From Google and Apple to Rogers and Bell... Which streaming video service is right for you?

by Knowlton Thomas

2010 has seen online video streaming become considerably more mainstream in Canada than most expected a year or two past. With Netflix freshly launched here, in addition to Bell's new service, plus on its way by year's end, our options have expanded far beyond Apple's meagre offerings. So, which should you choose? Here's the lowdown on each.

apple tvApple TV

One of the originals, and also one of the worst. Or it was, at least. This Fall, Apple revamped its hardware and software for the TV service. Purchase the $120 palm-sized device and stream movies, podcasts, radio, etc. to your television.

PROS: Offers high-def content, supports new releases, sleek simplicity of the Apple experience. CONS: Upfront cost, physical device, rentals only. 

Google TV

Google combines web surfing with streamed content viewing, both on a TV set. Its integrated with Sony TV hardware, a trusted television brand. If you don't own a Sony with Google integration, you need an Android-based box connected via an HDMI cable. Google TV won't be around until 2011, however.

PROS: Integrates with high-quality Sony TVs, lets you use the internet on your TV, will be enhanced by third-party apps, free content. CONS: Not available yet.


This U.S.-born online and DVD mail-order giant came North last month to much fanfare. For $8 a month, you get unlimited streaming. And it can hook up to your Xbox, Wii, or PS3. It boasts a library of more than 7,000 movies and TV shows (and all the best ones at that).

PROS: Low monthly fee, large library of quality content. CONS: No new releases.


Bell recently launches its IPTV, a service that streams video over a fibre-optic network. It's not much different than Bell's satellite service (but obviously doesn't require a satellite). It does need a box, though.

PROS: Can record four programs simultaneously, apps connect to web and social networks, supports new releases. CONS: High monthly fees (up to $100), restricted to Bell subscribers, requires a package subscription.

Rogers On Demand Online

Unveiled in 2009, Rogers launched the online edition of its On Demand service.

PROS: Supports new releases, doesn't have any upfront hardware costs. CONS: Hefty per-item rental costs, limited library, must be a Rogers subscriber.

Zip is planning to tap into the online realm by year's end. Still shrouded in mystery, hopes are high that Zip offers Canadians a real streamed content solution.

PROS: New releases, viewable on TV or computer. CONS: Not available yet, unknown pricing, unknown which distribution deals it can strike up.

Bell Canada
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Bell is Canada's largest communications company, providing the most comprehensive and innovative suite of communication services to residential and business customers in Canada. Operating under the Bell brand, the Company's services include Bell Home Phone local and long distance services, Bell Mobility and Solo Mobile wireless, high-speed Bell Internet, Bell TV direct-to-home satellite and... more

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. As a first step to fulfilling that mission, Google's founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed a new approach to online search that took root in a Stanford University dorm room and quickly spread to information seekers around the globe. Google is now widely recognized as the world's... more

Rogers Communications
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

We are a diversified Canadian communications and media company. We are engaged in wireless voice and data communications services through Wireless, Canada's largest wireless provider and the operator of the country's only national Global System for Mobile Communications ("GSM") based network. Through Cable we are one of Canada's largest providers of cable television services as well as... more

Los Gatos, California, United States

With more than 15 million members, Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] is the world’s largest subscription service streaming movies and TV episodes over the Internet and sending DVDs by mail. For $8.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited TV episodes and movies streamed to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. With Netflix, there are... more

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Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton Thomas

Knowlton is the managing editor of Techvibes and author of Tempest Bound. Based in Vancouver, Knowlton has been published in national publications and has also appeared on television and radio. Previously he was an editor for New Westminster weekly The Other Press and served on its board of directors. When not working, Knowlton enjoys hiking, tennis, and martial arts. more

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