Gone are the days when you had to purchase expensive hardware equipment in order to watch your favorite shows and movies. Thanks to the huge variety in streaming TV services and devices, it is now possible to watch everything, ranging from live news and sports to modern TV favorites to classic movies at your own time and convenience, on the devices of your choice.
Current streaming options are so diverse that millions of Americans hae now instant access to their favorite shows irrespective of the place or time. The streaming media revolution has given a whole new definition to entertainment whereas internet connections are improving rapidly to cope with the increase in streaming quality. As streaming technologies continue to advance, consumers can only expect that things will get better and better in terms of quality, connectivity and user friendliness.
To help you get the most out of your streaming TV services and devices, here is a detailed look into the various options at your disposal, including the most important features worth considering in helping you get your money’s worth for any subscription you might opt for.
Streaming TV Services
Netflix is without a doubt the granddaddy of streaming services and it remains one of the best options you will ever come across. With Netflix, you get access to unlimited streaming of shows, movies, original programming, and comedy specials at a monthly subscription fees. Currently, we can confidently say that there is no other streaming TV service which has given Netflix a good run for its money in terms of show selection, performance, consistency and the quality of the shows. As such, it is not only the granddaddy of streaming services, but also one of the top and a standard gauge for the rest.
At its inception, Netflix was nothing but a computer-only online TV streaming service. But with better internet speeds and the advent of mobile apps, it has grown to offer more features and conveniences to users and is now accessible using Smart TVs, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, Smartphone and tablets. As a matter of fact, you can access Netflix streaming services with anything that can connect to the internet.
Netflix shows are accessible in high quality HD displays and the service also has its own 1080p HD which they have conveniently named as Super HD. It is also said that to provide better quality for their users, the company is already preparing for the next wave of high definition by integrating the 4K technology into their system. You should, however, have in mind that whether or not you get high definition quality will largely depend on the speed of your internet connection.
Netflix also allows you to create content queue so that each time you see a show you would like to watch at a later time, it is added to a list for you convenience. The more you continue to watch the shows, the more the service will continue to match your tastes and make better recommendations which you are likely to enjoy watching.
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Netflix Plans $
Sling TV – Important Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
Sling TV is a real game changer as far streaming TV services is concerned. It has effectively removed the need to be yoked with a cable subscription which offers more than you actually need and at a higher wage bill than you need it. With it, you get a whole lot of quality programming at very much affordable rates and they also have a free trial period of 7 days for you to check out if their services will suffice your entertainment needs.
*SLING TV FEATURES*
At its most basic form, you will get live streaming of a wide variety of channels from Sling TV. In addition to that, it comes with other special features which include but are not limited to the following:
1) Full HD Streaming – with good internet connection, you will have clear, crisp images in full High Definition. Just like with the other streaming services, the quality of the image will be compromised with slow internet speeds.
2) Live Streaming – All the national channels included in the Sling TV packages are available for live streaming. For instance, you will be able to access what is airing in ESPN now just as those who have cable subscription. This is however, not the case with the local channels.
3) 3 Day Replay – this is a handy feature which allows you to scroll back and view the full schedules of shows for the past three days and watch them on demand.
4) Flexible Channel Lineup – you will be impressed by the Sling TV line up and most subscribers seem to love it a lot. With Sling TV, instead of being forced with up to 100+ channels which you may never watch even up to half of them, you have the option to choose a lower package with most of the show you desire, and then expand as you wish in the future. It thus gives you a lot of flexibility and customization as far as the programming is concerned.
5) On Demand Content – Sling TV has On-Demand content where you can find all the shows you might have missed in the past.
6) Premium channels – Sling TV gives you the versatility to select premium channels such as HBO as add-ons to your current subscription. Such channels are not part of the basic subscriptions, but you can always add them if you want to expand your entertainment horizons with them.
7) Mobile Viewing – you can also enjoy Sling TV on your mobile devices at any place and time, provided that you have access to the internet.
