- What is HFN?
- User Guide
Have you ever watched a YouTube video on your computer or mobile device?
You can watch video on your computer, mobile devices or televisions.
Open a web browser and go to the streaming service's website to view or stream content. In some cases, you have to subscribe to these services. More on that later.
Most of us prefer to watch movies, TV shows, and videos on our televisions rather than our computers. To stream to a TV you need some type of signal processing. Smart televisions are already capable of streaming. Some even have Netflix buttons on their remotes. Other televisions need a separate Streaming Device to receive Wi-Fi or ethernet signals, then convert them into watchable TV.
Among the many streaming boxes and devices available, here are the most popular:
There is a lot of data involved in streaming, so instead of just downloading the media to your device, it's normally watched as it comes over the internet, hence streaming. Your inability or limited ability to download and store content facilitates the industry's ability to rent and sell streaming content as well.
A streaming device is a small box or stick that connects to your TV. It receives a Wi-Fi or cable signal from your home network and converts that signal into a format your TV can display. The streaming device may come with a remote control and allow you to select different streaming services, like Amazon Prime, YoutubeTV, Netflix and Hulu.
There are a large number of choices for streaming devices. Most are inexpensive, ranging from about $30 to above $100. People often have two or more devices. Your choice of device will define what streaming services you can receive, what quality of picture you can see (e.g. standard definition, high definition, ultra hi-def or 4K), and how the user interface works. The best way to make a choice is to review the different items available at the various websites that explain them.
Amazon Fire, Roku and Apple TV all offer many channels, convenient remote controls and quick response times. While major channels and services, like YouTube TV, Netflix and Hulu, are found on all devices, there will be differences. Historically, Roku offers the most extensive line-up, however, Amazon and Apple are catching up. Newer models work faster, have better remote controls and can feature more content like games and channels.
The following links review the major streaming devices:
Another option is to buy a Smart TV. This is a television with streaming built in. Top TV brands like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio make Smart TVs. You can even find brands touting Roku, Chrome, Amazon Fire and AppleTV inside, or featuring their own streaming system. The convenience here is having one remote control for both regular TV and streaming. The downside is that the operating speed and features found in streaming hardware is improving faster than TV screen technology. In a couple of years, you may find yourself buying a new streaming box or stick, and foregoing the smart features of your television.
You can think of a streaming service like a website that plays videos. Many have subscription fees, and some specialize in different types of content. Some streaming services are even developing their own creative content, like Netflix and Amazon. There's a wide variety with different types of content and different focuses.
One of the oldest and largest streaming services, Netflix is well known for an extensive library of popular TV and movies, and for creating their own award-winning content. Netflix offers multiple levels of streaming quality, but not all content is available in HD or UHD. Currently, Netflix typically offers a free trial with multiple service plans available.
Amazon Prime Video offers a 30-day free trial, then it is free for Amazon Prime members or you can subscribe for a monthly rate. There is a large library of movies, TV shows, and original content. Many of these shows are free for members, but other shows and movies are for rent. Typically recent movies and TV seasons rent for five or six dollars.
Acorn TV is primarily focused on British content in movies and TV shows, at a low monthly rate.
YouTube TV is the amongst the newest, streaming service available, developed by Google and on the YouTube platform. This service is $40 per month and is available in most US metro cities.
This is more like a cable TV service as it has your local station channels plus on-demand movies from the cable channels. YoutubeTV also includes a cloud DVR so you can select the content you want automatically recorded to view later which is stored and available to you whenever you want to watch. A single account allows for 6 different users to log in and watch TV shows or movies that have been broadcast on almost every single platform. Further, they provide an unlimited DVR cloud storage, meaning you can select the content you want automatically recorded to view later which is made available to you whenever you choose to watch, from any device that can use the YouTubeTV app or a web browser (i.e. almost everything).
Hulu offers two types of streaming services. There is the standard streaming service offering libraries of content of both movies and TV shows. The second option offers the same streaming as their base service but also includes Live TV streaming content.
DIRECTV Stream plans offer cable-like packages with your local TV station channels. No Satellite is needed, there is no annual contract and includes a service called "Unlimited Cloud DVR" for recording television content when you are away. Depending on the package you select, determines the networks channels that you have access too.
Sling TV offers a monthly service of cable-like packages of content. Networks include Food Network, TNT, AMC, CNN, etc. There are two main channel packages of 30+ channels with additional 3-5 themed channel packs, like a sports pack or movie channel pack, available for a small additional charge.
Philo offers affordable streaming service with live and on-demand content for a low-priced package. This streaming service offers 58 channels that include AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Bet, Cooking Channel, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, SCI and Travel Channel.
Disney+ offers the ultimate affordable streaming for all Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic, including exclusive originals. All can be viewed ad free and for low monthly price or choose to bundle with other streaming providers.
HBO Now is strictly for HBO content. From their better-known Game of Thrones and Westworld, as well as their many movies. It is a monthly service that you can cancel at any time. It's available via a web browser, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Roku.
Apple TV+ is an extension from the Apple TV app. If you already have the Apple TV app then you have access to Apple TV+ as well. With this service you will be able to watch all original content, which currently does not include any bundling option. This service is available for a low monthly price.
PBS offers a free streaming service that offers most PBS shows with a lot of children's content.
Paramount+ plans start at a low monthly rate with commercials, or you can upgrade to a higher cost tier to view content without commercials. Paramount+ allows for the viewing of live CBS affiliate content. The service includes original content only available online, Paramount network shows and sports, including up to 10,000 episodes of television shows past and present.
There are many other channel/network specific streaming services, but many (like ABC) are not available in all markets, or are announced and not yet available.
The vast majority of the content created on YouTube is typically by individual people. Larger, more successful channels may have companies behind them to help improve production values. It's being increasingly adopted by mainstream media as a method to distribute their own work or trailers for their work.
The service is free, but does offer a few ways where you can support your favorite creators directly.
Further, topics for the content are as varied as there are people creating it. From cartoons, to instructional videos on how to make them. From carpentry to makeup, there is a video/topic here for anyone and everyone. This is not the same service as YouTube TV.
Twitch is primarily focused around watching personalities play computer games. It has recently expanded into areas where you can watch people create artwork or crafts. The service is free, but users do have an option to subscribe to their favorite creators for a fee. This is still a very new and growing market.
A streaming alternative for people who want to watch their home TV programs, like local sports teams, no matter where they are is Slingbox. It is a TV set-top box you keep in your home. This device encodes your TV signal and transmits it, privately and securely, across the internet. You can watch from wherever you have internet access, like a hotel room or coffee shop.