Online subscription services like Netflix and Total Film are rapidly coming to the fore of our media consumption, and may threaten to kill off traditional TV viewing as the years pass. But there are a number of different services offering slightly different things (as with conventional TV) and you may end up shelling out for an unnecessary service if you don’t do your homework. Let’s have a quick look at some of the options, how you can get the most out of them for your money, and whether or not you should actually be investing in them in the first place.
Firstly, let’s consider your current viewing habits. Are you a follower of a number of different shows, or a devoted acolyte of only one or two? Are you a film buff or an amateur television critic who regularly seeks out new material to delight (or torture) yourself with on rainy weekends? Or are you more of a casual channel hopper, flitting between shows to distract yourself while making dinner or taking care of some paperwork? If you fall into the final camp, a paid subscription service probably isn’t for you. While watching TV is a more passive activity, a subscription service demands your time and attention. You’ll actually have to have a good idea of what you want to watch, as well as some time to get the benefit out of sitting down and paying it your undivided attention.
If, however, you fall into any of the earlier categories, you’ll probably get something out of a subscription service: If you follow particular shows, you can simply locate them on an appropriate service, and if you’re into whole-series binges, this presents you with a much more economical alternative to shelling out on DVD box sets. If you’re used to watching your shows on your own home cinema system, you needn’t despair either: Simply connect laptop to TV and you can be on your way to an amazing viewing experience in no time. It’s probably fair to say that for the die-hard viewer – someone who takes their TV seriously, watches every episode of every show and writes thoughtful blog posts about them – services such as these are likely to quickly be adopted to the abandonment of casual viewing. Nothing is more annoying than having to wait a whole week for a new episode of a show you love!
Even if you have determined that a subscription service is for you, there’s a bit of shopping around to be done before throwing your money around. In some cases, region locks may make the decision for you: NetFlix is currently only available in the UK and North America, and has subtly different libraries in each region, and although its service at the moment is probably the most comprehensive available, some rather perplexing gaps may leave you disappointed. It has, however, recently begun to make a name for itself in original content with a superb US adaptation of the British political thriller classic House of Cards. LoveFilm, a great service for film lovers (obviously) is only available in Northern Europe, but has a bewilderingly complex library for those of you who can gain access to it. Smaller more region-specific services may also be available near you, so it’s worth giving it a quick check on Google.
Beyond the realms of film and TV, services such as this also exist currently for media as diverse as video games and audio books, and we’re likely to see even more diversification in the not too distant future. It seems increasingly likely that all services will begin to move to a more on-demand model (with conventional TV currently battling to regain lost ground), so adopting early may have its advantages, but you’ll be equally well served by waiting until the market has diversified enough to offer you a service which best serves your needs.