Streaming

What Do I, an Average Guy Who Wants to Cut the Cord, Need to Know About the 102 (and Counting!) Different Streaming Services Out There?

Good news: There are a few free ones!

In 2007, after nearly 10 years of success as a subscription DVD service, Netflix launched its video-on-demand service (VOD). As a result, several subsequent events occurred: First, Blockbuster began its slow morphine drip toward oblivion. Second, people — mainly young people — began cutting their cable cords and doing away with network TV. And finally, humankind did what it does with literally everything and made things more complicated by providing too many options.

Today, those options have run amok. What began as a single streaming service with the hope of having all the movies and TV shows in one place has spawned a diaspora of Netflix copycats.

I’m sure that even for you, an average guy who just wants to watch the classics like Star Wars, some superhero movies and your one childhood Disney movie of choice that you insist to your Tinder dates is about so much more than just a boy and his dog, this isn’t news. But still, did you know that along with the big names like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO, there’s 19 other notable on-demand streaming services to choose from — and that’s not even including the 32 “niche” on-demand streaming services, 15 broadcaster-specific streaming services, 15 live sports streaming services and 18 general live TV streaming services?

Nah bro, that’s not real.

Yeah, brah, it is. In fact, most recently, Vulture reported that small indie production company A24 has put its entire catalogue of movies on the streaming service Kanopy.

Kanopy?

Yes, Kanopy. Think of it as the streaming service for that kid in college who probably wore a trench coat and combat boots even when it was 75 and sunny outside and who was always watching movies where the good guy doesn’t always win in the end… if the movie even really had an “ending,” so to speak.

So a streaming service with a bunch of movies with subtitles? I’m not trying to read here, bro.

You’re missing the point. By nearly every measure, there are too many streaming services out there and, according to Digital Trends, it’s only going to get worse. “While there’s long been a solid bench of competitors for Netflix (Hulu and Amazon Prime to name a couple), a horde of new players has entered the fight,” they report. “They include entertainment titans like Disney, AT&T (which now owns both Time Warner Media and DirectTV) and even tech giants like Facebook and Apple, which is rumored to be planning a global rollout of its new TV service for 2019.”

What happened all of a sudden?

Basically, Netflix became so successful so quickly that everyone else realized that they needed to follow suit, take their assets and work on launching their own on-demand service. “Take Disney’s soon-to-launch Disney Play streaming service. Before its announcement, Disney and Netflix had a blooming partnership that landed Netflix viewers all of Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars movies, as well as a vibrant collection of series starring Marvel’s street-level heroes,” reports the aforementioned Digital Trends article. But now, Disney is going to be hoarding all of the content it owns and releasing it exclusively on its own platform.

What are some of the more important streaming services I should put on my radar?

The good news here is that there really is something for everyone. Take FuboTV for example, which is your one-stop shop for live sports. “FuboTV initially launched as a streaming service for soccer, before pivoting to a more traditional live TV streaming service,” reports a different Digital Trends article. “The company is keen to point out that while it’s a sports-first streaming service, it’s not a sports-only service.”

If you’re looking for something to completely replace your cable box, PlayStation’s Vue offers live feeds from most major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX — for $40 per month. The good news is that you don’t need a PlayStation console to use it: According to Tech Hive, it’s available on Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV, Android TV and on most Windows and MacOS web browsers.

But are there any, y’know, free ones?

Of course! VOD services like VUDU and Tubi offer movies and TV shows that you can watch without a subscription. But you will have to watch some ads. “Tubi is 100 percent ad-supported, which means you’ll see commercials before and also during content,” reports Tech Radar. “Luckily, the ads are usually pretty short and innocuous, and pop up inconsistently within and around the content. When watching an episode of a TV show, you’ll probably see a short (30-second) commercial beforehand, and maybe a 15-second or 30-second ad in the middle.”

Arguably the most popular free streaming service, however, is Crackle. “Crackle TV is a completely free streaming service owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Company,” reports Grounded Reason. “The service features movies, TV and original programming that rotate on a monthly basis.”

All this free stuff sounds pretty good. But how am I supposed to keep track of all these different streaming services with names that sound like Pokemon characters?

Honestly, you’re not. And frankly, neither can we. The problem is that as VOD streaming becomes more popular — this year alone, Netflix is on pace to add 27.4 million global subscribers — every media company is going to want to have its own original version of Stranger Things. But increasingly, if you want to have access to all of your favorite movies and TV shows, all of which are likely produced by different media companies, you’re going to end up having to subscribe to more streaming services than DirecTV offers channels.

But I don’t want to do that — I’m trying to cut cords here, not get hosed! Can you tell me how much it’s going to cost to bundle some good movie streaming services with, say, some live-stream services that include sports?  

Considering Netflix is the original streaming service, you’re going to want to dole out the $10.99 per month (up from $9.99 in 2017) to fulfill your movie-watching needs (or more accurately, binge-watching-11-seasons-of-something needs since, let’s be honest, that’s what Netflix is mostly good for these days). Alternatively, you could subscribe to Hulu or Amazon Video for $7.99 per month and $8.25 per month, respectively.

In addition, since you’re an average guy and most average guys like sports, you’ll probably want to bundle one of those TV/movie streaming services with FuboTV, which is another $44.99 per month, so you never miss another game of sportsball. And if you’re really jonesing for men-in-capes content, the DC Universe recently began offering its streaming service for $7.99 per month. All of which brings your streaming service total to a little under $70 per month.

If you’re wondering what that sort of cash gets you from a standard cable TV service like Direct TV, well, it’s actually quite a bit. According to DirectTV.com, for $60 month, you’ll get access to over 250 channels that includes sports, TV, movies and your fair share of superhero-saves-the-world content.  

In other words, what began as a simple $10 per month service that had you cancelling your cable TV quicker than you can say “I’m Batman,” is now, financially speaking, basically the same as your parent’s boob tube.