Whether you're a "Game of Thrones" fan or watch the evening news, there are many different ways to get the best out of your television. Go traditional cable if you like live TV, sports or talk shows, or choose one of the incredibly popular streaming services if you want your favorite episodes anytime, anywhere. Just remember to tell Netflix, "Yeah, I'm still watching it," the next time you do a marathon of reruns of "Friends."
Method 1 of 3: Online Broadcast Television
Step 1. Select an online streaming service based on the shows you want to watchDifferent services have different companies, shows, channels, and movies. Examine their offers before hiring a service and choose the one that has what you like. For example, if you love “The Handmaid's Tale”, you will want to sign up for Hulu, because it is only available on that platform.
- Keep in mind that you will need internet through an internet or data service provider to transmit the programming.
- If you're not sure what service you want, most offer a 1-week or even 1-month free trial, so you can get an idea of what they offer.
How to choose an online streaming service
If you want the widest variety of TV shows, choose Netflix. Not only do they have an incredible selection of your favorite shows from top companies, but they also have a lot of original shows.
If you like movies or live TV, go for Hulu, which offers a larger movie library than Netflix, and also has a bundle with live TV shows.
If you want premium channels like HBO, choose Amazon Prime Video. You have the best access to additional channels, including Showtime, Starz, and Hallmark.
If you can't decide, subscribe to multiple services. That way, you'll have access to all the shows you could want, and it's still cheaper than cable.
Step 2. Sign up for a subscription to the online streaming service
Visit the service's website to choose your subscription package. You can have options on how many devices can be connected to the service, whether they offer high definition streaming or whether you want to watch the shows ad-free for a higher price.
- For example, Netflix has 3 different plans. The basic plan is for 1 device with standard definition, while the standard plan is for 2 devices with high definition and the premium plan is for 4 devices with ultra HD.
- The monthly cost of a streaming service ranges from $ 8 to $ 10. If you choose one with live TV, the cost goes up from $ 20 to $ 40.
Step 3. Use a streaming device if you want to watch on a television screen
To stream your shows from a phone, tablet, or laptop on a big screen, buy a smart TV where you can access the service directly on the TV, or connect a streaming device, which is usually a bar or box that connects to the TV.
Fun Ways to Improve Your Marathon Watching Session
Create a Flixtape if you use Netflix. It's like a playlist, but with movies. Create your own queue so you can watch for hours without interruption, or have Netflix pick a few for you based on a certain genre or theme.
Sit on a massage cushion for extra comfort. You will be on the couch for a while, so you can solve some of those pains that sitting in one place will cause.
Project the show on the wall to mimic a movie theater. You can connect a portable projector to your smartphone or laptop to watch television on a makeshift big screen.
Create your own surround sound with a Bluetooth speaker. Those tiny laptop speakers won't be enough for a dramatic action movie. Place the speaker behind you for the best audio experience.
Don't forget the sandwiches! Use a table with a tray that attaches to the arm of the sofa to place your soda and popcorn.
Step 4. Download the streaming service application if you want to watch TV while traveling
Most services have apps for your smartphone or tablet that will allow you to watch their shows anytime, anywhere. Find the apps on iTunes if you have an iPhone or Google Play if you have an Android.
- Depending on the plan you choose, the app can be included in the price of your subscription. If not, you may need to upgrade to a slightly higher cost plan.
- Online streaming apps use a lot of mobile data if you are not connected to Wi-Fi. Fortunately, some services now allow you to download programs to your phone from within the app, so you can watch them without draining your data plan.
Step 5. Customize your viewing experience with different features and add-ons
One of the best things about an online streaming service is that you can fully customize what you see and how you see it, based on your own preferences. There are many free extensions available for download that do everything from helping you find a new show to speeding up playback so that you can locate episodes faster.
- If you want to avoid spoilers, use a plugin like Flix Plus, which hides episode descriptions while you search for shows.
- Install a plugin like Netflix Party, which includes a chat window on your screen, if you want to talk to your friends while everyone is watching the same episode.
- Don't you want anyone to know what you've seen? Go to "Account", then "Watch Activity" and click the "x" to remove a show from your watch activity.
Method 2 of 3: Use Cable
Step 1. Choose a cable provider based on your location and budget
Some areas only have 1 cable provider, so you won't have a choice. But if you live in a place where there is more than 1 option, consider how the prices for each service vary and how prominent the provider is in your area. Larger providers often offer better signal strength, along with emergency help services.
- Cable packages can cost anywhere from $ 30 to more than $ 100 per month.
- Keep in mind that the monthly charge can change, even in the middle of the contract. Read the fine print and don't be fooled by tempting offers or low prices.
