Friday, October 01, 2010

How Do You Receive Your Content?

I used Redbox for the first time this week - that's the DVD rental machine they have in lots of grocery stores - a buck a night for DVD rentals, due back 9pm the following night to avoid an additional night's charge.  You swipe your credit card, and the machine spits out the movie after you choose from a touch screen.  We watched Iron Man 2 and Shutter Island. 

This is unusual for me, as I'd normally either use cable On-Demand movies, or just take advantage of the movie channels that I pay for (I know - I'm so antiquated).  I was at someone else's house, and I'm unlikely to rent from my local Redbox, since I don't go to the grocery store every day.

I thought it would be an interesting post for me to poll my audience on how you get your content?  Now, I'm talking mostly about stuff you watch at home - I know some people download shows onto their Iphones and now Ipads, but I'm thinking more of stuff that somehow ends up on your TV (or your computer, I guess.
There are lots of options, and I'm interested in all feedback:

1) Pay up front - subscribe to HBO, Showtime, etc
2) Pay per view cable:  On-demand movie libraries
3) Streaming - which is an entire subset all it's own
   a) how do you stream?  Roku? Wii? Xbox? PS3?  BluRay Player, Windows Media PC?
   b) where do you stream from?  Amazon? Vudu, Hulu? Itunes? Netflix?
4) Physical Rentals:  Redbox?  Netflix?  Other?  
5) Side question: Do you even have the capability to play a VHS tape in your house? I do not.

My wife and I have pondered trying to cut back some of our movie channels and just paying for content we demand - but there are a few issues:  1) We watch a number of series on Showtime (Dexter, Californication, Weeds) and HBO (Entourage, Big Love) which I don't think are available in a timely manner elsewhere.  2) I pondered dumping the movie channels and streaming via Amazon/Netflix thru a BluRay player, but my cable company (Comcast) caps me at 250GB a month - does anyone know how much bandwidth a streaming movie consumes (you can give me regular def and HD if you know it) ?

Any other random thoughts on this subject?


disclosure: I have no positions in any of the companies mentioned here


Unknown said...

We ditched cable for a Roku and HDTV antenna for local channels. Only regret is missing ESPN, but I get by with Espn website and the neighbors NFL ticket.

As far as roku goes, we mostly use Amazon streaming. Netflix streaming content is atrocious unless you only watch movie classics from the 80's. I heard Netflix made a deal with some studios but haven't seen any improvement so far.

Amazon's content is pretty good. You can get shows from the networks, new release movies, BBC, and content from pay cable channels. We typically watch Madmen / Weeds / How I met your mother/ Doctor Who. Madmen episodes are usually delayed by 1 day from release on AMC. Network shows are also pretty fast release ~1 day.

The wife and I aren't really TV addicts where we have to watch stuff the instant it comes out. Last night we watched about 4 episodes of season 5 How I met your mother. So about 100 minutes of content. I checked my router and it said I used about 950 megs or ~1gig yesterday. Note, that also included a bunch of web surfing in the morning and at night.

Some days we don't watch any TV and some days we watch a bunch but lets say you watch 200 minutes a day on average it seems like that would be around 2 gigs/day or 60 gigs per month low def. say we avg 2 shows a day at 1.99 thats 60 a month. I realize we're not saving much money ditching cable, but I got tired of the cable company raising my rates a dollar or two every month. Plus we like the "on demand" convenience of being able to watch whenever we want commercial free and no tivo setup.

I'm seriously considering a NFLX short. The price has gone exponential. And I believe there margins will get squeezed by the likes of redbox, amazon, google tv etc. We don't even order dvd's anymore. They just sit around.

J Johnson said...

Interesting/relevant post as I am trying to talk the lady into going for an alternative to cable as we currently pay for premium channels (option #1). I think the technology is cool, but we are running into functional issues. If we were to ditch cable we lose the capability to DVR shows, watch sports via ESPN (as I could get the networks via HD antenna), and watch shows on HBO/Showtime in a relatively timely manner.
In researching options, I was a big fan of the Roku, as they have MLB package to subsidize missing ESPN, and with Netflix and Amazon on Demand (AOD) we would still have broad viewing options. Issue here is AOD requires rental fees (which can be annoying when it is for "free" content from a network such as a show like the office) and HBO/Showtime is out. Also wouldn't be able to DVR shows...which would save on the rental fees on network TV.
Another option I am looking into is internet TV's (no Roku needed). Samsung/Sony seems to have some nice widgets that I could use Hulu (just released on Roku as well) and I saw they have a premium that is $10 per month where I could have access to pretty much all the networks shows, and could still get Madmen and Breaking Bad on AOD, which gets me close to where I want to be. All that would be HD watching, and adding netflix could get the (basically) on demand feature...however, with the not necessarily HD quality, it might be tougher to get into this.
So the sacrifice is ESPN, Boardwalk Empire, Eastbound and Down, and not being able to DVR shows that are "free" or not on AOD/Hulu(unless I want to shell out for a tivo or media PC)…we aren't quite there yet...

