January 7, 2021

Streaming : What Do You Choose to Get You Through The Night?



If nothing else, 2020 cemented our relationship with the wide world of streaming. It is almost hard to remember when you'd wait several days for the red envelope in the mailbox with a DVD inside. It wasn't until 2007 that Netflix began offering streaming to your home as an alternative to the mailed DVD option.

Amazingly, there are still nearly 3 million subscribers to the mailed DVD service, folks who live in areas without reliable or fast enough Internet service. That division of Netflix continues to lose subscribers as more of the country is able to access the Internet. Yet, the DVD service is profitable, a full 13 years after streaming first became an option.

With 83 million subscribers, cable and satellite delivery remain widely available and the first (and only) choice for many of us. And, of course, there are plenty of people who depend on that TV antenna on the roof to watch local, free television. In my area, I can receive over 40 channels using just a small flat panel in my living room.

Bottom line: most of us have enough choices for TV entertainment that we could spend every waking moment watching something and still miss 99% of what is available at that moment.

The providers of all this programming are well aware of our apparently insatiable appetite, and willingness to pay for additional options. Watch Hulu for free or dump the ads with the premium version? Multiple streams in HD? Netflix has a package for that. Sling TV or YouTube TV are like cable without the cable. 

HBO or HBO Max? Do you like the Discovery Channel on cable or the streaming version, Discovery+? Want something that is part of the Disney family of companies? The streaming service, Disney+, is a necessity, as well as several choices of ESPN on cable. You'll need Peacock for some material produced by the owner, NBC. Many of the more popular PBS shows require making a $60 yearly "donation" to access them.

Like Foreign or art films? Kanopy is the place to be. With a local library card, you are free to browse hundreds of films and documentaries that don't appear anywhere else. Don't forget Pluto TV, the Roku Channel, or Apple TV+.

Love the theater experience for new movies, but hesitant to attend because of Covid, or turned off by the high prices for tickets and popcorn? Covid has forced most new movies to appear on a streaming service or paysite on the same day it is released to your local multiplex. Disney+, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vudu, and now HBOI Max are making a trek to a movie theater pretty much unnecessary.

A new wrinkle is to pay a rather hefty charge to watch a new movie at home when it is first released. Example? Mulan for $30, Or wait two months and it is part of Disney+ with no extra charge.

Of course, with all our choices, it is becoming easier to actually pay more for individual streaming channels than we once did for cable service. As entertainment becomes much more home-centric, even a quick glance at the bills for all these streaming services shows how deeply we have become enthralled by the at-home options.

For full disclosure, the Lowry household does have Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Sling, and the free version of Hulu. We can watch live TV, with NFL football and PBS channels being favorites. But, so far, we have resisted the call of the others who are after a larger share of our entertainment budget.

Today's question: which streaming services do you turn to most often? Which services may not be worth your money in the new year? Are there newer choices that you have decided are worth the cost like Disney+ for all the Stars Wars and Disney movies? Or, maybe HBO Max because the TV show, Friends, is no longer on Netflix?

The Covid vaccine is becoming available. But, I seriously doubt that means we will give up the convenience and sheer volume of choices we have to make any time soon. Home-based entertainment is here to stay. 

So, what streaming services have gotten you through the long Covid darkness? What shows can you strongly recommend? And, which stinkers will you help us avoid?

 

31 comments:

  1. I don't stream anything. I don't even know how. And I rarely watch old movies, rather see what is new but I don't watch those much either. When I am in the mood for "comfort viewing" I can always find the TV series' "Friends" and "The Big Bang Theory" on TV.

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    1. Interesting way to start the comments, this morning, Jean, from someone who doesn't stream!

      I know Friends was taken off Netflix at the end of the year but won't be on HBO Max until May. I think TBS is still airing the show until that date, so that must be where you get your Chandler and Ross Fix!

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    2. Not into video, period. Prefer books.

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  2. My American friend and I watch shows on Amazon Prime and Netflix. We watch our shows while talking on the phone over WhatsApp. Each country has a different variety of shows but we can always find something we both have. Currently we are watching Bosch on AmazonPrime. Being 5,000 miles apart does not interfere with our friendship.

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    1. Bosch is well done. What I like about that show is I can not see it for several weeks, remember it, watch the next episode and feel drawn right back into the story.

      Each streaming service does have somewhat different offerings in different countries, but I gather the most popular are available everywhere.

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  3. For streaming we have Netflix, Amazon Prime, BritBox (being married to a Brit means BritBox is almost mandatory) and we currently have "free" access to Apple TV+ as I bought a new iPad last April and you get one free year of streaming with it. I also stream CBC Gem (Canadian Broadcasting Company). It's free in Canada if you don't mind a few commercials and for $5 a month you can get it commercial free. It has quite a few programs that are not on their regular broadcast network though you have to do a bit of looking around to find a show you might like.

