Earlier this month, we cut our cable. We have been Destiny Cable subscribers for years (analog), but we experienced a billing problem a few months ago, and long story short, there was a misunderstanding, and that led to a family member swearing off Destiny.
So there we were, cable-less. Which, actually, was really not that bad except that I miss keeping up with local news. Aside from the news, we hardly ever watch anything on TV, now that I thought about it. All the TV shows I watch, I, errr, get from somewhere else and watch on my laptop (connected to a TV).
I also watch a lot of YouTube cooking shows, etc… There was also Netflix, iflix, etc…
We don’t have an external antenna set up in our house since we’ve been on cable ever since we moved in. I have no idea how to put one up, and I wasn’t warm to the idea of poking holes in the roof. What of typhoons? Weren’t they going to damage the outdoor antenna? I just wasn’t on board with installing an outdoor antenna, especially since I had the feeling that I was the one who was going to end up doing it myself.
After a few days of trying to live with really snowy local news, I gave up and decided that we needed to get something so that we could watch local news. I thought getting cable again was the only option for getting clear channels, so I checked out what was available for Skycable, Destiny and Cignal.
All I really wanted were the local channels for local news, CNN (the international one, of course), maybe Fox News (not because I agree with them, but because they are the least boring news station with all the talking heads bobbing about and fighting), and the Lifestyle Network, maybe the Asian Food Channel, and Food Network. That’s it, actually. I could also go for the History Channel and the Discovery Channel, but they were not essential.
COMPARING CABLE OFFERS
Skycable had a P99 prepaid plan! I also saw on their website that I could add channels for P20 to P50 each. I already had this vision in my head of paying for the basic P99 plan and just adding CNN (P50), Lifestyle (P20), AFC (P50), etc… They even offered a News Pack for P100, where I could get CNN, Fox News, BBC, HLN, and Channel News Asia. I thought I could get the channels I wanted for the basic (P99) + News Pack (P100) + Lifestyle (P20) + AFC (P50) + Food Network (P50) = FOR A TOTAL OF P319 / month. The only catch was that since it was prepaid, I had to pay for the digibox out of pocket, P3,600 for the HD digibox.
I called Skycable to subscribe. BAD NEWS – I couldn’t add any channels to the P99 prepaid plan. The channel line-up you get is all you get. There was no chance to upgrade it and get selected channels. There was a P250 Prepaid Plan, and a P450 one, but I didn’t like their channel line-ups, either.
I could only add channels to postpaid plans, the least expensive of which was the P299 Dual Def.
Anyway, I had to decide if I was okay with going Skycable Prepaid AND NEVER HAVING THE OPTION TO EVER GET THE CHANNELS I WANT. Could I live with it?
And here’s an interesting thing that I learned – once I had the Skycable Prepaid Digibox, even if I don’t reload P99, I will still get local channels for my news needs. I asked the rep, for example, if after my first month on Skycable Prepaid, I never reload again, like, ever, will I still get clear local channels? She said yes. I clarified – is no one is going to bug me to load a prepaid card if I haven’t reloaded for like a year? Nobody is going to come to my house to disconnect the cable? And she said no one was going to do that.
So this became one of my options. Yup, I was willing to pay P3,600 for the privilege of getting clear local channels just to watch the news! I could just facepalm myself now, but it was an option because having a cable connection meant we weren’t at the mercy of signal strength or of people who decide to build tall buildings around us and block signals.
In the end, I decided that paying P3,600 but NEVER HAVING ANY OPTION TO UPGRADE TO THE CHANNELS THAT I ACTUALLY WANT was just not worth it.
So the next plan I looked at was the Skycable P299 Postpaid Plan. OK. I can add channels here. So, add the News Pack (P100) + Lifestyle Pack 3 (P100) = P499/ mo. Lifestyle Pack 3 has AFC, Lifetime, RTL-CBS Entertainment, TLC, Travel Channel, Warner TV. No Food Network though. Then, I think, hey, that’s already P500! For a few measly channels! Destiny is only P550 and I get a shitload of channels with most of the channels I want and more!
I took a look at Destiny’s channel line-up. It is by far the best value. But it didn’t have the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and the Lifestyle Channel, which I miss from our old Skycable days. I also took a look at Skycable’s P549 Dual Def plan, and also at Cignal’s offerings.
