Oscars Frustrations: Why Do I Need a Cable Subscription to Watch Free TV?

John Thomson

Published: 02/10/2020 01:13:59 PM EST in Mobile

Oscars Frustrations: Why Do I Need a Cable Subscription to Watch Free TV?

I have not had a cable TV subscription for nearly a decade, which would firmly place me in the camp of cord-cutter. I don't think I have saved any money considering all of the streaming services that I subscribe to in place of cable. But at least I am in charge of those costs. Remember back in the day when you wanted to watch CNN but in order to do so, you also had to take a package that included the Fishing channel? That drove me nuts! So goodbye cable.

For the most part, my video life has been pretty good with Netflix, CraveTV, Amazon Video, and Apple TV+ offering virtually everything I would want to watch. I have a digital antenna pointing to Buffalo that gets me a feed to the main U.S. broadcasters. And for major sporting events where the feed is only available via cable, I can buy a day or monthly pass to TSN direct to watch the action in real time. Add these services up and any cost saving would be marginal at best. But I sure feel good about maintaining control. And quite frankly, if I never see another Tim Horton's, banking, or pharmaceutical commercial ever again, I will be a happy man.

However, my master in command took a turn for the worst last night when I tried to find my wife a live feed to the Oscars while being away in a different country. I started my search at Abc.com thinking that by clicking the "watch live" button, my problem would be solved. Not so easy. A big warning saying that I was "outside of the United States" prevented viewing.

Ok, so I needed to trick ABC to think that I was sitting in Chicago, and not Costa Rica, so I took a $12/mo. subscription (cancel anytime) to ExpressVPN, a company that reroutes your IP address to look like you are virtually anywhere. Kind of shady, but people use VPNs all the time for legitimate privacy reasons, so I didn't feel so guilty. This should mean I'd be ready to watch. I first tried a website called Locast that provides free over-the-air programming from TV stations that are already free over-the-air, such as ABC, the broadcaster for the Oscars. After a frustrating hour with a spinning wheel, I gave up on Locast and figured I would try a paid service. I took a $49/mo. (first month free) subscription to fubuTV - Bingo! I clicked on guide and the E! Red Carpet show was right there to watch. Feeling like a hero with a happy wife, Cathy ordered a fish taco and a margharita and spent the next hour with Ryan Seacrest while adding her own observations on who was the best dressed (Brie Larson for Cathy and Margot Robbie for me.)

But then disaster: fubuTV does not offer a feed to ABC. CNN, ESPN, HBO, yes, but no ABC, the only station we needed. I went back to Abc.com and the good news was I no longer received a "you're not in the States" warning anymore, so my virtual IP was clearly working. But then came the next hurdle with a pop-up stating to watch the Oscars, please sign in to your TV provider followed with a bunch of boxes for companies such as Verizon, Dish, Cox, and Xfinity. By now, that Costa Rican "Pura Vida" vibe had completely disappeared and I was back to a raging Torontonian in the dead of winter. Why do I need a cable subscription to watch a free over-the-air broadcaster like ABC, just so I could see the Oscars? ABC is licensed by the FCC to provide free over-the-air broadcasting, but it's nothing of the sort when it comes to watching online. Obviously, this is all about protection and money where cable providers pay the broadcasters a license fee for content, so why make it easy for cable cutters like me to game the system?

In the end, I tracked down my father (dad to the rescue) who spends the winter in Florida. He gave me the username and password for his Xfinity account. After a few back and forth security questions, we finally succeeded in streaming the Oscars all the way in Costa Rica.

Wouldn't life be simpler if ABC had a "pay now" button that would allow you to watch the Oscars from anywhere in the world if you simply keyed in a credit card and paid a pay-per-view $6.99 fee? Why is it that with all the technology at our disposal, the easiest solution is the one that is not available?

Parasite won Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards, marking the first film from South Korea to receive any nomination ever (the film received six nods and won in four categories, including directing as well for Bong Joon-ho), and the first film not in the English language to win Best Picture.

Article Tags:  oscars, streaming online, cable subscription, cord cutter, over-the-air, free content, frustrations, vpn


Oscars Frustrations: Why Do I Need a Cable Subscription to Watch Free TV?

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