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The base subscription for Sling TV is $20/month and it includes 16 channels of live TV. You can get add-on packages for additional $5/month.
Want to know more about Sling TV? Click here
DirecTV Now – Features, the Good and the Bad
Having been backed by AT&T, DirecTV Now joins the fray of streaming services with their features and programs designed to compete directly with the likes of PlayStation Vue and Sling TV. It is now becoming one of the favorite options for individuals who need versatility and affordability in their entertainment as the prices of their packages are reasonably affordable and are packed with good quality content.
*DIRECTV NOW FEATURES*
Here is a list of some of the key features which distinguishes DirecTV Now from the other streaming services:
1) 3 – Day Catchup – most, but not all of the channels offered by DirecTV Now have a 72 hour window period for you to catch up the shows you may have missed. In this manner, you are free to go back and watch shows which aired up to three days ago.
2) Two concurrent streams – With DirecTV Now, you have the ability to watch up to two concurrent streams which lets you use to streams on one account at the same time.
3) No data usage – If you are an AT&T mobile user, you won’t incur any data charges when you stream DirecTV Now. For users with other cell phone providers, normal data charges will apply.
4) Easy transition from cable – transiting from cable or satellite with DirecTV Now is very simple. The channel list at DirecTV Now is present in a grid format just like the traditional TV, and this makes it easy for new cord cutters to have a smooth switch.
DirecTV Now Packages $
The basic package from DirecTV Now is a $35/month package and it comes with over 60+ channels. In addition to this, the other packages include:
It is also important to note that most of the DirecTV Now channels can be streamed nationwide, but with the exemption of a few whose viewing is limited to certain areas. For instance, Fox is available live in select markets, especially the bigger cities.
Want to know more about DirecTV Now? Click here
Hulu and Hulu Plus – Features, the Good and the Bad
Hulu and Hulu Plus is not just popular streaming services, but also it is relatively affordable compared to their similar counterparts in the market. With millions of subscribers nationwide, there is no doubting that Hulu has provided one of the foremost ways to maximize television experience, especially for those looking forward to cutting their cables.
*KEY FEATURES OF HULU*
Hulu has a humongous number of content partners, and boasts of over 700 million hours of streamed content. Subscribers to this service can choose from a huge amount of useful programming, with the basic package available from only $7.99/month. Here are some of the features to expect from Hulu:
1) No cables – you don’t need any cable to have access to Hulu, thus instead of spending $100 for a cable subscription, you can spend just $12/month for Hulu subscription.
2) No commercials – Commercials are known to ruin the viewing experience, and if you don’t want to be bothered by them, then you have a reason to become a Hulu subscriber. For just $12/month, you will access commercial free content and with the $7.99/month package, you will have very limited commercials.
3) Huge content library – Hulu has a huge library of both acclaimed television shows and movies. There are also lots of popular series on offer and this implies that you can catch up with all your favorite show on-demand and never miss an episode. New content is also added on a daily basis and this ensures that you will never run short of what to watch.
4) Available on different platforms and devices – you can stream Hulu on your PC, TV, phones, tablets, media players and gaming consoles. This offers lots of flexibility to the users.
5) Premium channel add-ons – subscribers have the option of adding premium channels such as Showtime from only $8.99.
6) 7 Day Trial Period – if you are a new user, you can try out Hulu for 7 days to explore if it is the right fit for your television entertainment needs. If you don’t like it, you simply cancel before the 7 days are over and you won’t be charged a dime.
How much does Hulu Cost? $
There is a free version of Hulu which you can use to access limited clips, shows and movie trailers. But if you want to get the best of it, you can opt for the limited commercial plan which is available at a cost of $7.99/month. Alternatively, you can opt for the No commercial plan which is available at $11.99/month.
Want to know more about Hulu? Click here or visit our blog for the latest news.