I was comparing channel line-ups and it was driving me crazy. I went back and forth, back and forth. There was no one plan that had everything I wanted unless I wanted to pay a ton of money. It occupied my mind so much that I finally made a table comparison just so my mind had hard data to work with and finally stop nagging me about it.
Skycable Dual Def 299, Dual Def 549, Destiny 550, Cignal 490 Channel Comparison
|Sky 299||Sky 549||Destiny 550 (Digital)||Cignal Plan 490|
|3 ABN 45||3 ABN 45|
|ABS-CBN HD||ABS-CBN HD||ABS-CBN HD|
|ABS-CBN Sports + Action||ABS-CBN Sports + Action||ABS-CBN Sports+Action||ABS-CBN SPORTS|
|ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD||ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD||ABS-CBN Sports+Action HD|
|ACQ-KBN/Sonshine TV 39|
|Aksyon TV||Aksyon TV||Aksyon TV||AKSYONTV|
|Al Jazeera Int’l||Aljazeera|
|ANC HD||ANC HD||ANC HD|
|Asian Food Channel||Asian Food Channel||Asian Food Channel|
|Australia Network||Australia Plus|
|Basketball TV (BTV)||Basketball TV (BTV)||Basketball TV|
|Beam TV||Beam TV||BEAM TV|
|Bloomberg TV Phils|
|Bloomberg TV Phils HD|
|Cartoon Network||Cartoon Network||Cartoon Network|
|Cartoon Network HD||Cartoon Network HD||Cartoon Network HD|
|Channel News Asia|
|Chinese News Channel|
|Celestial Movies Pinoy|
|Cinema One||Cinema One||Cinema One|
|CNN HD||CNN HD|
|CNN Philippines||CNN Philippines||CNN Philippines||CNN Phils.|
|Da Ai/Tzu Chi|
|Disney Channel||Disney Channel||Disney Channel|
|Disney HD||Disney HD||Disney XD HD|
|DZMM Teleradyo||DZMM Teleradyo|
|Fox Channel||Fox Channel|
|Fox Family Movies|
|Fox Movies Premium HD||Fox Movies Premium HD|
|Fox Sports||Fox Sports|
|Fox Sports 2|
|Fox Sports 3 HD||Fox Sports 3 HD|
|Fox Sports News|
|Gem TV||Gem TV||GEM TV|
|Global Pinoy Cinema|
|GMA 7||GMA 7||GMA 7||GMA|
|GMA News TV||GMA News TV||GMA News TV||GMA News TV|
|HBO HD||HBO HD||HBO HD|
|HBO Hits HD|
|History Channel||History Channel|
|History Channel HD|
|IBC 13||IBC 13||IBC 13||IBC 13|
|INC TV||INC TV||INC TV|
|Jack TV||Jack TV|
|Jeepney TV||Jeepney TV||Jeepney TV|
|Knowledge Channel||Knowledge Channel||Knowledge Channel|
|Lifestyle Network||Lifestyle Network|
|Lifetime Channel||Lifetime Channel||Lifetime|
|Lifetime Channel HD|
|Light Network||Light Network|
|MJCI / Living Asia||MJCI / Living Asia||Living Asia|
|National Geographic||National Geographic||Nat Geo|
|National Geographic HD||National Geographic HD|
|NBA Premium HD|
|Net 25||Net 25||NET 25||NET 25|
|NHK World TV English||NHK World|
|O Shopping||O Shopping||O Shopping|
|Outdoor Channel HD|
|Phoenix Info News|
|Pinoy Box Office (PBO)||Pinoy Box Office (PBO)||PBO||Pinoy Box Office|
|PTV||PTV||PTV 4||PTV 4|
|Red by HBO||Red By HBO|
|RTL-CBS Entertainment HD|
|Second Avenue||Second Avenue||Second Avenue||Second Avenue|
|Shop TV||Shop TV|
|Solar Sports||Solar Sports|
|Star Movies||Star Movies|
|Star World||Star World|
|Star World HD||Star World HD|
|Tagalized Movie Channel||Tagalized Movie Channel||Tagalized Movie Channel|
|The Aquarium Channel HD||The Aquarium Channel HD|
|TV5||TV 5||TV 5||TV 5|
|TV Maria||TV Maria|
|TV Shop Philippines|
|Warner TV||Warner TV||Warner TV|
|Warner TV HD|
|ZOE/Light TV 33||Zoe Light|
|Installation Fee: P1,599||Activation Fee: P600|
|Installation Fee: P1,000|
Okay, so if I were to get Destiny again (digital, this time) and add P20 for the Lifestyle Channel, plus P50 for the Food Network, another P50 for the Travel Channel, which I suddenly decided I had to have, that would be P670 /mo or P8,040 per year. Thinking about it on an annual basis suddenly made it seem like A LOT OF MONEY for something we hardly watched. I mean, it was nice to have it available to watch whenever we wanted, but our current lifestyle does not support cable TV watching anymore. Right now, we’re so used to watching what we want to at our own convenience from our computers (and connected TV) and on our tablets, at our own time, that we really don’t watch cable anymore aside from the news. We don’t follow TV show schedules anymore. Gone are the days when we order our lives around being available to watch a certain show at a certain time. Also, it’s very rare to channel surf and be able to watch a show you like from the beginning of the episode / movie. I also didn’t want to pay that much money for channels 90% of which I don’t watch.
