Digital media piracy is back on the rise, and it’s not hard to figure out why. If you want to watch a TV show or movie online, you now have to hunt through an increasingly ridiculous number of streaming platforms to figure out where it’s available, sign up for that platform if you haven’t already, and add another number to your monthly streaming bill. When torrenting is easier than paying, well, water flows downhill.
Let’s say you want to stay on the up-and-up, though, and are hoping to subscribe to three or four streaming platforms that can cover 80 to 100 percent of the things you want to watch. How do you figure out where all that content is living at any given time?
Untangle doesn’t just tell you where you can find your favorite programs – it also gives you a breakdown of prices and tips on how to optimize costs. Just answer a few questions about your viewing habits, add the shows you want access to, and it will calculate your optimal bundle of streaming platforms. The user interface is simple and smooth, and the questionnaire accounts for a lot of different preferences: on-demand, live, sports, channels, etc.
It’s probably the first place you should check to figure out what combination of services would work best for you. Its database doesn’t have absolutely everything. It’s missing content from some of the more obscure/niche streaming services, but it can help you cover most of the bases.
Streaming doesn’t stay the same for long. In a year or two, that perfect package of services you have might not even be carrying some of the shows you originally purchased them for. Reelgood lets you stay on top of that. Just add your shows to a watchlist and you can see which streaming platforms are currently carrying it listed right next to every item there. Unlike Untangle, it doesn’t look at your list and return an optimal bundle, but that’s easy enough to do if you have a few minutes to scroll through the list.
There are a lot of other features on Reelgood as well, like recommendations, the ability to search every streaming platform to find a specific show or movie, and a “New, coming, leaving” section that tells you, across all of your platforms, what’s here and what’s about to be gone. The database is comprehensive and up to date, and the interface is intuitive.
While Justwatch does tell you where you can find movies and TV shows, its main functionality is to be more of a recommendation engine. It has a “quiz” and several filters you can apply to figure out what you should get into next – because, honestly, finding your next favorite TV show can be even more difficult than figuring out which streaming service it’s on. It makes you click through to every individual movie or show’s page to see which platforms host it, though, which is annoying. If they added a way to sort your shows by streaming service, or even just had the streaming services listed alongside your shows, it could be a much more useful tool.
It’s not that Gowatchit is particularly bad – it lets you search for what you want to watch and then tells you where to find it — it’s just that if you’re looking for information about more than one show, it gets very annoying very fast. Even if you add them all to your list, you have to go to each show’s page to get a list of ways to watch it. It’s a lot like Justwatch but without the robust recommendation engine/filters. In the absence of better options like Reelgood, it would be fine, but it’s just not as good.
It’s still kind of annoying; will it get better?
Yes, it is annoying. But using TV guides, watching shows with no start-time flexibility, and sitting through commercials is also pretty annoying, and at least we don’t have to do that. Currently, the streaming platforms are splintering apart into services held by studios and networks, and while that’s a bad thing in the short term, it could actually be positive in the long run, at least from a convenience standpoint.
It might all come back down to what amounts to a package model – not that different from how TV was before, but maybe (hopefully) with fewer commercials. Studios and networks will probably end up having their own streaming services, but at some point there’s likely to be an aggregator – a way that you can select which ones you want and have all of them available to you in a unified platform. First, though, that content has to get back to its owners, which means we’re probably in for a rough couple of years. If you want to last that long without being driven to occasional piracy, then the tools above are your best hope.