All this time in lockdown with only the four walls for company and you're probably thinking a lot about your SVODs. And if you're not sure what they are then I'll ask whether you're watching Netflix, Amazon, or if you've signed up to Disney+ yet.
SVOD (subscription video on demand) is any service you watch which isn't on terrestrial real-time TV for free.
Increasing numbers of us pay for something, and it allows us to binge-watch our favourite series, pick a movie that suits our current mood or watch back something we missed. Unsurprisingly, demand has soared with so many people locked down at home due to Covid-19.
This week, I'm looking at what that kind of choice costs and what questions to ask before signing up.
Bear in mind, you'll need decent broadband for any of this, and the panel below shows where best to shop for it.
Regular TV remains the most popular viewing platform, according to analysts at Core Media.
Some 79pc of daily viewing is here, either live or via players. It drops sharply among younger age groups, and around 8pc of households have no TV at all and are simply streaming on their laptop. This has become the focus for a new 'broadcast charge' to replace the TV licence.
Netflix is the most prominent SVOD in Ireland. Its market share is unknown but 42pc of households were signed up just a couple of years after it started. Amazon Prime and Now TV are also strong, while YouTube and Disney+ are growing. Facebook's plans to launch its own SVOD will surely be a market disrupter.
- First, of course, is content. While movies and series are important, do you want access to news, live TV and other day-to-day services?
- Price is important, especially if you're purchasing more than one SVOD.
Many offer a basic and a premium service. Paying the extra essentially allows you to watch on several devices so, for example, the basic Netflix option is €7.99 p.m. but paying €13.99 means four people on four different devices (in different places) can all view what they want.
If you're sharing services with others, it's a great idea to pool resources.
- To access a 'free' trial, you will be asked for payment details. Once the free period is up, you'll be automatically charged, so make sure to cancel in plenty of time if you decide it's not for you.
- Streaming quality is down to your broadband. While most popular SVODs will operate on any device, it's worth double checking that your hardware will support it.
For instance, if you only have a smart TV, you'll need to ensure compatibility.
- Geoblocking means some content cannot be viewed in certain countries for licensing reasons.
So while Netflix US may have content better suited to you, you'll be automatically directed to Netflix UK/Ireland instead. Legally, anyway. Some providers are metered, which means you can only watch a certain number of hours.
Netflix: It's the daddy of SVOD. Costing €7.99 to €13.99 (for ultra-high-definition and four devices). There's a month's free trial. It has over 150 million subscribers and spends a fortune on original content. It allows downloading to watch offline. With a wealth of movies, TV series, boxsets and documentaries, along with a huge children's selection, it should hit the sweet spot. During Covid-19, the service is streaming at a lower definition than usual to accommodate extra traffic.
Amazon Prime Video: A bit glitchy if you don't have Chrome, but content is hugely improving. Priced at €5.99, there's a special offer for six months at just €2.99 p.m. You can watch on up to three devices and it has some exclusive sporting content. Yet much of it is only available in the US, so do check first.
YouTube Premium: It's expensive, at €11.99 to €17.99, but there's a month free and you can watch on up to six devices with the premium service. It includes ad-free video and music streaming.
Disney+: The newest offer in the market brings mega-brands Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars to audiences. After a few hitches, it's available for €6.99 p.m. or €69.99 for the year, effectively giving you a couple of months for free. Up to four devices and strong parental controls for families.
Now TV: At €15 p.m. this is the priciest, but the smart stick or TV box means you can use your ordinary TV for family viewing. There's a two-week free trial, with monthly 'passes' for limited content. It offers live TV, which is its big selling point.
Hayu: If 'Keeping up with the Kardashians' or the 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' is your thing, then for €5.99 p.m. you can binge to your heart's content on reality TV. There's a month free, and downloading to watch offline is available.
RTÉ Player has its detractors, and boss Dee Forbes has promised to sort out crashing issues. It needs an overhaul, but lets you catch up with a ton of programmes you might have missed, included within your licence fee, although with a load of unskippable ads.
Virgin Media Player is completely free, but you'll have to put up with ads. You can also watch all its channels live.