Streaming on a budget: binging, covid-19 and you


Jeff Turner 

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic streaming services have become a lifeline for many. Shows such as “Tiger King” have become overnight successes. However, with tens of thousands of retail workers in Omaha furloughed, money is also a growing concern. Many streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, are still billing users for their service, and many TV stations have suspended production of current shows. Due to COVID-19, however, many streaming services and networks have released programming for free.

One of the most notable is HBO. On April 3, the premium cable service released over 500 hours of programming, including classics like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” and recent hits such as “Barry,” available for free. (Although some recent shows like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld” are not included.) All you need to do is download the HBO Go app and set up an account. You will not receive a monthly bill for the remainder of the quarantine.

Also available is Kanopy – a streaming service free through your university or library. Kanopy has many recent indie films and documentaries, including my favorite film of last year “Midsommar,” among many others. First, Google search “Kanopy.” When you are redirected to the main website either create an account or log in using Facebook. When it asks for library or university select “Criss Library” – not “University of Nebraska at Omaha” – and after that you’re good to go.

Also noteworthy is IMDB, which has its own streaming service also available for free. After the imposition of the COVID-19 quarantine, IMDB released all five seasons of recent hit “Schitt’s Creek” available for free.  Series like “Columbo” and “Friday Night Lights” are also available, along with films like “Blade Runner 2049,” “True Romance” and “Airplane.”

Also easy to access is Pluto TV. Pluto TV is structured to offer a more conventional television experience, with various channels playing scheduled programming. There is an “On Demand” option with a long list of titles available to stream for free. Most notable among their library are the classic James Bond movies. This is all available to watch without an account, but you can sign up for an account with relative ease, and an account will allow you to customize your own channel with programming of your choice.

Movies that were in theaters before the coronavirus outbreak are now available for purchase on services like Amazon, but it might be worth waiting until later in the summer. Available right now are the major spring releases. And while there are gems available, (“The Invisible Man” and “Emma” to name a few), major releases such as “No Time to Die” have been delayed to November and other blockbusters such as “Mulan,” “A Quiet Place Part II” and “Black Widow” are sitting on the backburner awaiting a new release date.

These are all available on top of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, which have all extended their free trials from seven days to 30. Cutting costs, if needed, doesn’t have to deprive you of all entertainment.