Crackle Streaming TV Service
Crackle may not be the very best in terms of video quality, and it is also true that you may have to put up with commercials during the shows, but it still remains an awesome option for watching both new and old movies and television shows.
One thing you will find admirable with Crackle is its excellent selection of free movies. At any given time, you will find up to 150 full length movies and over 45 – 50 television series. This is the place to go to if you are interested in watching shows, with some dating back to the 1960s.
With Crackle, however, the shows are kept for a particular time frame, and then they are removed. It implies that you can watch a part of show today and when you come back next time, you find that it has already been removed.
You will also love the fact that Crackle has a free app you can use to access all their content on mobile apps. From the app, you also get the power to share your favorite shows and movies on social media with your friends.
Want to know more about Crackle? Click here
PlayStation Vue Streaming Services
With Sony’s PlayStation Vue, you will have access to most of the features and channels you normally get from your satellite or cable TV providers. They don’t have any hidden costs or contracts and this gives you the flexibility to leave them any time you want. It has a cloud DVR which allows you to record, rewind or pause live shows and fast forward to skip commercials in recorded shows. Local channels such as NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC are available in seven cities across the country, and on-demand on the rest of the areas.
PlayStation Vue will work with PlayStation consoles and Amazon TV. You can also access the content on other platforms such as iPad, iPhone, Chromecast and you can stream to up to five devices simultaneously on one account. The interface is innovative and show-centric and can allow for very member to create their profiles.
Some of the things you may not like about PlayStation Vue is the higher price, especially in some cities. You will also not like the fact that it lacks certain channels, and sports networks. It is also not available on other devices such as Roku, Android and Apple TV.
Want to know more about PlayStation Vue? Click here
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Amazon Instant Video is where you get a diverse library of pay-per-view movies and TV shows. It also avails free content for subscribers with the company’s $79/year Amazon Prime Services. It important to point out that for you to purchase content from Amazon Prime Instant Video, you will have to visit the Amazon website to purchase or rent the movies or show you are interested in.
Amazon Prime Instant Video is well equipped with all the major studios and networks just like its iTunes counterpart. It is also worth noting that this service is relatively affordable and perhaps the biggest reason why people love to try it. You can rent movies from Amazon Prime Instant Videos from 99 cents to $3.99 and the movie purchase ranges from $9.99 to $14.99. The costs also apply for most of the TV episodes, just the same way they do in iTunes. But in general, the prices of content in Amazon Prime Instant Video are either lower or the same as the rates offered by iTunes.
Want to know more about Amazon Prime Instant Video? Click here
With regards to the availability of downloadable media, iTunes seems to have held the crown much longer and seems to note be ready to be dethroned by anyone, just yet. While its primary objective was to make downloading music easy, it has now branched out to offer other media downloads including audio books, TV series and movies. One admirable thing about iTunes is the fact that shows are made available for download just one day after they air. In this manner, you not only have a chance to stay up to date with your favorite shows, but also you can download the past episodes at discounted rates. You will also love the fact that HD streaming of shows is available for only $2.99.
Want to know more about Itunes? Click here
Being a leader in search, Google also desires to become a major player in the streaming audio space. With Google Play Music, you can access via the internet, lots of tunes including playlists, on-demand streams, artist-specific channels as well as YouTube integration which will take your online music entertainment to a whole new level. The only thing you may not like about the service is the irritating set up process and the service also lacks certain standout features possessed by the competition.
Want to know more about Google Play? Click here
Xfinity Stream TV
With Xfinity, you can access it with or without a contract and it comes with a good size of video on-demand selection which usually have new movies months before they are made available on Redbox or Netflix. It is also one of the few streaming services where you can find offline viewing options for smart devices. On the downside, the prices are not the best and this is further worsened by the fact that it is not available in the entire country, but only available in 40 states. Furthermore, it comes with a lot of hidden fees and its customer service needs a lot of improvement.
