Making Sense of Streaming TV
Many TV viewers have been turning to an ever-growing number of streaming services to get their entertainment, sports, and news. Some are adding streaming to enhance their satellite or cable service, and some are completely switching to streaming because they're "cutting the cord" from satellite and cable. Sometimes I feel like we are little islands in a river, and we have this abundance of services streaming by us. It's hard to know which ones to hook into. If we're not careful, we could wind up spending more money than if we had the most premium Xfinity pacakage. It can also be confusing to know the difference between, say, Netflix and Prime, or Apple TV and Apple TV+. Here's a short tutorial on what the various streaming services are and how to receive them.
First, let's break down the terminology into two categories: streaming services and streaming devices.
A streaming service is a "channel," such as Netflix, Hulu or Peacock that provide video on demand. A streaming device is a physical piece of hardware that allows you to watch a service on your TV.
Each service offers it's own library of TV shows and movies, and most have a monthly or annual subscription fee. A service like Netflix will have shows and movies that it licenses from many different production studios. They will also have in-house TV series and movies that they (Netflix) produce. And some services, such as Peacock, will only have entertainment from their parent company (NBC in Peacock's case).
In addition to those I just mentioned, here are a few more examples of popular services and what type of content they have to offer:
Prime Video: Owned by Amazon, this service is a lot like Netflix. When you sign up for Amazon Prime to get that great free shipping on Amazon's shopping website, you also get Prime Video.
Disney+: Owned by Disney (obviously), this service has nearly all Disney movies and shows from Walt Disney Studios and the Disney Channel going back since the days of Walt. It also includes the different holdings that Disney owns today, such as Marvel, Jim Henson's Muppets, and Star Wars.
Hulu: This service is also much like Netflix with it's broad range of entertainment from many sources. They also offer a live TV streaming option (called Hulu + Live TV). You get many of the same channels you would get with a cable or satellite subscription, plus local channels and sports networks. Hulu + Live TV is attractive to many cord cutters, due to the available channels and sports content.
YouTube TV: Owned by Google, YouTube TV is a direct competitor to Hulu's live service. You get many of the same channels you would get with a cable or satellite subscription, plus local channels and sports networks.
HBO Max: Hold on to your hats– this is where it gets crazy. It is different than plain old HBO that you might get with your cable or satellite provider. HBO Max is a streaming service that lets you stream HBO, plus even more movies, TV favorites, as well as new HBO Max original content.
You can also stream just HBO by itself. That service used to be called HBO Now and HBO Go. Just to confuse everyone. Now they simply call it HBO.
Apple TV+: This is Apple's on-demand video streaming service, featuring content that it has purchased or has had produced. Apple TV+ is NOT the same thing as Apple TV. Again, just to confuse everyone.
Apple TV is a streaming device. It is a physical, little box that you can buy at the mall or online. It plugs into your TV and connects to your internet. When you turn it on, you can then select and subscribe to your various streaming services, like Netflix or Apple TV+. Apple TVs also integrate seamlessly with any other Apple products you may own.
Another popular streaming device is Roku. like an Apple TV, it is also a physical box that works the same way. Amazon is into the game, as well, with their Fire HD device. They also offer a tiny yet powerful version called the Fire Stick. And, of course, Google is in on the action with its Chromecast TV device. Any of these devices will get most of your streaming services. Those services that aren't preloaded are usually available by download to your device.
The last type of device I'd like to share with you is the "Smart TV." This simply means that, if your TV has this designation, then it can connect directly to the internet and act as a streaming device. However, do your research. Not all brands of smart TVs get all streaming services. All TVs made today are considered "smart." If you have an older model at home, though, look to see if it's a smart TV. That way you'll know if you can use your TV for streaming, or if you'll have to purchase an external device like an Apple TV.
There are many different streaming devices and even more streaming services that I don't have the space to mention. It's best to do your research on the cost of the device and the cost of the subscriptions. You should also think about which services have the type of content you want to watch. If you're not careful, those $9.99/month subscriptions can add up fast!
Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to help you navigate these waters and get you the exact device and services that are right for you.