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?