Last month I talked about the problem with TV and how cable companies (at least in North America) are holding back technical innovation. Back in April on RSBANDBUpdate! we discussed YouTube TV and the surrounding issues of cable in North America versus the rest of the world. The consensus reached on that podcast was that if you live outside of North America, chances are that you can use almost any third party device for streaming content while accessing most broadcast channels for free or if not very cheap.
The content covered from this point on will range from devices and services that utilize anything from over the air TV to pure streaming services.
If you play video games and are content with channels that you can get over the air, the Xbox One might be the best hardware platform to solve the TV problem. Hauppauge makes a TV tuner that is specifically designed for the Xbox One called Digital TV Tuner for Xbox One. This device allows you to connect your over the air antenna and send that signal into your Xbox One. The Xbox One will then act as your TV guide allowing you to watch channels as you normally would.
The Xbox One is also a decent choice, because if you want access to a TV show, streaming service, and a selection of live TV channels, you can subscribe to and install an app for Hulu with Live TV. Hulu with Live TV offers channels such as CNN, Fox News, ESPN, FX, National Geographic and more that may not be available over the air. Hulu with Live TV will set you back $40 per month. For more than 50 channels this isn’t a bad rate compared to some cable packages.
NB: If you do not wish to use over the air signals or you would prefer to not have an Xbox One and are just interested in Hulu with Live TV, the Apple TV (4th generation, $169) has a supported Hulu app.
YouTube has also released its own TV streaming service recently called YouTube TV. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and offers slightly fewer channels than Hulu with Live TV but shows the most potential for growth going forward. As an example of channels available on YouTube TV there are offerings such as CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, ESPN, Fox News, CNBC, AMC, and the USA network among others. YouTube TV has a great DVR service allowing you to pick up your shows on any device. This is what sets YouTube TV apart from the rest. There are two major downsides with YouTube TV: there’s no Apple TV, Xbox One, or Roku app meaning you need to use either a Chromecast or a Chromecast enabled TV; secondly, YouTube TV is only available in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area to start with.
There are other services that could be worth looking into such as PlayStation Vue; however, Vue does not have the robust DVR capabilities that Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV does. The idea of content streaming from live TV still is not something that most streaming providers support. Over time as the market expands it would not be surprising to see more live streaming operators come online.
In summary choosing a streaming provider and streaming hardware can be difficult. Most times it will come down to finding the service that has the channels/content that is desired and then finding an appropriate piece of hardware. In general unless you want the newest offerings from YouTube TV any streaming device will be sufficient. If you already have an Apple TV or Xbox One and are fine with Hulu Live TV, the choice is simple. If you want to use YouTube TV and don’t have a reliance on other streaming services, it’s as simple as picking up a Chromecast. If you don’t want a DVR it’s a simple matter of picking a streaming service and maybe even picking up a device as simple as a Roku.
The options are available to “fix TV” to a level where it’s more usable in 2017 than it was before. However, as defined last month the ideal solution does not exist. There’s not one single streaming service that offers live and on demand content from the multitude of networks available on a cable package. For that to change we need the influence of a large player such as Apple, Google, or Microsoft.