Update on Physical Media and Streaming Services

Just over a couple years ago I wrote about my reassessment of my digital position  where I admitted that if I was truly being honest with myself, as much as I claim to like physical media, I use digital streaming and files on drives way more. It’s like my heart is with physical media, mostly for nostalgic reasons, but in terms of practical day-today operation, I’m a streamer.

I had updated that post and admitted that I still do use and buy physical media, just not at often. In fact just the other day I cracked open my 4K Blu-ray of The Goonies and watched it with my girlfriend. Of course I had bought that 4K Blu-ray back in November of 2021, so… yeah. It had been over a year after buying it before opening and watching it. That’s not even the worst, because at the same time I also bought a copy of Alita and Alien (40th) on 4K Blu-ray and still have yet to watch either of those. I did however crack those open the next day because I wanted to redeem the digital codes for all three before they went bad. Luckily they hadn’t.

Also around Christmas of 2021 I had went on a Blu-ray buying spree at my local Dollar Trees (several of them), picking up twenty-seven Blu-rays. This was before they increased their price to $1.25. Of those, I only opened one, a Christmas disc with some music and images which I played both Christmas 2021 and 2022. What’s strange is that I bought two Christmas discs at the time but only opened the one. Anyway, none of the movies really excite me much and I kind of regret having bought them since they are just taking up shelf space for no good reason. I maybe never watch them. But I bought them because they were cheap Blu-rays and it almost became a game for me going to the different stores and hunting them down. Like trying to get all the Star Trek movies, which I did not accomplish, but I did get five. I also ended up with two copies of Pay The Ghost, which I saw on streaming years ago and thought it was decent at the time. The reason I got two copies is because I found one and bought it and then found it again at another store with a slip cover. Being the person I am, I wanted the slip cover so I bought it again thinking I would just give the other copy away, but haven’t yet. Over a year later. That’s still the plan though.

Also I was sick last week and having trouble sleeping, so I went to crash on the bed in our second bedroom (so as not to get my girlfriend sick) and while laying there not able to sleep because of my inflamed sinuses (that were even hurting my teeth) I threw on the DVD of King Kong (full screen). It was already in my combo player hooked up to my 13″ Orion  Tube TV which I keep around for fun and also have my Super Nintendo hooked up to.
I have very few full screen DVDs. When I started collecting DVD back in 1998 I was widescreen whenever I could. If I hav e full screen copy it’s because it came on the other side of the double sided disc or came with bother version on one disc or something. However there have been a couple discs I’ve inherited over the years that are only full screen and King Kong is one of them. So I had put that on to see what it looked like filling up my 13″ CRT. It looks nice. Aside from part of the movie being cropped off. My point is, I watched some of that like that last week. It reminded me just how much my disdain for DVD for a few years there was a bit unfounded. I wrote about that in my Coming to Terms with Standard Definition post back in 2020. But the reason it’s a bit unfounded, is because for the first ten or so years DVD was out, all that most of us had (myself included) were standard definition 4:3 ratio CRT(tube) televisions, and DVD honestly looks great on those. Especially at small sizes like the 13″ Orion I was watching King Kong on. But even at sizes up to 32 inch tubes or the 46 inch projection TV like my folks had, I remember DVD looking great. By comparison to the VHS movies we had been watching for the 10-15 years prior and broadcast television, DVD looked almost high definition. So really at the time, anything more (like Blu-ray) would have been a waste. The TVs couldn’t display it and what would really have even been the point other than future-proofing a movie collection for some unknown point in time when high definition TVs would become available.
But I am just repeating myself (which I love to do) from my linked post above, so just go read that for more on that.

So I’m four paragraphs into this post and haven’t even gotten to what I wanted to talk about yet, which is streaming services. Oh well, I wanted to update my blog about my physical media situation. It’s been a couple years. I probably had more to say about that than streaming anyway.