    Recently we have been watching Gameface (CBC Gem), Line of Duty, Still Game, and have really enjoyed The Queen's Gambit and The Crown (all on Netflix), Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ is also recommended. Currently we are at our house in Mexico and a VPN allows us to stream most of what we get back home but not everything. Some of the services are just not available in Mexico (Britbox for example), Apple TV+ said "This service is registered in Canada" and automatically switched us to the Canada service (why can't they all do this?). Netflix and Amazon Prime Mexico are close enough to what we have back home so that works for us. The VPN lets me stream live TV from back home so I can get my news and sports fix when I need it.

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    1. Having a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a good idea in a foreign country.

      My wife and I are real fans of British crime shows, so Britbox was heavily used until we had exhausted the new material. Old shows (70's and 80s) are usually in the old 4 x 3 format that drives me nuts, and the quality isn't there. So, we will wait for a while and sign up again to see newer material.

      Yes on Queen's Gambit, The Crown, and now, Bridgeton. The one show both of us absolutely love is The Repair Shop. There have been 6 seasons produced by the BBC, but only three are available so far in the States. We are holding our breath for fresh seasons on Netflix.

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    2. If you are a fan of British crime shows you really should check out Line of Duty if you haven't already. It's on Netflix in Canada (and Mexico) but I am not sure in the US.

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  4. Bob, while we do have access to a few streaming services, we are not heavy users of any of them. In fact, our streaming is usually limited to one or two programs on Saturday nights. For years, my wife and I have had a routine Saturday “Pizza and a Movie Night”. Originally the movie was a DVD either from our local library or from Redbox, now it has evolved to include streaming from three services….none of which were purchased specifically for streaming. We have Amazon Prime Video, which we have because we have been Amazon Prime members from the very beginning for the free 2-day shipping…before there was Prime Video. We currently have Apple TV+, because last year we purchased a pair of new iPads and received a free 1-year subscription as new Apple device owners. And we recently were able to stream HBO Max because our Cable TV subscription has HBO included. Of those three streaming services, I prefer Prime Video due to the number and type of programs offered. But with that said, we still find that after we have exhausted our favorite Amazon programs (Bosch, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Jack Ryan, Goliath, Upload, and a few others), we often can’t find anything we want to watch. Apple TV+ has very limited programming and only a few that we cared to watch. Unless there is a major improvement, we will not continue with it after the free year is up. HBO Max is a middle ground. More programming than Apple TV+ and the lure of limited-time access to some new release movies. However, our first attempt to use it to watch a new release (Wonder Woman 1984) was unsuccessful due to terrible sound quality….you could not understand the dialog and we had to give up after just a few minutes. I hope that was just a ‘one-time’ problem, but others have reported similar issues. Since it is currently free for us due to our Cable TV subscription, we will try it again, but I wouldn’t sign up for a stand-alone paid subscription to it based on what I have experienced so far.

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    1. Like you, Prime Video is a tremendous add-on for Prime shipping membership. Our Hulu is the version with ads. It was given to us free through Spotify (our music source).

      HBO Max is aggressively attempting to grow, but there is nothing there worth $15/month to us. We saw Wonder Woman 1984 in the theater, where something that big and brassy is best seen. It isn't really my type of movie but my wife and one daughter liked it, so I went along for the popcorn.

      The experience is different since the theater is 75% empty, but it was good to get out of the house and have a nice reclining seat to sit in.

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  5. As usual here, I have to give the "minority report". We are in a rural area with nothing more than DSL Speed which is too slow for even standard def viewing. Last year I opened another Consumer Cellular account although I have zero talk-time on the one I already have. I did it, so I can use cellular to stream. That gives me about an hour a day for streaming.

    I am anxiously waiting for Starlink from Elon Musk to be available here. They say it will happen in the next few months. I know it is a hundred bucks a month but that is less than half of what I pay now. I have been fighting a slow internet speed for a decade now, and I am getting tired of you city folks who complain about speeds that are 50 times faster than mine as being too slow. ha. 😎

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    1. Your Internet limitations make all the blogging you accomplish rather amazing! And yes, we city folk have the advantage of quite a range of Internet speeds.

      I dislike the Internet provider I use, which is the major one in the Phoenix area, but the speeds make streaming easy. I would love to have a viable alternative.

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  6. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+ (mostly for the grands), with a smatter of free streaming offers along the way.
    The Expanse, Your Honor and American Aristocrat in Britain are current weekly pulls.
    HGTV and PBS are our staple daytime tv. BBC on line in the background of most computer time.
    Lots of different podcasts- like Dave Ramsey, Suze, TED talks.
    We rarely watch regular TV, but do get it. Our entire family shares the account since we are all different in our tastes and rarely watch at the same time---except the Seahawks and Green Bay :)
    My sister in law's extended family rents a theater once a month so they (about 100 people) can go to the movies. We are in no such rush. Theaters have not reopened.

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    1. Renting a theater for such a large family group is a great idea.

      Our local over the air PBS station has three digital sub channels, so there is rarely a time when there isn't a program worth watching.

      For a while we were hooked on Chip and Joanna Gaines (Fixer Upper) on HGTV, but after a while her ideas were all the same and the cute act got a little old.

