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Finding Where to Stream TV Shows Shouldn’t Be Rocket Science

Instead of throwing millions at Theranos and WeWork, give someone the capital to develop a platform that can track content on streaming services in real time.

Peter Stern, Apple Vice President of Services, speaks at the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new products, in Cupertino, CalifApple Streaming TV, Cupertino, USA - 25 Mar 2019

Peter Stern, Apple Vice President of Services, speaks at the Steve Jobs Theater

Tony Avelar/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Don’t you hate it when people complain about society’s lack of progress by citing the current year? Well, sorry. It’s 2019, so why in God’s name has someone yet to create a simple website or app that accurately lists what streaming services host a particular film or television show?

There’s more film and television content being made today than ever before. This is a good thing from a fan perspective, but it also means that it can be difficult to keep up with where specific films and shows can be watched online, especially as the temporary nature of licensing deals means that popular shows can disappear from a particular streaming service in the blink of an eye.

You don’t have to poke around the internet for long to find that entertainment consumers are getting fed up with the sheer number of streaming options on the market. I’d argue that there’d be less discontent about the large number of services if it was easier to find particular projects. It shouldn’t be rocket science to figure out where you can legally stream a particular film or show, and yet, here we are.

Of course, there are no shortage of websites and apps that claim to offer this exact thing. Problem is, they’re all bad. These aggregate websites range from clickbait to malware bastions, and in the rare cases where they actually provide something resembling an answer, they’re almost always hopelessly outdated or flat out wrong. I guess enough people are still Googling “Where to stream ‘Harry Potter’” for this to be somewhat financially viable for these skeevy websites’ owners, but it’s shocking that someone isn’t maintaining a more reputable third-party streaming film and television tracker. Even if such a website was free, if the service was actually consistently good, I’d imagine that a fair number of people would be willing to chip in a nice amount of donations to keep it running.

I refuse to believe that there’s some sort of technical limitation acting as a roadblock to such a service. If hackers can routinely break into some of the nation’s largest companies and steal treasure troves of personal data, they sure as hell have the ability to tell me what streaming service I need to subscribe to to stream “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Sure, there are plenty of options to buy streaming access or download rights to that film, such as YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and iTunes, but what about getting access to the film as part of a basic streaming service subscription? (Apparently it was on Hulu in February, but has since said hasta la vista.)

But hold up, why do we even need to use a third-party website or app to track this stuff? Why do the major streaming services gate their search functions off from nonsubscribers?

Netflix, the industry’s largest streaming service is the biggest culprit here. If you’re not logged in to your Netflix account, the platfom will only display a cherry picked selection of shows from a select few genres. No search bar. The obfuscation is almost certainly intentional: Curious, how if you have a Netflix account, you can search for individual films or television shows to your heart’s content…

Hulu is a bit better, as the service allows nonsubscribers to view all available films and shows by their starting letter and filter through content that is currently on air, has captions, and can be streamed in HD. Unfortunately, a search function still seems too advanced for the Disney-owned service.

Amazon Prime Video arguably offers the best search functions for nonsubscribers of the major streaming services, as it’s pretty similar to the general Amazon website. Although being able to type your desired film or television show into the search bar is nice, the website can still be a bit confusing, as although plenty of projects will show up as available, many of them have to individually purchased and may not be available as part of a Prime Video subscription…Even though you’re searching for them on Prime Video.

The streaming services know what they’re doing, and they aren’t going to change. So, here’s my pitch to the Silicon Valley investor-types out there: Instead of throwing hundreds of millions at the lunatics at the Theranos and WeWorks of the world, give some computer science geek the capital to develop a platform that can in real-time track the content libraries of the entertainment industry’s leading streaming services. That would be more of a net positive for the world, I promise.

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