What is streaming?
Streaming is an increasingly popular way to enjoy movies, music and podcasts.
Technically, streaming is the process of sending audio or video content a little bit at a time over the Internet. Instead of downloading what can be a very large file all at once, and watching it or listening to it after the whole thing has been stored on your device, you press play, and the server sends you the later parts you need as you finish viewing the first parts.
- Saves on device storage – Streamed content is not stored on your device. So you can watch gigabytes and gigabytes of movies and tv shows and other videos without filling up your storage
- Takes up no room in your house – CD’s and DVD’s take up room on shelves. Streamed content doesn’t take up room there, either, as it “lives” on servers in the cloud.
- Amazing selection – There is more to watch and listen to available in streaming formats than anyone will ever have time to experience.
- Inexpensive – There is a LOT of free content, and even the stuff that is charged for compares favorably to the rates we used to pay for movie rentals of tapes and DVD’s. Some people find they don’t need cable TV once they cobble together a few streaming sources.
- Nothing to return – if you rent content, it returns itself, so there are never fees for losing things or not returning on time.
- Requires internet – streamed content requires that you be connected to the Internet in order to watch it. Netflix has started to offer a downloadable option so that people can download some content to their tablets and watch it when out of range of the internet, but you still have to have internet available to start the download.
- Requires fairly robust connectivity. More rural internet providers are still catching up with the demand created by streaming video and the proliferation of devices. If your household likes to have 3 different programs on at the same time, you will need greater bandwidth to support that than may be available! Watching streaming video on an insufficiently strong connection can be very annoying, with frequent pauses to buffer data.
- If you are watching on a device using wireless data (e.g. your smart phone) it will chomp through your data allowance pretty quickly. A 2-hour movie can be about 2 gb. Most people try to do their watching when connected to wifi for this reason.
How to Stream?
On your phone or tablet:
Watch (check out this guide from last April)
On your device – download an app
- Youtube – Free and paid content
- Netflix – Movies and TV Shows – Subscription
- Amazon Prime Video Movies and TV Shows – Comes with Amazon Prime subscription
- SlingTV – Stream cable channels without a cable subscription – Subscription, with ability to pick and choose premium packages, bills itself as cheaper than cable
- Hulu – Movies and current network TV Shows – Subscription. Has premium HBO and Cinemax add-ons
- Fandango Now – Movies recently in theatres – subscription
- HBO Now – Streaming-only HBO Movies and TV shows for people who don’t have an HBO subscription from their TV Cable or Satellite – Subscription
- HBO Go – HBO on the tablet, phone or computer, for people who already subscribe to it via their TV Cable or Satellite package.
- DirecTv – Free to DirectTV TV subscribers
- Comcast/Xfinity – Free to Comcast/Xfinity TV subscribers
- AT&T Uverse – Free to Uverse TV subscribers
On your TV
- Your TV may have “smart” capability — Samsungs have “Smart Hub” and other TV’s may have an “Internet” menu which includes apps similar to those named above.
- My TV is relatively dumb, but my DVD player has some of those “Smart” Apps.
- Apple TV or Roku are stand-alone attachments connect to the internet and provide smart apps for your TV
- ChromeCast will let you transmit content from phone/tablet/laptop onto the TV.
- An HDMI cable permits plugging your portable device into your flat-screen TV and utilizing the apps that way
- Sirius XM – Music and Talk – Included with All-Access car subscription, otherwise there is a subscription fee.
- Pandora – Music – Free with commercials, Subscription gets commercials removed
- Spotify – Music and podcasts –Free with commercials, Subscription gets commercials removed
- Apple Music – Music – Subscription
- TuneIn Free for podcasts and radio, subscription for commercial-free music and for sports
- NPR One Free
A Word About Free Content
- YouTube offers tons of free video, much of it uploaded by users, and audio and some for-fee commercial content. Want to watch an episode of some old TV show you enjoyed 30 years ago? YouTube may have it! Beware, though, of popular, copyrighted commercial shows or movies which are available for pay elsewhere but for free on YouTube. These are often vectors for nasty viruses.
- Podcasts – There is an amazing world of spoken word programming offered free of charge. Getting to it is a little confusing, still. iOS machines (iPad, iPhone) come with an app called “Podcasts” which has a browse function. The NPR One app, available for iOS and Android is also pretty good place to get started. You can put it on your tablet or phone and play with it till you hear something interesting. There are lots of podcast guides on the web, I thought this one from the Guardian was interesting. There’s also PodSearch, a search engine for podcasts which has a browse feature.