I doubt that anyone under the age of 35 would say that how we watch TV is going to be radically changing in the next few years. With instant streaming available on many new TVs and BluRay players there is absolutely no reason for most of us to continue to use standard cable to access our favorite shows.
We’ve all heard the complaints before and have probably made a few myself “I subscribe to premium cable to get XYZ channel, but I also have to pay for 50 others that I don’t watch.”
What I love about the future of television is that in a sense it is/will be a purely Darwinian survival of the fittest. Only good shows will survive and we the viewers will chose, not some Neilson black box. And right now there is a race for who will sit on top of streaming media.
When I told my dad that I didn’t think that cable television would last much longer he balked “How will people watch sports?”
Easy dad. If you want to watch hockey, you can subscribe to Center Ice. Streaming online hockey games – and you can watch four at a time. I subscribed to this a few years back and loved the service I got. Wanna watch baseball? Football? ESPN3 offers digital streaming of many games. My dad was also able to watch quite a few of the bowl games on live streaming through the affiliate network sites. As well, those of you with XBoxes can get ESPN360. If you want to watch past season games you can always suscribe to MLB.tv, my LG Bluray player streams them as well.
I’m not so big on sports outside of hockey and following Box Scores online. What do I love? SHOWS.
Streaming TV Shows
Right now there are two major contenders for online streaming television shows: Hulu/HuluPlus and Netflix (note: there are other streaming sites, these are just the major players as I see it)
I currently subscribe to Netflix.
I get unlimited streaming to my computer and to my LG Bluray player (and to BF’s PS3) for $7.99 a month. No ads to watch. But I also don’t get current seasons of shows. Which is fine for me because I like going through shows in huge blocks of episodes at a time (I watched all of Lost Season 6 in 2.5 days) and I’m so far behind on most shows it doesn’t matter.
If you’re not like me and you want the thrill of being up-to-date with shows then Hulu or HuluPlus is for you.
Most of us are familiar with Hulu, you get a selection of streaming shows and movies through their site. Here is something that people don’t get, but Hulu only streams to you stuff that is already free to get on other sites. This frustrates the bajezzus out of me when I tell BF “Fringe isn’t on Hulu” – and then he replies “Well check on Fox.com”. Let’s get this straight people, Hulu (free service) only streams what Fox.com LETS it stream. And Fox.com isn’t going to let Hulu broadcast more than is currently available on it’s site for free. So if it isn’t on Hulu (free service) it isn’t on the networks site either. (That doesn’t mean you can’t find it elsewhere on the interwebz, you’ll just be streaming/downloading from a not-so-legal source my friends).
Hulu has introduced a new way of streaming shows HuluPlus– and I have to say – it is tempting me to switch away from Netflix streaming.
For $7.99 you get the ENTIRE season of the current show – including the current episodes. You also get the back seasons for most shows (which I’d get from Netflix). And their repertoire of shows available is pretty dang awesome.
Also, the number of devices you can stream on with HuluPlus is pretty extensive, especially if you’re an Apple user. From the looks of things I should be able to get HuluPlus on my LG BluRay pretty shortly. BF currently can get it on his PS3. I can’t wait for the Android app – one thing that I have wished that Netflix had was an ability to stream on my HTC Evo – seems like HuluPlus might be able to do it soon.
Of course there are drawbacks to HuluPlus. For one, you still have to watch commercials. One of the things that I love about Netflix is that we don’t watch commercials. With HuluPlus those advertisers are still going to getcha! Another is that it appears that seasons of TV shows that are post-airing, but just released on DVD aren’t available for HuluPlus. For instance, there are only 5 seasons of Lost available. The last season (season 6) isn’t available. However Season 6 of Lost has been available on Netflix streaming for at least a month.
But on the flip side, Netflix streaming only does a handlful of shows. It could be that your favorite network show isn’t streamed on Netflix – but most likely (if it is network) it is available on HuluPlus.
But a bonus for Netflix is that it DOES stream some premium shows. For instance Dexter seasons 1&2 are available on Netflix but only one episode can be found on Hulu’s site.
What about movies?
Of course Netflix and Hulu both stream movies. And for anyone who has ever used either service knows, you get maybe 3-4 decent options with a ton of really baaaaad movies. In my opinion Netflix has a far better movie streaming service than Hulu does (that isn’t saying much).
There are other movie streaming services though! For instance, Vudu is an HD movie streaming service that has many free HD movie streaming options – or you can pay $2 to “rent” a movie for two nights – also they have a 99cent movie that changes daily (today’s is Million Dollar Baby). They have a great selection of movies making it even more convenient than Redbox in a lot of ways. I’ve never used Vudu’s service, but it seems like a great way to “fill in” the gaps of movies that are missing from Netflix or Hulu is a cost effective, streaming way. Vudu also has a multiple platform presence. I can access it from my LG Bluray player, my PC, or BF’s PS3. Now… if only they would get on Android!
It seems to me that with a combination of streaming sports available, movies through Netflix and Vudu, TV shows through HuluPlus and Netflix – well, you can very much get away without ever having a cable box again. And you can even get your premium channels as well. HBO Go is now offering streaming through iPad and personal computers with a subscription to the cable premium station (includes HBO original shows, documentaries, sports, comedians, ect). It is only a matter of time before HBO Go will become a stand-alone purchase to gain new “streaming only” customers.
Where do you fall on the cable vs streaming see saw? We’re in the thick of change and I have a feeling that most personal finance bloggers may have already switched over to Netflix or Hulu to get a lot of their TV watching. Will you be sad to see cable go? Do you think it will go away? What are your thoughts on the future of television as we know it?
**Note, I did not receive money or any other form of compensation from any of the companies mentioned in this blog post. The commentary is purely my own.