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What’s Your Setup?

By Bert Ehrmann
Fenruary 20, 2009

As the date for the conversion to digital television crept closer and closer to reality this month – only to be pushed back all the way to June – I started wondering all the ways people access entertainment content today differently than they would have a few years back. What I’ve done is to ask a few of my more tech savvy friends just how they watch TV and movies here at the start of 2009.

Rob watches many of his movies on his Apple TV, which is a essentially a box that’s connected to the Internet that allows Rob to legally download and watch movies and TV shows. For him a typical week involves renting a few movies for the family via Apple TV as well as watching TV shows via their FiOS On-Demand system. They also rent DVDs via the redbox DVD rental stations located around town.

Rob’s business partner Dan was the first person I knew to have a flatscreen TV. He also recently purchased an Apple TV and is in the process of converting his DVD collection to Apple TV friendly files. The last time Dan had cable or satellite television was five or six years ago. He also watches DVDs he rents from Blockbuster and buys a fair amount of DVDs each month as well. Dan thinks that he’ll probably end up skipping Blu-ray and instead download all his HD content online via services like iTunes and Apple TV.

Mo is the one person I surveyed to that has a Blu-ray player via his Playstation 3. Mo watches a mix of movies via Blu-ray, standard DVD as well as streaming some content via his Xbox 360. Mo has the option of streaming Netflix movies via his Xbox but hasn’t ever really used this feature.  Much like just about everyone else surveyed, Mo is in the process of converting his DVD collection to digital file formats.

Alex and his roommates have a dedicated PC hooked up to their television. They keep it filled with movies and television shows and since the PC is connected to the Internet they can always use a service like Hulu to watch what anything they don’t already have. Alex thinks that the DVD player software that comes with this PC computer isn’t very good, so he usually watches DVDs via his Playstation 2. Alex isn’t interested in Blu-ray players, but it’s mostly due to the cost involved in purchasing one. Though he does have a cable connection, the only thing that keeps him from canceling the service is missing live sporting events. 

Like Dan, Sean doesn’t have a cable or satellite connection. Sean has taken his main family computer, added an extra video card and as hooked it up directly to his television. He then streams movies via Netflix from his PC to his TV. Sean says that his kids love this setup and is amazes him that his kids, all under ten years of age, have an understanding of how to switch the TV from computer to DVD and back without any issues. Sean thinks that he’ll eventually go Blu-ray, even if it’s just to see his favorite movies in high definition.

As for myself, I get HD TV via DirecTV along with their flavor of DVR. I also have an Apple TV. My Apple TV is wirelessly connected to my main computer which is intern connected to a few very large hard drives containing my collection of movies and television shows that I’ve ripped from my DVDs. I’ve got around 200 movies and right around 500 TV shows available at my fingertips via this setup.  

On occasion I’ll rent a movie via Apple TV but I’ve never bought one online. I still feel a bit uneasy that the file you buy online today might not be compatible with your computer TV setup of tomorrow. I also have a Netflix subscription and end up watching a few DVDs a week from that service. I’m seriously considering purchasing a Blu-ray player sometime in 2009, but right now the cost of replacing all my DVDs seems extremely daunting.

I guess the only similarity in all the ways we all access our entertainment content these days is that we all do it differently.