Streaming (AppleTV+)
As for streaming, I cancelled AppleTV+ in Nov 2022 as Apple was about to raise the price a couple bucks a month. I was happy enough to let it auto-renew for the past year or so at $4.99 a month, but jumping to $6.99 just got to me. It really shouldn’t since I had been paying that price for Disney+ and then a dollar more than that ($7.99) since March 2021 and I probably watched Apple+ more or about the same. I certainly felt like Apple’s content in general was more suited to me. Several shows like For All Mankind, Foundation, and See just to name a few. It was more quality for me over quantity. In fact I didn’t get to finish See season 3 before cancelling… unfortunately.  But I know that AppleTV+ and I will get back together at some point this year. Even if just for a month or two. I think that despite me feeling like that service has more quality, there is only so much of it and I don’t want to keep paying month to month for that when I really just dip in a couple months a year and catch up on everything.

That said, I did renew Disney+ for a year in advance this time. They too were raising their prices starting in December to from $7.99 to $10.99 and I didn’t want to pay that much consider how little I watch it. I did decide to keep it though and wanted to lock in the lower price for the year. Otherwise if I had to keep paying monthly at $10.99 (like I will starting next December) I probably won’t. So I was able to pay the $79.99 for the next year up front. Which brought the price down to $6.66 a month. Lol. For Disney. That’s perfect.
That said, since I had already paid for November they prorated me so I really only had to pay $72 out of pocket at once. But $6.66 a month even is less than I had been paying before March 2021 when the price had gone up form $6.99 to $7.99. So I’m paying less for this next year than I ever have for Disney+ so that’s cool. At least until next December.

So why did I keep Disney+ and not AppleTV+ you might be wondering? Unlike AppleTV+ which has certain shows I want to see each season, I’m not really that excited about anything on Disney, I just kind of dip into the service when I’m looking for something to watch and discover that there is a new movie out or a new Star Wars or Marvel series or something I don’t care that much about, but I’m willing to check out. At least for a few episodes, like I did with She-Hulk for example. Others end up being better than expected and I’ll watch that all the way through, like Loki.
The Mandalorian is what brought me into Disney+ to begin with, prior to that I didn’t think that would be a service I would be subscribing to at all, let alone consistently for the last two+ years, plus a year long renew in advance this time. So oddly enough, having pretty much no shows I’m excited about (Willow is alright – although we stopped watching and forgot about it so we need to go back and finish it) got me to subscribe to Disney, whereas having shows I am excited about has me unsubbed from AppleTV+, until those shows come back. Strange, but ok. That’s just how my brain works. I guess the justification is that I know what I’m looking for on AppleTV+ and can target my subscription time to the release dates of those shows and subscribe for a month of two. Whereas with Disney it’s all just willy nilly so I want to be able to pop in any time and having a constant subscription is necessary for that.

Side Note: I grew up watching Disney movies and cartoons in the 1980s and 90s and was lucky enough to go to Disney World a few times as a kid. Something I always wished I could have down with my son while he was a kid. But he had a different childhood than me. When he was a kid there were tons of different types of cartoons and anime had become a bigger thing. He got into that and by extension also got me into it more than I had been. So I don’t think he really would have been as taken by the Disney magic as I was when I was younger. But that’s the thing, I was taken up by that Disney magic when I was younger. In fact that last trip to Disney’s MGM Studios (now called Hollywood Studios) in 1989 (or maybe it was 1990) had inspired me to become a filmmaker. I saw the animation process at work and some behind the scenes movie magic and it really stuck with me and made me want to do that. Which ultimately lead to me doing stop-motion animation with my friend Tom on my parent’s Video8 camcorder back then.
I also briefly remember having the Disney channel for a little bit when I was a kid. We had cable a couple times briefly but my dad always complained about the idea of paying for television and so we never had it for very long. So my exposure to cable TV back then was mostly at friend’s houses. But for the brief period we had the Disney channel I kind of liked having it. I think in some ways having Disney+ (even if it doesn’t excite me) it sort of my grown up way to satisfying that desire as a kind of have cable with the Disney channel, but in a very 21st century (streaming) way.