Step 2. Sign up for a monthly service based on the features you want
Cable providers offer all different plans and packages with a variety of channels, speeds, and add-ons. Some packages include internet and voice services, while others may include premium movie channels. Talk to a customer service representative or browse the provider's website to find out what offers and packages are available in your area.
- For example, if you are a huge sports fan, you will want a package that includes additional sports channels. On the other hand, if you only watch the same 5 shows, you can get a basic package with limited channels.
- If you don't see a package that fully meets your needs, ask if the provider would be willing to create a custom package for you.
- Feel free to negotiate! Ask if you can cut any costs, or if there are current promotions. It is especially effective if there is another cable provider that offers the same services for less.
Step 3. Configure the cable box and modem yourself if you want to save money
Many cable companies charge a monthly rental fee for equipment, which is around $ 10, along with a fee for technical setup. Instead, buy your own modem and router and install it yourself, along with the company-supplied cable box. Choose the devices according to the speed and image quality you want. The higher the speed, the better the image.
- You can buy a router and modem separately, or buy a modem and router combo. Separate devices allow more flexibility if you decide to upgrade services in the future.
- Many cable providers list suggested brands and types of modems and routers on their websites.
- Modems and routers can be as cheap as $ 30, or as expensive as more than $ 100.
- If you're having trouble connecting your devices, call your cable provider's customer service. They can help you figure out what's going on and guide you through the setup process.
Step 4. Make an appointment to have a technician install the equipment if you need additional help
When you subscribe to the service, you have the option of having a technician come to set up the equipment or install it yourself. While there is usually a small fee for professional setup, it is convenient and will ensure that the equipment is connected properly.
- You will need to be home while the technician installs the cable, so plan accordingly. They usually give you a 2-3 hour window for setup.
- The one-time installation fee can range from $ 60 to $ 80.
Method 3 of 3: Choose Additional TV Services
Step 1. Install an antenna if you are only interested in local broadcasting companies
You can use an indoor or outdoor antenna to pick up the signal from local stations. An outdoor rooftop antenna generally provides the best reception, but indoor antennas are great for apartments or condominium buildings where you don't have access to the roof, or in areas where there is a strong signal, such as in major cities.
- You need a television that has a digital tuner to receive the signal from the antenna. The words "HD," "ATSC," or "HDTV" indicate that there is a digital tuner, or you can find the antenna's coaxial port, which looks like a large screw, on the back of the TV.
- If you don't have a digital TV, buy a digital converter box to convert the antenna signal.
Step 2. Use a pay-per-view service if you only want to watch a show or movies
There is no point in spending money on a subscription service if you only want to watch a single show on TV. Purchase individual movies or seasons of a television show online through a pay-per-view service.
- Both iTunes and Amazon offer pay-per-view options.
- Individual television episodes can cost as cheap as $ 2.
Step 3. Subscribe to a single channel if you only want specific premium content
Adding premium channels like HBO or Starz to your cable service increases the cost of your monthly bill. Instead, subscribe to an individual channel or download the app to access the shows for a cheaper price. Think of it as television on demand.
This is a good option if you also want to add live sports channels
Step 4. Watch shows online for free if you don't mind waiting for new episodes
Some channels allow you to watch a couple of their latest episodes on their website for free. However, you will not be able to watch the show or show live, and it may take a few days for the episode to air.
- These free shows also have a lot of commercials or commercial breaks.
- Many major companies, such as FOX, ABC, CBS, and NBC, offer recordings of their popular shows, including news and television shows.
- However, some of these channels may require you to have a television provider. Check their website and plan details.
Step 5. Connect to a VPN if you want to stream international programs
Most shows are only licensed in their original country, so you won't be able to access them through a regular streaming service. Instead, you'll have to use a VPN app, which essentially alters your computer's settings to make it look like you're in a different country, allowing you to watch different shows.
- There are free VPN services, but for better quality and security, it may be worth paying for one. They cost between $ 5 to $ 15 per month.
- Be aware that some streaming services, like Netflix, disapprove of using VPN. Check the subscription rules before connecting a VPN.
- An alternative to a VPN is a smart domain name server (DNS). It works just as well but is less secure.
- You may be able to watch certain international shows on the channel's website.
- A smart TV will allow you to connect to a cable service and stream programs.
- Share an online streaming service subscription with a friend to save money.
- Download the app for the online streaming service so you can also watch your favorite shows on your phone or tablet.
- Online streaming services often recommend shows for you based on previous content you've watched, making it easier to find new shows.
- If you like movies, you may have to pay extra for a premium channel package or purchase the channels individually.
- Hire cable if you like to watch live shows, news, or sports.
- Negotiate with cable companies to get the best deal and package for your needs.
- If you buy your own cable modem and router, make sure the equipment works with your cable provider. Check their website for a list of acceptable devices.