When I was younger, there were three channels available to watch on TV. I grew up in rural Indiana, and I remember I was the remote and the one who had to adjust the antenna to make the signal clear. Cable came and then satellite dishes for the home, bringing more channels to homes. Now, technology has evolved to the point of putting TV on our iDevices.
The following apps are for the iPhone and iPad and are free, but some require a subscription to a service. The video looks best on a tablet and when you’re streaming over Wi-Fi.
Netflix was first known for its DVD rental service, but once the company offered online streaming of content, more people opted to use the online service, prompting Netflix to split its service. Because Netflix let certain deals expire, the instant streaming is not known for having big film titles, but it has an impressive selection of TV. The range of TV includes older titles like Quantum Leap, The X-Files, Cheers, The Twilight Zone, and you can catch up on recent shows like The Vampire Diaries, Warehouse 13, Scandal, Sherlock, and Continuum. Netflix has recently provided original content, House of Cards and Hemlock Grove. The company has also resurrected Arrested Development. The instant streaming service costs $8/month.
Hulu does have content on its website, but the app is for those with a Hulu Plus subscription, which is $8/month. One advantage Hulu+ has over Netflix is that many networks air current episodes the next day, so you can watch the latest episodes of The Office, Scandal, Revolution, Revenge, and others. Of course, the downside is the commercials, but the ads are short and don’t add much to the running time. Hulu has been providing original for a while with shows like Quickdraw and The Awesomes. Hulu+ also has the entire Criterion film selection available, which is one of the reasons I subscribe; there are hundreds of Criterion films, and I don’t have room for them on my shelf.
Amazon Instant Video
If you have Prime, a lot of content is available for free, but if you’re like me, the app is a convenient way to rent or buy TV episodes or movies. Once you link your account to the app, your video library becomes accessible, which is nice. Thousands of titles are right there at your fingertips, but you do have to pay either for each title or $79/year for Prime.
XFINITY TV Player
You have to be a Comcast subscriber to use this app, but I have to admit it is convenient to have what is basically the OnDemand library available when I’m away from my TV or traveling. Another benefit is that one of my roommates works nights, so he can’t watch TV in the living room because he will wake others, so he has this on his iPad, and he can watch the shows he has missed. What you can watch depends on your level of service, so if you don’t subscribe to Showtime, then you can’t watch any programming offered by that network.
Like the XFINITY app, you have to be a subscriber to HBO. Since the same content is available on the XFINITY app, I only use this if for some reason the XFINITY app isn’t working or I’m watching stuff on my Xbox 360. HBO GO is a good app, easy to navigate and so on, but with other apps providing the same content, I don’t use this as much as other apps.
The CW, NBC and ABC
With its young demographic, I was not surprised when the CW announced that the network would make its shows available online the next day. NBC and ABC have jumped on the bandwagon too. Each network has made the majority of their content accessible for online viewing through the apps and Hulu Plus, so if you don’t want to pay for a Hulu Plus subscription and you don’t mind using multiple apps, then you can watch a lot of current programming using the CW, NBC, and ABC apps. Each app is easy to navigate, and there are ads during the shows.
Other networks have apps as well. CBS has a few shows available, but you have to wait a week to watch them. The FOX app is more of a social hub. Other cable networks, like the History channel, Disney, and A&E, have apps, but with the other apps I use, I prefer apps that have content from multiple networks. There are some drawbacks. If the connection isn’t strong, then you will experience choppy video and audio. Also, many live sporting events are not available, but with CBS streaming the Super Bowl this year, that could change soon. While the TV set is not in danger of going extinct, how we watch TV is expanding. We don’t have to depend on a big, clunky TV set anymore. Now, we can have our shows beamed to a device we can hold in our hands and watch what we want, when we want.