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What’s a Hulu? or Your Handy Guide to Video Streaming Services

Apr 03rd, 2017 | Leave a comment

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Home Theater Lifestyle

Many of you may remember running down to your local video rental store to grab the latest release and settle in for movie night. And you may also remember when all the new releases were unavailable, and though there were movies galore to be rented, how many times could you watch that comedy from 1985? Fast forward to cable companies offering movies on demand and DVR services, and the way we watch movies began evolving in a large way. Still, though, there were some drawbacks—if your cable service didn’t have a particular movie or show available, that didn’t work. And DVRs, as useful as they are, record commercials as well. Fast-forwarding (and rewinding back, because you went too far forward) got frustrating at best. Definitely not ideal.

Enter Netflix, with DVD rental-by-mail. Netflix moved from single rentals to monthly subscriptions, and to this day has a loyal following for their DVD mail rental service. But the area in which Netflix shines is video streaming service. For a monthly fee, users with an internet-connected device or a streaming-media player can stream video.

Internet-connected device? Streaming-media player? Stream?? Wait, what?

Let’s begin with the basics. Streaming means receiving material via the internet in a continuous manner. No pauses, no commercials—continuous. To receive streaming material, you need internet service, and a device that connects to the internet—smart TV, computer, smartphone and more. However, for example, if you have a TV that cannot access the internet, you need a streaming-media player to connect to that TV. Essentially, this is a small device that gets connected to your TV that taps into your home’s Wi-Fi network. That allows the TV to receive streaming content from the internet. There are many streaming devices in use today such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast. Each offers different services and proprietary content as well, but their basic function is to enable a device to access the internet. In addition, some game consoles and Blu-ray players offer streaming capabilities.

Now that you have your device connected to the internet, you’re ready to watch. Watch what? Which service? Video streaming offers movies, TV shows and other original content (exclusive to the streaming player you are using). In this post, we will discuss the top services that offer streaming content: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.

Netflix: As the leader in streaming services, there is an excellent selection of TV shows, movies, comedy specials and original programming. In fact, original programming is a huge feature of Netflix with shows such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. All this is available for a monthly subscription fee starting at $10/month for an HD plan, with the ability to share one subscription among several people. In other words, depending on your plan, you can have six devices registered to your account at any time, and may stream up to four movies at the same time. This comes in handy for your child away at college, or your parents who live in Florida.

Hulu: This is another streaming service, offering current episodes and full seasons of popular TV shows, many right after they’ve aired, as well as some movies. Programming from CBS, however is not currently available. Monthly fee is $8/month, and while Hulu can be activated on as many devices as desired, only one can currently show streaming content at a time. There are limited commercials shown, but there is a subscription option (for a few dollars more per month) that is commercial-free.

Amazon Video: This streaming service operated by Amazon enables you to buy, rent and instantly watch digital movies and TV shows. For Amazon Prime members, additional titles are available at no additional cost with an Amazon Prime annual membership, which runs $99/year. Amazon Prime Video gives you access to a large library of titles, included in the annual fee. Amazon also offers original programming such as Transparent and The Grand Tour.

For those of you looking to “cut the cord” with your cable company, there are additional streaming options available for TV programming:

Sling TV: This services allows you to watch around 30 live TV channels, including ESPN, AMC and Disney Channel, for $20/month (Sling Orange). To add more channels, two other options are available, $25/month (Sling Blue) for around 40 channels, and $40/month (Orange & Blue) for all channels. Orange allows streaming on only one device at a time; Blue allows three at once. There are additional packages available, such as movie channels (HBS, Cinemax and more) and sports channels, depending on the base package chosen. These cost between $5-15/month.

PlayStation Vue: As another “cord cutter” service, PlayStation Vue offers live TV, sports, movies, news and more for a monthly fee. Plans range from $39.99/month (Access) for about 45 channels to $64.99/month (Ultra) for 90 channels plus HBO and Showtime. Newest channels include HBO, Cinemax, NFL Network and NFL RedZone. Also included is a “cloud DVR” and the ability to stream on five devices from one account. This service works with PlayStation gaming consoles (although you don’t need a console to use this service), Amazon Fire TV, iPhone, iPad and Chromecast.

One additional note about original content—for those who want to watch shows exclusive to specific streaming services, you must subscribe to that service to watch. Original content is only available on that individual service. If you simply must see House of Cards, you’d have to subscribe to Netflix. Likewise, for Transparent, you’d need Amazon Video.

For those of you who subscribe to multiple services, it can be a bit cumbersome to search and navigate through each service to find something to watch. Check out JustWatch.com (also available as an app), a cool way to see what’s streaming on all services, along with availability and pricing. This should help simplify the process!

You now have a good idea of what streaming is, different services available and content offered. Be sure to check your current cable or satellite TV offerings and compare to streaming options. More for less is a possibility – so explore and enjoy! And be sure you’ve got plenty of popcorn on hand.

Clearly the future of home video entertainment is to stream all your favorite TV shows and movies. Having a robust home Wi-Fi network or having TVs hardwired to your router is the best solution. Need our help? Contact IDS at 516-625-6060 or by email at scott@idsaudiovideo.com. To get more information visit: http://idsaudiovideo.com/contact-us/learn-more/

 

Please note prices indicated in this post were collected from outside sources and may change. Be sure to check each service’s site for accurate, updated pricing information.

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