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What's streaming?

More ways to watch exactly what you want when you want

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May 19th, 2017
Image of hundreds of channels for streaming.
Image of hundreds of channels for streaming.

Turn on your TV and the options are seemingly endless. Basic cable subscribers typically get 30 to 40 channels. For those willing to pay more, the choices increase significantly. News junkies have 27 options. Nine premium channels offer recent movies and original programming. If you’re into sports…well, let’s just say the possibilities are virtually endless. 

Even with all that, the phrase “there’s nothing on” is still commonly heard in living rooms across the country. Enterprising marketers believe they have the cure for TV boredom in the form of…more TV. It’s called streaming video on demand. 

Streaming is so popular that many viewers are cutting the cable cord, disconnecting the dish, and relying solely on streaming services to meet their television needs (see “Cutting the cord on cable,” EricksonTribune.com). At the moment, this is probably not your best option if you rely on local news or like to watch programs on the traditional broadcast networks, but services that include these options will be offered soon.  

Devices

Streaming services deliver programming over the Internet and can be viewed on a computer monitor with Wi-Fi access, a smart TV, or a regular TV connected to a device that makes it smart (i.e., receive Wi-Fi) such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Roku, and others. A device will cost between $50 and $150. 

Before you choose a device, you might want to try out the user interface in a store showroom to make sure you’re comfortable with it. Navigating through the menu options can take some getting used to and each device has its own peculiarities.

Also be aware that not all streaming services work with all streaming devices. For example, you can’t watch Amazon Prime through Apple TV. Make sure your device and your streaming services are compatible. 

Services

Some streaming services, like Netflix, for example, are well known, but others are a bit more under the radar. Most offer a free trial so you can try them without commitment. Here’s a roundup of streaming services worth looking into:

Netflix (netflix.com). If you’ve been a Netflix DVD user, this may be the time to give its streaming service a go. The movie selection is somewhat different, but the convenience of having its entire roster immediately available more than makes up for the handful of titles not yet available to stream.

What is most interesting about Netflix lately is its investment in foreign language options. Check out Call My Agent, a fun French production about the inner workings of a talent agency. 

Another interesting series, Gomorrah, is from Italy. Set in Naples, it’s a gritty portrait of a crime family. Two more shows to add to your watch list are Nobel from Norway and Fauda from Israel.  

Netflix is $7.99/month.

Walter Presents (walterpresents.com). This is one of the newest and most unique streaming services to hit the market. Walter Presents is a curated selection of foreign television shows from nine nations (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Norway, and Spain). All of the programs are subtitled in English and the service says it pays careful attention to the translations, so the subtitles are extremely precise. 

Among the offerings on Walter Presents is Spin, best described as House of Cards in French. Another gem is a Norwegian mini-series called Scratch My Back about four juvenile delinquents assigned to community service at an upscale retirement home. The program’s strength lies in the way it presents both the teens and the older people as fully realized, complex characters instead of relying on tired stereotypes. 

Walter Presents is $6.99/month. 

Amazon Prime (amazon.com). Amazon Prime Video is included in the package of benefits that accompany Amazon Prime membership. The programming includes a respectable lineup of feature films like The Lobster and Dirty Grandpa and TV shows like Downton Abbey and The Americans. It also includes the entire catalog of HBO shows and a growing list of top-rated original content, including Amazon’s award-winning Transparent

Amazon Prime is $99/year or $8.99/month.

Acorn TV (acorn.tv). Anglophiles will love Acorn TV, a little known and relatively inexpensive service that specializes in British TV programs. Acorn shows include Agatha Christie mysteries, comedies like Doc Martin, and the service’s newest hit, a police drama called Jack Taylor starring Iain Glenn of Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.

Another Acorn winner is the BAFTA award-winning comedy The Detectorists, a sweet story that follows the Danebury Metal Detecting Club as they rove around the countryside in search of buried treasure. The cast is wonderful and includes the original Emma Peel, Diana Rigg. 

Acorn TV is $49/year or $4.99/month (free one-week trial available).

 

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