Want to know more about Xfinity Stream TV? Click here
Youtube is a popular streaming platform that allows you to watch free streaming video (sometimes with ads) and live streaming events broadcasted by individuals or organisations. The premium streaming service that YouTube offers consists of on-demand movies that can be ordered directly from the site when looking for a particular movie. The price of a streaming movie ranges between $3 and $20. Movies can be rented or purchased, HD quality streaming may not be always available. YouTube also has it's own live streaming service, now only available to US customers. A standard subscription offers access to the major networks: ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. Additional channels, such as MSNBC, ESPN, etc. will be available for an additional fee.
Streaming TV Devices
Streaming devices gives you the versatility to watch online content on your television set. Currently, there are five major media streamers you can use on your television and below is a brief description of some of them, highlighting their major features and what you stand to benefit by using them:
Roku Streaming Stick
If there could be just one streaming device to be recommended, then that would be Roku, without any doubts. The stick is available for only $50, making it one of the least expensive home video devices you will ever get and also one of the best.
With it, you can easily stream video from Hulu, HBO, Netflix, Sling TV and Amazon amongst other online services. It is lightning fast and comes with an app which is updated on a regular basis to ensure you get the best at all times. Its ecosystem also offers better search functionalities and more customization features to give you the ultimate experience with your online streaming.
It is, however, sad to note that the Roku stick has no Ethernet port, thus can work only with WI FI. Some of the app interfaces are also less polished than what you would find on other devices. Finally, its private listening features normally lose lip-sync when you use certain Bluetooth headphones.
Want to know more about Roku? Click here
Apple TV Streaming Device
Apple launched the fourth generation Apple TV in 2015 which included an A8 processor, a revamped user interface, a Siri-enabled remote as well as a brand new app store where users can access third party applications and games. It comes in an impressive package with lots of new features, and of course a few annoying ones which you may not like.
With this streaming device, you have the ability to stream all the video content present in iTunes store to our HD television set, also with the options of purchasing them and storing them in the cloud. You can also stream content from other online services such as Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, HBO and many others, in addition to music, videos and photos.
One of the things not pleasing about the Apple TV is the fact that it is costlier than other similar devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Chromecast. It also lacks a dedicated app for Amazon and other video services which are not part of iTunes.
Want to know more about the Apple TV Box? Click here
Chromecast Streaming Device
Chromecast could have not been the adored streaming device that it currently is when it was released for the first time, but through improvements, on both the hardware and software, it has become one of the most sought after streaming devices today. It comes in the form of a small circular device with an HDMI cable that’s neatly magnetically attached to the back. With the extra technology on board, it give you a whole world of versatility with the quality and quantity of online content you can stream.
In addition to streaming the normal videos and music, Chromecast also allows you to stream webpages using open chrome tabs and with this, it becomes easier to stream unsupported applications such as DeviantArt onto televisions.
Want to know more about the Chromecast? Click here
Amazon Fire TV
The new Amazon Fire TV isn’t an entirely new device in the TV streaming device industry, but merely a brand new touch up of an original version. It comes with a faster processor and can support the latest 802.11a WI FI standards. With this device, you get the chance to stream both Netflix and Amazon videos in 4K Ultra HD. At its current form, it has offered the perfect competition to Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV media streamers.
With 4K TV becoming more affordable, the Amazon Fire TV is now a tempting option for people who desire to get the absolute best from their new TVs. With the streaming device, the quality in 4K HD is far much better than what you would imagine to get from the other streamers on similar platforms. For instance, the 4K resolution gives you up to 4X more pixels compared to the normal 1080p. These and many other enhancements are so much welcomed, given that the price point remains the same at $79.
Want to know more about the Amazon Fire TV? Click here
Satellite TV – DirecTV and Dish Network (click here for comparison)
Dish Network offers you a free satellite television system which includes a DVR receiver, a satellite dish and universal remotes in up to six different rooms in your home. The programming is humongous and thus ensures you will have access to quality and updated shows anytime you desire.
