Looking to detox from election news or just looking for more interesting content? Streaming is a great way to be in control of the what, where and when of what you view.
What is ‘streaming’?
It is easiest to start with traditional TV viewing. There are two options: Cable or a digital antennae to pick up VHF or UHF channels. Streaming, on the other hand, is done via the internet – the same service that brings you email, google, and access to websites.
Why is it called streaming? Because it flows to our devices much like water streams through our pipes. Due to variations in the speed with which data comes over the internet, a little extra is stored (“buffered”) as we watch so that we see a steady stream of video. Otherwise what we are watching would start and stop with annoying frequency. Plus, the content is not downloaded and stored on our devices – it streams through and out.
You can stream content simply by going to your computer. Go to PBS or YouTube on the web and click a video – this is streaming. But sitting in front of a computer isn’t terribly cozy.
Streaming from a TV – what equipment do I need?
Streaming can be done from any device that has an internet connection. Your computer, a tablet or a smartphone can easily stream video content. TVs can stream video if they are internet enabled. (“Smart TVs” are internet-ready). Older (non-smart) TVs can easily be connected to the internet by attaching a relatively inexpensive device such as a Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast or Apple TV (most available for under $50).
Newer Smart TVs connect to the internet wirelessly over Wi-Fi, which is great if your TV isn’t near your internet router. Older Smart TVs might need to be plugged into your cable modem – much like computers needed to be wired before Wi-Fi. If you have an older Smart TV, you might want to consider purchasing a Roku-type device which will allow you to connect the TV to the internet to wirelessly.
As Roku type devices all connect to the internet wirelessly, you will need Wi-Fi. Newer modems include Wi-Fi capability. If you don’t have a Wi-Fi modem, you can get one from your internet provider or an electronics store.
How to get content?
There are many sources for great streaming content. Some are free, but many involve a monthly subscription such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. We think it easiest to set up these accounts using a computer. Once your TV is set up for streaming, you can access your subscriptions by turning on your TV and Roku-type device or accessing the Smart TV functions. Roku, for example, will display a menu of available subscription services. Click on the service you subscribe to (e.g., Netflix) and you will be prompted to enter your user name and password. (Happily, you do not need to enter these passwords each time you watch!)
If you have cable TV, consider subscriptions that will supplement what you have on cable such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. For those who don’t have cable TV (or want to eliminate it), consider a subscription to SlingTV which offers packages starting at $20 that include cable news, sports channels and other cable channels such as Comedy Central. Even HBO and Showtime can now be purchased a la carte via a monthly subscription.
One of the great advantages of these subscription services is that you can access them from any internet device. I often start watching a Netflix program on my computer and then continue later that evening from my TV. Netflix automatically saves where I left off.
What about “cutting the cord”?
Most of the cable companies bundle services (e.g., the Comcast’s Triple Play) making your telephone and internet more expensive if you don’t opt for the bundle. Cutting the cord is best for those who are willing to eliminate their telephone (landline) service as well. Doing a careful cost comparison is necessary. But, if you pay for premium content via cable, you might do better to stream that content rather than pay for expensive cable upgrade packages. One huge advantage of streaming is that subscriptions are month-to-month and therefore can be cancelled and restarted at any time.
This is a lot of territory to cover in a short blog post. Call or drop us a note if you have questions. And we are available to help you set up streaming in your home!