Free/Paid Legal Streaing Services in Canada.

With cable prices always seeming to be on the rise, and people everywhere trying to save a few $, cord cutting it becoming bigger and more of a viable option.

This will quickly go through some of the free or paid services available out there which are 100% legal (At least in the terms of the streaming service owning the rights of streaming the content)

For individual content on each of these services (Is X show available on Y service?), please refer to a site like
https://www.justwatch.com/ca
for listings.

Netflix

Just about everyone knows about Netflix now, they were one of the pioneers early on in the streaming game.
Overall, this one will give you the biggest Bang for the Buck.

Netflix Canada’s content, will be different than in the US, or other countries (due to ownership rights of the content in Canada).
But there are 1000’s of movies and TV shows available, including all the Netflix original content.  There is a wide variety of children’s content available as well.
Currently Canada has the luck of still having all Disney content available on Netflix Canada, including many fairly recent titles.

Netflix is available to stream on just about any device out there.  Android, iOS, as well as other streaming platforms like Roku, WD, etc.  Just about any SmartTV OS, as well as Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo platforms. As well as being available to stream via web browser.

Cost:

  • $8.99/month – Only one user can access the account at the time.  And only in Standard Definition
  • $10.99/month – 2 users simultaneously.  Allow streaming in up to HD quality at 1080.
  • $13.99/month – Up to 4 users simultaneously.  Streaming up to Ultra HD (4k), depending on content.

Internet connection may vary your quality as well.  Rarely will you get buffering with Netflix, but instead what  you will see is a drop in quality.  If there is any limitation of internet speed needed to provide the best quality, it will drop it down to a lower quality to still allow streaming.

CraveTV

CraveTV is a streaming service offered by Bell TV.  It is available to anyone to sign up to, without requiring a TV subscription.

It is pretty much all just TV based content, not movies.   But it does contain many titles, both past and present.  As well as having the streaming rights to new and old HBO content in Canada.

Crave is available on a fair number of platforms.  Android and iOS, as well as web browsers.  Only on Xbox One (no 360, playstation or nintendo).  Only Samsung SmartTVs.
No Roku or other streaming platforms.

Cost:

  • $7.99/month – Up to two devices simultaneously.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video Canada does have its own service.  But much like Netflix, the Canadian service does have a very different content library.  (this mostly due to most of the rights of stuff on the US Amazon service, already being obtained by other providers in Canada)

It does have a mix of movies and TV on it.  Primarily older content but there is some more semi recent (a bunch of the TV shows).

It is available on iOS and Android, most SmartTVs, and web browsers.  Any of the newer gaming platforms, as well as most other streaming devices (Roku, etc)

Cost:

  • $79.99 / year – This is currently not available as a separate purchasable service at this time, and is paired with the regular Amazon Prime membership.  (Amazon Prime gives you free standard shipping on most orders, and 2 day shipping on any prime item)

Overall, Amazon Prime video is not worth it separately on its own, due to the limited content.  If you purchase enough things regularly from Amazon, and consider a Prime subscription, its worth it as another source for watching some content.

TubiTV

Tubi is an odd services, but it is completely FREE.
They appear to pick up licenses for many things that others have not/dont want to pick up.
There is an odd collection of mostly older content, of movies and TV shows going back as far as the 80s.

It is available on Android and iOS, as well as your web browser.  It will work on Samsung and Sony SmartTVs, as well as Playstation only.  It will also work on the Roku.

Cost:

  • FREE

There is nothing to write home about on here, but its a 100% free service.  Can be worth it to get that nostalgia trip, on some old favorites.

Google Play & iTunes

Both of these are not the traditional streaming service, at least in terms as the same subscription services above.

Both of them have a huge content, probably much larger than any of the above, and do have some of the same content.

The difference is, you dont pay for an overall subscription, but more per item.
Some things are available to RENT on Google Play (like a video rental store) where you are able to watch it over a short period of time.
Otherwise, you are paying an OWNERSHIP price for the movie/TV.  You then own that digital copy.

Overall cost wise, owning all your TV and other media by this method, will generally cost the MOST over time.
The only difference in the long run is, compared to the above service say like Netflix, is they can choose to remove any content at any time, and you retain no ownership, and can not watch anymore.   Vs on these services, you do then OWN that copy and it can remain available to you.

(This falls back also then to the article I wrote HERE on digital movies, towards the end of the post.  Cost wise, is always one thing to look at.  The average movie by the above services for something fairly new, usually is in the $14-20 price range.  You can often buy the Bluray + DVD + Digital combo pack, for only a few $ more, and have 2 other ways to watch as well.   Even better if you wait a bit, you can sometimes find them as low as $7 at places like walmart for bluray combo packs, while the pure digital copy is still $15 on its own)


Hopefully this has covered over some details on some of the more major contenders content wise out there.