If only Skycable had a plan where I could only get the channels I wanted! I would have been totally okay with paying P100 for the News Pack and P100 for the Lifestyle Pack and P20 for the Lifestyle Network, and have the local channels for free. For P220/month. Yes, even if I had to pay for the P3,600 digibox upfront! But the required P299 channel line up was not worth the money for me, and once the total reaches P500 with the 2 packs, I just think, why not go Destiny instead? But Destiny doesn’t have the the Lifestyle Channel, or the Food Network, or other channels in HD! I have to pay extra for those! Then I lean towards Sky again because I get the channels I want for only P500. Then I realize again that Destiny is more sulit because my dad watches a lot of the channels Sky doesn’t have for P500 for just P50 more. But Destiny at P550 doesn’t have some of the channels I want! While Sky does! And round and round it went. I was in a spiral and it was driving me nuts.
When the bombing of the Brussels airport happened last week, we had no cable, and it made me sad that I was missing coverage from CNN. But I went on YouTube, subscribed to CNN, and watched all the footage I wanted. It didn’t have the anchor commentary though, but at least I had some coverage of what happened.
As for local news, I ended up Live Streaming 24 Oras from YouTube to the TV using an MHL cable. The problem was, every time I wanted to change something, I had to walk over to the TV / tablet like in the old days before remotes. I needed some Miracast magic, but this TV was old and didn’t have Miracast.
WE GOT A DIGIBOX INSTEAD!
A relative of ours suggested the ABS-CBN TV Plus, he had one he could lend us during the Holy Week to see how we liked it. I have seen ads for it before, but it never interested me enough to actually find out what it was, so, in effect, this was like my first time to find out about digiboxes!
We hooked it up to the TV in the sala and yep, it worked! We got clear, digital broadcasts of local channels. It also had a USB port! I plugged in a USB but it wouldn’t read the contents. After some research, I found out that the USB port of the TV Plus is blocked and can only be used to upgrade the TV Plus firmware. THAT WAS A DEALBREAKER!!!
So that’s a BIG NO on the ABS-CBN TV Plus. But it did make me consider getting a digibox instead of getting cable.
After the weeks of indecision about choosing a cable plan, I finally decided to get a Digibox!
Which started another rabbit hole of “which is the best digibox to get?”. There were so many available in the grey market. The question was eating up my brain and wasting my time.
Then yesterday, on an errand at SM Hypermarket, I chanced upon the Fukuda Digibox! I was actually checking out the cheapie TVs to see if a cheap Miracast-enabled TV was already available when I saw one of the TVs connected to a Fukuda Digibox.
The Fukuda Digibox was selling for P1,499.00. I thought it was a sign from the universe to finally end my torment! It had a 1-year warranty, which was a better deal than the other digiboxes sold at OLX, etc… The Fukuda service center was nearby, just across Toyota Shaw (or so I was told). It looked very, very similar to the ABS-CBN TV Plus down to the magnetic antenna base! But the best part? It is also a media player! You can hook up a USB thumb drive, or even an external hard drive, and it will play videos, music, photos. The box also already includes batteries for the remote!
I figure I can watch the local news with it, and then just put everything else I wanted to watch on a USB.
As for CNN, there’s always YouTube! I also figure that eventually CNN Philippines’ signal will be stronger and that CNN Philippines will maybe broadcast some of the main CNN programming, too.
I bought one Fukuda Digibox to finally end this cable TV funk I was in. I had it tested, of course.
