Technology

What You Need to Know About Streaming Video

With new options, online viewing is easier and cheaper than ever.

1. You can commit to a new provider. Ready to cut the cord? If you’re interested in a low-cost subscription that allows unlimited streaming, look to Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix, which has a huge video library, will run you $8 a month, or $96 a year. Prime, which is $79 for the year, gives you access to a rotating library of more than 17,000 TV and movie titles. Plus, you’re entitled to some e-book rentals and free two-day shipping on most Amazon products.

2. Or you can play the field. Amazon Instant Video (with more than 120,000 movies and TV shows), iTunes (with 130,000) and Vudu (with 70,000) charge $2 to $3 for individual TV and movie rentals, and $4 for new releases. The catch: A rental is still a rental. If you want to watch a movie again, you’ll have to pay for it. And for frequent couch potatoes, those payments add up: Pay-as-you-go renting is cheaper than Netflix only if you rent fewer than three movies a month.

3. Your cable company wants you back. A number of cable providers are touting their streaming capabilities. But don’t be fooled into thinking that a streaming package is a bargain. Comcast’s Xfinity TV lets you watch your favorite shows online, on a TV and on other mobile devices, but after the first 12 months you will pay $55 a month for the privilege. Verizon FiOS streaming packages begin at $65 a month for the first year, plus taxes and fees.

4. You’re paying twice. Walmart trumpeted the launch in April of its disc-to-digital service, which, for $2 or $5, allows you to stream movies you already own on DVD to your tablet or mobile device. But why pay extra to stream a movie you can already watch on your TV or laptop?

5. You may need some new equipment. Whatever serv­ice you choose will likely be compatible with your PC and mainstream mobile devices, such as iPads and iPods. But if you want to watch TV, well, on your TV, then you might need to invest in a streaming device. You can stream content from all of the major players using a PlayStation 3 ($250) or an Xbox 360 ($200), which makes them solid bets if you also play video games. Roku’s box, a bargain at $60 to $100, works with any major serv­ice. If you want to connect your computer directly to your TV, that’s a snap, too. A set of HDMI cables for high-definition TVs costs less than $10; standard-definition TVs can take PC-to-TV converters, which run about $75. (You will also need to route the audio through separate speakers.) Some HDTVs come Internet-enabled and ready to stream.

6. Tune in for further developments. In February, Redbox and Verizon announced a movie-streaming partnership, set to launch in the fall or winter. Two days later, Amazon and Viacom announced a similar partnership that offers channels such as MTV and Comedy Central on the Amazon Prime platform. But the most exciting development might be a scrappy start-up called Aereo. The service, launched in March, lets you watch TV on any Web-connected device with a screen via Aereo’s network of miniaturized antennas. Aereo serves up only 20 channels at present, and only to New York City residents. The company remains mum on its expansion plans, but it has raised enough funding to grow if the initial rollout goes well.

Most Popular

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer
Coronavirus and Your Money

Where's My Stimulus Check? Use the IRS's "Get My Payment" Portal to Get an Answer

The IRS has an online tool that lets you track the status of your second stimulus check.
January 18, 2021
When Could We Get a Third Stimulus Check?
Coronavirus and Your Money

When Could We Get a Third Stimulus Check?

President Biden and others in Congress are pushing for a third-round of stimulus checks, but it might be a while before we get them.
January 20, 2021
6 Reasons Why Your Second Stimulus Check Might Be Delayed
Coronavirus and Your Money

6 Reasons Why Your Second Stimulus Check Might Be Delayed

The IRS started delivering second-round payments in December. If you're still waiting for your money, here's why your second stimulus check could be l…
January 18, 2021

Recommended

A Golf Course Community’s Big Variable for Retirees
Smart Buying

A Golf Course Community’s Big Variable for Retirees

Golf club memberships can often be a separate, and hefty, annual fee at golf communities. Here's some guidance before you tee up your retirement move …
December 14, 2020
Don’t Buy This: Top 20 List of Things That Aren't Worth the Money
spending

Don’t Buy This: Top 20 List of Things That Aren't Worth the Money

Buyer’s remorse is real, and if you purchase any of these 20 items, chances are you’ll get to experience it firsthand.
December 9, 2020
Retirees, Get Ready for Virtual Video Visits for the Holidays
Smart Buying

Retirees, Get Ready for Virtual Video Visits for the Holidays

Tap into virtual video software, age-friendly gadgets, video apps and accessories to make seasonal gatherings safe.
December 4, 2020
2020 Tech Gift Guide: The 10 Best Values + The 10 Best, Period
Smart Buying

2020 Tech Gift Guide: The 10 Best Values + The 10 Best, Period

From laptops to loudspeakers to, yes, shoes. Check out the latest gee-whiz gadgets to make an impression during gift-giving season.
November 29, 2020