I’ve also retained my Amazon subscription, but I touch that even less than Disney+. I think it comes down to the navigation. I just don’t like it, and I don’t like how it integrates all the paid content with it. AppleTV+ did the same thing and you had to go to the specific AppleTV+ content section, which I didn’t like, but the navigation I liked better. I did watch Paper Girls on Amazon though this past fall and I liked that. Sadly there won’t be a season two, so oh well. We also started the Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power and got about halfway through the first season and like Willow just kind of forgot about it. I’ll need to go back and finish that. Just like I still have to finish the sixth season of the Expanse that I’m only an episode of so into. but other than that. I don’t know why, I just haven’t been eager to finish that one.
I mostly keep Amazon for the free shipping with prime video being a bonus. I don’t think would subscribe to it on its own. So that’s why I still have it and it is nice to have in a pinch.

I want to give a quick mention to Netflix. I ended my subscription with them back in I think 2020. They had just gotten too expensive and were nickel and diming for everything. More money for HD, more for 4K with HDR, etc. Whereas every other services was giving me 4K HDR for half the price I was paying for Netflix and I really was finding less and less I wanted to watch on Netflix. That said, my son has a subscription and logged into it on on family room TV and I have a profile on his account that he had set up for me to watch a certain show. I forget what it even was. It was ok, but I just never bother to watch more of it. Anyway I will use that on occasion to watch something on Netflix. My girlfriend and I for example just finished Wednesday back in December. We also started the latest season of Cobra Kai this January. So we do occasionally use that. I know Netflix said last year it was going to start cracking down on that kind of thing this year, but I guess we’ll use it until they do. As my son said, (paraphrasing) “for what they’re charging me, they can blow me.”
So until he either changes his position or they really start to mess things up, we’ll probably dip into that service on rare occasion like we do to watch this or that.

Hulu (and Discovery)
We also have Hulu. My girlfriend does and she watches it a lot in the bedroom. I always forget we’re also logged in in the family room and I could watch it there if I wanted, but I just never go. I believe she also has Discovery, but is only logged into that in the bedroom. I should get her to log in on our family room TV.

Youtube (Premium)
Lastly there is Youtube. In November of 2022 I decided to try out Youtube Premium for their three month free trial. Which I probably should have done years ago and I can’t imagine getting rid of at this point despite it being higher in price than the others I have. But the reality is, I watch Youtube more than any streaming service. If I had to split my streaming content watching metrics into a graph, Youtube would take up 95% of it. My own Plex server would be be another 3% and all the services I listed above would only account for 2%. That’s how much Youtube I watch by comparison to everything else.
I took the trial because I got so sick of all the ads. Youtube has gotten really terrible with all the ads lately. It used to be one 15 second add you could skip, then they started adding two ads. Then they made it so you couldn’t skip the first add. Now in some cases you can’t even skip the second and so ads are minutes long. So even being like a half hour long if you let them play and don’t skip them. Which is incredibly annoying when I’m doing dishes, listening to a youtube podcast video on my headphone, with my hands all wet and one of those ads pops up. Suddenly I have stop what I’m doing, dry my hands, skip the ad, then rewash my hands and continue to video until the next ad pops up. So avoiding that along is worth and $11 a month I’ll have to start paying at the end of February in my opinion. Especially when I consider how much I watch on Youtube. As I always say, I’m willing to pay more for something I know I’ll use more. Like my headphones or my computers or something like Youtube. As much as I really don’t want to but hey, it’s worth it. Plus I discovered that I catch watch videos on my phone with the screen off as a premium subscriber. That allows me to throw my bluetooth earbuds in, and put on a video podcast and listen to it while driving, which I’ve been doing most nights when I go to the store or pick up food or something. I really like that feature. Which means I’ve using Youtube even more than I was previous to premium. So that has definitely been a positive subscription update.

