Since the fall of NinjaVideo, only a few months back, I’ve been searching for a perfect replacement. I’ve always been happy to pay for media if it’s delivered in a convenient way and is reasonably priced, but Canada has always lacked in strong alternatives. Technically speaking, “pirating” movies and TV shows hasn’t really ever been illegal here, but with a pending DMCA law that could change.
So what alternatives to traditional cable and satellite are there?
NinjaVideo.com, may it rest in peace, was the ultimate video on demand service. For two years I enjoyed immediate access to all the newest and hottest TV shows, movies and documentaries. That is, if you were able to put up with the mouth piece that was Phara — the site’s founder. It’s as the service had to be paid for by signing up to an obnoxious 15 year old girl’s Fwitter feed. But that being said, I morned greatly when the day came that I was greeted with a 404 upon loading the site. Being a completely free to use site, the only costs incurred were due to bandwidth usage. Getting unlimited bandwidth here is tricky to do, and for a few months I found myself paying over $100 a month in bandwidth fees to Bell. Switching to Acanac allowed me to use Bell’s infrastructure for less money, unlimited bandwidth and a static IP.
For nearly a year I was a member at DVDLink.ca. They offered what appeared to the combination of Netflix and Gamefly for Americans, at a reasonable cost. For the $30 per month I paid I was only allowed me 4 discs at a time but did have the advantage of selecting from movies, TV series or video games. I was allowed unlimited rentals but the shipping of discs always took a couple of days each way, leaving you to try and stagger your rentals so you always had something to entertain you. I’ve been known to rip through several seasons of a show in a weekend, so this didn’t work out so well for me. To top it off, the top movies and games were always unavailable because they only had so many discs available. So in order to make sure I was using up my rentals I was renting games and movies that I had little interest in. The final deal breaker for me with DVDLink was when I managed to lose three discs I found myself forced to buy replacements; not something I was eager to do. Ultimately I found this service to be way too slow, and just as costly as going to Block Buster.
CityTV is ones of Canada’s major broadcasting stations, and being owned by Rogers Communications it shares the exclusive rights to almost all of the American television content (which you wont currently find on Netflix). If you’re looking for American Idol, CSI or daytime television, this is the place to go. But for me only a few shows stood out, including The Big Bang Theory, The Colbert Report, Two and a Half Men and a few other shows which I’ve been meaning to watch. Despite it’s many options, I always end up forgetting about this service due to it’s sub-par browser based interface and the inability to save downloaded content.
The Commedy Network
The Comedy Network is one free service that I do find myself using fairly often. A lot of unique Canadian media that I grew up on but would’ve never seen on an American based video service can be found here as well as some extra overlap from what’s available on CityTV. So if you feel like some classic Red Green Show, SCTV or Corner Gas it’s the place you want to go.
Torrents & News Groups
I won’t delve into this section too much, but there has always been the option of finding the newest media on The Pirate Bay, which has yet to fall. Sure there are other options such as private torrent sites, but when all else fails I can count on The Pirate Bay to have any media I need. If you have unlimited bandwidth and you’re patient you can find anything you want here, but you have to go through the extra steps of downloading the content, extracting it and transferring it to another media player (or watching it on your PC).
News Groups are not one of the most popular methods for obtaining media, but definitely the fastest way to download media if you’re willing to fork out $30 a month for a good news group service. It has other drawbacks such as the files being download almost always named horribly, the archives being corrupted (due to age), tons of fake NZBs with obvious malware, and the obvious bandwidth usage. But if you want your content fast, and are willing to pay for the service (but not the rights to the media) news groups are one of the best ways to consume media.
So what about NetFlix? I initially only signed on for their one month free trial, knowing it was only $8 a month and even if I forgot to cancel it I wouldn’t run up a huge credit card bill as a result. I figured if I watched one or two movies a month on it then I was getting my money’s worth out of it. Netflix has exceeded my expectations, I generally watch one documentary or movie each night of the week and I’ve been watching a few television shows that are on there. I still supplement with many of the above sources as the inventory on Netflix isn’t the greatest, but perhaps in time it will grow enough that I wont need to do this. My biggest concern is the new CRTC ruling which means my currently unlimited internet plan will be getting limited soon and downloading or streaming video may no longer be financially feasible. Only time will tell, but I can’t see Acanac or TekSavy eating the costs on us power users.