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Home entertainment: a quick guide to video streaming, VPNs and audiobooks

Around a third of the global population is under lockdown or subject to other restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, what will you do with all your extra hours at home?

Home entertainment: a quick guide to video streaming, VPNs and audiobooks

Here, The Local offers a guide to some of your leading options for streaming services and audio books – as well as VPNs that can unblock regionally-restricted content and protect your privacy.

Streaming services

Amazon Prime Video

Home to popular series such as The Grand Tour, The Man in the High Castle and Mozart in the Jungle. New films are added every month and you can watch on up to three devices at a time. Amazon has around 150 million Prime subscribers, who get Prime Video included.

CuriosityStream

This niche provider specialising in factual series was founded by Discovery Channel creator John Hendricks. Available worldwide, it covers science, technology, history, nature and more. Kids’ programmes offer education on everything from space probes to tsunamis. CuriosityStream has grown rapidly to pass 13 million subscribers.

HBO

HBO has a long-standing reputation for high quality production with recent successes including the Golden Globe-winner Chernobyl and Westworld. If you want something lighter, its comedy offerings include all ten seasons of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Netflix

The name has become synonymous with streaming. Netflix has 167 million subscribers – but its global market share has fallen amid growing competition. The choice of TV shows and films is vast and Netflix Original productions such as Stranger Things and Ozark have enjoyed great success.

Virtual private networks (VPN)

Know the series you want to watch or the game you want to play but have found it’s not available in your region? Or maybe you just want online privacy and to protect your digital identity? The answer in both cases is a VPN. Here are five leading providers:

CyberGhost

CyberGhost pledges to keep you anonymous online and ensure your entire connection cannot be tracked. One subscription can be used on up to seven devices and apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android and more.

ZenMate

You can protect an unlimited number of devices with ZenMate, which offers at least 74 global server locations. It offers apps for all your devices. It has attracted more than 40 million users in 160 countries since 2013.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has servers at 160 locations in 94 countries and invites you to join up to “say goodbye to geo-blocks”. A single subscription comes with apps for all devices and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

NordVPN

This VPN promises “next-generation encryption” and a choice of more than 5,900 servers in 59 countries. NordVPN is compatible with all popular platforms and allows you to secure up to six devices with one account.

SurfShark

SurfShark is not shy of baring its teeth and claims to be “eating other VPN deals alive”. Subscribers can use this VPN on unlimited devices and are able to search Netflix libraries from 15 countries.

Audiobooks

Storytel

Storytel offers a range of subscription choices for individuals and families. All of them offer unlimited access and the chance to listen and read via mobiles and tablets. Storytel will also give you book recommendations.

Audible

Audible, part of Amazon, offers a vast choice of non-fiction and fiction across many genres; more than 200,000 titles in all. Audible Original Podcasts include documentaries and comedies. Paid membership includes one audiobook per month.

Google Audiobooks

You can now buy a wide range of audiobooks on Google Play, as well as ebooks. You can make purchases without a subscription and get personal recommendations once you've finished a book.

 

 

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Netflix streams into Italy

Good news for film and TV buffs across Italy: the on-demand service Netflix is now available across the country, with subscribers getting the first month for free.

Netflix streams into Italy
Netflix is now avaliable in Italy. Photo: Matthew Keys / Flickr Creative Commons

The online service was made available from midnight on Wednesday and offers three price plans for Italian subscribers.

The basic package costs €7.99 and will allow users to stream content on one device in normal quality. Other packages, costing €9.99 and €11.99, allow members to stream in HD on more than one device simultaneously.

Netflix can be accessed by anyone with a PC, Mac, tablet, console, internet connected top box, smart phone or smart TV and the company are offering new Italian users one month free in a bid to tempt new customers.

The service is threatening to shake-up global TV habits and will provide stiff competition to well-established and more expensive Italian competitors such as Mediaset and Sky Italia, both of which have recently launched their own on-demand streaming services.

Netflix will allow users to choose from a range of language and subtitle options, meaning foreigners in Italy can veg-out while watching shows in their native language, or use subtitles for language learning effect.

The first Italian TV show produced for Netflix will be Suburra – a ten-part series set in Rome from the makers of the hit mafia series, Gomorra, which was based on a book by journalist Roberto Saviano.

However, the hugely popular shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, which were made for Netflix in the US, will not be available to users in Italy as their rights have already been sold to Sky Italia.

But can Italy's inconsistent broadband service cope with all this streaming?

Netflix thinks so. The company recommends speeds of 3MB/s per second for standard viewing and 5MB/s for HD.

The service also launched in Spain earlier this week and is already available in many other European countries including Germany, Switzerland and the UK.