Playon allows you to stream a wide variety of video sources to your TV via a connected device. If you already pay for and you’re fine with Netflix, Hulu and a couple of others you get through your Blu-ray player, you’re probably fine without Playon. But Playon would allow you to stream TV shows from networks, some cable networks, and a bunch of other places that you might not be able to otherwise (unless you regularly hook your laptop up to the TV).
Cable-replacement streaming services work exactly the same as having cable — live channels presented in real time — except they come streaming over the Internet rather than via an analog wire. The upside is that you don't have to give up the channels that you love. Sling TV carries multiple ESPN stations, plus Cartoon Network, TBS, Bloomberg, CNN, History and dozens of others. PlayStation Vue offers SyFy, Spike, USA, VH1, Fox News, Nickelodeon and more. You can also record programs to watch later on PS Vue, just like you would with a cable DVR box.
If you're looking to stream from more than a few services, this is the box to get. It's got nearly everything, and you can keep your menu as minimal or as packed as you want. The other services like games are nice, too. If you want to play local files too, you can do so with Plex, but don't expect an insanely full-featured media center out of it. All in all, if streaming is your top priority, get a Roku.
“Paid for an extra Hulu package to watch sports games and some live TV, but it only works on my iPad, not my smart TV or Apple TV. I was watching the Super Bowl on the networks app, and it cut off in the fourth quarter due to ‘streaming rights’... on the networks app?? How? What am I paying for? Pretty crappy time to cut me off! I had to scramble with guests at my house to find it on YouTube. I am frustrated with paying extra but then the options are still so limited.” ― Ashley Ryan Larrabee
The $99 Apple TV is a tiny little device that fits anywhere in your living room. The remote is very basic, but extremely easy to use—something a lot of living room remotes lack these days. It feels very solid, and the buttons respond nicely, making the whole product pleasant to use. Setup is a snap: just plug it in, link it up with your iTunes library and Apple ID, and you're ready to go. Typing in your credentials is kind of annoying due to the lack of keyboard. I wish I could set up things like Netflix and Hulu in iTunes from my computer, but for now you'll have to trudge through the remote-driven setup.
Streaming live TV services are still in their infancy, and the industry is still in flux. Since launch every service has increased prices by $5 a month, channel selections and cities with local channel access are changing all the time, and reports persist about some services losing money. While streaming is undoubtedly the future, it will be some time before both prices and the services offered settle in.
An HD antenna won’t give you all of the channels you would have access to if you purchased a cable subscription. However, it will increase the number of channels you can watch on local TV. And the one-time cost (as opposed to an ongoing monthly fee) means you’ll save money. It can be another attractive feature of using antennas to expand your viewing choices.
This year alone, some 6 million people are expected to ditch satellite and cable, causing a major pain point for the providers of digital entertainment. Welcome many of the same companies (DirecTV and Dish Network), along with YouTube, Hulu and Sony, in a different sort of offer. A smaller collection of channels, along with broadcast TV locals, no equipment required, and an average price of around $40 monthly. (Along with your internet subscription.)