You are sitting in front of your computer with some down time. Down time…what is that? Don’t ask me, I’m a student and I can’t remember. Anyway, in this hypothetical world where you have down time, you decide that rather than scrolling through your Facebook news feed, you would rather be entertained by people you don’t know.
Enter online streaming video.
But which provider to choose? There are many options for streaming video providers and many of them have significant differences. So which one of them is right for you? There are a few questions that you can ask yourself to make the right choice:
Will this work on my device?
Many streaming video providers offer access across platforms and devices. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu and Vudu allow you to watch video on most Internet-connected devices such as gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, HDTVs, streaming players, and mobile devices. iTunes wants you to have iTunes downloaded onto your Apple device or PC. To watch iTunes content on your television, you will need Apple TV, a device that costs $99, in order to stream video from your iTunes account onto your TV. A newer streaming video provider called Vdio, allows you to stream only through your computer’s browser or iPad.
Remember, UB Libraries have hundreds of online educational and documentary titles streaming for free through the Libraries catalog. Our Streaming Audio and Video web page has all the details.
How much is this going to cost?
There are three options that are available with regard to cost: free, subscription, and a la carte.
Free? Yes, there are a couple of free options out there. Crackle, Hulu and PBS are three streaming video providers that offer free titles. The catch is that the selection is limited.
Subscription services include Netflix for $7.99/month, Hulu Plus for $7.99/month, and Amazon Prime Instant Video for $79/year. All providers offer thousands of titles, but the selections vary widely and are subject to changes based on relationships with major movie studios and networks. My advice is to check the provider’s selections before signing up for a subscription.
A la carte refers to the ability to purchase video when you want it AND for how long. If you want to rent the video for 24-48 hours that is one option OR you can purchase a digital copy of the video to view at any time, forever. Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, and Vdio offer these options.
An aside about streaming video from Amazon – as you can see Amazon Prime Instant Video is different from Amazon Instant Video. Amazon Instant Video offers only pay-per-view rentals and purchase-to-own options for streaming video. Amazon Prime Instant Video still allows access to that service, but includes the subscription to a decent selection of television shows and movies, as well as unlimited free two-day shipping from Amazon.com and free borrowing privileges on a selection of Kindle books. Also, Amazon offers Amazon Prime to students for the price of $39/year (with some restrictions) while you are enrolled in school.
What about the selection?
As I stated under cost, selection varies from provider to provider, and is highly changeable based on the provider’s relationships with movie studios and networks, so do your homework if there is something you are looking for in particular. Netflix currently has a small subset of original programming. A couple of the shows are Emmy-nominated.
Do I have to sit through advertising?
For now, and that is a BIG qualifier, Hulu/Hulu Plus is the only provider that is ad-supported. Whether or not the other subscription service providers will be able to sustain their viability without utilizing advertising remains to be seen, but that is a discussion for another time.
Go forth and use your magical, nonexistent down time to watch some streaming video. If you watch educational programming on PBS that counts as school work, right?
by Jackie Coffey-Scott