CC said...

I have digital cable on TWC including HBO and Showtime. I'm with you from the perspective that I only have these channels because I like the shows and want to stay on top of what's happening.

I've never used netflix because I don't watch many movies, though I catch indies a few times a month in the theater.

I've used red box more frequently then buying PPV movies from TWC since it is cheaper ($1 vs $5), but you do have to wait awhile longer for the movies to get to redbox.

The only problem I am working on resolving right now is how to best tackle Mad Men.

I yearn for the day when we can only pay for the channels we watch....

scharfy said...

I currently get drilled for Sat TV, (and DSL internet via AT&T).... Ouch.

I'm not ready to give up first run HD content (History Channel, HBO, local news, NFL network, Military, NatGEo, ESPN) to stream movies yet.

So for now I takes it on the chin...

I'm constantly seeking alternatives, but my demand for easily accessible first run stuff is too strong for me to change, IMO.

For movies, I use Redbox. and occasionally the PPV.

I actually think Redbox has some legs to it. If they upgrade their stuff just a touch, I'm in for life.

Usually I have to go to Walgreens for something anyhow so its no added inconvenience to use the machine near me.

Yogi said...

For movies I use the public library. It is free and I can request the movies I want online. With a little planning I can even get a dvd as soon as it is released. Iron Man 2 is on tap for this weekend.

Kid Dynamite said...

J Johnson -
you can get a media center PC that acts as a DVR I think. anyway, i wasn't really talking about giving up cable - just the movie channels. I'm not sure it would be much of a cost saver in the end though.

mitch said...

bittorrent... its free plus sometimes I can watch movies before they're released in theatres (usually during the pre academy award review months).

Lord BK said...

I just recently became a Netflix subscriber, and so far we love it. We have a 10 year old who can watch a ton of stuff via his Wii, and that keeps him off my big screen. For now I am using it primarily to get caught up on a lot of shows that I am behind on. (Weeds, Curb, Breaking Bad, etc) I am doing this via the DVD's in the mail, and our cpu. Eventually we plan on getting a BlueRay player, that we can stream Netflix directly to. However, the "Insta" movie selection is fairly limited. But for $8.99 per month, I think it is worth it. Netflix also has no real commitment, so if we feel we're not getting our money's worth out it, or just too caught, we cancel and/or pause our subscription.

We also pay for HBO and Showtime, mainly because of the Series they offer.

Occasionally we will do a pay On Demand through Comcast Cable, however our 'plan' is to reduce that, in lieu of Netflix.

I have two DVD/VCR combos, however the VCR side gets little to no use, except for some classic 'adult' films not yet converted to DVD!!!

GS751 said...

I use Netflix and Red Box. I also have a cord I can hook up my laptop up to my TV and stream things on my Hulu through my TV. I am also in college though.

EconomicDisconnect said...

I am 100% Comcast and have HBO for their great shows (I miss "Rome" most of all). If I want a film I do On Demand but if I really like a film I have to buy it and have it. My wireless sucks so bad forget about streaming anything but profanity at the thing as it drops out all the time.

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to cable (w/out premium channels) and Netflix. I also have a laptop with an HDMI connection for watching Hulu, YouTube, and other online content on my TV.

I have personally seen the amount of Netflix content grow dramatically in the last few years (I am an early adopter from the first days it was available via the Xbox 360). I personally find the Netflix offering (DVDs plus streaming) very compelling. In the long run I worry that Netflix will be run out of town by a combination of companies who own the content and/or own the pipes to the home. Netflix is a middle man, but a central content aggregator is very valuable to me personally so I hope they find a way to thrive. I don't want to have 5 different subscriptions/interfaces for streaming movies and shows.

This is a transitional time for content producers as they figure out how to maximize their revenue while at the same time appeasing their consumers who want to have access to that content on demand (without regard to device, date, etc). I envision a world ten years into the future where we have one Boxee or Netflix like interface on our TV and everything is high quality streamed on demand. I wouldn't need a DVR, a Bluray player, a laptop connection, etc. Just a TV with a direct connection to the internet where I navigate to my centralized content provider. You want to watch live sports? A recent blockbuster movie? Old episodes of the Office? Hit a button and have it.

