This weekend, I watched a couple episodes of Red Dwarf, the first episode of Mad Men and the first episode of a terrible television show called Robin Hood. My boyfriend watched an entire season of Fight Quest, and we watched the movies Primer, Mad Max and The Burbs.
Perhaps by my taste you’ll think I was watching cable and nothing else was on, but no, we chose to watch all of these movies using the video on demand service Netflix. We just have bad taste.
To cut costs, we stopped paying for cable about a year ago. Since then, we’ve rented movies from Blockbuster and the iTunes store and downloaded television shows from peer-to-peer sites. Recently we were ecstatic to find that we could rent TV shows and movies from PlayStation’s online store.
But nothing could compare to our excitement that Netflix was in Canada. It was better than Christmas.
For $8 a month, we can now stream as much as we want of anything from the Netflix library instantly using our PlayStation.
Considering renting one movie from Blockbuster costs about $7 and downloading a season of a TV show from a P2P site can take several hours or even days, Netflix is a much better option. Even the PlayStation store takes time to download TV episodes and movies, with TV shows costing about $2.50 each and movies costing $5 or so.
Aside from the PlayStation, Netflix users can also watch shows and movies on the Wii, iPhone, iPad and computer. It’s also coming to Xbox later this year.
On-demand video has been beating out the traditional television model for years. The availability of nearly everything on the Internet to download any time you want, or to watch on YouTube (at least until they take it down), proves that cable as we know it may not be around for much longer. Viewers want their content when it’s convenient to them and they don’t want to be forced to watch Poker After Dark because nothing else is on.
Businesses like Netflix have jumped on this trend.
While the interface isn’t anything special to look at, it’s easy to navigate and the Netflix system has a few neat features that make watching easy. If you stop watching a movie in the middle, it remembers your place, even if you continue on another device. If watching a series, it remembers which episode you were on, still giving you the option to view a list of episodes.
The only downside to the Canadian version of Netflix is that they don’t offer the same mailing service as they do in the States. The American version of the company offers online streaming as well as rental through the mail: request a movie online and get it in your mailbox in a day or two. The higher the monthly fee, the more movies you can have out at once. Their by-mail selection is also wider than their streaming selection.
Before you get too excited about unlimited streaming, though, check with your Internet service provider.
Because Netflix streams video from the Internet, meaning as you watch, you use up your data transfer allowances. With streaming using about one gigabyte of data per hour, cheaper packages will use up their data allowances fairly quickly and it’s definitely something to be careful about when watching on an iPhone. Shaw’s cheapest Internet package “High-Speed Lite” offers 13 GB per month, for example. Going over that limit will net you extra charges.
Luckily, SaskTel doesn’t have data transfer limits — yet. But they may take the route of Rogers, who reduced download caps after Netflix announced the move to Canada in July.