By Rose Barnes, Adult Digital Learning Librarian
We’ve all been spending more time at home this year, and maybe during that time you’ve been watching more television. Maybe you’ve heard about a new show on a streaming service instead of cable. There are so many options for streaming nowadays and more people are opting out of their cable contracts and switching to streaming instead.
Transitioning to streaming can feel overwhelming at first, but once you have the basic fundamentals in place streaming can open up your viewing options while saving you money at the same time. Learn the basics of streaming in this video and/or by reading the content below.
What is streaming?
Streaming means watching videos, shows, movies, and more in “real time”, instead of downloading a file to your computer and watching it later. With internet videos and webcasts of live events, there is no file to download, just a continuous stream of data.
Pros of cable cutting
- Usually cheaper
- Pay for only what you want/watch
- Usually has no commercials
- Everything is “on demand”
Cons of cable cutting
- Generally less content
- Must purchase at least one streaming device
- Will miss out on some exclusive content
- If you watch a lot of TV, it could end up costing more to get the same content
Four things you need in order to stream
- Wireless internet connection
- A streaming device or a smart TV
- A subscription to a streaming service
- A TV with an HDMI port
You’ll need a streaming device or smart TV to get started. There are a lot to choose from, and they range in price. When looking for a streaming device, check what apps the device supports and see if the streaming service you want to view is supported. The most popular streaming devices are Roku, Fire Stick, Apple TV, and Chromecast.
|HD Antenna||$12-150||Up to 50 free channels||Limited content|
|Roku Express||$30||Low price||Only HD content and a little slow|
|Roku Premiere||$40||Cheapest 4K device that supports apps||Needs 25mbps internet or faster for 4k|
|Roku Ultra||$100||Supports HDR/4K||Not much 4K or HDR content available|
|Apple TV||$180-200||Fast and contains Apple’s easy-to-use interface||Generation three and earlier does not support 4K/HDR|
|Fire TV Stick||$40||Low price||Only has Amazon app store|
|Fire TV Stick 4K||$50||Supports most streaming apps. 4K support when available||Needs 25mbps internet or faster for 4K and only has Amazon app store|
|Fire TV Cube||$120||Ethernet support. Far Field voice control||Needs 25mbps internet or faster for 4K and only has Amazon app store|
|Video game consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Wii U, etc.)||$150-400||All entertainment in one device||Available apps are limited compared to other options|
|Smart TV/Blu-ray player||$250+||All in one||Depending on the brand, some apps not supported|
|Chromecast||$35||Cheapest streaming device||Needs another device for Chromecast to work|
|Chromecast Ultra||$70||Cheapest 4K/HDR streaming device||Needs 25mbps internet or faster for 4K and another device for Chromecast|
|Computer in a stick plus wireless mouse and keyboard (intel stick, Chromebit)||$80-150 for stick $30-60 for mouse and keyboard||Provides full computer/Chromebook functionality||Most expensive and complicated option. If not tech savvy, might not be the best choice.|
Once you have a streaming device set up, you’ll need to subscribe to a streaming service. These are usually monthly subscriptions with the exception of Amazon Prime, which is a yearly fee.
Each subscription varies in cost, but most allow for free trial periods where you can test out the service. Check some out and see if they offer the types of shows and movies you’re interested in, then weigh the cost of the ones you’d like to subscribe to in order to determine what your monthly subscription fees will be.
The most popular streaming services are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max, but nowadays almost all big networks have apps with subscription options.
|Netflix||$8.99 to 17.99 per month||TV shows, movies, and original content||Standard HD and 4K (depends on subscription)|
|Hulu||$5.99 or $11.99 per month ($64.99 per month for live tv)||TV shows, movies, and original content||Standard HD|
|Amazon Prime||$99 a year or $10.99 per month||TV shows, movies, and original content||Standard HD|
|Crackle||Free, but has commercials||TV shows and movies||No HD content|
|$14.99 per month or free with HBO cable subscription||Movies and original content||Standard HD|
|Sling TV||Packages range from $15-$40 per month||Choose your television channel (Bravo, FX, ESPN, etc.)||Standard HD|
|Packages range from $6.99 per month. to $69.99 per year Disney only $12.99/month bundle||Disney, Pixar, NatGeo, Star Wars Bundle: Hulu and ESPN+||Standard HD and 4K|
|Hoopla||30 checkouts per month with library card||TV shows and movies||Standard resolution|
|Kanopy||20 checkouts per month with library card||TV shows and movies||Standard resolution|
|Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, etc.||$1.99 and up per item||TV shows and movies||Standard HD and 4K (depends on title)|
Have a tech question?
Rose is an Adult Services Librarian specializing in digital learning and all things ebooks. She is a passionate reader, baker, and explorer who is always planning her next adventure.