From couch potatoes to hunter-gatherers
As streamed content explodes, TV viewers have more to choose from and to pay for.
* COMMUNITY. Tomorrow, Yahoo Screen. (Yahoo.com/community online or on Apple TV, Roku or Yahoo Screen apps for Apple and Android.)
* JAMAICA INN. Today, Acorn TV.
MAYBE it's time to trade in the universal remote for a spreadsheet.
Because the days of leaning back, pressing a button or two and having favorite TV shows come to you, live or off your DVR, are waning.
Thanks to Netflix and Amazon and Yahoo and Acorn TV and Sony PlayStation and Crackle and an ever-growing list of streaming options that's about to include at least one stand-alone premium channel, we've entered the hunter-gatherer phase of TV viewing.
"Community" fans can have that sixth season they've always wanted. People who until now may have watched "Game of Thrones" through less-than-legal means - or waited for the DVDs - will be able to have HBO without paying for a few hundred other channels. And people whose gaming systems cut into their TV time will soon find there's nowhere to hide.
Our shows, the ones we've chosen instead of having them chosen for us, are all out there waiting. We only have to find them, figure out how to deliver them to the screens of our choice and sit back and hope the Internet connection doesn't get cranky.
Couldn't be simpler, right?
OK, it could be a little simpler.
Take "Community," the NBC-canceled sitcom that makes its 13-episode debut on Yahoo Screen tomorrow with two back-to-back episodes. After that, viewers will be expected to check back weekly, as new episodes are released each Tuesday.
Which doesn't make it all that different from the two comedies on NBC tomorrow, the premiere of the Ellen DeGeneres-produced "One Big Happy" and the return of "Undateable."
Except "Community" won't have "The Voice" as a lead-in.
Binge or no-binge?
"Community" once a week is also a different viewing experience from what Netflix offers for "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," the comedy that Upper Darby's Tina Fey and her "30 Rock" partner Robert Carlock first developed for Ellie Kemper ("The Office") at NBC.
Netflix doesn't release viewing figures, but based on an unscientific sampling - my Twitter feed - I know I'm not the only one who made it through the entire first season in a recent weekend.
Amazon, after experimenting with gradual releases, also seems to have adopted the all-at-once model for its recent originals.
So, it was surprising when a May 21 premiere date was announced for Netflix's "Between," a new drama starring former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy, and it was noted that episodes would be released weekly, not all at once.
They'll air on Canadian TV and be on Netflix an hour later. But binge-watching, whether it's "Kimmy Schmidt" or "House of Cards" or one of those Swedish crime dramas I can't seem to get enough of, is so much a part of Netflix's brand now that it's bound to be confusing.
Sony, which recently, on its PlayStation Network, launched "Powers," a live-action show based on a comic-book series, had a hybrid rollout, releasing three episodes at once, with the following seven to premiere one at a time on Tuesdays.
Acorn TV, the streaming service most likely to appeal to viewers who'd ordinarily watch nothing but PBS' "Masterpiece," has been sticking with the once-a-week model as it rolls out U.S. premieres of British series like "Foyle's War." Starting today, it will stream the first of three weekly installments of the miniseries "Jamaica Inn." Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel, it stars Jessica Brown Findlay ("Downton Abbey").
And NBC, whose shows seem to be everywhere but on NBC, last week started streaming the remaining episodes of its canceled spy drama "Allegiance" on NBC.com, with plans to release episodes every Thursday.
Free-range, not free
Cord-cutters and people who dream of ditching their cable bills (a larger group) may consider having to keep track of their shows a small price to pay.
But it's not the only price. There's also Internet, which tends to be more expensive when it's not bundled with TV service.
HBO Now, the new standalone service that will first come to Apple early next month, will cost $14.99 a month, and CBS, already charging $5.99 a month for All Access streaming, is eyeing a similar service for its premium cable sibling Showtime that's almost certainly going to be closer to (or the same price as) HBO's.
Netflix ranges from $7.99 to $11.99 a month. Amazon Prime is $99 a year. Acorn TV is $4.99 a month. PlayStation Plus, whose members get "Powers" (it can also be bought a la carte), costs $49.99 a year.
A PlayStation Vue network, expected to launch soon in a few cities, including Philadelphia, and to include a lineup of channels greater than Dish's Sling TV, is also expected to cost more than Sling TV, which starts at $20 a month. Possibly much more: the New York Times last fall reported that "media executives speculate that the service will cost about $60 a month."
On Twitter: @elgray