Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Epix Decision

We've had Verizon FIOS for nearly three years and have been pretty happy with it. So last week we finally decided to drop our final link to twentieth-century audio-visual technology, the copper-wire phone line, and rely on the FIOS line and cell phones.

Since this meant we were going to be using FIOS for a while, I decided to call up Verizon and see what kind of a deal they could give me if we locked in for a couple of more years. Primarily, I was looking to save money and add Showtime, so that we could watch Dexter, Weeds, and Nurse Jackie without waiting for the DVDs to get to Netflix. (Yes, these are all shows about, shall we say, socially challenged individuals. Deal with it.)

Well, I didn't save any money — well, I will if we drop HBO, but otherwise not. But such a deal!. In addition to Showtime, we get all of the HD sports channels turned on, the regional Fox sports channels, and some other HD movie channels.

In particular, we now have something called EpixHD. This is a joint venture by Paramount, MGM, and Lionsgate to make a few more dollars off of their movies before Netflix buys about a million DVDs and starts sending them out essentially for free.

So here's the deal. Epix streams movies such as Star Trek, Iron Man, etc., starting about 90 days before Netflix gets streaming rights. In addition, Epix streams to a Linux computer, unlike Netflix.

Furthermore, after a little bit of searching I found that HBO also streams its shows, even to a Linux box, although I had to do the sign-up from Windows.

And, finally, even Showtime is coming around to streaming its shows, although right now it's apparently only available to Comcast customers through something called Fancast.

So here's the dilemma: I can watch movies and shows from HBO, Showtime, and Epix using Verizon's OnDemand service. I can also stream HBO and Epix to my Linux, Mac, or Windows boxes. So do I really need to keep Netflix?

Look, I love the fact that Netflix lets me watch ancient episodes of Dr. Who and things like Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but I really don't watch it all that much. It's useful that I can get a copy of KU's 1988 NCAA championship DVD when I want it, but, really, how often is that? Is it worth another $10/month?

And, really, I'm upset with Netflix, which won't consider streaming to Linux. They say it's a DRM issue, but if the studios that make up Epix can solve that to their satisfaction, why can't Netflix?

For now, I guess, we'll keep Netflix, but we'll see for how long.