stick, especially since I want a stupid house. I try to keep Google away as much as it is possible with an Android phone and tablet.

  14. ::cough:: Roku! ::cough:: They even have AppleTV+ — which surprises me that Chromecast doesn’t, because that’s either Apple or Google cutting off their nose to spite their face.

    Although Roku and HBO are still in some weird pissing match — doesn’t stop Tammy from watching HBO on Roku for their original programming, though….

  15. Jim, et al:
    I mean, I’ve already bought the dongle, I’m actually not in the market for another. And also, at this point, there is nothing that the dongle is going to tell Google about me that it doesn’t already know. I’m pretty far into its informational ecosystem as it is.

  16. I switched from a Fire TV Cube to the new Chromecast a couple of weeks ago and have no regrets. The only app I miss is Britbox, but it looks as though it’s available as a channel inside the Amazon Prime TV app (not sure this will work). Also:
    – The interface is clean and fast.
    – Dolby Atmos works on both Prime and Netflix.
    – It fixed the audio sync delay to my Sonos Arc that I never quite got synched correctly. Audio syncs perfectly with Chromecast.

  17. I have Apple TV available as an app on my tv, it seems odd to me that you don’t. However, I do not like Apple TV very much. They want to be your portal for all things streaming, so they don’t make it clear that the content they’re showing you would actually be from another service that you would have to pay for.

    The Morning Show was excellent, though, and Little Voice wasn’t bad, so what original content they offer might be worth paying. It’s free for me at the moment.

  18. Q: any specific VPN recommendations?

    …asking for a friend wanting to downloading porn on the down low

  19. I was with Dish for 10-1/2 years and dealt with dropouts and constantly failing equipment. Then they changed call centers and the techs and CS reps became amazingly rude, so I switched to DirecTV and have been there for 12 years. Since then I’ve had no equipment failures other than remotes, only rare dropouts, and have had a few upgrades. My big problem with them is the never-ending price increases, and I’m just about fed up.

    I watch almost no TV. My wife, though, watches a lot, but it’s mostly documentary, history, science shows, oldies, and just a few current network items and local stations. I’d be overjoyed to cut the cord, but I haven’t yet found the right combination of streaming channel offerings to keep her happy. I’d gladly have no sports other than access to a couple of local teams, and no Fox News. Maybe someday . . .

    And I recently bought a cheap but excellent TCL Roku tv, and it has opened a whole new world for me.

  20. DirectTV. Man, I had that in the 90’s when I lived in Southern Utah on account of it cost no more than the local cable system, and had many more channels. When I moved back to NoVa I left the system in Utah and got cable here.

    About 5 years ago I cut the cord since I didn’t watch much TV, and none that wasn’t available OTA. The cost of the antenna+Tivo was about what a year of cable TV cost. I have Amazon Prime, so some streaming comes with that. But mostly I watch local news and PBS. The local stations all have 3 or 4 side channels, so I probably have more channels OTA than I did on cable 205 years ago.

  21. We’ve been rocking the Chromecast for 10 years. Welcome to the family, Scalzi’s!

    Anecdote: When we first got the Chromecast, we were evengelical about it. I distinctly remember visiting a friend who wanted to do a youtube party — and he had to either use the laptop screen, or a cable from the laptop to the TV.

    I ordered him a chromecast that day, delivered to his door. I figured for $35, I could change his life.

    And the chromecast did change his life — he married a nice girl, and they are expecting their second child now.

    Chromecast: It literally creates babies.

  22. My only problem with cord cutting is the fact you mentioned of every channel having it’s own streaming service, with it’s own exclusive content. I haven’t had traditional cable for probably 5ish years and at first I loved the cost savings, but now I wouldn’t be surprised if I pay more than I ever did with Cable for everything.

    Add to that the fact that I’m a big sports fan and the only way I can get those channels (ESPN etc.) is by getting one of the streaming cable services. The only nice thing there is that I can turn it on during football season and turn it off afterwards.

  23. We ditched Dish recently because our house is in a hole and the trees on the ridge south of us have grown up too tall. We lost ALL signal when the trees leaf out in the spring and didn’t get it back until the leaves all fell off – close to 8 months here in Alabama. We can’t see the correct part of the sky for DirectTV (tried to bundle a couple years ago). But since AT&T brought high speed (sort of) out our way, we can usually stream TV and do other things on the internet. Usually. TV and Zoom is iffy, but try convincing my 6yo to watch a DVD when I need her to (sigh).

