With the introduction of home entertainment services such as Hulu and Netflix, a new term has entered into the American lexicon – Binge Watching. Simply defined, binge watching is enjoying what was originally weekly episodes of a show in quick succession. For example, a four-year episodic show may have thirteen to twenty-six annual episodes, meaning that the service may have a library fifty-two to over a hundred episodes available on-demand.
Binging on TV is becoming more and more popular, since watchers can see two to six episodes at one sitting. In a week, a binger can see an entire season or two of episodes. Since many shows on TV today are episodic, you don’t have to wait a week between episodes or months for the second half of the end-of-season cliffhanger.
There are definite differences between the two major players – Hulu and Netflix. Netflix is normally “behind” by a year, meaning that the current season of an ongoing series is not normally available on Netflix. Hulu will have last night’s episode available tonight, but may only have up to five previous episodes available, so going back to the beginning (like is available on Netflix) probably won’t happen once you get more than five or six episodes into the season.
Here is a great example of what I am talking about – we binge-watched the first season of FLASH on Netflix and waited for the second season to come around. We then found out that 1) the new season already started on live TV and 2) Hulu had the current season. However, by the time I figured this out, we were well into the second season, and the first six or seven episodes were nowhere to be found on either. So we are now waiting on Netflix to put Season Two. Now this isn’t a grave emergency, but it is a little annoying. And, in full disclosure, we did pick up four seasons of Arrow, a spinoff from the same group where Flash lives. Don’t feel sorry for us. And we are now in the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Binging is fun.
Just a note…for a little more each month, Hulu will eliminate commercials. Worth it!
On the topic of entertainment television and streaming options, I have to mention Amazon’s streaming services. I have the Amazon Prime service, but it is very difficult to figure out as far as I am concerned. Plus, streaming it to my TV is also a bit of an issue – more on that in a minute. Suffice to say that Netflix and Hulu have possibly spoiled me by their simplicity.
On the down side, Netflix doesn’t stream everything – that is to say that there are movies that I want to see that are not on either service. You can rent or buy movies from Amazon, and Netflix has a DVD or Blu-Ray delivery service for an extra fee. But these extra costs are not what we generally want – one fee pays all is better. And waiting for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your movie isn’t great, either. When I want it, I want it now. Now.
Then comes the “streaming to my TV” thing. There is a little device called Google Chromecast. This little device hooks into your TV via a USB port (it looks like a USB thumb drive) and sells for around $35. You plug it into the TV and it uses your home’s wireless network to stream content to your HD TV. You can use your tablet or phone to call up your service, choose a movie or TV show, and send it to the TV. Here is the trick, though. It doesn’t actually go through your phone or tablet, eating up the battery. Your
mobile device acts like a remote control, and the signal goes directly from your wireless router straight to the TV. Wonderful!
There is a bit of a glitch, though. Amazon content will not go through the Chromecast device…something about not playing well in the sandbox. You can buy the Amazon version of the Chromecast, but that adds another level of complexity. (Here is a little HouseSpouseLife Geek Tip – bring up Google Chrome on your computer, hook up the browser wirelessly to your Chromecast, and have Google Chrome access your Amazon content – and watch it on the TV. A bit geeky, but it works.)
One more thing about all this Chromecast stuff – I have an old iPhone 5 that got dunked and no longer works as a phone. It does work to access the internet through our home network, though, so I leave it plugged in next to my chair, using it as a streaming remote control. Bring up Netflix or Hulu on my old phone, tap the icon to make it cast to the TV, hit play, and our binge session begins.
If this all seems a little daunting, it can be. But with a little experimentation, research, and the help of the thirteen-year-old next door, you can probably make it all work. And don’t forget about the Digital Video Recorder…DVR…function on most subscription cable and dish systems. You can buy your own DVR and cut costs of rentals. More on that in another article later.
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Kevin, Christal, Jerry & Barbara