Jumping on the Stream Train

Let me paint a picture for you: You’ve just gotten out of college with a BA in something-something and are heading into an entry-level position with some company or other; or you’re still a college student living off-campus in an apartment with a friend, classmate or someone who you’ll probably hate in a few months.

In either case, the overriding idea is that not much money can be set aside to afford those lofty cable or satellite packages that AT&T, Comcast and DirectTV keep shilling at you.

In fact, more than 200,000 people canceled their satellite or cable subscriptions in the second quarter of 2010, a sign of the weak economy that we are still in, and a move away from fatty subscription-based viewing to a slimmer online TV consumption regime.

So you have to ask yourself, how do you go on this online streaming diet? I cut the cord more than a year ago and haven’t looked back.

What are your options?

First things first, what are your options for online streaming out there? I’m going to throw the majority of the readers on this site a bone and assume that you already know about Netflix and Hulu. But for those of you who’ve been living without knowledge of these two industry revolutionaries:

Netflix is the subscription-based service that initially began with video rentals over mail and now offers an online movie and TV show streaming service that you can subscribe to for $8.

Hulu started out as a joint venture between NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment Group and ABC Inc. to provide video content from the three networks online. The website has progressed and offers movies to stream as well. And recently, HuluPlus was launched which allows subscribers (for $8 as well – is that some sort of magic number?) to access seasons of TV shows (past and present) and movies on their computers, tablet computers and TVs by using streaming devices such as gaming consoles or media set top boxes.

Beyond these two you have several other options including Vudu, iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand. What sets these services apart from the aforementioned is that they operate on a pay per view model as opposed to a monthly subscription basis.

So why cut the cord?

It’s all about the money, darling, and cutting the cord will save you a lot of it. Today a basic satellite package, with only 50 channels of content you might not watch, starts at $29 a month and can go up to $40 with a two year agreement for more 150 channels. It sounds tempting, but when you consider the fact that you have to wade through hours of content and repeats that you don’t want to pay for… come on.

Most cable subscriptions offer the same starting price for subscriptions only to rope you in for two solid years if you want to watch the new episodes of Entourage on HBO.

On the other hand, if you get a $20 a month Internet subscription and an $8 Netflix streaming package, that’s only $28 a month for access to content that you like that you can watch whenever you like.

This may sound like a plug for Netflix or Hulu (I’m still waiting for that check) but in all honesty it’s a worthwhile lifestyle change. In this day and age, we want the media we want when exactly we want it and it makes sense to break away from the confines of scheduled programming. It seems worth it to cut the cord. What do you think?

Siya Africa I spent several years studying politics and journalism in South Africa before working in the media industry there. Whilst taking photographs of Nelson Mandela and writing about celebrities visiting the "Mother Land" I decided to make my way to the States, in 2009, and have been a grad student at IU ever since. All your tweets belong to me (courtesy of Julia Roy). Twitter: @siyaafrica

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4 Responses to “Jumping on the Stream Train”

  1. Siyabonga Africa

    Thanks Jen. Have you cut the cord yet? If not I hope this blog will help you make that decision.

  2. candice

    Great piece Siya – and too true. But the likes of AT&T are not all that happy about it, since they get no revenue but have to foot the bill for the networks that run services like Hulu and Netflix.
    In SA it is still a long way off – but hopefully we will get some sort of online streaming content soon. In the mean time, I am stuck with the ever increasing cost of DSTV.

  3. Siyabonga Africa

    Thanks Candice. I all to well know about the stranglehold that Multichoice has on Africans and if there was some level of competing choice it would benefit the consumer. I had a similar conversation with a colleague about why overseas cable and satellite network providers would prevent Hulu and Netflix from operating in those countries. Here in the States those two are cleaning up to the point that Netflix is going to be airing/streaming an original series. South Africa needs to catch up in terms of bandwidth pricing for such services to be viable. I will continue reading your articles on that issue ;-)


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