Subscription-Free OTA DVR--The Fourth-Generation Tablo

I have been subscribing to YouTube TV for several years now and I like it very much. The GUI and DVR are great, but it has become more expensive than I would like to pay. With taxes, it is now costing me $76/mo. And that is just for the base plan. I am paying for enhanced cable channels I don’t watch–specifically the ESPN channels. And I am paying for broadcast channels that I can get free with an antenna.

I discovered that I can get a package of channels from Sling TV (Sling Blue) that does not include ESPN, but does include the major news channels for $42/mo., which is what I want. (You can opt to get ESPN if you want.) That is a $34 monthly saving–more than what I pay for my cell phone bill. And even includes cable channels that I don’t currently get with YTTV. The only issue is that Sling does not include all of the local broadcast channels. However, I have a channel master antenna that can pick up a lot of local channels, so I just need an OTA DVR. By accident, I found out that Tablo has recently released its fourth-generation DVR. It has 50 hours of built-in storage which can be increased by an external USB hard drive. It also has a brand new app. Unfortunately, Tablo was bought by a broadcast station company, Scripps, which happens to own one of my local TV stations. I say unfortunately because they got rid of the automatic commercial-skip feature. Now why would they want to do that? Anyway, the DVR sells for $100, with a two-week program guide at no extra cost. And it uses your Wi-Fi network to stream channels to your TVs. There is also an ethernet jack. There were only 6 reviews on Amazon at the time I am writing this, but Best Buy has 88 reviews, with an overall 4.1 rating out of five. Not too shabby. It got a 4.5 for value.

The biggest downside for me is that it does not include ATSC 3.0 tuners. However, there was a big mess created when stations started to encrypt their signals. Rather than wait for the dust to settle, I decided to order the Tablo now. Mainly because I can break even in three months compared to what I pay now per month. If Tablo does come out with an ATSC 3.0 tuner model, I will just upgrade to the new model.

My Tablo is scheduled to arrive this coming week. I really hope it works–full review to follow…


Years ago, Comcast had a plan that cost less because among other things, it didn’t include sports channels. I’m not anti-sports, I just don’t watch them! It was a great plan which they eventually ended. When I finally cut the cord a few years back, Comcast was charging an RSN fee of $12/month – that’s a sports fee to ALL customers, even if you don’t watch! Plus, wrapped in the bundle was about $3/month carry fee for Fox News, which I didn’t watch. I get it that in the cable bundle I’m paying for channels I don’t always watch – many shopping or news channels, or foreign language channels. I don’t have a problem with that. But sports and Fox seemed to negotiate a hefty fee per customer beyond what any other channels charge. Even after cutting the cord, I would go back to a cable bundle if they had a package without the $15/month fees (probably more $$ now).


Yes, Comcast does have a lot of fees. I just read on Cord Cutters website, that they raised their Broadcast TV fee to $31.25/mo. Also, ESPN is the most expensive enhanced basic cable TV channel. I believe it costs cable companies around $10/mo. Which gets passed on to you. And, also the RSN fees, as you mentioned. I don’t see myself ever going back to cable TV.

The Sling TV blue package for $42, including tax, I think is a great deal. You can watch on three TVs at once. No extra fees. No ESPN. Of course, If you live in an apartment, you may not be able to get the broadcast channels with an indoor antenna. In that case, I would probably have to stick with YouTube TV.

I’ve had a Tablo DVR for about 5 years and love it. Bought one for my mother a few years ago and I just recently bought the 4th gen model to gift to my parents-in-law. I want to unbox it and check it out now but I’ll have to wait for Christmas!

Before Scripps bought Tablo they had already phased out new subscriptions to the commercial skip. I trialed it and it wasn’t perfect. They admitted in their blog that it required a lot of cloud computer power and cost and it wasn’t sustainable. After a while you just learn how long commercial breaks. I like to start watching my NFL team on record, fast forward 3 mins at each TV time out and then by the end of the game I’m watching it live.

1 Like

That’s the way to do it. I do the same thing with one of my favorite shows, “60 Minutes,” to avoid all the dreadful ads for geriatric diseases.

1 Like

Well, I got my Tablo. I was kind of surprised at how small it is, but it uses a flash drive for storage instead of a hard drive.

You use your mobile phone to set it up. I just needed two cables, the power cord and the antenna. The phone found my location and then prompted me to verify my zip code. It then searched for channels. It found 73.

However, when I tried watching the channels, I got buffering. Very short screen freeze-ups. I called Tablo support, but they informed me that they don’t currently support the Google Chrome Box. Maybe, in a couple of months they will, I was told. However, I experienced it on my cell phone, too. I have a very good three-year old router, and I don’t experience a buffering problem with YouTube TV.

Anyway, I will be returning the Tablo, and will be sticking with YTTV for now.