Streaming is an easy and cost-effective way to watch live TV, previously aired shows and movies. Once you’ve got the right equipment and setup, you’ll be able to stream for hours on end (aka “binge-watching”).
Here’s a basic guide to streaming TV. Follow it and you’ll be binge-watching in no time!
Use a high-speed Internet connection to stream
A reliable, broadband Internet connection is vital to your streaming experience. Speeds as little as 5 Mbps will enable you to stream SD with little buffering. For HD streaming, you’ll want at least 15 Mbps.
A Wi-Fi connection is best for streaming, especially if you want to stream on multiple devices. You can use an Ethernet cable for some streaming devices, such as smart TVs and gaming consoles, but “stick” devices, such as Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Streaming Stick, require a Wi-Fi connection.
Streaming also consumes a lot of data, especially if you watch for hours or stream in HD. If your Internet service provider limits your monthly data allowance, be mindful of the data you are using while streaming.
Subscribe to a streaming or TV service
Most streaming-only services require a monthly subscription fee. To use these services, you’ll simply download the app and follow the instructions to start streaming.
Some TV and movie streaming services, often called “over-the-top” services do not require cable or satellite TV service to watch. Some popular over-the-top streaming services are:
- Apple TV
- DIRECTV NOW
- PlayStation Vue
- HBO NOW®
- Sling TV
- YouTube TV
- Amazon Prime Video
Below you’ll find the answers to commonly asked questions about streaming TV.
What technology do you need to stream TV shows?
Many smart TVs come with Netflix, HULU and other popular streaming apps pre-installed. You can also install more streaming apps directly on your smart TV. Or, you may choose to stream directly from your smartphone or tablet to your smart TV using screen mirroring.
For streaming on TVs not equipped to support streaming applications, you’ll need additional equipment. You may find that you already have some electronics capable of streaming. Some electronic devices you can use for streaming include:
- Roku devices
- TiVo devices
- Gaming consoles (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox 1, Wii and Wii U)
- Amazon Fire TV Stick
- Apple TV
- Google Chromecast
- NVIDIA Shield
Can you record shows that you stream?
Roku and TiVo devices allow you to record streaming content. There are also some websites and apps that enable you to record streaming content and store it in your computer. Some streaming apps also let you download a title so you can watch it later without having to stream it.
Be mindful of the terms and conditions agreed up when signing up for your streaming service. It may be against the law to record certain shows.
What are the downsides to streaming?
Streaming has grown in popularity over the past few years because it is convenient and can be cheaper than a cable TV subscription. However, streaming does present some drawbacks. Here are some potential disadvantages to streaming:
There’s less live content.
Many streaming services do not have live programming, and those that do will not offer as many channels as you get from a TV provider. You may be able to overcome this challenge with DIRECTV NOW, a streaming service offering 120+ channels to watch live.
Poor Internet connection = poor viewing experience.
An inconsistent or slow Internet connection will result in extensive buffering and bad picture quality. You need a high-speed Internet connection to stream. Depending on your Internet speed or monthly data caps, you may not be able to stream at all.
It’s not totally free.
Switching to streaming-only may not save you that much compared to a monthly TV subscription. Most streaming services come with a monthly subscription fee and multiple streaming services may be necessary to get the programming you would get from a single TV service provider.
There are lots of ways to stream TV, and many TV-lovers use multiple devices and streaming services to watch their favorite shows. Explore different ways to stream and different streaming applications to find what works best for you.