Piracy or Paying: The Pros and Cons of Streaming

Piracy or Paying: The Pros and Cons of Streaming

In my previous blog post I looked at the pros and cons of pirating all the media you consume, forgoing traditional cable and satellite companies and the streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, et al. Today, I’ll be focusing on the good points and the downsides to doing the right thing and paying to access all of your movies and television shows.

Doing the Right Thing Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

Hardware
Pirating all of your media would require a substantial investment up front to purchase computers for each of your TVs, and in some cases a server to store the media as well. But when you’re doing things the right way by paying to access all of your content, the initial investment is minimal, or in some cases, nothing at all.

If you’ve purchased a TV within the past year or two, chances are it’s a smart TV. These are televisions that feature their own operating systems, allowing the user to install apps, much like a phone, tablet, or media streamer. Typically the Holy Trinity of streaming services are available, those three being Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Many TVs have at least one or two of these services along with a range of lesser-known ones as well. If you have such a TV, you can cut the cable immediately and start streaming all your media today.

If you’re like myself, your HDTV is likely a few years old and doesn’t feature any apps or extras. If that’s the case, you can purchase a media streaming device like a Roku. This connects to your TV via an HDMI cable and brings apps to your television. Where you’re located in the world will dictate which apps are available to you, but there are ways to trick the Roku into thinking you’re in the US, giving you access to all the best streaming services with the widest selection available. Roku is just one of many media streamers currently available, some of the others being Western Digital’s line of WD TV devices and D-Link’s Boxee Box.

What’s All This Cost?
There are costs associated with doing the right thing, but as I mentioned in my post dedicated to the pros and cons of piracy, you may end up paying each month for access to download pirated movies and TV shows. The cost could end up being about the same as doing this legally, depending on what your needs are.

To stream movies and TV shows through Netflix, you’re looking at about $8 per month. Hulu Plus will also run you about $8 per month to access its selection of TV shows and movies. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll already have access to its streaming service where you can stream many titles for free, or choose to rent or buy other shows and movies. If you’re not a Prime member, the service costs around $8 per year and gives you access to the streaming service along with free shipping options.

I’ve covered the Big Three of streaming services, but there are many smaller ones available on smart TVs and media streaming devices. Some of these require you to pay while others do not.

It should be noted that when you take the Netflix/Hulu approach, you still won’t have access to your favorite shows immediately. Typically you have to wait a certain amount of time before they’re available on the streaming services, usually this coincides with the home video release date. If you can’t wait that long, you can choose to purchase episodes from services like Amazon Instant Video and iTunes, if you’re part of Apple’s ecosystem.

Where is it?
As is the case with pirating, if you know what you want to watch, you have to find it first. It would be nice if there was one source we could pay for to access all the TV shows and movies we could ever want to watch, but there isn’t. So when you’re looking for a particular movie or television show to watch, you might have to do some digging to find it.

Not all movies and TV shows are available on all services. One TV show might be available on Hulu but not on Netflix. You might be able to rent a movie on Amazon Instant Video, but not be able to stream it through Netflix. Fortunately, there are websites that streamline this searching process. On such website is Can I Stream It? where you can type in a movie or TV show and it will show you where you can legally stream or download it, if at all. For example, I typed in Sons of Anarchy and learned that previous seasons can be streamed on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video while the latest episodes can be purchased on Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu. Registering for Can I Stream It? will also allow you to sign up for email notifications when a particular movie or TV show becomes available on one of the streaming services.

Internet Connection Required
When you pirate all of your media, it’s all stored locally and you can access it whenever you want so long as you have power to your residence. If the Internet goes down, it doesn’t matter. You have lots of shows and movies archived to watch. But if you rely solely on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, when the internet goes down, you might as well reach for a book. For most this won’t be an issue, but many people overlook the fact that a 24/7 connection to the internet is required. Taking your Roku to the cottage where there is no internet access means no Netflix access.

The other side of the coin is that most (if not all) of these streaming services have iOS apps for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, and for Android phones and tablets. This means that when you’re away from your television, you can still stream all the content available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. to your devices. When combined with something like Apple TV or Chromecast, you can even send the video from your device to a television.

The fact that an internet connection is required for these streaming services may seem silly, but a lot of people who are considering cutting the cable and moving towards streaming might not consider this. My parents are just entering their sixties, and while they’ve asked me about cutting the cable and signing up for Netflix, they don’t like the idea of not having access to all the shows they regularly watch. Switching to streaming only would also require them to upgrade their internet connection to facilitate the bandwidth and speed necessary to stream HD content over the Internet.

So what type of person would cut the cable and move to streaming-only services? Those who want to make the cable-cutting process as effortless as possible with minimal upfront investment. Those who don’t necessarily have a wide range of shows they routinely watch, and the ones they do follow, they don’t mind waiting for them to become available. The type of person who could cut the cable and live happily ever after is the person who doesn’t mind discovering new movies on Netflix or shows on Hulu that they’ve never heard. If this doesn’t sound like you, and piracy is too much work, maybe the world of cable and satellite isn’t so bad after all.

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