FlexVU’s Mission: Clear Up The Cord Cutter Confusion

Over the past year, I’ve written extensively about cord cutting, covering the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges that consumers should consider before making the fateful decision to sever their relationship with their cable or satellite company. There’s always been a risk/reward element associated with the decision to cut the cord, so I was pleased to see last week that a coalition of companies, all of which provide either technical ingredients or complete solutions in the cord cutter space, have come together to help consumers with understanding what comprises a great cord cutting and home video entertainment experience. It’s something that is badly needed.

The coalition goes by the name FlexVU and includes partners AntennasDirect, Geniatech, Hauppauge, Pixelworks, PLEX, Tablo and Resonian. The initiative is designed to help consumers identify the technology ingredients that comprise a truly exceptional video entertainment experience. From that perspective, FlexVU is essentially a “brand umbrella” of companies that make either specific products or the essential elements that consumers should be on the lookout for before they make the plunge into the cord cutter waters.

The FlexVU consortium logo.   FLEXVU

Why is FlexVU even needed?

For the vast majority of consumers, the core impetus for cord cutting is the desire to save money. It’s hard to ignore the allure of saving $100 or more per month, especially since studies have repeatedly shown that most mainstream consumers watch the same 10-12 channels all the time. If that’s the case, then where’s the value in a 150+ channel subscription?

The other interesting phenomenon in play here is that many cord cutters simply replace their cable or satellite subscriptions with “Over The Top” (OTT) paid services like Netflix or YouTube (among others), forsaking local TV channels. This shouldn’t be a huge issue, considering “Over The Air” (OTA) channels have been available to consumers free of charge in most geographies across the United States, in HD quality, for nearly 20 years. Still, many consumers are unaware of this fact—some even assume that accessing these OTA channels is illegal in some manner.

Another headwind cord cutting faces is the technology industry’s propensity to speak in clumsy acronyms like “OTA” and “OTT” and other industry lexicon. This frequently leaves consumers scratching their heads over precisely which product they actually need. The other dynamic is the rise of smartphones, tablets, and faster Internet connectivity, which has resulted in consumers wanting to consume their video entertainment anywhere, on any device—not exclusively at home on the living room television, as it was in the past.

FlexVU was formed to address all these issues and advocate for what it sees as the necessary ingredients for a best-in-class cord cutting experience.

FlexVU-recommended cord cutting components.    FLEXVU

The elements of FlexVU

FlexVU breaks its recommendations down to the following 5 key ingredients:

  • Finding The “Right” Antenna: First of all, selecting the right antenna is paramount for maximizing the number of local channels you can access. There are a number of companies out there with great antennas for a variety of needs–whether you’re looking to install in a home, camper, or office. Many of these antennas, which vary in channel coverage and price point, can be easily installed on or near a window. The FlexVU website offers a handy wizard that can help you with the decision based on your zip code.
  • TV Tuner: While the temptation might be to use your TV’s built-in tuner, you’ll probably be disappointed in its late-1990s-quality user guide, which will likely provide extremely limited information of available TV programs. Many of the standalone cord cutter solutions offer products with one or more tuners, allowing you to view different channels at the same time on different devices.
  • Transcoder: If there is one ingredient you should look out for, make sure that you pick a solution with an integrated transcoder. It is crucial if you want to view content remotely outside of your home, or even in different rooms of your home. Local OTA channels are transmitted in an uncompressed format—transcoding is needed to minimize latency and transmit the video without sacrificing video quality. In addition, transcoding makes battery life on mobile products more efficient and last longer.
  • Software: FlexVU solutions provide software interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use. These modern software interfaces emulate your cable or satellite subscription’s old familiar guide. The best solutions don’t require you to change video inputs, so you can view both local channels and paid streaming content via an integrated, universal guide.
  • DVR: Lastly, consumers have become accustomed to the benefits of having a digital video recorder (DVR) functionality with their cable or satellite subscription that offers “point and record” capability. Today, the best cord cutter solutions have similar functionality, allowing you to save programs on a local USB drive or even in the cloud. You can even watch recorded local TV content outside of your home on the smart device of your choice.

Key components to a cord cutting solution, according to FlexVU.   FLEXVU

How do I learn more?

The FlexVU coalition has set up an exceedingly friendly Web site that I encourage you to visit for additional information. It features easy-to-understand videos designed to educate consumers on the points I’ve laid out above, and details the best cord cutter solutions on the market. Kudos to the companies in the FlexVU coalition for coming together to provide a great learning tool for consumers and an easy place to answer the most common questions that consumers have.

It’s important to point out that the current roster of companies in the FlexVU coalition is likely to expand as more innovative products, solutions, and services in the cord cutting space come to market. Cord cutting products are likely to be a very popular item during the holiday selling season so the timing of FlexVU initiative couldn’t be better. I encourage you to visit its Web site and sign up for updates.