The 1950s in America has long been dubbed the Golden Age of Television. But if you’re a TV junkie, you’re living in the second Golden Age of TV. Also dubbed Peak TV in some circles, the 2000s have elevated television to levels that rival your grandparents’ experience.
Part of what makes TV so good since the dawn of the 21st Century is the advancement in technology. From ultra-high definition screens to streaming services, viewers get what they want, when they want and as much as they want of content, much of it commercial free and always on your time.
If you’re only lately wading into the stream, it can be a little confusing getting started. Fear not, we’re here to clear things up.
WHAT IS STREAMING?
Simply put, streaming is a means of watching television programming (“content”) via the Internet.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
As allconnect.com says, “To set up your TV for streaming, you’ll need a reliable internet connection, a device to stream on and, most importantly, something good to watch... you probably already have everything you need right in your home. Even if you don’t, you shouldn’t need to spend more than $50 to get set up.”
The most obvious piece of equipment is the TV itself. Most modern televisions come equipped with various connectors (also called “jacks” or “ports”). These ports can include a variety of connections from coaxial cable to USB or ethernet or all of the above, depending on the model. And just like cable hookups of old, these connections allow you to use peripheral devices such as surround sound systems and DVD players with your set.
Streaming devices are peripherals attached to the television that receive content streaming over Wi-Fi. Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast are all examples of devices that plug into the TV’s HDMI port, receive the content and deliver it to the TV. Some gaming consoles also double as a streaming device and Roku even offers a model that can be used with older TVs that lack a HDMI port.
The newest generation of TVs bill themselves as “smart TVs” and don’t require a streaming device at all for certain preloaded streaming services. But there are still advantages to having a device anyway, because it gives you more options when it comes to choosing from among the estimated 200 streaming services out there.
OK THEN, WHAT’S A STREAMING SERVICE?
Think of a streaming service like the old television networks – companies that deliver news, sports and entertainment content. But unlike the old TV networks, streaming services deliver their content digitally and on-demand. Thus, instead of waiting for a show’s designated day and time slot (or recording it if you can’t be there) streaming provides the show – even entire seasons of a show – simply by selecting it and hitting PLAY. It’s like having the biggest VHS/DVD/DVR library at your fingertips.
Streaming services generally charge a monthly fee for content that varies from service to service. Some act like the cable viewing packages of old with a little bit of everything, including local programming. Others cater to certain tastes such as movies or sports and still others are part of an entertainment brand, such as Disney+.
Once you choose a service or services, simply download the app and your phone becomes the remote control. Content is sent (or “cast”) to the streaming device and onto the screen. (Remember when we said it was a good idea to have a streaming device even if you have a smart TV? That’s why.)
Plus, operating from an app means streaming services let you take your programming on the go and watch on devices other than your television. Be sure to read the fine print to know how many devices are includes for the price as this varies from service to service.
Actually yes, and this is probably the most important. The key to streaming is the Internet connection because the most advanced 4K smart TV and the most robust streaming service can’t work their magic unless the home internet delivers the goods. Today’s ultra-high definition screens and hours upon hours of content all rely on fast (make that very fast) and reliable Internet service.
Fiber is generally considered the best in class of the field. You’ll never view TV the same way again.