If you have been tempted to cut the cord from expensive cable or satellite bills, you have probably given consideration to some of the online streaming services such as Netflix.

What is the best streaming video service?

It depends on what you want to watch. If you like current tv series, there are options, or if you like to watch more movies, there are other options.

There are several movie streaming sites that provide free content or require a monthly paid subscription. For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on the major options because they have the most content available.

Hulu Plus Content

What is Hulu Plus?

This is a paid streaming content which provides access to the most recent episodes of network television shows along with a lot of other content.  It was actually setup by 21st Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company and NBC Universal Studios as a streaming service to compete with other companies like Netflix.

These media companies have a lot of content, new and old, that they either give away for free, or provide access to through a monthly subscription, as a way to increase their brands and frankly, make some additional revenue on the content, new and old, via other avenues.

There are thousands and thousands of new and old shows that are given new life on these types of enterprises. Rather than sitting around collecting dust on content provider’s shelves so to speak, they are able to dip into new and old revenue sources that had been thought to be long extinguished.

If your goal is cutting the cord, but still want access to shows you may have missed, you should give this service consideration. If you want to try it out for a month, there is a Hulu Plus free trial when you first sign up on their website.

There is also the free Hulu service that is available online and can be watched on laptops and mobile devices. While it does not contain the most recent episodes of new shows, and at most may only contain 5 episodes per current show, they do have an extensive archive of virtually every other show from the past. If you want to get lost in tv and catch up on some of those shows you watched as a child, Hulu’s free streaming service probably has it. I started watching Battlestar Gallactica 1980 last year. If you are a fan of that series and want a good laugh, give that a shot. It is terrible. It is basically a sci-fi show minus the sci-fi with a lot of car chases set to porn movie music.

Streaming Netflix

Netflix List
Credit: Netflix.com

Netflix is one of the best ways to watch tv episodes online that you may have missed out on the first time. I recently discovered several series that have been on for years and binge watched the first two seasons of two of them: Once Upon a Time and American Horror Story.

For years, Wall Street analysts were saying that Netflix wasn’t long for this world. That the cable companies and content providers could put it out of business next month if they wanted to, and that the cost of buying content was going to skyrocket when their current contracts with networks like Stars expired.

Well, they expired several years ago, and yes, the newer contracts cost a lot more because of the success of the company, but many of those same analysts have flipped on its future. It seems that is isn’t so easy to take over a niche once a brand has been established. Cable companies like Comcast do provide the infrastructure for Netflix to deliver their content, and yes, Comcast does have its own On Demand service, but it is a poor comparison to the Netflix service. I have used both and one of the more annoying aspects of Comcast On Demand now is that they make you watch commercials now. This did not used to be the case, but about 2 years ago, they put commercials breaks in just like live tv, and you could not fast forward through them. When they started that, I stopped watching On Demand. As I said before, I am not wasting my time watching commercials.

That is where a service like Netflix and Hulu Plus are changing the market. I, along with many others, would rather pay a reasonable monthly fee for access to streaming content rather than watching cable company offerings, or even using a DVR to record programs.

The great thing about watching a series on Netflix is that there is no fast forwarding. After watching Netflix for a while, whenever I watch something I have recorded using my TiVo with Comcast, I find it annoying to manually fast forward through commercials.

Original Content is Changing the TV Industry

The most interesting thing about Netflix is that it has been creating original programming for the last couple of years. When they announced this plan back in 2011, some analysts on Wall Street scoffed at the idea. After all, how successful can an internet company and DVD rental service be at creating content that Hollywood has been doing for decades?

Netflix approached the issue two ways. Developing new content and outbidding other networks for shows like House of Cards. In fact, rumor has it that they paid quite a bit for the rights to that show, but it has been very successful for them. With the success of shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Wall Street is not laughing anymore. 

And there is more original content on the way from Netflix. They are currently developing five new Marvel Comics based series, as well as a drama based on Marco Polo due later this year.[1]

Downside to Netflix?

However, there is one drawback to cord cutting from the cable providers if you are going to strictly use Netflix. The content for tv series usually runs about a year behind. So if you are impatient, you will have to keep the cable or satellite service, or opt for the previously mentioned Hulu Plus which costs about the same as Netflix every month, and contains more recent episodes of current television shows.

How to Watch Netflix on TV

How to Watch Netflix
Credit: mjpyro

If you are new to the concept of streaming tv through the internet into your television, you might be wondering how it all works.

If you have a relatively new smart TV that can be connected to the internet via a network cable, you probably have a Netflix app installed on your television. Or, you may have a Blu-Ray player that also has access to the app.  With either device, connecting to the internet is as simple as plugging a network cable from your router to the back of your tv. However, if your router is not located near the tv, you may opt for a wireless connection if your tv has that capability. I tend to stay away from the wireless option when streaming content because it is slower that a hard wired connection and more prone to buffering errors.

To use either, simply pull up the tools menu. It varies by tv manufacturer. For instance, for Panasonic televisions, it is under “Viera Tools” on the remote.  Clicking that displays a menu bar across the bottom of the screen with selections such as Netflix, Facebook and Pandora. Simply select Netflix, then log into the your account using the onscreen prompts.

Before you do that, you should go online to the Netflix website and sign-up. Browse some of the categories and add some content to your list. Be sure to record your login and password for entry into your tv app using your remote control.

Once you enter your login information into your tv app, you will be able to view your Netflix queue or list of tv shows and movies you selected online.

Finally, if you own a TiVo Roamio DVR, you can access Netflix via TiVo button on the remote, then select Find TV, Movies, & Videos.

How to Watch Netflix on TiVo
Credit: mjpyro
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What If My HD TV does Not Have Netflix or Hulu Installed?

If your television or Blu-Ray player does not have the Netflix or Hulu Plus app installed on its menu of options, then you will have to hook-up a 3rd party device like a Roku box, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV, all of which will perform the same function as the built-in tv apps.

Lately I have been streamign Netflix via the app on my TiVo Roamio box and I must say, it works much better than the Panasonic Viera option on my plasma tv. The most important feature it contains over the other options is that when watching a tv series, it allows the next episode to begin playing automatically after the credits roll. If you are binge watching, this is a very convennient option.

Final Thoughts

Unless you are completely against technology, it is probably inevitable that you will have some kind of streaming content flowing into your home in the future. In fact, you may be forced to do as the television industry adjusts to the internet and the original programming that is being created by non-traditional network sources.

I have personally used Netflix and Hulu Plus and find them both to be great services. Hulu Plus is a little more difficult to view on your television screen because it has not gone mainstream enough to make it on the tv manufacturer’s loaded apps like Netflix and Pandora.

For now, you will probably need a separate device like a Roku box, Chromecast or a Fire TV to watch Hulu on your big screen tv, although it is easily accessible on your notebook or tablet.

So if you are considering getting rid of the cable or satellite bill and doing the math, having a monthly subscription to both Netflix and Hulu Plus will run you about $18 - $20, and your local HD channels are free via a separate HD capable antennae. You can get a decent indoor one for $20 - $50. So basically for the cost of one month’s cable bill, you can have everything setup and going forward only pay $20 a month, plus the cost of your internet service of course.

Is it worth it? Depends on what you value. If you are addicted to HGTV or cable news, you are probably going to experience withdrawal and frustration. But if you watch tv sporadically, cutting the cord and subscribing to these online streaming providers is a great option for saving money.

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