Video for the 21st Century
Santa was kind enough to bring us one of the new 4th generation Apple TV boxes this year. We’d considered it a nice potential add-on, with some streaming video options plus the added benefit of streaming music through the home theater speakers downstairs. Thought it could be fun so we told Santa about it; but it wasn’t so essential as to spend $150 ourselves. Instead within two weeks we dumped our DirecTV and switched completely to streaming (with a backup antenna for the local stations).
It came down to money and how we watch video. We didn’t watch that much live anymore, generally DVRing the shows we liked and watching them at our convenience. Live TV was reserved for background noise. And for DirecTV and Netflix we were paying roughly $100 per month or $1200 per year. We kept Netflix, grabbed an HBO Now account ($4 per month cheaper than DirecTV charges for HBO access) and picked up Hulu and CBS All Access accounts. We can watch any show we used to watch within 24 hours of its broadcast debut, and greatly expanded our access to old shows, back catalogs, and some new-to-us shows I’d never heard about. I don’t know what’s different in the box, but the steaming has fewer stalls and issues than DirecTV or our Roku boxes ever had. Even if a source doesn’t have a specific Apple TV app any content that we can watch on the iPad or iPhone can be steamed to the home theater over AirPlay (we watched the Rose Parade that way, wirelessly streaming the KTLA coverage through an iPad to the big screen).
The big technical change that seems to make it work is Siri. “Find Russell Tovey” leads me to both Being Human (UK version, of course) on Hulu and Looking on HBO (but unfortunately not his Doctor Who appearances). The box doesn’t waste my time trying to sell me apps I don’t have (glaring at you, DirecTV), but knows what I do have and shows me the included options, whether they’re currently free or need an additional payment (rent or buy).
The total cashflow out comes to $37 per month. Several very good apps have no monthly charges at all (yay PBS). We could save about $750 per year, or blow it all on PPV and iTunes purchases. I can imagine a betting line on whether I’ll blow most of that on the back catalog of Teen Wolf in some moment of weakness. I think the total package will probably shift a bit over the next year as new apps appear (Amazon Prime?) and CBS will either have to expand their offerings or get to a more competitive price point.
While it’s been great for the first two weeks, I can’t wait to see where streaming video and a la carte channel subscriptions go over the next few years. It’s certainly one of those areas where I think things are only going to get better for the consumer.