Digital Entertainment Viewing Options

-by John Dunker-monitors old tv

The cost of watching television is rising every year. Cable or satellite packages, excluding promotions, can easily run $70 to $100 a month and more. You get hundreds of diverse channels; ESPN for sports lovers, premium channels like HBO and Showtime, major networks and other options. Unfortunately, a-la-carte channel choices are not an option. Online services individually are cheaper than cable and satellite. Depending on what you like to watch you may need to subscribe to several.

Not only do we pay more for cable and satellite services, we are also forced to watch a barrage of commercials. Television advertising takes up to 30 -35 percent of a show’s airing time and seems to be getting worse. Long gone are the days of watching a show with only one or two sponsors.

Maybe you can find more cost-effective and time saving options online using your Internet connection. There are services that allow you to watch programs on your TV, computer, tablet or phone. If you don’t have a “smart” TV (connects to and uses the Internet), you still might be able to connect your TV to an existing computer or tablet. There are also new gadgets available for TV-based Internet streaming of video from Roku, Amazon, Google, and Apple that debuted in 2015.

In my household we use a Windows 8 tablet connected wirelessly to the Internet and to our TV by HDMI cable. Using an app for Netflix (a free download) we watch commercial free movies and previously aired TV shows. The cost of Netflix is $10 a month for the service with no long-term commitment. Netflix provides a massive library of television shows that have already ended, as well as previous seasons of many currently running shows but no live content.

If you’re the kind of viewer who needs to keep up with the latest shows, Hulu is a good choice. Many showsurreal-884695_1920bws are free on Windows and Mac computers. However, Hulu has Plus plans starting at $8 a month with limited commercials or $12 a month for a plan with no commercials. The service offers current programming from several networks and some cable networks. There is next-day access to shows from ABC, NBC, Fox and CW, along with some of the cable channels. A few previous seasons are available as well.

Sling TV offers live content with prices starting at $20 a month. About 20 channels, including ESPN, ABC Family, AMC and Food Network, are available. No broadcast channels like CBS or NBC, although Univision is available in add-on packages. Add-on packages for sports, movies, kids, lifestyles and world news are to be had for $5 each, and HBO for $15. You watch Sling TV by downloading an appropriate app for Apple, Android, Windows 7 or higher devices. It can also be viewed through Xbox.

Amazon Video offers Internet streaming of thousands of TV shows and movies along with some original programming. The price is $8.25 a month, requires a one-year commitment and a $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription. Apart from original shows, offerings tend to be past seasons, plus movies. There is next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode.

For kids, Nickelodeon’s Noggin goes for $6 a month. It provides games and activities alongside archives of shows no longer on any of Nickelodeon’s TV channels. The service is aimed at preschoolers and is only available on Apple mobile devices.

There are many more online services out there to choose from. MLB.tv provides a full season of baseball for $110. HBO Now is available for $15 a month when you subscribe through a partner like Apple, Amazon or Android. And iTunes offers next-day access to shows for $2 or $3 an episode. CBS All Access is $6 a month and supplies live programming in more than 100 markets, and day-after access to shows on mobile devices. (On traditional computers, it’s free without a subscription.)

With a little research, you’ll find more online entertainment services that suit your needs. If you don’t mind the commercials, there are also many free apps from the major networks for Windows and Apple systems that cost you nothing to view. They allow you to watch some of their programs on a next-day basis. Whether paid or free, always check the services’ restrictions and types of devices needed to support the viewing.

To get live local news and programming you’ll have to consider installing a digital TV antenna. In our Ken-Tenn area, an antenna can be problematic though depending where your home is located. There are tools available online to help you determine broadcast signal strength and the type antenna needed for your location. Visit http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/dtvmaps to find available signal strengths for your address. Research and find a reputable dealer for antenna purchase and/or installation. One example of a quality antenna can be found at www.spectrumantenna.com.

Finally—if your favorite TV shows are on CBS, NBC, ABC , CW, and Fox, then you could be paying for something that you can get for free. The major networks broadcast over the air for free. You can save hundreds of dollars per month by switching to a TV antenna and subscribe to Netflix, Amazon prime, or Hulu to watch other shows or movies.