Subscribers have the option of choosing from any of the 4 program packages, with the price ranging from $39.99/month for a package with up to 50 channels to $79.99/month for a package with up to 290 channels. Some of the outstanding features of the Hopper DVR by Dish include:
DirecTV on the other hand is also a free satellite system which comes with a satellite dish, universal remotes for up to 4 rooms in your home and a Genie DVR receiver accompanied with Genie Mini Receivers.
With DirecTV, subscribers can choose any of the six programming packages, with the basic one available at $50/month and the most expensive being available at $125/month. With the Genie DVR, subscribers can:
Back in the days, there was no other way to watch your favorite shows unless you had cable. But this has now changed and people seem to be cutting cord every day, given that the internet and advancement in technology has given birth to robust streaming services.
Streaming services have overcome most of the inefficiency of the cable and the fact that there are many players has ensured that subscribers just like you and me have a variety to choose from. Currently, even most of the best shows are no longer available on cable, since streaming has offered the much needed alternative at more affordable costs.
Unlike streaming services, or satellite TV providers, all the cable companies have almost similar features. Additionally, they also seem to have the same exact flaws such as: poor customer services, long installation appointments, confusing billing structures, rate hikes, complex package options, and discounts for bundling services, which not so many people seems to be interested in at the moment.
The fact that the cable companies have to run physical lines down your block has greatly hindered their accessibility, thus giving them a shallow penetration compared to satellite or streaming services. Unless you are in an area accessed by the particular cable company, you may not enjoy their services.
If you still think that cable TV is for you, or you would like to have a subscription anyway, here are some companies you may consider working with, if they have access to your area: Verizon FIOS, Comcast XFINITY, AT&T U-verse, Time Warner Cable, and Mediacom,
Also read: Satellite TV versus Cable TV
Analogue Vs Digital TV
Most of the TVs presently in use are digital, with the analogue ones still being in use in very few places, especially certain rural areas. The difference between digital and analogue TV lies primarily on how the TV signal is transmitted from the source to the television set. Before digital TVs came into the scene, analogue TV signals were transmitted the same way as radio signals.
As a matter of fact, the video signals of analogue TV were transmitted in AM, whereas the audio signals were transmitted in FM. Due to this, analogue transmissions were prone to interference such as snow and ghosting, which in turn were dependent upon the distances and the geographic location of the television set receiving the signal.
Digital signals for digital TV on the other hand are transmitted like data bits of information, the same manner computer data is written or the way video or music is written on a DVD, or CD. A digital signal is composed of either 1 or 0, to imply that it is either on or off.
The intent of the digital TV transmission technology is to either to seen an image or see nothing at all. There is thus no loss of signal due to distance or the geographical location between the transmitter and the receiver, which is the digital TV. This leads to very quality images and audio in digital TVs compared to analogue TVs.
Streaming Quality and Internet Connection
Good internet connect is vital for HD streaming. When enjoying your favorite streams, the last thing you desire is to wait forever for the content to render on your streaming device. You should however, be advised that the quality of the stream will vary, depending on the speed as well as the devices you are using for streaming. The question that thus begs is what is the recommended speed for HD streaming?
There is no definite answer on the exact internet speeds since a number of factors come to play. For instance, various streaming will give recommendation of the internet speeds you ought to have to enjoy their streams in a variety of devices. For instance, Directv Now recommends speeds of between 150kbps and 2.5mbps if you desire to stream on your mobile devices and speeds of between 2.5mbps and 7.5mbps for HD quality streaming.
Netflix on the other hand recommends speeds of 1mbps for streaming on a laptop or a computer, 2mbps for streaming standard definition videos on TV, 4mbps for HD videos and 5mbps for best quality video and audio experience.
It is not always a guarantee that all internet connections can deliver quality streaming. Technology and infrastructure used by the service provider will be a great determinant of the internet speeds you get. Again, streaming through mobile data bundles is always very expensive and unless you are very rich, you should always consider WI FI connections for best quality streaming.
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