At this point, all of us have heard of at least one streaming platform such as Netflix or Hulu, but seeing as streaming has just recently started to outpace cable TV, many may not be familiar with all of the different options. The prevalence of streaming has grown exponentially in the past few years, undoubtedly in part due to the pandemic. Some of the most popular shows we hear about today are on streaming platforms, such as Ozark and The Handmaid’s Tale, so many consumers have made a switch or signed up for an account on at least one available platform.
Some streaming platforms allow consumers to pay more for fewer or zero commercials, giving these services an edge over local, cable, and satellite TV on which commercials are unavoidable. Also, compared to cable or satellite television, getting set up with streaming services is typically extremely easy. A setup expert does not need to come out and set up any type of equipment, and in most cases, the services are available as a downloadable app on a TV or other device (e.g., Fire TV Stick or Roku). If you’re late to the party or just need to catch up on all the new channels, here’s what you need to know.
What is Streaming TV?
Streaming TV is basically a way to get TV programs from the web, directly to your TV. Increasingly, broadcasters, and content providers like Netflix are making their programs available via the Internet, but many people still get them the old-fashioned way, by sitting hunched at their computer. Streaming TV boxes or sticks mean that you can get those programs on your living room, family room, or other main TV set, without complicated hook ups or the need for an entire squad of teenagers to come to your house. You simply plug them in, connect them to your home wifi network, and they’re ready to go.
What is a smart TV?
Almost exclusively now TV manufacturers are building smart TV capabilities right into their TVs. Using a remote control of smartphone app, you can access many of the same channels as you could with a streaming stick, directly within the TV. Most major streaming services are available on any smart TV, regardless of who’s manufactured it, meaning you can get the Apple TV portal right on a 2022 Samsung Frame TV for example. You can also often access your social media accounts right on the TV; and it’s definitely cool watching a season finale or big game on TV, while you keep a specific hashtag up in the Twitter window, and watch the online comments as they happen. You can do the same with Facebook. Plus, it’s easier than ever now to cast or AirPlay from your smartphone to a smart TV too.
What are My Streaming TV Options?
There are a few huge main players as far as streaming TV is concerned, and lots more upstarts making big waves now too.
What is Disney+?
Is your family full of Disney lovers? Then Disney+ might be a great fit for you. The service offers thousands – yes, thousands – of titles from Disney, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic, and Marvel. You can stream these titles in high-definition and a subscription gives you access to unlimited downloads as well as cross-device usability so your entire family can stream titles on different devices. The platform also gives personalized recommendations and offers GroupWatch so you and your family can watch Disney favorites together.
You can get Disney+ for $7.99 per month, or you can save by paying $79.99 for a year-long subscription.
What is Apple TV+?
Apple TV+ offers a slew of “Apple Originals,” which include various award-winning shows, documentaries, and films. More titles are added each month, and Apple+ can be streamed on smart TVs, TVs with AirPlay, on the Apple TV+ app, or on a computer. You can also download anything you wish to watch offline at a later time. There are no ads or commercials on the platform, and one Apple TV+ account can be shared by up to five people.
Apple+ costs $6.99 per month, or you can “bundle” up to five other Apple services for $16.95 per month. If you purchase a new Apple device, you can automatically get three months of Apple TV+ for free.
What is Netflix?
Netflix was one of the original streaming services in the game and still remains popular to this day. Aside from the newest plan (Basic with ads), the platform does not have any ads or commercials. Netflix has come a long way from the days when it was a DVD subscription service, and it is now available on almost any device with an Internet connection. Netflix does not have a live TV plan, but the platform offers thousands of shows and movies, including many Netflix Originals (e.g., The Queen’s Gambit) as well as reruns of seasons from older favorite shows and movies.
Pricing is as follows:
- Basic with ads and limited shows and movies – $6.99/month (watch in HD on one supported device at a time)
- Basic without ads (watch in HD on one supported device at a time) – $9.99/month
- Standard (watch in Full HD on two supported devices at a time) – $15.49/month
- Premium (watch in Ultra HD on four supported devices at a time) – $19.99/month
What is Amazon Prime Video?
Amazon offers thousands of great shows and movies through its Prime Video platform. The majority of users get access to most of Prime Video’s titles with an Amazon Prime account ($14.99/month or $139/year), but an Amazon Prime account is not necessary to watch content. You can watch all sorts of genres, from old classic movies to thrilling new “Amazon Originals” such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Amazon has also launched its Prime Video Channels option, which allows users to subscribe to various channels including some that have a “Watch Live” option (e.g., certain sports channels).