Notable mentions (Plex streaming, Roku channel, Vudu and Tubi)
I should mention these three despite barely using them. But there have been occasions where the first time have had movies I have watched on them. In the past year in fact. Tubi not so much, but I did browse though their horror catalog this past October and was surprised how much they had, all for free. That impressed me. I think maybe at some point I may dip into that service, as I have various others from time time.
As for Vudu, technically I have an account which I use to redeem my digital codes when I buy (4K) Blu-rays. But for some reason it didn’t occur to me up until a couple days ago when renewing three of my digital codes for some 4K discs that I should use this service on my TV. I don’t think of it because I either have those movies on disc and watch them there, or rip them for use on Plex and watch them there. At least with my regular Blu-rays. I can’t rip 4K, I don’t have the drive for it. So rather than put the 4K disc on I could just pop into Vudu to watch the 4K copy streaming on my TV. Why do that when I have the disc and it’s probably a higher bitrate and such? Well the biggest reason would be if I’m being lazy and don’t want to get the disc out and have to fuss with three different remotes to change everything over to the Blu-ray player and play it. But, probably more important than that, my Roku TV app on my phone can stream audio to my bluetooth earbuds while I’m laying on the couch so I can watch something and not wake my girlfriend up. But it can’t do it with Blu-rays. It can only do it with the live TV or apps build into the TV. Not anything hooked up to the TV, sadly. I wish it could. So if I want to watch my 4K copy of the The Goonies I just opened for example, I could just cue it up on Vudu with my earbuds in and not mess with the disc at all. That’s a nice option to have and I should consider doing that. It just hadn’t occurred to me. Previous to this idea these digital movies might just be something I played on my computer from, and even then usually not.

Thoughts on streaming in general
Lately I’ve been thinking about streaming compared to cable TV. There was a meme I saw (below) that was basically saying all these streaming services are just adding up to cable TV and we’re back where we started.

While I get the idea, I don’t really agree with it. I still think we’re better off with the streaming options for several reasons.

1. I’m not subscribed to all those services listed in the graphic. All said, including my my girlfriend and my son’s subscriptions we are all collectively under $50 here. Actually I think my son also has a Crunchyroll subscription but he doesn’t have that shared with us so I didn’t count it.
2. We can split it up. As I said in number 1, we’re collectively under $50. Each of us are paying for different services but sharing them. So it isn’t all one bill one of us has to pay. For just me along it’s probably under $25. Nor do we all have to give each other money to split a bill or anything. So it’s easy.
3. We don’t have to have basic cable first. We don’t have to pay for a bunch of crap filler channels we don’t want to get premium channels we want.
4. We don’t have to pay for a cable box. Technically we do for our a cable modem, but I mean for our TVs.
5. We’re not locked into a cable subscription for only one cable provider. Again we are for our internet modem, but not for our TV with streaming. We can sign up and cancel month to month with various streaming services.
6. The content is on demand, there is no tuning into a show at a certain time to watch it. So there is no worry about missing certain episodes or anything like with cable or broadcast. That alone should be the top reason.
7. We can each subscribe to the services we want. As I mentioned my son as Crunchyroll sub for himself and my girlfriend has a Discovery sub for herself, and we can each sub and unsub to individual services as we like. You couldn’t do that with a traditional cable subscription.

So really I think we generally are better off and even though I’ve had cable on and off a few times in my adult life, much like my dad it wasn’t for long and I kind of balk at the idea of paying for TV. But paying for subscription services feels different, because it is on demand content. Cable TV is certainly still around today and if I really wanted to, I could add it to my internet and telephone service. I really don’t even want the telephone service and we never use it, but it was cheaper to bundle than get internet alone. Which sucks, but that’s the cable companies dong their stupid bullshit as they’ve always done. I wish we could get internet service without them and truly cut the cord, but that’s not feasible… yet.

So I guess that’s it. What a really long post. I should have wrote down when I first started typing this. Easily a couple hours ago because at some point my lights went auto-off at midnight and it’s now 2:04AM. So I had started this before midnight. Wow! But hey, look how often I blog here, like once or twice a year… if that. I need to give this site more love, more often. It’s been with me nearly half my life.

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