five reasons streaming is still better than cable, even if the price tag is the same (plus a long story mostly for myself)

If you stream movies and TV series, you know that the proliferation of streaming channels has had mixed results for consumers.

Many shows that were formerly on Netflix have been pulled by their media parents, and are now found on different streaming apps. At the same time, Netflix's monthly price has increased -- so you're paying more for less.

Those who still want access to the shows no longer on Netflix need to subscribe to an additional streaming service; Disney (which has all the Marvel properties) and Britbox are two big culprits.

Two other very popular streaming services, Crave (owned by Bell Media) and Prime (owned by Amazon), have exclusive rights to many enticing shows, including all the HBO and Showtime series. Recently Bell Media made an annoying cash-grab by offering a first season of a given show on Crave, then requiring an additional subscription to Movies+HBO or Starz to watch the rest.

Many people have observed that if you want a few of these services, the price tag will rival the cost of cable.

I recently decided to subscribe to whatever streaming apps I want. Previously I was holding it to Netflix and Crave. But we spend next to nothing on entertainment now, and watching movies and series is a principal form of relaxation for me. I'm fortunate that I can afford it now.

So I added a bunch of channels/apps/services/whatever (what are we calling these now?), and the combined price does rival our former cable bill.

However, I still find streaming far superior to cable. Here's why.

1. NO ADS. Paying for TV and still having every show stuffed with commercials is an indignity and should be considered theft. The paid streaming services are ad-free.

2. Streaming lets you purchase only the channels you want. Pay for what you use, don't pay for what you never use. When we had cable, I found 95% of it completely useless.

3. The low monthly prices for most streaming services give you flexibility. You can get an app for a month or two to watch a specific show, then easily unsubscribe.

4. Which leads to the next reason: there are no installation fees or other rip-off costs.

5. Which leads to reason #5: you don't have to deal with telcos at all. All you need is internet.

In conclusion, streaming > cable.

* * * *

I was looking back through some of my early posts about cable, access to baseball, Netflix, Roku, and etc. I had forgotten about some of the twists and turns I went through. I want to document it all here. Totally boring stuff, but I want to have it in one place.

1. In New York, we subscribed to Netflix, back when it was only a DVD-by-mail service. Netflix was a huge game-changer for us, as renting quality movies in our neighbourhood was always problematic. We subscribed to Netflix for DVDs for several years.

2. When we emigrated to Canada, I knew there was no Netflix (at the time), but I heard there was a Netflix-type service called Zip.ca.

3. I subscribed to Zip, but there were issues. One, they sent you movies in random order. Netflix didn't guarantee you would receive movies in the exact order of your queue, but you got something close to it. Since we don't watch blockbuster movies, we almost always received our top three choices. With Zip, it was totally random. The next baseball season would roll around, and I hadn't seen my priority movies. I did find a workaround, but it was limited.

4. At the same time, we were spending a lot of money to see our out-of-town team's baseball games. We had to subscribe to cable at a high level, then add the MLB package, plus we subscribed to MLB online, so Allan could watch games while at work (which was at least half the games for the week, sometimes more). But we couldn't watch MLB only online, because Rogers capped our internet usage!

5. In 2006 I lost my job and was unemployed or very under-employed for many years. Spending less was a priority, one that we often failed to achieve.

6. In 2010, Netflix came to Canada as a streaming-only service. There wasn't much on it.

7. In 2011, my workaround with Zip -- which depended on a willing and creative customer service person -- ended. (Soon after that, Zip was purchased by Rogers and became a standard pay-per-view service.) I subscribed to a different DVD-by-mail service, called Cinemail. It sucked and I quickly cancelled it.

8. In 2012, two extraordinary things happened at that same time: my friend M@ told me about Teksavvy, and I learned we could watch MLB through a Roku streaming device. Minds were blown, worlds were rocked.

I'll let an old post tell this part of the story.
In February, I asked for help with my movie-season problem. We had been getting special treatment from Zip, but once that ended, Zip became useless again. I knew there had to be a better way. It's the 21st Century, for crissakes. Why can't we get on-demand baseball, movies, and whatever else we want to watch? First world problems? Absolutely! But that's where I live.

In the past, no suggestions really worked for us. We couldn't get rid of cable TV, because we needed it to watch baseball. We couldn't watch baseball online, because we had a cap on our bandwidth usage. (And because of our work schedules, we had to subscribe to baseball through cable and internet!) I didn't want to watch movies via Netflix only on computer. I didn't want to buy a gaming system just to watch movies. Nothing was quite right.

And then, everything came together.

M@ started it all by identifying the root of the problem: the first step was to get rid of Rogers and their ridiculous bandwidth cap. Switching to TekSavvy was fast and easy. We save money, we get more, and suddenly... we have choices.

Next, we bought two Roku devices, one for each TV. Allan drove to Buffalo to make sure we were set up for the baseball season, but they may now be shipping to Canada.

Next, Roku began to support Netflix Canada.

And next, Netflix Canada has hugely improved since I first checked it out. It has even improved in the last two weeks, growing by leaps and bounds.

I thought that getting rid of cable would be slightly inconvenient, but I'd adjust. That's because I didn't know what awaited me through streaming, via Roku.

Baseball without commercials! (At least the ones between innings.)

Movies! And lots of them. No more waiting to see what we receive in the mail - but without having to watch on a computer, or having to hook up a computer to the TV.

