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Internet Streaming Services

Internet Streaming Services

Internet video streaming services are a great way to get movies and TV show episodes on demand. There are several pay-per-view options, but if the point of getting rid of cable is to save money, you'll want to look at flat-rate monthly subscription services. Right now Netflix is the king in this category, and for two good reasons: it has a reach across all sorts of devices from phones to video game consoles, and its content licensing agreements for streaming aren't device-restricted.

If you've got an Internet connection and a compatible device (such as a current generation video game console or a Blu-ray player), then you can be streaming video (in 720p in many cases) for $8 per month.

I love this service, but you should be advised that it alone can't give you every movie or TV show ever made. For example, Netflix provides HBO series via its DVD-by-mail service, but none of that content can be streamed. They have many Showtime series that you can stream, but the most recent season is available only on DVD. Availability of movies for streaming, both new and old, depends on whether or not they have an agreement with the studio; this varies widely.

Another service that might fill in some gaps for you is Hulu. It's not available on as many devices as Netflix, but the number is growing. Though Hulu has some movies, it's more TV-focused and has episodes from current seasons. They also have a Hulu Plus service for $8 per month that lets you view episodes from older seasons of shows, with a pretty impressive collection.

The agreements that Hulu has are device-specific at the moment, so I was disappointed to discover that although there are no technical barriers, it cannot stream Hulu Plus content to my Google TV. At the moment, you'll either need a Roku device or a computer hooked up to your TV to see Hulu on the big screen.

Amazon just recently announced an interesting expansion of its Video-On-Demand product: If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can stream 5,000 of the videos in its library for free. Unfortunately, the eligible titles available right now aren't that impressive—movies from the 90's and even older TV shows—but that's sure to change over time, just as it has for Netflix and Hulu.

Clearly the studios are going through some changes trying to figure out what streaming means to its business and whether or not it will cannibalize DVD/Blu-Ray sales. There has been tremendous growth in this area over the last year, and I expect that over the next 12 months things will get sorted out in favor of streaming services, much like what has happened in the music industry in the last decade.

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