Picking a Provider
Once you’ve got a good internet connection in place you’ll need to determine which provider(s) you want to stream and where you want to stream it. There are several quality streaming providers – here are just a few to consider:
Netflix – if you’re still on the DVD only plan it’s time to check out Netflix’s streaming service. Netflix offers access to thousands of TV and movie titles. Netflix is the so-called king of streaming right now as they have the largest collection of content all at an affordable price of about $8 per month.
Amazon Instant Video – in addition to letting you purchase content, if you sign up for Amazon Prime, you gain access to free streaming content. Like Netflix, Amazon Prime offers thousands of TV shows and movies. If you purchase Amazon Prime for the shipping or Kindle benefits, this may be a slam-dunk for you. An Amazon Prime membership is about $80 per year.
Hulu – Hulu is focused on giving you access to recently aired television shows and a wide selection of movies – including those from the Criterion collection. A free version is available, but limited to viewing on a PC through web browser (you can watch on your TV with an HDMI cable). The paid version supports multiple devices and runs about $8/month.
iTunes – iTunes doesn’t offer subscription based content but they do allow you to purchase content much in the same way you can purchase music from them. iTunes has a wide selection of fresh content including movies and television shows.
Sony Crackle – Crackle is a smaller offering of Sony owned properties such as Seinfeld, The Shield and other movie and TV titles. Although Crackle doesn’t offer as much content as other providers, it is free!
Web only providers – several TV networks offer free streaming of their shows directly on their website. These offerings are free, but content is somewhat limited, quality is variable and commercials are sprinkled throughout the shows.
Another increasingly popular option is to create your own digital video recorder. Instead of paying for a 3rd party service like TiVo, you can use free alternatives like MythTV or XBMC to not only record live TV but you can also play back any kind of digital media like movies. More on this later.