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Your Dummies Guide to Netflix

What is Netflix and why is it a big deal?

Contrary to what you may think, Netflix is actually a pretty old company. It was founded in 1997 and started life as a company that rented out DVDs. It only started offering video on demand via the Internet in 2007. Today, it is one of the leading video streaming services in the world, with over 76 million subscribers worldwide. 

As a video on demand streaming service, Netflix differs from Singtel TV and StarHub TV in that users can choose to watch whatever is on their video catalog whenever they want. In their defense, both Singtel TV and StarHub TV do have on demand videos, but that only makes up a small portion of their catalog, unlike Netflix which purely offers video on demand. This means that there’s no schedule to follow and users are free to watch whatever show or program they want at any time they wish.

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Apart from providing a video on demand streaming service, Netflix is also involved in producing its own original works. The critically acclaimed political drama House of Cards and the comedy Master of None are both original works produced by Netflix.

Before CES 2016 earlier this year, Netflix was only offered in limited countries outside of the United States. For entertainment junkies here, the only way to get Netflix was to subscribe to a VPN or proxy service (more on this later), which adds to costs and also complexity. However, at CES 2016, Netflix announced that it would be extending its service to 130 additional countries. And one of them was Singapore. This means that we no longer need to rely on VPNs and proxies to get Netflix.


How can I watch Netflix?

Netflix is a multi-device service, so you can watch it on your TV, computer and just about any mobile device.

After signing up online, you can watch directly on your web browser simply by heading to Netflix’s website and logging into your account. Or you could download the Netflix app for your Android, iOS or Windows Phone smartphone or tablet and watch it on those devices too.

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One of the great things about Netflix is that you can watch it on various devices.

And if you want to watch Netflix on your television, there’s a couple of ways. The Netflix app is available for most smart TVs from major brands like Samsung, LG, Philips, Sharp and Sony, and that would be the most straightforward way. Alternatively, if you have an Internet-enabled gaming console like a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, you could download the Netflix app for those consoles and watch Netflix on your TV using your game console. However, if these methods don’t work for you, you could invest in a Google Chromecast, which is an affordable and super tiny HDMI streaming dongle; or an AppleTV, which is a digital media player and streaming device.

Also, for existing subscribers of Singtel TV and StarHub TV, there are plans to bring Netflix to your respective set-top boxes from April, allowing you to use your existing set-top box to watch Netflix conveniently.

Another nifty thing is that viewing progress is carried over across devices, which means customers can begin watching on their phones while commuting, pause it when they get home, and then resume watching on their TV without missing a beat.


What are the plans?

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A summary of the different plans that Netflix offers.

Netflix in Singapore will offer three subscription plans - Basic, Standard and Premium. They have done a good job of summarizing the differences between the three so we will reproduce their table here.

The main difference to take note of is the resolution available and number of devices that can watch at the same time. All subscription plans will have the same access, so there’s no need to worry that a cheaper plan might not be able to watch some shows that only those with premium plans can.

With a Basic subscription, which costs S$10.98 a month, you will only be able to watch videos at 720p. That’s not ideal given that anyone who has bought a new TV in the past three or so years is likely to have a Full-HD TV. Likewise, if your notebook and mobile device is relatively new, it is likely to have a display that supports Full-HD resolution and beyond too. Plus, with a Basic subscription, you can only watch one a single device at any one time.

A Standard subscription is recommended for most users as it will give you access to videos in Full-HD resolution. Furthermore, it will let you watch on two devices simultaneously, which is great for couples or families who want to watch different shows. The Standard plan is only slightly pricier at S$13.98 each month. If you recently subscribed to Singtel's two-year fiber broadband or mobile plan, you're eligble for complimentary Netflix Standard subscription in Singapore.

For cinephiles, the Premium plan is for you as it allows you to watch shows in Ultra HD or 4K. It also lets you watch on up to four devices simultaneously, which is great for large families. One thing to note, however, is that not all shows are available in Ultra HD, though most of the newer and more popular titles are. Of course, it goes without saying that you need a 4K display to be able to take full advantage of the 4K content as well. The Premium plan is the most costly plan at S$16.98 a month.


How to sign up?

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Start your Netflix experience here.

Signing up is a dead simple. When you arrive at Netflix’s page, there’s a button that says “Start your free month”, so click that. Thereafter, you will be prompted to pick your plan. Netflix is now offering a one month free trial on any of its three plans, so now’s a good time to try the Premium plan to see if you really need that Ultra HD option and the ability to play on four devices.

You will then be prompted to select a login ID (via your email address) and a password. Then you’ll be prompted to enter your payment details. However, Netflix will not charge you a cent until the first month is over. So if you decide this plan is not for you, remember to cancel your subscription before the first month is up.

You will then be prompted to enter a parental pin, which is required for adult content and great for parents who are sharing the account with children or minors. Netflix will then ask what device you are watching on right now and ask you to pick three or more of your favorite shows so that it can suggest similar shows to you. And that’s all there is to it!

Here's our step-by-step pictorial guide:

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The final step is to choose shows that you like so that Netflix can recommend similar titles to you.

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Ta-dah! Welcome to Netflix!
 

Netflix Singapore or Netflix USA?

Netflix’s video on demand service is not new and tech-savvy users have been enjoying Netflix for a couple of years now. For these users, Netflix’s arrival to Singapore is bittersweet. Because while Netflix is now in Singapore, access to content is not the same.

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A lot of users are sore that House of Cards isn't going to be available on Netflix Singapore. (Image source: HD Report)

For example, the acclaimed political drama House of Cards is not available on Netflix Singapore. Netflix Singapore is also not showing Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory as well as Asian shows like Ip Man and Attack on Titan. The reason for this has to do with international licensing issues. That said, we do get to watch shows like Master of None, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Narcos, just to name a few. We also have Batman Begins and Man of Steel, which is missing from Netflix USA. That said, Netflix USA definitely has more content (according to this chart, we only have roughly 10% the content of Netflix USA), but Netflix has said that it is committed to expanding their catalog in new regions.

For now, viewers in Singapore can still opt to subscribe to either Netflix Singapore or Netflix USA, though the latter option is slightly more complicated and requires subscription to a VPN service to bypass Netflix’s geographical restrictions.

However, one important thing to note is that Netflix has stated that it is working to enforce geographical restrictions and will allow only subscribers to access the Netflix service for their country. In the past few weeks, there have been reports of some users in Singapore losing access to Netflix USA as Netflix clamps down on proxies and VPN services looking to circumvent the geographical content restrictions that the company has put in place. This occurrence is not exclusive to Singapore viewers, Netflix USA viewers in Australia also reported experiencing the same fate.

That said, Australian VPN provider, uFlix, which specializes in providing Netflix USA content to Australian subscribers, is confident of finding workarounds. uFlix managing director Peter Dujan even went as far as to say, “It’s simply a game of cat and mouse, and this is our job, so let’s play.” And if history is any indication, it looks like VPN and proxy services could end up having the last laugh. Hulu, another video streaming service, once tried to ban VPN and proxy users from accessing its service, but failed spectacularly.

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There's no House of Cards, but there's Master of None, which is really funny and well worth subscribing to watch.

What this really means for new users contemplating between Netflix Singapore and Netflix USA is this: Netflix Singapore is easily the more fuss-free option, but it comes at the cost of a limited catalog; on the other hand, Netflix USA provides more entertainment options, but it costs more and could be problematic at times (especially if Netflix USA clamps down on your VPN or proxy service provider).

The choice is yours, but no matter what, Netflix arrival here is certainly good news for TV junkies and couch potatoes.

This article first appeared on hardwarezone.com.sg

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