There are always other smaller free ones as well.  Things like CrunchyRoll for Anime, etc.

Remember, not all of them legally have that content either.

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Digital Movies – How, Where, and other options

More and more people are moving over to watching things digitally now a days.  Watching on Smart TV’s, mobile phones and tablet, computers and other devices.

This does not necessarily make all digital downloads equal though.  There are many options and considerations to be made when selecting WHAT services you choose use.
Firstly we will go over devices and services, and which to choose for you.  We will then go into a bit on QUALITY and what to look out for.

Devices:
Which devices you plan on doing the playback on, is the first major consideration to look at.
If you are only going to be playing them on android based devices… it would be pointless to choose ITunes (or reverse, google play for iOS).  We will go in detail of some of the other services more on their own further in the article.
Below you will find a basic list of what platforms are available on what devices (of what we will be covering here):

  • Android (generally would include most android TV boxes) – Google Play, Flixster/UltraViolet/CinemaNow
  • iOS – iTunes, Flixster/UltraViolet/CinemaNow
  • Apple TV – iTunes, Flixster/UltraViolet/CinemaNow (by Airplay)
  • Roku – Flixster/UltraViolet/CinemaNow
  • WD Live – Flixster
  • PC – Generally can access all of them, usually through a web browser (though some may have windows 8 apps)

Unfortunately, most services with their files, even if downloaded, use DRM (digital rights management).  This locks the file, that it can only be played on one service/app.  You can not just copy the file from iTunes to play on an android.

Streaming vs Downloading:
Generally with most of these services, you get a few options.  To STREAM or to DOWNLOAD.. each having its advantages/disadvantages.

Streaming does not take up generally any space on your device.  This is great for phones with not a lot of storage, etc.  To store many movies you need a lot of space.  Sometimes alright on a PC, but not all other devices.
The down sides, are that you always require an internet connection.. wifi or cellular.  And a decent one at that, very slow speeds will cause a lot of choppiness or stop/start.   Usage also comes into effect.  If you are not on an unlimited plan, it will eat up some usage each time you watch it.

Downloading, while using some internet usage, will use up a bit of usage, its generally only one time.  This will also allow you to watch it any time on the supported devices, without using up usage at all.
But it does eat up a lot of storage.

(there are some options with the downloaded as well, will go over that in each of the services sections where applicable)

Services:

Google Play
Movie cost $14-25 for anything recent in HD.  Older stuff may be cheaper, as well as if SD is an option will usually be cheaper.
Playable on pretty much all android devices, phones, tablets, tv boxes, which support the Google Play store.
Stream-able.  Also able to download.  Download must be played on the android device.  Web stream playable through your google account.

iTunes
Movie cost $14-25 for anything recent in HD.  Older stuff may be cheaper, as well as if SD is an option will usually be cheaper.
Playable on pretty much all iOS devices, iPhone, iPad, ipod touch.  Also will play on Apple TV.
Portable devices have the options of streaming the movie or downloading it.  Apple TV will only stream it.
Will play on PC, but is not stream-able via the web.  Must be played on iTunes, and have to be downloaded.
iTunes does hold the advantage of HomeStreaming.  If there is a PC which has the content downloaded and iTunes running, you can then locally stream from that download, to your portable device or Apple TV (you can also airplay from your iTunes to the appleTV)

Flixster/UltraViolet/CinemaNow
Why have I grouped all these together?  They all pretty much play off of the same purchase service, ultraviolet.  If you purchase an ultraviolet movie, it will then be accessible in both Flixster and CinemaNow apps/sites.  Ultraviolet doesn’t in Canada at least have its own native app.  (You do need to LINK the accounts, but often while redeeming it will give you the option to do that (or just sign in if you already have)
Prices through these services seem to vary greatly.. from $14-32 for HD movies.
But these seem to have the widest spread of cross platform availability.  As well as being available on Android and iOS, most smart TVs, Roku, and is also able to be streamed via the web.

Quality
Quality is one thing to look out for.  Not all digital downloads are created equal.
Viewing on a portable device, which is not full 1080p HD, it does not make quite as much of a difference.  But when you start streaming on larger full HD devices or TVs, it can be.

SD quality on most services, equates to about DVD quality.
HD quality on most services, is sometimes 720p, often 1080p.

But 1080p doesn’t always mean you are getting the best quality either.  There are many types of compression, etc that are used on the videos.  While yes in 1080p, they are still not the most highest quality possible.  You can often see this by the range of file sizes on a 1080p film, can range from 1.2gb to 3+gb.
But comparing that, say to an uncompressed Bluray, which is normally in the 20gb range… watching side by side, with a bluray, the bluray is a much better quality.

That brings it to a final point, which many don’t consider.
Many people want to jump on the purely digital bandwagon, and I understand that.  Especially for the convenience.

