From TV schedules to On-Demand Streaming, Technology offers a myriad of viewing options
Born 1960 in West Berlin, back in the days of a divided Germany, I grew up with a handful of West German and two East German television channels. I vaguely remember the black and white transmissions stopped daily around about midnight. The streets were as good as deserted some evenings while people sat in front of their TV to see the favorites such as the 8:00 p.m. Tagesschau (West German news), followed by a special mystery series. Why? There was no choice; if people wanted to see a certain show they had to watch it that day and at that time. There was no way to “watch it later.”
When VCR’s (video cassette recorders) were invented in the 1970s, important shows could be recorded. The quality wasn’t great, but the ability to buy and watch movies whenever we liked was a big step. Today, TV viewers have hundreds of digital channels to choose from which provide incredible picture quality like HD and 4K. Things are much different than the days of the VCR recordings and antenna only viewing. Settings even allow users to select subtitles and audio in various languages, all broadcasting 24/7. Instead of storing films on VHS or DVD formats, a DVR (digital video recorder) is now utilized. The DVR is a huge hard drive in a small box, which is very convenient (but like any hardware, it won’t last forever).
Technological advances led to “streaming.” This method affords viewers the opportunity to watch favorite shows or movies on any device, at any time. Now you can stream on your tablet, computer, phone, smart watch, or even refrigerator. Individuals have the luxury of even watching while sitting in a bus or train on the way to work. Unlike before where the whole film had to be inserted (via VHS or DVD) or fully downloaded onto a device, streaming allows users to initiate downloading for the first seconds/minutes, then allows the film to begin; while you are watching it, and continuously downloads (buffers) more of the show.
Streaming works for music too. You can turn newer TV screens/systems into streaming devices by inserting a little stick (mainly HDMI connected). Devices such as Roku, FireTV, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, and Apple TV contain a mini computer that allows you to interact via voice, remote control, or wireless mouse and keyboard. These devices need to be connected to the Internet wirelessly. Once authenticated with a username and password you get access to hundreds, thousands, and maybe millions of films.
As long as the Internet speed is fast enough, everything’s good. Once a film has been watched, it is no longer stored on your device. The faster and more stable the Internet connection is, the better the quality. However, if your show stops playing, while buffering, be patient, improve your connection speed, or lower the video quality. In YouTube, for example, you can sometimes select your video quality setting. Never choose the HD (high definition) version of the film if your Internet is weak. Certain browsers allow you to stream, so visit a website which offers streaming content such as: YouTube.com, Netflix.com, Hulu.com, Amazon.com, and Primevideo. Simply log in, and choose what you like.
If I want to see a specific film, I first find out which streaming provider offers it (whether free or for a fee) and then I choose the device to watch it on. Sometimes I even choose the language (such as German, if this is the original film language) and/or subtitles, if the options are available. With the plethora of streaming services available today it is often hard to decide which one to join and use. To get my favorite content, I decided to stream from multiple sources. Together with a Moviepass subscription I bought recently, I got a free one year Fandor subscription. This turns out to be a video streaming service with hundreds of international releases, including German films. Interestingly, Fandor employs a revenue-sharing business model in which a portion of all subscription revenue is paid to the filmmakers and distributors whose content Fandor licenses.
This brings me to the one thing I am a bit worried about. When streaming films, I generally do not own a copy of the film. Will I be able to show a certain film in 20 years to my grandkids or will it vanish? Plus, net neutrality might play a roll here, too. I still have some special VHS recordings that might never be available for future generations to watch. But for the most part, am I very satisfied with the many possibilities made available by modern streaming technology.