Want to stream TV? Good luck!

I have been mulling over writing a post on this topic for most of this year, only now whilst I’m sat in my car waiting for a parking space to become available do I seem angry enough to make a start.

Like most of the western world, I watch a lot of television. Only the way I do this is perhaps not exactly typical. I download TV shows using torrents, serve them on a Linux server in a closet and then stream them to my TVs using Raspberry PIs. This isn’t really a post about my setup, that’s for another post I have planned. This is a post to explain why I do things the way I do and to share my view of an entirely broken industry.

I download shows because it is currently by far the best experience available for watching TV shows. I am not downloading because I’m cheap and don’t want to pay, I would be more than happy to pay for TV. I currently pay ~£70pm on Sky TV, quality service that I’m more than happy to pay for.

“What about Netflix?!” I hear you cry. A fair point. I was more than excited when it was announced Netflix for UK was coming, I could finally ditch all of this complicated setup for a simple service. I couldn’t have been more wrong. At the same time Netflix announced their UK service, Amazon gave the public a first taste of their TV streaming offering (LoveFilm). Both of this services have taglines that are variations of the following.

“We have thousands of shows that nobody else has.”

They seem to think that is a good thing, something that will entice me as a customer. Instead, it completely puts me off. Instead of handing over my hard earned pounds to a company to provide me with an all encompassing service to satisfy my TV watching desires, I now have to purchase at the very least two altogether different offerings from different suppliers.

This is on top of my Sky TV subscription which I already need for some content, especially live shows. So instead of making this simpler, I will have to remember which service has which shows. And switch between the two when I want to watch different shows.

As well as having to pay for both services, to watch them on my TV, I need some hardware to do this, luckily I have an Xbox 360 (which both Amazon and Netflix support), great! Except Microsoft require you to purchase an Xbox Live Gold account to use Netflix and/or Amazon. Now I have to pay four different companies to watch TV. Amazon, BSkyB, Microsoft & Netflix.

If that isn’t bad enough, the services provided by both Netflix and Amazon are shocking. There is a pitiful amount of content available, with a large amount of high profile shows just simply not available in the UK on either service.

I selected six shows that I watch regularly, some UK shows, some US shows, let’s see how the streaming competitors stack up:

ShowNetflixAmazon (LoveFilm)Notes

Fringe X X Amazon US
Merlin 4/5 X
Suits X X Amazon US
Game of Thrones X X Amazon Season 1 US
The Big Bang Theory X X Amazon US
Sherlock X Amazon US

I don’t download TV shows because I refuse to pay, or because I want to give the rich media companies the metaphorical finger; I do it because there is no alternative (short of simply not watching TV, which to be honest I have seriously considered many times)

I won’t be held to ransom by content providers who are trying to squeeze every last penny out of me.


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