What to Look for in a TV Streaming Service
If you’re the type of person who considers your television a beloved member of the family, you’re in luck. Forget cable, live streaming on-demand TV is now available from numerous streaming services and streaming channels. What’s more, you can watch whatever you want, whenever, wherever and on whatever you want including your phone, tablet, laptop, and game console – as long as you can get online. Here, we’ll detail what to look for when considering a TV streaming service – so you’ll be able to gorge on all your favorite shows and movies.
Get the Right Hardware
TV streaming doesn’t need to be complicated but you will need to consider a streaming media gadget. Unless you already have this capability in your smart TV, there are 2 types of streaming gadgets: set-top boxes and HDMI sticks. HDMI sticks are small USB drives which people often use as external hard drives. These will also plug into your TV – a nice tidy option for your entertainment center. Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire both offer HDMI sticks. Set-top boxes are a little bigger, and include Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV etc. Lastly, you’ll need some type of indoor or outdoor antenna to get free over-the-air programming. To access most strong channels within a 35-mile radius you could buy something like the ClearStream Eclipse Indoor Antenna for a reasonable $50 on Amazon. Of course, you don’t have to buy the streaming gadgets. If you don’t have a big flat screen in your living room, you can watch most services via your computer, smartphone and tablet- all you’ll need is an internet connection.
Decide What You Want to Watch
This is the fun bit; choose your poison! Which shows do you love and which ones can you live without?
Are you a Game of Thrones fanatic (HBO)
, or are you hooked to Stranger Things (Netflix)?
Naturally you’re going to have different needs if you are a sports fan, or reliant on the news. Remember,
not every streaming service will offer every TV show ever aired so make a list of the shows you can’t do without. Some streaming services like Amazon will offer the broadest range of TV streaming channels, including original content from all of its competitors like Netflix (Orange is the New Black) Hulu (The Handmaid’s Tale) and
(Game of Thrones). If you still want access to all old your old cable channels, you should consider a web TV based streaming service like DirecTV where you’ll be able to access up to 120 live TV channels, as well as 25,000 on-demand titles. Another option is SlingTV which offers live streaming where you’ll have access to 45 or 29 channels, depending on the type of bundle you choose. If you’re a serious movie-buff there are also plenty of services to please you, FilmStruck for instance has an extensive library of classic films and artsy documentaries, Netflix and Hulu are also great choices for a large range of movies. Go for a streaming service’s free trial to see just what you can get before choosing a paid subscription.
Like all good things these days, you can’t get anywhere without internet. Before choosing a streaming service, ensure you install a broadband connection that meets the needs of the service you choose. Many of these streaming services rely heavily on a strong internet connection. Some services recommend internet downstream speeds of 5Mbps, however, if you’re part of a big family with more than one streaming screen, 5Mbps won’t suffice and you might experience buffering delays. To best access streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon you’ll most likely want to have at least 25Mbps.
How Many Screens Do You Need?
When deciding on the right TV streaming service you’ll also need to think about how many different devices you’ll want to use. If you live in a large household, you’ll want to avoid the inevitable arguments over who's watching what and ensure your service can be accessed by more than one device. Netflix for instance can be streamed from your smartphone and tablet in addition to desktop and television. You’ll get access to 6 different accounts where you can stream up to two movies or TV shows at the same time. There is also an option to upgrade to four streams at the same time from your account page. In addition to Netflix, with an HBO or Amazon Prime subscription, you’ll be able to account-share with family members.
For Sports Fans
Sport-obsessed fans will have different TV needs and not all streaming services will give you access to specific sports channels and games. If you need to get your fill of baseball for instance, the Major League Baseball's watch-all-you-can streaming service is called MLB.TV and costs $49.99/year. Certain cable TV streaming services such as Sling TV or PlayStation Vue will give you access to ESPN and the NFL. No matter what service you choose, deciding to cut your cable and go with a streaming service will put you in the driver’s seat. Finally, you can decide what you want to watch and when you want to watch it. So what’s stopping you from starting now?
If You’re a Variety Seeker
Amazon is no longer just your go-to for shopping and 2-day delivery.
Amazon Prime Video
has become one of the best streaming services out there, with more and more people signing up. Its good reviews and high ratings praise its variety. With an Amazon Prime subscription you’ll get access to around 2,000 series, and 50 original series. New series are uploaded within one day of air-date, so you won’t have to wait a whole week to watch the latest episode. Its website makes it really simple to find what you’re looking for. You can search by categories like Top Rated TV, Recommended Drama TV, and even Bingeable TV. Amazon Prime Video lets you download pretty much all of its content, so you can watch TV and movies without live streaming and using all your phone data. One downside is that Amazon shows ads. But the ads are easy to skip and are Amazon-branded so they may be relevant to you. The Amazon Prime Video price is $8.99 per month and comes with a 30-day free trial. If you’re unhappy, you can cancel your subscription any time. You can also pay a bit more for your Amazon Prime subscription, $10.99 per month, and get Amazon Video Prime plus Amazon Prime. Huge content variety and free 2-day shipping? Not too shabby.
In terms of billing, TV streaming services usually charge a monthly subscription fee for using their service. Some services offer customers the option of paying their annual subscription fee up front for a discounted rate. Paying yearly can save you money, but paying monthly offers more flexibility because you can opt out before the next monthly billing date. In addition to the subscription fee, many services offer paid add-ons such as additional channels or features. As with any service, consider the cost of add-ons before they start to pile up.
Time to Subscribe
Once you’ve made the decision to subscribe to a TV streaming service, all that’s left to do is subscribe. Start by checking out the streaming services offering free trials. Get to know the different streaming channels and shows, before commiting to a paid subscription. If it’s variety and a lengthy free trial that you’re after,
sign up for an Amazon Prime subscription
, throw some popcorn in the microwave and enjoy streaming some great shows.