There are a lot of roadblocks to this happening in the interim, though.

BigRed said...

Still paying for TV, mostly because of the HBO content.

As for bandwidth consumption of streaming content it is vastly dependent on the codec used and the video quality desired. The codecs can be targeted to produce output at desired bitrates, but video quality goes down as you lower the bitrate. So you have competing interests of quality vs bitrate, and various operators make that tradeoff differently.

Pretty much everyone is using MPEG4 or H.264 based codecs for streaming content today.

Broadcast-quality MPEG4 (equivalent to what you get over the air) HD: 15Mb/s
Broadcast-quality MPEG4 SD: 2Mb/s
Broadcast-quality H.264 HD: 10Mb/s
Boradcast-quality H.264 SD: 1.5Mb/s

Video that has been optimized for streaming over the internet will typically clock in somewhere from 10% to 50% of those bitrates.

So a 120-minute HD movie could be anywhere from 1.4 to 13.5 GB, depending on how hard they step on the video quality.

A 30-minute SD show could be 50-450MB, etc, etc. You can do the math.

Jason said...

Currently I'm living outside of the US, so I don't have access to Netflix or Hulu (which would be my preferred methods of content consumption) or the cable channels. That said, I've gotten into watching some TV series (i.e. Lost, Prison Break, 24, etc) on DVDs. I'll buy the DVD set on eBay or Amazon (let's say for $35-$40), then watch the series, and then re-sell the DVD set usually via eBay (let's say for $25-30).

Net, I'm paying $5-15 to "rent" the DVD set for an unlimited period of time.

Since I'm not that interested in watching the latest episode of XYZ (and hence willing to wait even several years until some HBO/Showtime/premium channel shows go to DVD), this is a good way to consume the quality content from cable without having to pay a fortune.

Kid Dynamite said...

Jason - no NFLX or HULU out of the USA? why is that? I didn't know that... I would have expected them to be available anywhere there's internet!

Ted K said...

KD, relating to your response to Jason-----
I know in China it would be for political reasons. Even in movies there is political content they don't want the citizens to know. If I remember correctly it was Mission Impossible 2 everyone in China was "jonesed" to see that and they blocked it for like a 5 minute scene made China look like assholes. Also in China and other places they block movies just because the film industry is government controlled and it would take a huge bite out of the domestic film market.

KD, I mean this as semi-compliment, semi-insult. I'm not trying to be funny here. It never ceases to amaze me how you can grasp some complicated/deep concepts like HFT, mathematics, short-selling (like your post on the FTAlphaville and Waldman's comments and back and forth with Nemo) and something like this that is easy to grasp you miss it.

Kid Dynamite said...

Ted - yeah, so I know about China, but I'm not aware of many civilized countries that censor to the extent that they do... Aside from Chinese government censorship (hey Jason - do you live in China?) feel free to offer up some other explanations for why Jason wouldn't get NFLX content.

Anyway, of course I can grasp that concept - if Jason says "I live in China, they're communist censoring warlords" I wouldn't debate him on it, I'd understand!

J said...

A few years ago when I lived in a house that was within walking distance to Kroger, I walked and Redboxed every few weeks. Now, I'm within 10 minutes of Walmart by car, but I wouldn't waste my gas for Redbox.

Hulu has got great movies online. See 28 days later. FX, TNT also have lots of big budget movies at good times.

We have several VHS capable devices, but none are ever used these days.

Jason said...

I lived in London for awhile and now I'm living in Brazil. So left-leaning socialist states, but certainly not communist China ;)

Distribution rights to TV/Movies must be at the national level, which is what causes this issue. In England, there was a competitor to Netflix (Lovefilm), which was an OK service but inferior to NFLX (and didn't have streaming svc when I used it).

When the Beijing Olympics came on in '08, I didn't have a TV (didn't have one for years because a waste of time, if you think about it). I tried to watch streaming content via NBC's website. But they blocked my access since they detected the computer emanating from outside the US. I could hack it by redirecting my traffic via a US-based proxy IP address, but that wasn't worth my effort...

NFLX doesn't offer a physical DVD service outside the US, and just released a streaming service to Canada (

I recently tried to download TV shows from AMZN, but they also detected my IP address from Brazil and said "no, we only have rights to sell this content in the US".

Another thing friends have tried is to set up a Slingbox ( at someone's cable box in the US and then stream that to their PC in another country.

Funny really, all the hacks we use to watch real content outside of the States. But it's sure worth it when you compare it to the novellas here in BR :)