Which is better, streaming or offloading your content?

In 2016, the answer’s still not clear. When DIRECTV announced a device that would offload content to a mobile device back in 2011, it sounded attractive. After all, data plans were expensive and slow. Since then, the world has changed a lot, especially in the last year. Just in the last 12 months, we’ve seen the following developments:

  • DIRECTV discontinued its standalone offloading device but added that capability to Genie DVRs.
  • DISH delivered HopperGo, which not only offloads content but stores it and streams it wirelessly to mobile devices.
  • Amazon and Starz both started allowing content to be offloaded.
  • AT&T allowed unlimited streaming of DIRECTV content to customers who bundle.
  • T-Mobile allowed unlimited streaming from most video sites.
  • DIRECTV’s Mobile DVR service will pull title listings from your DVR and stream at HD quality from its servers if possible.

As you can see, the question’s murkier than ever. While it’s now free in many cases to stream high quality HD content over cellular data, that doesn’t help at all if you have no coverage or don’t have the right provider. If you’re on a plane, in a hotel room, or driving across this great land of ours, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to stream at all. That’s when offloading comes in so handy.

Yet, the world seems to be moving away from offloading. Obviously it’s very possible to stream HD wirelessly now with a great many devices, and it’s getting harder and harder to find a spot where streaming isn’t possible.

For what it’s worth, I do believe we are moving “just a touch” too fast away from offloading content. I’m the guy who, when he buys a movie online, actually downloads it and backs it up even though it’s always going to be available in the cloud. I understand how all that works, I know that if the cloud copy were to stop working, the rights-protected local copy would eventually stop too. But that doesn’t stop me from personally backing up and storing the things I feel are important.

When there’s a program on my DVR I well and truly want to keep, I use one of these video grabbers to make a permanent capture of it. It’s not HD, of course, and that’s a shame, but you can do the highest bitrate SD capture and get some very passable (if not wonderful) results. I do carry content with me when I travel and I don’t rely on hotel wi-fi or streaming. But that’s just me, I am what the kids today call “OG.”

That said, even I see the writing on the wall. I know within a very short period of time, I won’t bother carrying content with me or storing it locally. That’s just not how it will be done. The need to offload content, even temporarily, will slowly fade away the way that physical media is slowly fading away today and the way floppy disks and paper bank statements have been fading away for a generation. It’s not really a matter of whether streaming or offloading will “win,” because streaming has already won. It’s just a matter of when guys like me will catch up.

I guess as long as you know that, you can bemoan the things that you lose, but you learn to live with the wonderful world of today. What do you all think?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.