But for the BEST full home theatre experience, Bluray is still the way to go.  You will get the highest quality picture/sound.
BUT
That doesn’t have to completely exclude you from the digital realm.   They can often work in TANDEM.

You want to buy the LATEST movie out.  On iTunes right now, its $19.99.
If you buy the PHYSICAL COPY of that movie on the first week its released, it is usually on sale somewhere, for $22-26 for the Bluray Combo Pack.  This usually includes the BLURAY copy, DVD copy, as well as a digital HD copy (usually redeemable on iTunes or ultraviolet or googleplay.  For $2-6 more, you are now getting that best quality blueray, a DVD to lend out to those who don’t have bluray or digital or for say in a portable dvd player, as well as that same $19.99 digital copy.

This is especially great, if you do not have to have the movies right away.
Wait a while, till things go cheap/sale at places like bestbuy/Walmart.
Eg:  Book of Life (relatively recent movie release), digital HD on google play, $19.99
Bluray combo pack on at Walmart currently for $10.  1/2 the price, 3x the way to watch.
You can also sometimes find some specialty ones as well.  I myself recently picked up the Jurassic Park movies (1-3) for $15 for each combo pack.  Bluray, DVD, but DUAL digital downloads.  Specifically an ultraviolet download, then another of your choice (iTunes, google play, etc).

Plex Media Server

In our last article, we talked about some streaming options for your house.
For in home streaming of your own local files (anything from downloaded stuff, pictures, music, etc), there are many options, Windows Media Center, XMBC (and other flavors of it like Media Portal), etc, that go above what basic DLNA gives you.

We have tried and ran most of them.. while all of them were great, wonderful interface, etc.. many were not always easy to set up, etc.
That is one place, where PLEX stood out.
plex
You have TWO options, for running your Plex Media server.  PC based or on a NAS.
PC supports installation on Windows, Mac, 3 flavors of Linux and FreeBSD.
NAS wise, can install on Netgear, QNAP, unRAID, drobo, asustor, Synology.

Compared to the others.. Setup is relatively simple and straight forward, most users can do it on their own.

Management is done, through a simple web interface… that can be accessed from the PC its installed on, but also is its own small web server, so can be accessed via the IP(and port) of that device on your local network.

To play back media FROM the Plex server, you have a HUGE range of options.
Mobile: iOS on iPhone/iPod and iPad, Android (via google, amazon and ouya), and windows phone 8
Smart Streaming devices: Chromecast, Amazon FireTV, Roku, GoogleTV and Samsung all have apps for it (older LG smart TVs do as well, though the newer TVs do not)
There is also the option for the PC version, called Plex Home Theatre, which can be run on a HTPC or any PC at all, on a separate one from the server or the same.
Worse case scenario, if you have a device which can not do any of the above.. Plex will also run as a DLNA server as well.

Plex playback software is pretty smart, and will go out and find any server on the local network you are on, no having to enter a server address, etc.

Plex can take the connectivity a step farther.. and extend it OUTSIDE of your house as well.

This require some port forwarding on your Router end.. but by doing so, and creating a login (which you sign your server and playback devices in with)… you can now access your media center, via any Plex app logged in as you, from anywhere else.

You can get access to the management interface from external.  (which actually DOES do playback via the web browser as well).  Plex mobile, etc apps, can access the media for playback as well, on wifi, cellular, etc.
(with this, please be aware of your USAGEs on your regular internet as well as your cellular.  Streaming from device to device internal to your house will not use up any usage.  BUT accessing your server from outside, you will use up UPLOAD usage, as well as if on cellular, you might use up cellular data as well)

We have helped set up a number of people with a PLEX solution.. and with a decently organized library to start… you can be fully set up, sometimes within 30 minutes or less!

Home Streaming / Media File Playback

Yes, quite the BROAD topic, I know.

Streaming media (from things like Netflix, etc), as well as local media playback, it becoming larger and larger, and more and more people are integrating this into their home setup.

This one will be just more of a BROAD overview on some of the different options available to users, to get them started.
We likely will publish some other articles, about specific ways, specific devices, etc as it goes on.

We will cover over TWO major areas on these.  STREAMING, and Local Playback.

1) Smart TVs
Smart-TV 

Smart TV’s are likely the most simplified option.  Its an all in one option, where the TV has a set of software apps on it (like seen in the picture above). You connect it Wired or Wirelessly to your internet connection.
Depending on the TV and the app set available, this will allow you to do a number of things: 

  • Using streaming services like Netflix, Youtube, etc
  • Play back Local media via the USB ports
  • Play back local media across your network via DLNA or other means (more info to follow on this)

The only downside occasionally to the smart TVs, is that the APPS seems to get updated LESS than on other devices, and may go out of date or incompatible quicker.
(Even some of their NON smart TV’s are even semi smart now, having a USB port, allowing local file playback, just no internet connectivity)

2) Streaming Boxes
wdlive

There is a myriad of these boxes out there, impossible to list them all.  Some of the more popular and known ones are things like the WD Live/TV or the Roku.  There are also many ANDROID based ones, which run similar to an android tablet based OS.  Like the TVs they connected wired or wirelessly to your internet, allowing you to do the following.