And not just movies. The small amount of TV I care about is suddenly now available on demand. Without commercials. . . . .

From the earliest days of Netflix DVDs-by-mail and cable Pay-Per-View, I used to wonder when we'd be able to watch any movie or any TV show, anytime we wanted, in our own homes. I just moved one giant step closer to that.

9. We learned how to create a wireless VPN, so we would have two IP addresses, one in Canada and one in the US, so we were able to access both versions of Netflix, plus baseball without blackouts.

10. In 2016, Netflix cracked down on VPNs. You could still watch US Netflix on a computer, but I could no longer get it wirelessly through Roku. (VPN providers still claim that you can, but really... no.) Fortunately by this time, Netflix Canada had improved significantly.

11. Also in 2016, Amazon's streaming service, then called Amazon Instant Video, finally was available in Canada.

12. In 2018, we purchased an AppleTV, which has exclusive rights to Crave -- which has all the HBO and Showtime shows. Turns out it gives much better access to MLB than Roku. Nice!

13. In 2019, I gave myself permission to add any streaming service I want, to have maximum options. I am pretty happy about this.

14. One last bit. I am dreaming of an app that would let viewers track their watchlists across different services. Not a media server, because I won't have the shows downloaded. And not quite one of these, as they are all limited in different ways. I want a master watchlist that can click through to the show on the appropriate streaming service.


James Redekop said...

I definitely want the "master watch list" thing also. There are websites that are trying, but until the streaming services embrace the idea of encouraging people to subscribe broadly, rather than trying to get people to pick only their service, the protocols for building a master watch list application won't be there...

I have an acquaintance who lives down-island from you who makes heavy use of your point #3: he will rotate his subscription services based on what shows he wants to watch: Disney+ for a month to watch "The Mandelorean", then Crave for a month to watch "Picard", then Netflix for something else. Apparently it's working pretty well for him.

laura k said...

I have an acquaintance who lives down-island from you who makes heavy use of your point #3: he will rotate his subscription services based on what shows he wants to watch: Disney+ for a month to watch "The Mandelorean", then Crave for a month to watch "Picard", then Netflix for something else.

I've been thinking about doing that more myself. I opted for annual subscriptions for most, because it's a better value, and I like having all the choices available, for spontaneity. But I should also track how often I use each app. Maybe when my subscriptions are up, I won't renew, but will try this method.

laura k said...

Reelgood has appeared, new since the last time I looked. I haven't read reviews yet.

laura k said...

It seems to be a few years old -- just new to me. It didn't come up in earlier searches.

Amy said...

We are very slowly moving more and more in that direction. We almost cut the cord about a month ago, and then the pandemic started and we just haven't returned to the issue. But I've figured out that we watch maybe 3 regular television series and everything else is through Amazon, Netflix, or Acorn. We subscribed to Showtime to watch Shameless, CBS Access for The Good Fight, and others for short terms subscriptions---all just to watch one particular show. And then we cancel. And since we realized that we also can watch the 3 shows we actually do watch on network tv through Hulu, we may add that and cut cable completely. It feels like a big thing to do after growing up on network television---the first generation to do so. But I think we will get there.

laura k said...

Interesting. To me it just felt like a burden lifted. But I stopped watching network television in the early 1990s.

Once we moved to Canada, I watched a few things on CBC, but that was easy to either give up or move to the internet.

What do you use for streaming? Do you have a smart TV or use a device or...?

Amy said...

Both. Our main TV in our living room is pre-smart TV, so we use Roku. We used to use Apple TV, but then added Roku because it had more options at that point. We still have the Apple TV, but it's not hooked in unless we unplug the Roku, which we never do.

In our exercise/bonus room upstairs we have a small smart TV, but I added a Roku to that also because I couldn't figure out how to get Acorn on the tv itself.

laura k said...

Nice. I love that Roku and AppleTV are so common now.

We only have pre-smart TV. We actually still have our first plasma, large-ish TV, which we bought after winning our lawsuit about the water bill! I imagine when it dies we will get a smart TV.

In the bedroom I use a big old pre-digital TV with our oldest Roku. It works well enough for its two purposes: a half-hour of comedy before sleep, plus ironing. (I still iron!) (Although not during the pandemic!)

Amy said...

Pre-digital?? I wouldn't think that was possible.

Our is also plasma (the older one---2009). At the time we were told it was the best. But like records, 8-track, and cassettes, it's a dead technology.

laura k said...

Yup, we have a digital converter, which is just a tiny box, about the size of a Roku. We bought the TV used for something like $200. We've had it for more than 10 years.

How is a plasma TV dead technology, if we're both using it without issue?

Amy said...

Perhaps dying would be a better adjective. I don't think they sell them anymore.

laura k said...

I didn't realize that!

Amy said...


laura k said...

I believed you. :)

laura k said...

Actually, I believe ours is LCD, not plasma.

Amy said...


laura k said...

I can never remember things like that. How much memory a computer has, what version OS my phone is using, any specs about our car -- whoosh. I never retain it.

laura k said...

Reelgood was looking good until I realized it doesn't include Crave. An aggregator is only going to work if you can include all your services.

laura k said...

I found Reelgood's competition -- JustWatch. And it includes Crave. I think I'll try it then blog about the quest for a universal watchlist. I don't have that much to say about it, but it will help its googleability.

laura k said...

we need a universal watchlist app