We turned off the cable television service for good in 2007, becoming part of what is now referred to as a “zero television household”. That’s a really confusing & odd term for a household who doesn’t pay for television service.
I’ve written before of alternatives to paying for television but I’m going to go into the specifics of how to stream television here. Sure, you can watch Netflix and YouTube through your computer but how great would it be to watch it on your television?!
Option: Stream through a game console
Many of today’s newer video game consoles will stream content directly onto your television. We use an Xbox 360 to watch Netflix, Crackle, YouTube and Vudu and there are quite a few more options (like Redbox Instant, Amazon on Demand & Hulu Plus) that we don’t use. Our Wii can connect to many of the same services. In most cases all you have to do is download an app or program through your game console. If you can’t figure it out ask your kids, that’s what I do ;)
Option: Stream through a DVD or BluRay player
Some newer DVD players and most BluRay players, even the cheap ones, have at least some ability to stream content. Two years ago I purchased a very inexpensive BluRay player with no frills and even it can connect to YouTube, Netflix, Vudu and CinemaNow. In most cases all you do is select the streaming option from the main menu and enter your user information, it’s really simple but if you get stuck there are online instructions and helpful numbers to call.
Option: Stream through something designed to stream.
I’m talking about the Rokus here, and the other brands that do the same thing. These are little boxes that sit near your tv and allow you to stream through them. I know a lot of people who love their Rokus and AppleTVs. We tried a Roku but our internet connection was too slow, even though it was the next to fastest speed we could buy. Maybe it’s because we’re kind of in a rural area, I don’t know. I will say that Roku customer service is awesome and even though we couldn’t use it they did their best to help us.
Option: Run a program called Play-On
This one gets a little complicated to explain so I’ll refer you to the PlayOn website…but..I LOVE this service. We used it for several months on our Wii, though it’s available to stream through phones and many, many other devices. PlayOn worked even when our connection was too slow for the Roku. PlayOn is cheap if you pay monthly but it’s extremely inexpensive if you buy a lifetime license (if it’s not on sale just wait, it goes on sale every 2 or 3 months and you can get a lifetime license for as little as $30!) Basically, you install PlayOn onto a computer with internet access and then you point your Wii (or whatever) to their website and viola, you have access to THOUSANDS of tv shows and networks. You can even watch the free version of Hulu this way, as well as Disney Channel and other premium channels.
Option: HDMI cable
An HDMI cable is the easiest & cheapest way to stream tv from your computer to your television. HDMI cords cost $10 or less (we have one from Amazon that cost $.99!), you plug it into the back of your computer and into your tv and everything that is on your computer screen shows up on your television. Bam. If you want to get super fancy you can set your computer up to have two monitors so you can watch television on one screen and still work on the computer (check YouTube for tutorials, it doesn’t take much effort!) The only downside to this set-up is that your computer needs to be located near your television, though you can buy extra long HDMI cables if you don’t mind a cable running across the room. You do need a kind of newer television for this to work, but it doesn’t have to be super new. The tv in our bedroom was purchased in 2005 and it can accomodate the HDMI cable.
And just one more hint that has nothing to do with streaming: if you want to watch TV from another country but the content is restricted due to location, there is a workaround! Tunnelbear.com is a service that changes the location of your computer so you can watch content from other countries :) It’s free (or cheap if you watch a lot of tv) and legal :) Thanks to the SavvyHomeschoolMoms (fellow Whovians) for letting me know about that neat service.