THE FUKUDA DIGIBOX
This is the box:
We tested this before buying, but here’s what’s in the box (2 AAA batteries are already in the remote):
The indoor antenna:
The front of the digibox:
The back, already hooked up using HDMI:
It is very easy to set up.
- Screw the antenna to the antenna base, connect the antenna wire to the left-most connector behind the digibox. Put the antenna somewhere near a window.
- Connect the digibox to the TV using the included RCA cables (just follow the colors), or, alternatively, connect the digibox to the TV using an HDMI cable (not included in box) if your TV has an HDMI port.
- Connect the power cable to the digibox. Plug the power plug into the wall socket.
- Turn on your TV, turn on the digibox. Check your TV input and make sure your TV is set to the correct input, for example, Input 1, Input 2, etc… It is usually the TV/Video button on the TV remote.
- On the digibox remote, press Menu. The Menu screen should pop up. Look for the Scan option. Do an automatic scan. This will scan the signals to see which signals are available in your location.
With my antenna indoors, I couldn’t get Jack TV, 2nd Ave, ETC, HSN. Once I placed the antenna outside the window and angled it just right, I was able to get those channels. I probably have to wrap it in cling wrap or something so it won’t get wet when it rains. I still couldn’t get CNN Philippines here in Sta. Mesa 🙁
How to get Jack TV, etc… if their signal is weak? Go to Manual Scan. Click the Right or Left arrows until you find the frequency 521.1. At the bottom, there will be blue bars. One bar is for Quality. The other bar is for Strength. Move your antenna until you find the sweet spot with the most blue for both Strength and Quality. Press OK. If you find a strong enough signal, you should have those channels now.
For CNN Philippines, the frequency is 503.1, but I couldn’t get it to work.
FUKUDA DIGIBOX REVIEW
So far, so good. I’m very happy with it. For only P1,499 and I get very clear local channels AND a media player, which I had been thinking of getting for a long time for the sala TV. AND I DON’T HAVE TO PAY A MONTHLY FEE ANYMORE!
You can also do Time Shift on this device (you must have a USB disk connected) – meaning, even if you are watching local TV, you can pause it and then play it again, just like if you were watching a video. You need a USB disk with enough disk space for this to work. What happens is the digibox records the show on the USB when you pause.
You can also schedule it to record TV shows (see manual for instructions).
It is supposed to play avi, mp4, mkv, h.264, etc… I have only tested it with mp4 and avi, and it works well. Very clear. Of course, this depends on your video file. A higher quality video file in 720p or 1080 will give better video. To access your files on the USB, press the USB button on the remote. To go Full Screen, press the Red button. Using the Fukuda remote, I can Pause, Play, Forward (up to 32x), Rewind, Skip to Next, Skip to Back. I recommend using an HDMI cable instead of the included RCA ones to get the best video quality. HDMI cables are only around P200.
And now for a few very minor issues:
- It only works on one TV. You can hook up another TV, but the other TV will just show the exact same thing as the first TV. It’s not a big issue since I never really expected it to work on more than one TV at a time.
- The clock thing is sometimes not accurate. Sometimes the clock is showing the correct time (Manila time), sometimes it is not. It’s weird and I don’t know how to fix it. There is no option in the settings except to choose Philippines and Manila, or GMT +8. There is no option to set the time manually.
- The remote takes getting used to. Maybe we’re just used to having the remote labels written on top of the buttons. Fukuda’s remote has some labels written below the buttons and we pressed the wrong buttons many times since we’re so used to seeing the labels on top – this is for the buttons on the lower part of the remote. For example, I kept hitting Pause || (above the blue button) by mistake when I was trying to press USB (the button below Return).
ALL IN ALL, I think this was a good buy. The pros outweigh the very minor cons and the price is very affordable.
Do I miss cable? I miss CNN and Fox News playing in the background whenever something major happens in world events. I would still get cable if there was an affordable way to get the channels I want without having to pay for the other 90% of channels I don’t want.
UPDATE: July 2016
We are able to get CNN Philippines consistently now. I still can’t figure out how to fix the time setting. I also noticed that when I cycle through the channels really fast, the digibox “hangs”. I turn it off and turn it on again and that fixes it. But so far, so good, we get clear video of most of the free local channels.
I still miss CNN and the Asian Food Channel, but am on the fence about whether or not paying P550/month just to get them is worth it. I watched AFC last week while I was staying in a hotel and their show lineup has improved! I don’t like The Food Network anymore because I don’t like their “reality” shows. One can only take so much of “the-next-best-something” type of show.
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