First we discussed the pros and cons, then examined the hardware you need. So now that you’ve decided to cut the cable cord, how much content is available through the Internet to replace Shaw or Telus? It turns out there’s quite a bit, and it’s legal and safe.
Here are the major sources of legal, online content available to Canadians.
Cost: $7.99 a month.
Quality: Very good.
Available on: PCs, Macs, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box, newer TVs and DVD players, Mac, Android and Windows tablets and phones.
The day I subscribed to Netflix was the day I helped kill my local video store. (Sorry.) A no brainer at $7.99 a month, it features a large library, especially for children and family programming. Yes, it is light on recent Hollywood blockbusters and current American TV series, and yes, the Canadian version of Netflix has less content than the U.S. version. But it costs $7.99 a month, the price of a coffee and muffin in Metro Vancouver, and you can watch as much as you want and anything as many times as you want, instantly streamed to your screen of choice. Treat it like an eccentric DVD collection of found material, whether it’s recent action films, Hollywood classics, foreign films, documentaries or guilty pleasure TV. Much of the content is streamed in high definition.
Cost: Free. The poor man’s Netflix.
Quality: Low. But it’s free.
Available on: PCs, Macs, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, some TVs, DVD players, phones and tablets.
Crackle has a limited amount of movie and TV offerings, very little of it recent and the rest an awkward mix of classics like Gandhi, weirdness like Striptease Samurai Squad and too much Godzilla and anime. Selections stream instantly but are limited to standard definition, which is dismal on a big screen. But it’s free.
Cost: Typically $2.49 for a single episode of a TV series, $4.99 for a movie rental in standard definition.
Available on: PCs, Macs, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV.
If you don’t want cable, but want to keep on top of current select TV programming, iTunes is the best single alternative source in Canada. Availability is limited to Apple devices and both Mac and Windows computers, but the breadth of content is compelling, including a healthy amount of Canadian material. Movie offerings are on par with the well-stocked DVD stores of the recent past. TV shows can be purchased by the season for a bit of savings and in either standard or high definition.
Xbox video store
Cost: on par or more expensive than iTunes.
Available on: Xbox 360, Windows PCs, tablets and phones.
A slimmer version of iTunes. Selections stream instantly in glossy high definition, and it works nicely through voice control using a Kinect attached to the Xbox. TV shows can be purchased by the season in standard or high def. The cost of individual items is a head scratcher since Microsoft still uses its stupid points system for online purchases. Equally as confusing, it’s known for the moment as the Zune Video Marketplace, but the name will change soon.
Sony Entertainment Network
Cost: on par or more expensive than iTunes
Available on: PlayStation 3, PS Vita and PSP, Windows PCs, various Sony TVs, DVD players, tablets and phones.
Formerly the PlayStation Network and now called Video Unlimited, its catalogue is on par with the Xbox video store. High definition video quality looks glorious through the PlayStation 3. TV cannot be purchased by the season. Judging by its content, Sony doesn’t seem to know it does business in Canada.
Cost: on par with iTunes.
Available on: Windows and Mac computers, newer TVs and DVD players.
I don’t know anyone who uses CinemaNow, but for those with a new TV which has its app already enabled, CinemaNow looks like a decent alternative to buying an additional device or game console to rent online movies. Selection is limited, but this week it has The Avengers. Good enough for a Friday night.
Cost: on par with iTunes.
Quality: Below average.
Available on: Windows and Mac PCs, Android tablets and phones. Surprise, Google rents movies in Canada! No one in Canada knows this or cares.
TV network websites
All Canadian TV networks stream their shows through their websites, which are generally accessible only through computers and Flash-enabled tablets. Video quality tends to be meant for computer screens or tablets and looks awful on high definition TVs. The CBC has the easiest website for finding and viewing video, Global the worst. All networks pepper their online TV with repetitive doses of loud, obnoxious advertising. But it’s free.