What Would Chris Do?: Video Services

This seems topical, given the recent changes Netflix has made n their subscription plans.

A household of 6, including 4 kids varying in age from 2yrs to 15yrs, the variety of interests when it comes to TV shows and movies is quite diverse.  And, our lifestyle is of such that there is always something going on: travel, friends over, play dates, etc. So over the past few years we have developed a suite of services and devices that, while always evolving, probably gives us the most flexibility we have ever had, for a fraction of what we would have paid even a year ago.  First, let me start with the various mediums we consume:

Live Broadcasts. anything we feel the need to watch as it is being broadcast. Typically sporting events, award shows and anything we want to stay on top of in real time for fear of spoilers on social media.  For imagethis, we have Xfinity TV from Comcast. It’s been a love/like relationship, but we are pretty happy with what we have going with them. Our package is one step up from Basic, and includes HDTV boxes and the Whole House DVR. More on that later.

New Release Movies.  For years we used Netflix, then switched to Blockbuster‘s home delivery service, back when they basically were losing their shirts giving free rentals when you returned mailed DVDs to a physical store.  Boy, that was great.  But, we eventually returned to Netflix and DVD + Streaming.  But after watching red envelopes gather dust for months on end, we opted out of the DVD service and have been an Unlimited Streaming customer for about 2 years.  So what do we do when we want to watch a new release?  Redbox. The service I once equated to being as useful as NetZero has actually been pretty cool.  There are no fewer than 3 kiosks within 2 miles of my house – I can reserve them online, and return to whatever location I want (once renting in Elkhart, Indiana and returning in Oswego, Illinois) make it a no-brainer. And did I mention the price? $1 for DVDs, $1.50 for Blu-ray. In a pinch, we will spring for an On Demand movie. For those occasions the order of preference is using Microsoft Zune, Amazon Prime, Xfinity, then Vudu. But with so many free shows, it’s a very very indulgence.

General Movies and TV Series.  We have a rich assortment of sources here. Between Xfinity On Demand, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, there are very few shows we are interested in that can’t be seen within 24hrs of broadcast. So much so, that the Whole House DVD I just recently acquired has been largely dormant, and most likely will be going back.

We have a bunch, as you can see from the chart.  We share the Hulu and Netflix accounts across all devices.  In addition to having Parental Controls enabled, we use the history feature to keep an eye on what is being watched.

imageIn the family room, a HDMI switcher saved me from having to pull more wires through the wall, intelligently switching devices based on which box is sending a signal. The Roku box was a recent purchase, as I was holding out to see if Microsoft would add Amazon Video to the Xbox. Hands-down it was the easiest to set up and is used more than any other device. At $79 for the mid-tier model, it was a bargain.

We also have several PCs, a couple of which have access to Hulu Plus and/or Netflix. Also, the 2 iPads have apps for Hulu Plus, Netflix and Xfinity. And because none of these services charges a per device fee, we can stream various shows across all of these devices at once. In a later post, I’ll describe our home network setup. Oh, and I saw a very interesting message yesterday when attempting to watch a TV show on Netflix while it was steaming in another room. Let’s just say they may be planning to change their all-you-can-eat approach…

So there you have it.  What’s next?  Definitely another Xbox. The boys and I like to play online, and having us each on our own screen would save dad from being fragged as quickly because they just look over at my side of the screen. With refurbished units going for $99 or less, it’s a relative bargain.

Another Roku. Or maybe 2. One thing I have yet to master on the Xbox is watching or listening to podcasts. Basically, even though I subscribe via my Zune desktop app, I still have to open Windows Media Player periodically so that it will add the latest episodes to it’s library, thereby making them visible on the Xbox. That’s ridiculous. So, a Roku in my office would insure I can at least keep up with the TWiT network. Oh, and Amazon Videos, which also isn’t on the Xbox.