  • Using streaming services like Netflix, Youtube, etc
  • Play back local media across your network via DLNA or other means
  • Play back Local media – this can vary from unit to unit.  Some like the WD above, does have a USB port, many do not.

These usually have a very small form factor and take up very little space, but is an easy way to add the connectivity to an HDTV which doesn’t have smart capabilities.

The Apple TV actually falls into this category mostly.  It really doesn’t allow much local playback at all, mostly just streaming capabilities.
BUT, local playback can be done from a iPhone/iPad with it, as it falls also into the next category.

3) ‘Casting’ Devices
chomecast

These are devices, which you CAST or THROW your content often to them.  They have very little built into them, that most of all the legwork is done by your phone or tablet, then it is shared across to the TV.
Really, its acting as a wireless bridge to your TVs input.

What you do, is start up the content.. a file loaded onto the phone or one you are say streaming from a home source (DLNA, etc), or a streaming source like Netflix… then these devices MIRROR what it on the screen of the phone and play it back then on your TV.
They are one of the CHEAPEST options out there, and take up virtually zero space.  But they do require the usage of a phone or other deice to run, stream, etc the content.

4) HTPC (Home Theatre PC)
zotec

A HTPC can be any number of things.  From a full size desktop tower, to a laptop… all the way to ones that are designed to LOOK like stereo equipment, or ones that are small like the Roku, etc (like pictured above).
Virtually ANY PC connected into the TV, can act like a basic HTPC, playing back anything you chose to view on the screen.
But taking it the next step and more dedicating it, with a few pieces of software, it can become a very powerful playback device.

  • Using streaming services like Netflix, Youtube, etc (often done through the web browser)
  • Play back local media across the local network – can easily be done via many choices of video players, or just simple file sharing/playback
  • Play back of local media – well it is a computer, you are likely just loading/storing on it anyways. Plug in any USB key or hard drive.

These devices can be used just as a playback device only (if local media is stored elsewhere), or can even become the SERVER or storage space for that local media as well, which then can share out to OTHER devices within the household.

Using windows 8 on a HTPC also can add the level, that it has windows 8 apps for many things like Netflix, etc, making it a more seamless interface much like the smaller streaming boxes.

PC’s can also on the SUPER advanced end, get into recording, recording and sharing over the air signals, etc.. but that’s a whole other ballgame.

DLNA and Serving your Local Media through the house

Obviously you could move your media from room to room with you, via USB key, etc.  But overall the easiest way, is to serve it from one central location.

DLNA is probably the most simplest.  Its a standard, which many devices conform to for access, etc.  Its pretty much just one step above direct file level access.   Usually the media is just browsed by folder (however they are stored/sorted) or basic separation, using the regular file names, etc.
A simple setup even in a program like Windows Media Player, will allow sharing of its library via DLNA.
There are also other devices, like external network hard drives or NAS storage devices, which can also allow DLNA service directly from them.  These devices can be nice, that you don’t have to have a PC on all the time, just a network storage connected somewhere.

Going past DLNA, you can get into the more advanced methods.  Things like a full fledged XMBC server or Plex (please see our article on PLEX release later), take it to the next level.  They will scan your media library, but they then create their own database of what you have.  They will go out to the internet, and collect information on the movies, shows, music, etc, and download things like cover art, descriptions, etc.  In the end, it gives you a Netflix like interface, for your own personal media collection.  Some of them, like plex, have a connection interface that spans PC, phone/tablet, so you can access the media everywhere.
These types of server, can often be used on a NAS, and set up on a PC.

 


No matter which way you go, this is becoming a BIG thing now.  With much content being made available via streaming services, people are often obtaining via those methods, as they can then access them across many devices.
Services like Netflix and other streaming services are growing and growing.. and things like these are not going to disappear, and only become more and more mainstream in every household.

Roku Streaming Stick

Continuing their line of media streaming devices… Roku will be introducing a new STICK version (similar to the chromecast one).

This device only requires plugging into a free HDMI port, an no other boxes, cables, cords required.  This will reduce clutter, but does then make are some limitations an no direct media access ability (all must be streamed from internet/other networked device)

A low cost alternative, for someone looking to just add a simple streamer, access things like Netflix, etc.

(is compatible with PLEX our media server of choice)

http://www.roku.com/products/streaming-stick?Ref=CJ&utm_source=cj&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=cj_affiliate_sale&utm_content=2470763&utm_term=11715039