Remember when the concept of streaming shows on TV, on-demand, on your schedule, did not exist? Unless you had a VHS machine hooked up to HBO or one of the channels available on your cable provider, you watched what was offered at the time it was on. Likely you had a hundred, maybe two hundred choices. The fact that you really only watched a dozen of them with any regularity was simply the way the video ball bounced. You did not have many choices to drop things that didn’t interest you, though the companies were quite happy to give you “premium” channels, for a higher bill.
All that began to change in 2005 when YouTube starting offering streaming videos. In addition to DVDs mailed to your house, Netflix began streaming movies and TV shows directly into the home in 2007. Watching became something that could be based on the user’s schedule. Amazon launched Instant Video in 2011. And, the race was on.
Over the next several years “cutting the cord” became common practice: getting rid of your wired TV service and signing up for one, two, or more streaming services. For many of us, our monthly bill for entertainment was cut in half, and the choices of what to watch seemed almost infinite.
What came next should have been completely predictable. Realizing their dominance over our watching choices, streaming services began to segment their product. Hulu was the first. In 2010 it added Hulu Plus as a choice: no commercials but a monthly fee higher than the streaming service with advertising. Other companies quickly followed. Content moved from the mainstream service to a premium, or plus, channel that cost more but promised exclusive programming and more choices.
The Plus choice race was on. Just a sample includes Disney Plus. Apple TV Plus, PBS Passport, HBO Max, ESPN Plus, Discovery Plus, Samsung TV Plus. BET Plus, and Paramount Plus (the old CBS Access). At last count, there were over 400 “Plus” streaming services.
And guess what? Folks started migrating to the more expensive Plus choices while keeping “standard” options like Netflix and Prime. With the price increase for Netflix and Prime (based on increases in the shipping service), some selectivity was needed. Otherwise, the monthly bill for video services would start to approach the old cable TV days.
The Lowry household has Netflix, Prime, Hulu (with the ads), Disney Plus, Curiosity, and PBS Passport. We have toyed with the offering from Discovery Plus and HBO Max. Services that we have enjoyed in the past, but no longer have include Britbox and Acorn TV, for the great British mystery and crime shows.
Before we add to our monthly bill and have even more choices to make, I am turning to you. This is really an information-gathering post for me. I would like to know what “Plus” services you subscribe to that you can recommend.
What streaming services do you spend the most time with? Where are your streaming entertainment dollars being spent? Should I add to my line-up?
Oh, and while I have your attention, do you still go to regular movie theaters? Is the experience of sharing a movie with other people in a dark room, with great sound, perfect picture, and over-priced popcorn part of your entertainment experience? If you are avoiding them until Covid has lost some of its power to hurt you, do you think you will go back to the local multiplex?