Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Is it Time to Switch from Traditional Television Providers to Internet Streaming Services?
While the majority of people may use traditional cable or digital television providers for their television services, there are a number of other great solutions available today that have the potential to better meet your needs while saving you money. Traditional cable and digital television providers offer plans in segments similar to building blocks. There are economical starter plans providing a basic set of channels that can be expanded upon as needed. Add additional blocks of channels, or individual premium channels, to expand your channel selection for a set price. The greater the number of channel blocks and premium channels, the higher the cost per month. One drawback to this approach is there are often times an entire channel block must be subscribed to for the benefit of only a few channels.
Internet based streaming services can provide similar access to movies and television series you are accustomed to, perhaps with greater controls. These services run on compatible Internet capable devices similar to apps on a smart phone. There are streaming services that charge flat rates per month for access to all of their content, there are streaming services that charge based only on your usage, and there are options in between. No matter which services you subscribe to, you could end up with more control over the content you have access to and how much you pay each month. Each service varies some, offering a different variety of content, different rate plans, and different image download qualities.
The more flexible you are about what content is being delivered, and how quickly you have access to it, the more potential you have to save money each month. It is important to note streaming services run on compatible Internet capable devices, like newer game consoles, DVD players, tablets, and other media streaming devices. This means streaming services use app like software running on compatible devices to connect to the Internet and stream content. Both a compatible Internet capable device and an Internet service is necessary to use streaming services. If you are using a smart phone, the data plan provided by your cell phone carrier is used to stream content unless you are connected to a wifi network. If you do not already have an Internet capable device or an Internet subscription, you should consider the cost of this when making the decision of whether to switch or not.
The list of physical devices below is intended for anyone who does not already have a compatible Internet capable device to stream content through. Additionally, one of these might be a better option for providing streaming content to an additional room in your house not always in use, say the guest room, rather than renting a cable or digital television receiver box with a monthly fee attached. Many of the physical devices listed below offer free channels in addition to channels that require subscriptions. For example, if you bought a Roku, you could subscribe to the Fox and YouTube channels at no cost, and sign into an existing Netflix account at no additional cost.
Amazon Fire connects to all the main streaming services, is a little larger than a smart phone, and connects to your television using an HDMI cable. Currently, the device sells for $99.
Apple TV plays movies and television shows directly through iTunes as addition to many of the streaming services listed below. Apple TV is relative to the size of a smart phone, connects to your television using an HDMI cable, and sells for $99.
Chromecast is the size of a USB flash drive and connects directly to your television, no cable required. Chromecast streams YouTube videos in addition to some of the services listed below. The selection available with Chromecast is currently less than the other devices listed, but will likely expand and the price is much cheaper at just $35.
Roku connects to a large amount of streaming services and channels, is relative to the size of a smart phone, and connects to your television using an HDMI cable. The Roku sells for anywhere from $49 - $99 based on the model selected. Roku offers by far the highest selection of models and pricing. The Roku 3, the latest version, includes a wireless remote with a headphone jack, a processor that is five times faster than the previous version, dual band wireless support, optional storage expansion and more, all for $99.
The following is a list of some of the more common streaming services you can subscribe to for access to television shows, movies, or both.
Hulu Plus & Amazon Prime Instant Video
Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime Instant Video are streaming services used to view movies and television series. Both work with a large number of well known channel providers. Many television series episodes are available within a week of their original airing on Hulu Plus, and are available next day on Amazon Prime. Previous episodes of current seasons and previous seasons are also available. Hulu Plus offers a free 7 day trial period, after which plans are $7.99 monthly. Amazon Prime Instant Video offers a free 30 day trial period, after which plans are $99 annually.
Blockbuster On Demand
If you are only an occasional movie watcher, an on demand service maybe the most sensible solution. Blockbuster On Demand uses a free app you can download onto computers, Samsung SMART televisions, Roku devices and more, and only bills you when you stream a movie. Most movies cost $2.99, making the service reasonable for anyone streaming movies only sporadically.
Netflix originally was the first mail order movie rental service. Over time, Netflix has added video streaming to its services and both movies and television shows can be streamed or rented via the mail service. Netflix works with a wide variety of channel providers and television shows are typically available after the current season has finished its original airing. There are a number of different sized plans for the mail order disc service, and the cost is based on the number of discs you have at the same time. Streaming plans start at $7.99 monthly and the pricing is based on the number of screens that can be streamed to at the same time. Netflix offers a 30 day trial period to try out the service.
Vudu is a streaming service used to view movie and television series. Vudu is a pay as you go provider, meaning you are only charged for your usage. This service works best for people who watch content sporadically. Currently Vudu is offering a special for new customers who sign up providing 5 free HDX, or high resolution, movies at no cost.
Clearly there are many options with streaming services, in both compatible Internet capable devices and subscription service. If you already have a compatible device, the amount you would save by switching would be even more. Overall, the amount you can potentially save is completely dependent upon what you are currently signed up for and paying monthly, and what you decide to subscribe to long term. Before deciding to switch, be sure to take advantage of the free trial periods for at least a few of the services to be sure you will be satisfied with the services long term before cancelling your existing service. Talking to friends and coworkers who use the services is always a great way to gather information, tips, and information about potential drawbacks to switching.