  24. It is fascinating watching in real time the traditional cable industry implode. Even better, this is an industry beloved by absolutely no one, being replaced by something both cheaper and better. The conventional wisdom has been that live sports was the lifeline of the industry. This is becoming less and less true.

    After I cut the cord I started going to a local bar for my NFL fix. This turned out to be more pleasant that I, an introvert, expected. Three hours in the crowd is just fine, I go to the same place each time, and I tip well, so the staff are happy to see me. I was wondering what I would do this year, but it turns out that Yahoo!, of all outfits, cut a deal with the NFL to stream whatever games are showing locally. They don’t even charge for it. What’s in it for them? My guess is it is a bid to be relevant. I don’t expect it will last long, but I also expect next year to be back with my barfly buddies.

    Baseball, on the other hand, is working hard at suicide, actively putting up roadblocks to their fans. Many teams are locked into long term contracts with regional sports networks, which they often have an equity stake in. These in turn make it impossible to legitimately watch your local games. You have to resort to a VPN if you want to go that route. Baseball collectively is showing a combination of bad timing, getting locked into those contracts before it was apparent what direction the wind was blowing; short-term thinking, milking the old model to its last gasp; and queasiness about finding out how much its fans are really willing to pay, when not subsidized by non-fans subscribing to the cable service. With the model on the cusp of collapse, things are going to get interesting.

  25. Cut the cable option with my provider Grande Communications and kept the internet six years ago. I have an HD antenna for the local TV channels, but pretty much watch the local PBS channel for the PBS News Hour and Wednesday night for the nature and science programs. Everything else is streamed through the Amazon Fire TV with my Amazon Prime subscription. I stream Netflix, Amazon Prime (plus the free apps IMDb, tubi, pluto, and crackle tv). Got a year free subscription for Apple TV+ with my purchasing an iPad Air. The Amazon Fire TV has all the apps for whatever you subscribe to (HBO, Disney+, Hulu, YouTube TV, etc.). Call it dim sum.

  26. Dear Howard (counting…),

    NordVPN is excellent, good bandwidth and very helpful readme files with lots of great tips. Less than $4 a month, with a 30-day money back guarantee if you hate it.

    There are free VPNs out there, but they have, as a rule, very limited bandwidth or caps. You also have to take care to avoid the illegitimate ones, who are not going to turn out to be your friend!

    pax / Ctein

  27. I’m Glad you’re a winner 🏆 I’ve been busy watching all of 3 channels for the last 5 years and they’re all locally owned Channels so you understand what I’m talking about when it comes to nothing compares to a good movie or TV show so I finally broke down and got Digital Cable installed and I’ve only had it for a couple of months now and knew nothing about streaming and Apps but in the last several months I’ve learned alot about the subject but I have a Brand New Smart TV with my cable and the other day I was looking at the New Chromecast with Google TV and it’s 4k Smart capabilities so I purchased one and found it’s much better than the TV itself so I’ve been busy streaming Chromecast with Google TV night and day and I’m getting rid of the Digital Cable and I’ve never seen a Gadget like the Chromecast with Google TV work so well I went out and bought another one for my Mother..

  28. John, I’m surprised at your animosity towards Apple TV+.

    No, they haven’t developed an app for Android. Why? Because they want their subscription service to sell hardware, and they get no money if you buy something that isn’t Apple.

    It’s simple market mechanics, which you seem to champion when talking about your own work.

  29. Bill:

    Oh, bah. Apple Music has an Android app, so Apple can and does do things in the Googlesphere, and in any event I can access Apple TV+ via the Web, which I do (for the purposes of streaming it) via my Chromebook, so if Apple is trying to definitely lock down Apple TV + to Apple machines, it’s doing a poor job of it.

    In point of fact, the revenue model for Apple TV + is subscriptions. Apple has a right to do whatever it wants, obviously, but it’s not precisely smart to make a subscription service that’s difficult to access. I’d be more likely to renew and pay for Apple TV + (I’m in a trial period at the moment) if it eventually has an Android app.