In theory, it sounds simple: You, the paying consumer, just want to watch this movie on that box plugged into your TV. But in practice, there’s a huge amount of content spread out across different hardware and apps, and it gets more overwhelming by the day.
This week on Too Embarrassed to Ask, The Verge’s Lauren Goode and special guest host, Recode’s Peter Kafka, talked about why the world of media streaming is so confounding, and how to find some sanity in it. One silver lining, Kafka noted, is that what hardware you buy is becoming less relevant — well, mostly.
“They’re generally all the same, they generally work the same,” Kafka said. “There are some distinctions, and you should think about this if you’re thinking about buying one of these things: If you consume a lot of stuff from Amazon, you probably don’t want to buy Apple TV, because they don’t play nicely together. And if you own a lot of iTunes movies, which I do, you pretty much have to use Apple TV.”
Neither the Amazon Fire TV Stick nor Google’s Chromecast dongle support iTunes, Goode explained. Movies and TV shows purchased through Amazon, meanwhile, work on almost everything except the Apple TV. That’s the norm for a lot of services.
“Generally, if you’re a regular person who streams something from Netflix and maybe you’re going to get HBO Now, all of these services all work on all the different boxes,” Kafka said. “[And] you don’t need a box, because if you buy any TV these days, they have some sort of software embedded in them.”
(And if you don’t have a smart TV, The Verge recommends the $40 Amazon Fire TV Stick).
Double-checking what apps these boxes and sticks support mainly matters if you want to watch platform-exclusive content like “Stranger Things” on Netflix, “Transparent” on Amazon, or Apple’s upcoming reality series, “Planet of the Apps,” which Apple’s Eddy Cue and Hollywood agent Ben Silverman will discuss at Code Media 2017.
Platforms like Netflix need to make their own content now, Kafka explained, because studios used to be more lax about giving away their content.
“They got into streaming by buying pretty much anything that the TV networks would sell them,” he said of Netflix. “And then they [networks] eventually realized, ‘Oh, shit. Netflix has created a competitive service to us, using our product. They’ve taught people to stop watching our TV shows when they’re on the air and wait till they can see them on Netflix, with no commercials.”
Have questions about streaming apps that we didn’t get to in this episode? Or have another tech topic on your mind? You can tweet any questions, comments and complaints to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed. You can also email your questions to TooEmbarrassed@recode.net, in case Twitter isn’t your thing.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.