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The early 2000s saw the end of rent-to-watch stores like Blockbuster and the rise of online streaming services like Netflix. Since then, these streaming services have garnered millions upon millions of viewers and are even producing their own shows!
Despite their widespread popularity, these streaming services aren’t perfect — nowhere near it. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for users to improve their viewing experience while watching from the comfort of their couch.
1. Take Advantage of Streaming Hardware
Most modern TVs fit under the “smart umbrella,” meaning they come with the ability to connect to the Internet, download apps and programs, and vice versa. However, not all TVs are considered “smart”, which is where streaming hardware comes in.
Hardware like Google Chromecast, Amazon Firestick, and Roku devices turn any TV into a smart TV with a simple USB connection. After plugging the devices in and going through the initial setup, you’ll be able to use their respective apps to stream any movie or TV show you like.
While these devices cost extra, they can be incredibly useful, especially if you want to use your phone or laptop as a remote.
2. Use a VPN
Online streaming services suffer from two things: bandwidth throttling and geographical restrictions.
Let’s start with bandwidth throttling. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) often throttle customers’ download and upload speeds in order to reduce strain on servers. It doesn’t matter what plan the customer is on — whether they pay for 100Mbp/s or gigabit — they’re vulnerable to bandwidth throttling.
Annoying, sure, but not as annoying as geo-blocking, the practice of restricting certain content to a geographical region and making it unavailable outside said region. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and most other streaming services practice geo-blocking for various reasons, from licensing issues to regional laws.
If you’re looking for something to fix both bandwidth throttling and geo-blocking, consider a VPN. A VPN hides your IP address and tells both your ISP and streaming service that you’re in a different location. This removes the issue of geo-blocking and throttling in one fell swoop.
This tool even works with streaming hardware — a VPN for Firestick, for example, is available! This means that no matter where you are or what you’re using to stream, a VPN is always available to you.
3. Hardwire Your TV (or Any Possible Devices)
A simple yet often overlooked trick is to hardwire your devices to your Internet. In other words, you should hook your smart TV, computer, or streaming hardware to your router via Ethernet cable.
Wi-Fi connections can be spotty and unreliable, so hooking these devices up and creating a wired connection could immensely improve your streaming experience when it comes to video quality and speed.
4. Change the Appearance of Subtitles
All major streaming services allow for subtitles. Why wouldn’t they? However, the default look of said subtitles may be too small, too large, too monotone, or vice versa. Fortunately, at least when it comes to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, you can customize the subtitles to fit your preference.
Whether you want to switch out the white text on a black background look for a more colorful variant, or simply want to make the text larger, you can. So before you go and watch another episode of The Mandalorian, make sure your subtitles are tailored to your preference.
5. Use Browser Extensions for Netflix
The base Netflix experience can be described as decent. While Netflix does many things right, there are plenty of missing features. Fortunately, developers have given users plenty of options to fill the gaps and make Netflix less lacking.
For example, Chrome extension Trim adds IMDB ratings to Netflix shows, helping you decide what is and isn’t worth watching. Then there’s Netflix Party, an extension that allows you and your friends to view the same movie or show in real-time.
The point is, there are plenty of ways to improve the Netflix experience through Chrome.
6. Enable Parental Controls
Spending a couple of hours a night perusing Netflix or Hulu and watching a movie is a common pastime for families. And when you’re there with your kids, you can curate what they watch. But what about when you’re not around them? Can you control what they can and can’t watch?
Fortunately, you can! Most major streaming services come with parental controls, settings that let you choose what your kids can watch, for how long, and vice versa. If you have kids or are responsible for some, make sure to enable parental controls.
7. Play Netflix Roulette For Something New
Run out of things to watch? Having a hard time figuring out what TV series you want to start next? Plenty of people struggle with the same thing, so you’re not alone. And with Netflix Roulette, you won’t have to ponder for long.
Netflix Roulette is a site that gives you a random movie or TV show to watch, which you can filter by IMDB score. Perfect for those boring nights!