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  7. We have Netflix and Prime Video. We dropped Direct TV for YouTube TV and like it. However, they recently raised their price by $15.00 per month and dropped the Tennis Channel. So we signed up for a free trial HuLu without the ads and as soon as we did that and paid the first month, they raised their price by $15.00. So we are back to YouTube TV which I think has a better interface than Hulu and virtually no ads.

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    1. YouTube has been pretty aggressive to get me to sign up for their TV service, but I am happy with what Sling offers. Yes, it is $30 a month but that is much less than cable for the same range of channels.

      Of course, as you have noted, as streaming becomes the go-to choice for more of us, the prices will eventually top what we always felt was too much for cable!

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  8. I enjoy Prime Video and subscribe to Youtube TV for network TV. I recently added Showtime and am finding some good programming. I periodically subscribe to Britbox or Acorn, but usually just keep these two subscriptions just for a month or so, and then unsubscribe until there is new programming. I too, love British crime shows.

    I read an article in the Atlantic recently about the draw of British crime shows. The gist of it suggested that the lack of gratuitous violence and the normal, average appearance of the actors as a big draw. It's refreshing to see actors that look like the rest of us, instead of airbrushed perfection!

    I've been watching way too much news today (CNN); just heartbreaking what has happened.

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    1. British crime mysteries are so much more enjoyable than most American choices for the reasons you mention. Most crimes are committed off screen and British detectives don't have guns so they use their minds to solve a crime. I hadn't thought about it but you are right: most of the stars do not have the Hollywood look and they tend to look a little rumbled and shop-worn - more like real detectives.

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  9. We have the Netflix DVD service. We have metered internet. The unlimited options are useless (less than 1 MB download speed most of the day). However, once we go over the 30 GB we ended up slowed way down. We use the Internet for teaching college classes online, so need it working. We can use our phones as hot spots, but they are also pretty slow. While we can stream with the content provided free through Verizon, we don't very often.
    There are trade offs for not being in town and being rural. Just glad we can get both phone and Internet (satellite is the best we can do)at all.

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    1. Oh, we have Amazon Prime for the free shipping, which is cheaper than driving around trying to find what we want. Nearest bigger town is an hour away and then it gets even farther. With Prime we also have their streaming, but again, don't use it too often.

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    2. Wow, someone who still receives the DVD envelope in the mail. When I did the research for this post I was shocked that DVDs are still part of Netflix's business, have a few million customers, and make the company money. As you note, thank goodness, since you don't have a reliable option for seeing movies.

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  10. I have Prime and Netflix. May get Hulu without ads back..right now have streaming only. Prefer Nordic Noir and European as well as British Cop.show so subscribe to Masterpiece and MHZ via prime. More into shows than movies these days except for those movie to at deals because of theater closings. Plan to watch Tenent this week. I'm fine with subtitles and dubbing and live Icelandic show like the Valhalla Murders and Midnight Sun which is in Hulu. If you are looking at English language TV I agree with the Expanse, Line of Duty.

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    1. I should investigate Masterpiece. many of their shows on PBS are so good, but to watch on demand requires a yearly donation.

      Just home from seeing Tom Hank's new movie, The News of the World. It is another Tom Hanks masterpiece that is well worth seeing. Tenet was a bit confusing and mind-bending. Watch it if you can pay full attention.

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  11. We have cable for basics including local channels and sports channels. We also have Amazon Prime and Netflix. Our cell phone carrier, Verizon, gave us a free year of Disney +, and a new iPad purchase gave us a year of Apple. Not sure we'll keep either of those when our free year expires. I can only watch so much TV, and I love to read.

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    1. I can tolerate about 2 hours of TV at a single sitting. Then, I have to be off doing something else. Reading would be very high on that list.

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  12. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but from time to time we turn on the Netflix DVD option for shows that aren't available to stream. Right now we're watching Person of Interest and The Good Fight, alternating DVD rentals through the multiple seasons on each.

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    1. That's interesting...I didn't know you could do that. I am sure there are some things available on DVD that we would like.

      Good idea, Linda.

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  13. I don’t watch films or series very often, but when I do I use Netflix or sometimes CBC Gem (the free version). We also have cable, which we rarely use; I don’t know why we bother to pay for it. I also like to watch TED talks.

    Jude

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    1. I had taken a break from Sling for several months. Like cable, we didn't use it often enough to justify the cost. But, when things started drifting into dangerous territory after the election, we found we needed a source for CNN. Sling was the best option. Regular cable left our household several; years ago, and has not been missed at all.

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  14. I'm late catching up on your posts. Living in the woods in the most heavily forested state in the country, I can only get one channel over the air (and that one not always)and can't use satellite (digital signals don't like trees). I could sell my soul to the cable company, but instead I use WiFi to stream television on a Roku box. In addition to all the free content on Roku (including local news and PBS), I subscribe to two inexpensive services that mostly specialize in British shows, Acorn and BritBox. There's more than enough content there to satisfy my needs.

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    1. We love Britbox. British shows are often so satisfying and intelligent. Now that Roku has added free movies, it is proving to be a nice addition to the smart TV.

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