Streaming Movies

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Streaming Movies: a reader asks…

Yesterday a friend told me I needed to get a Firestick…that it would connect me to the internet and allow me to watch first run movies currently in the theaters. I read about Firestick  but I didn’t see anything that says I can watch movies currently running in theaters.  Do you know if that’s true?  The TV I’d connect it to doesn’t have embedded Wi-Fi and I’m not ready to replace it yet. I do have FIOS triple-play with every imaginable channel, plus I pay for Showtime and HBO. And I have a Netflix account which I can access thru FIOS. And I’m an Amazon prime member. So with all that–will a Firestick give me anything I don’t have?

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A Firestick is just another brand/model of other streaming devices such as the Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, etc. It lets you connect to and play content from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, etc. It does not give you access to movies currently running in theaters (but see my warning note below on piracy).

Verizon FIOS recently added Netflix access to their service, which I consider that a weak attempt at an end-run around cord-cutters. Since you’re not a cord-cutter (yet), it sounds like the only thing you can’t get on your TV is Amazon Prime Video. That’s unless you have some other way to get that onto your big screen. I should say that a Firestick is a handy and low-cost/low-effort way to get Amazon Prime Video, all you need to do is connect the Firestick to an available HDMI port on your TV and plug the microUSB power cable from the Firestick to a wall outlet.

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The Firestick has Wi-Fi built-in so it can connect to your home network and then you can log into your Amazon Prime account on the Firestick and enjoy Amazon Prime Video (plus a lot of other content). Other devices may also give you access to Prime video, for example Apple TV just recently added it to their lineup. But an Apple TV is quite a bit more expensive than a Firestick. Other streaming options may work also, but I think most of them are for true cord-cutters who do away with cable TV.

Many of these devices give you access to most or all of the same streaming services. All of these streaming services carry a lot of the same movies and TV shows, and each service has some unique bits and bobs. Such as original programming that folks like Netflix and Amazon Prime are jumping into with both feet. Even Hulu Plus has its own unique-ness – it purports to get you fresh content (network TV shows, etc.) faster than Netflix. Hulu says they give you the latest episodes of current-season TV shows the day after they air.

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So if you don’t have and want Amazon Prime video on your TV, then I think the Firestick is the best way to go, since you already have Netflix access and your FIOS lineup. I should mention that if you have a home theater system connected to your TV and want to get surround sound out of the Firestick it can be more complicated – I’ve written several articles about that subject (with hundreds of comments from folks on their particular setups). Check out https://positek.net/firestick-theater/ and https://positek.net/firestick-frenzy/ and https://positek.net/hdmi-and-drm/ for more info on this subject.

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Ok, onto the business about piracy: When a movie is showing in movie theaters, the only way you can watch this without going to the theater is to watch a pirated copy/version of the movie. Please note that this is illegal, so I don’t recommend it. Lots of folks have written in about installing Kodi on their Firesticks, which is not illegal by itself, but then using Kodi to access illicit streaming services. That is illegal, both for the illicit streaming service and for anyone accessing and displaying that illicit content. Check out the wiki on Digital Rights Management at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_rights_management.

The answer to your last question – will a Firestick give me anything I don’t have – is probably no. Unless you want/need Amazon Prime video on the big screen, or want to explore cord-cutting. After all, you’re paying FIOS a lot of money for all that content (most of which you likely don’t watch anyway). Our society is moving bit by bit in fits and starts, towards on-demand entertainment. It will take some time, but the cable and entertainment companies see the writing on the wall and are reformulating their offerings to fit.

You may want to compare the monthly cost of all the streaming services you want against the TV portion of your FIOS triple-play. HBO, Showtime and other premium channels are already offering themselves ala carte to non-cable consumers, and you already know about Netflix and Amazon Prime video. Of course, FIOS triple-play has built-in discounts that would go away if you removed one-third of that package, but it might be worth doing a cost comparison. Add up the monthly subscription costs for all the streaming services you’d like, and then compare that to your FIOS TV services monthly bill (including equipment rental). You will incur one-time costs to cut the cord with such things as an over-the-air HD TV antenna (for local network TV channels) and the aforementioned Firestick and any other streaming devices you want.

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