Tag Archives: streaming services

Are There Too Many Streaming Services?

By Tracey Dowdy

With Disney’s recent announcement of a November launch date for Disney Plus, have we hit peak streaming service or, at the very least, are we at risk of streaming service overload?

For years, we dreamed of an a la carte approach to programming – a great “unbundling” of movies and TV shows – but with the Disney juggernaut entering an increasingly crowded field of streaming services, the cost of accessing all your favorite programming is creeping steadily closer to being at par with the cable services so many of us have dropped.

To be fair, Disney Plus – at least for now – is just $6.99 a month, or for a discounted annual fee of $69.99. The service will offer programming and original content from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, and will include content from Fox, including all 30 seasons of fan favorite, The Simpsons.

Once upon a time, cord cutters had two choices – Hulu or Netflix. Today, when deciding what subscription service best meets their needs, consumers have to wade through content libraries on Sling TV, Amazon Video, HBO Now, PlayStation VueFubo TV, Apple’s recent addition to the list, Apple TV+, and countless more. Once you’ve drilled down past what content is available, you’ll need to determine if they offer live TV, how long after airing on network or cable TV is content added to the streaming service, is there quality original content, and if they allow extra third-party streaming content. It’s enough to make your head spin, and your wallet groan.

My family currently subscribes to Hulu ($12 a month), Netflix (just jumped to $15.99 a month), and Amazon Video ($10 a month as part of my Prime Membership), and HBO Now ($15 a month). Adding it all up, even without the cost of Sling TV (another $25) which we’ll need to watch hockey and football, we’re up to $78 a month – tell me again how cutting the cord is saving me so much money?

The issue is exclusivity – where we once paid a cable or satellite provider like Verizon, Comcast, or Direct TV one price to access all our favorite shows across networks and movie studios, with the rise in streaming services, content has been restricted to specific providers. For example, Disney has pulled all its movies from Netflix, as well as content from Marvel and Nat Geo/National Geographic Channel.

Who knew so many streaming options would have us longing for the halcyon days of cable TV?

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


Is It Time to Drop Cable?

By Tracey Dowdy

Are you thinking about cutting the cord? There are pros and cons to keeping and cutting, so before you take the plunge, there are a few things to consider.

COST For most of us, the discussion of whether or not to cancel our cable subscription starts with the rising cost of services. Your cable and internet provider are likely from the same service, and providers commonly bundle their services to appeal to a broader customer base. For example, it’s better for me to subscribe to a monthly phone/cable/internet package than to purchase internet as a standalone service, not only because of cost but because the bundle offers unlimited data. We watch a lot of Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, and nothing eats up data faster than streaming. You can sometimes negotiate a better rate by calling your provider and threatening to leave, but most price breaks and promotions have an expiration date when the cost bumps up again, sometimes without notice, and you’ll have to start bargain shopping again.

NEED At my house, we watch more shows on streaming services than on cable, which is one of the original reasons we looked at canceling cable. But, I’m a hockey fan and adding Sling TV to watch my Penguins comes with a $25/month price tag. My husband is a baseball and football fan, so access to NFL and MLB games means additional subscription fees for each. You can see how quickly any savings are wiped out. The best plan is to sit down, make a list of what you watch, what you can wait for – streaming services don’t always have the latest episodes on-demand – and go from there. Consumer Reports has a great list of streaming services, what they offer and what they cost.

DVR vs. ON DEMAND Live TV streaming services like Sling or HBO Now provide access to content via a “cloud DVR,” but there are limitations. Often, you have to sit through commercials, there’s a cap on the number of shows you can store, content expires, and some channels don’t allow shows to be recorded at all.

ANTENNA The one workaround for cord-cutters to access local channels is to use an antenna. Most TV’s come with an over-the-air tuner built-in, allowing you to plug in an antenna to access networks like ABC, NBC or PBS. However, depending on where you live, reception may be excellent or non-existent. Streaming services often offer local channels, but not nationwide, and the channels available are limited.

One final note, many people who’ve cut the cord share login information across households, e.g., with family or friends. Be aware this contravenes the Terms of Service with your provider who can track logins and potentially restrict access based on location.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

YouTube Red Helps Reshape Streaming Services for Mobile

By Tracey Dowdy

Although we all know YouTube as a free online video service, you may be surprised to learn that it also offers paid video streaming subscriptions. Previously offered as a little-known music streaming platform called YouTube Music Key, the service was revamped to include video and relaunched in October 2015 as YouTube Red.

Like many streaming services, the first month’s subscription is free, and then it costs $9.99 a month thereafter. While that price tag isn’t the cheapest, it’s certainly comparable with the cost of many other video streaming services. Choosing Red over watching YouTube the way we always have means you no longer have to deal with ads interrupting your videos (unless you’re watching paid TV channels or renting TV shows and movies). Currently Red is only available in the U.S. but there are plans to expand to a global market.

YouTube has created original series and movies for PewDiePie, Lilly Singh, Rooster Teeth and other YouTube stars that will be offered exclusively through YouTube Red. There is speculation it will eventually be available for free but there’s no guarantee or timeline offered as to if and when that will happen.

The pros for Red are that users will be able to download and watch videos offline and that you’ll be able to listen to videos with the screen off – in other words, you can open another app on your phone and still be able to listen to your video in the background.

Because YouTube is owned by Google, subscribing to Red means free access to Google Play Music, making it a better deal than Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and other streaming music services. Conversely, if you have a subscription to Google Play Music, you already have access to Red; they’re a package deal, you just need to be signed in to the same account on both services and ensure that both are available in your area.

The cons are that video is available for direct download only to phones and tablets. Content will be available for 30 days but some features such as liking and commenting are unavailable if you’re offline. Red may not be a good fit if you already subscribe to a service like Spotify and use an ad-blocker extension. At $10 a month, it simply may not be worth the additional cost. However, if you’re a commuter or frequent traveler, being able to download content to watch offline and hang on to it for 30 days may be enough of an incentive. At the very least, subscribers have that one month free trial to give it a test run.

One final piece to consider is the impact ad blocking and subscription services are having on the “free Internet.” Ad blockers have been around for years but, with increased awareness of how our personal preferences are monitored and logged by advertisers, more and more people are using ad-blocking extensions to circumvent the tracking. This has an impact not only on retailers but on content creators on services like YouTube, as many of the channels are dependent on ads to stay in business. It will be interesting to see how long access to sites like YouTube will continue to be available at no cost. If monetizing a formerly free service is successful, we can expect the so-called “free Internet” to disappear faster than Fantasia in “The Neverending Story.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.