If you wish to skip the other perks of an Amazon Prime membership and don’t want to pay per-show or per-movie individually, the Prime Video membership gives you access to all of the available titles and costs $8.99/month.
What is YouTube?
We all know about YouTube as one of the largest search platforms in the world, and yes, most of its offerings are free to watch, though you do need to sit through ads (but those pay creators like us so we can continue to make more videos. Don’t forget to subscribe here!).
YouTube is perhaps the most popular place to go to search for videos, but the platform also offers a live TV plan, and a paid service where you can avoid commercials. This plan was voted “The best premium live TV streaming service” by CNET in 2020 and offers channels from major broadcast networks as well as the most popular cable networks. This includes both local and national airings, and YouTube also offers unlimited cloud storage for recordings. The service allows six users to be on one account, meaning you can share your account with your whole family. YouTube says its streaming TV is available to 99.5% of households in the United States.
The base plan, which offers over 100 channels, is $64.99/month and the Spanish plan, which offers over 28 Spanish channels, is $34.99/month. You can add on additional networks such as STARZ and SHOWTIME as well as an optional “4K Plus” add-on for additional fees.
What is Crave?
Crave is a Canadian streaming service that offers “Crave Originals” as well as titles from HBO, HBO Max, SHOWTIME, STARZ, popular classic movies, kids’ shows, and more. Titles are available in both English and French, and Crave also has an “On Air” feature for various live shows and movies. Depending on what province you live in and what current TV package you have (if applicable), you may be able to sign into Crave through your TV subscription or Fibe TV app.
Crave offers its streaming service for $15.40/month or $154/year, which allows 4 users to stream content at the same time and comes with the highest resolution and the option to download content. Users can also choose the Crave Mobile plan for $7.70/month or $76.97/year, which allows one user to stream content on a mobile device.
What is HBO Max?
HBO Max launched in 2020 and is a platform where users can stream shows from HBO, Warner Bros., Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, and more. Subscribers can also find “Max Originals,” and users with the ad-free plan also have access to Warner Bros. Pictures films the same day they start showing in theaters. HBO Max allows users to set up different accounts for their kids, and if you want to check it out before joining, there is a section of HBO Max where you can watch Originals for free.
HBO Max with ads is $9.99/month or $69.99/year, and the ad-free plan is $14.99/month or $104.99/year. HBO states the plan with ads features approximately four minutes of advertisements per hour of showtime.
What is Hulu?
CNET voted Hulu “the best value for your money,” and for good reason. The basic platform ($7.99/month with ads, $14.99/month without ads) has countless shows, movies, and documentaries to watch, but their Hulu + Live TV option has become one of the most popular streaming TV options. The service offers over 75 channels, unlimited DVR storage, and access to all of Hulu’s original shows.
The price of Hulu + Live TV is $69.99 per month. You can currently opt for a “bundle,” which will also get you Disney+ and ESPN+ at a price of $75.99 per month.
What is Android TV & Google Chromecast?
Android TV is developed by Google and runs on Android technology. It first hit the market in 2014 and now offers access to over 700,000 shows and movies. Android partners with various TV-makers such as Philips and Sony to pre-install this technology on new smart TVs. Android TV lets users access a wide variety of apps and platforms from Netflix to Hulu and even some other ones on this list. The Google Chromecast feature allows users to stream content from their other devices (e.g., smartphone or iPad) onto their Android TV in mere seconds by pressing the Chromecast logo on whatever media they are watching.
Android TV and Google Chromecast are not monthly or annual subscriptions. Android TV is installed on various models of new televisions, so consumers pay for the actual TV and not Android TV. Therefore, prices vary greatly. Google Chromecast devices start at $49.99 for a 4k version and $29.99 for an HD version.
What is Roku Streaming Stick?
Roku was the second major player to arrive in Canada. It’s had a couple of different streaming TV options that are similar in size to the Apple TV, but in the spring of 2014, they brought in the Streaming Stick. It’s a streaming player the size of your thumb, that plugs invisibly into your TV, and comes with many of the same third-party channels as Apple does. Its size is a bonus, and its price is even better – $59. This unit too comes with a remote included, and interfaces the same way as Apple TV; right on your TV screen. Check out what’s available on Roku, here.
Do you have questions about Streaming TV? Ask away in comments!