Streaming content changes your relationship with television programming.
Of course, so did the DVR, but this is different.
I was probably a little ahead of the curve here, because I’ve been streaming Netflix since, at least, 2007. So, back when it was still just starting to be a thing, really, I had gotten totally comfortable with the idea of streaming content. In fact, the first of the three services I’m going to talk about might as well be Netflix. As it turns out, when I decided to drop cable the first time, after Hurricane Ike in September of 2008, Netflix was the only service I had. I didn’t realize at the time that had only really been possible since January of that year, but it didn’t matter. I bumped my subscription up to the level which allowed me to have four discs out at a time and I actually watched more content that way than any other. Let me tell you, binge watching Lost, four episodes in an evening, really opened my eyes. Not only was it far more understandable and easier to follow the plot of an otherwise complicated and confusing show, but it let me indulge the obsessive side of my personality to my heart’s content. Most of the time, I prefer movies to regular serial television anyway, but this really let me dive deep into whatever show was popular. Well, whatever show was popular last year. At the time, there wasn’t a lot available for streaming, but that changed pretty quickly and, for several years, I got caught up on a lot of movies I’d missed and shows that I’d come to late in their life.
Now, Netflix has changed, but I still keep them. And, I currently have an account that allows streaming and up to two discs at a time. I have upgraded to the Blu-ray option, though, since I’ve upgraded my home theater system to a Blu-ray system. I do that because there are a lot of things that I might want to watch which I can’t get via streaming. That being said, for movie content, Netflix still has some of the best options around. Currently, a streaming-only plan is $8/month for a single screen at a time, but will go up shortly. I have a grandfathered plan that includes streaming on up to 4 screens and two Blu-ray discs at a time which runs me about $25 /month. I expect that will go up at the first of the year, based on some news reports I’ve seen, but I think it’s still a bargain. (You can check the latest prices at NetflixReview, though I don’t know how often the update them.) Until I bumped up my network speed, we had a lot of issues with buffering if either of us were doing anything else on-line, but that’s not a problem any more. If we start to have issues again, I’ll bump us up an additional tier, though. We haven’t done it yet because at least one of our goals here was to save money.
When I first started asking people who I knew had cut cable what they streamed, a surprising trend emerged.
It seemed like all of them had Amazon Prime. As it turns out, besides getting free shipping on anything that’s sourced from an Amazon warehouse, Amazon Prime includes a lot of free, streaming video. They also have a lot of on-demand streaming video you can buy. So, the old cable “pay-per-view”, basically, only streaming and with at least as wide a selection, if not larger. It really feels like Amazon is still building their video catalog, but they do have things that I can’t find on Netflix sometimes. They seem to have a lot more television than Netflix does for streaming, too. And, most of their stuff seems more current. By that I mean, Amazon has more things that aired more recently.
Also, Amazon has some content that they produced. Of course, Netflix does, too. I have some those in my queue, at both Amazon and Netflix, but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, so I don’t have any comments. Though, I know Amazon won several Emmy Awards this year for their work. In fact, in celebration of that, Amazon Prime was on sale some time back, and I got it then for $67/year for the first year instead of the usual $99/year.
The other streaming service I heard people mention a lot was Hulu.
Initially, I started streaming everything via my Sony home theater system and, since Hulu was one of the options available, I decided to try it. I figured it was cheap, at $7.99/month for “limited commercials”, and they seemed to carry a lot of programming that interested me, like the SyFy Channel. What I really like about Hulu, though, is basically two things. One, is that it has a lot of the series I like and a ton of anime, which I love, but haven’t watched a lot of in recent years. And, two, I can get a lot of shows that recently aired, like Agents of SHIELD, usually, the day after they aired on regular TV. So, in some ways, Hulu has replaced a lot of what I used my DVR for in the first place.
Hulu also has a lot of more obscure shows, many from Canada, which I’ve never heard of or seen before, which can be fun. And, the “limited commercials” are just that, limited. On most shows, the ads are less than 30 seconds long and only show two or three times during an episode. In some cases, like when my wife and I are watching different shows on different devices, only one of us will actually get ads that interrupt our show. And, lately, the ad I see the most is from Hulu itself, trying to tempt me into upgrading my service to the “commercial free” level. For an additional $4/month, I’m tempted, to be honest, but the commercials aren’t very disruptive as they are now.
All three streaming services we’re using have their own content. So far, though, I’ve only watched original content on Amazon Prime. Specifically, I’ve watched the first two episodes of Man In The High Castle, which is based on a book by Phillip K. Dick. It’s been pretty good so far. I’m also looking forward to watching Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which are both produced by Netflix and are Marvel properties. They’ve gotten great reviews, even though the general public only has access to Daredevil so far. Hulu’s original content is mostly comedy and doesn’t really appeal to me that much. And, I have to admit, the original content is all just icing on the streaming cake for me. None of the original work had any real bearing on the choices we made regarding streaming services.
All that being said, there is actually one more streaming service that I haven’t gotten yet, but plan to add; Sling TV. They’re new, but they sound promising and they may be the only way we can replace some of my wife’s favorite programming, namely classic movies. So far, Sling TV is the only way to get her favorite channel, Turner Classic Movies.
But, that’s going to be a post all on its own at a future date.
Hey, if you made it through all this and still have something to add about your favorite, or least favorite, streaming service, please, leave me a comment!