BreakingModern — The number of people watching TV online, at least part of the time, is growing. It’s up 25 percent in the past year alone. As online streaming sticks make it easier than ever to watch Internet-based TV, more consumers are signing up for services like Hulu Plus and Netflix.
But viewers don’t have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access TV shows and movies online. More options seem to emerge each year allowing customers to choose the service that works best for them. Here are the three major categories of online streaming services to help you decide.
General Streaming Services
When people think of online streaming, the first services that come to mind are usually Netflix and Hulu Plus. Amazon Prime Instant Video has joined this group, as well, with all three services usually easily accessible through online streaming sticks and Wi-Fi–enabled TVs. Comcast, Time Warner, Dish and DirecTV also now offer streaming options to their cable customers. Many customers currently choose to maintain a cable or dish subscription while also streaming. A Comcast executive predicted this will continue, with few people cutting off cable and satellite service completely.
Dedicated Network Options
The news that HBO and CBS will soon unveil their own streaming services independent of a cable subscription shook the industry. For $5.99 a month, consumers can receive access to past and current CBS shows. A subscription to HBO’s upcoming service will get viewers a monthly slate of original programming. Both companies are targeting the 10 million homes in America that have high-speed Internet without a subscription to a paid cable or satellite TV service. The move from both companies has industry insiders wondering which services will follow, potentially leading to a future where consumers pay exclusively for the channels they want.
Many services offer free TV streaming to consumers, but not all sites are safe to use on your devices. YouTube is always a safe bet but viewers are limited to the videos that have been uploaded by fellow users, many of which are removed for copyright violation. The free version of Hulu offers numerous old TV series and new episodes of current series, but if you want to binge watch an entire season of a newer show, you’ll have to pay.
Streaming Live TV
For those of us who still subscribe to cable or satellite, one final hurdle is the absence of live TV online. If you want to catch the latest news or watch a favorite network TV show along with other subscribers, you have to either have a digital antenna or a basic cable package. Some local stations now stream their broadcasts live on their websites, but this may be limited to local newscasts. Visit your favorite local station and look for a “Watch Live” link. ABC, NBC and CBS all have live streaming available on their websites, but this is only available in limited markets and there may be a monthly subscription fee attached to this.
As streaming services continue to evolve, consumers will be able to take control of their own viewing options. Instead of waiting for a season to evolve, one episode at a time, consumers will grow accustomed to binge watching entire seasons of shows, forcing cable and satellite providers to rethink the way they offer TV to their own customers.
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Header image: Ant Pruitt