There’s nothing quite as thrilling as watching the winning shot of a live game or experiencing groundbreaking news as it’s happening. And if you’re already paying an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for an Internet connection, you may be able to stream some of those thrilling live TV moments to any Wi-Fi enabled device.
If you want to watch live TV online, you’ve actually got a few options. However, the method won’t be the same across the board — it depends on the show, the channel, and even your Internet connection. Here’s our roundup of how to stream live TV over the Internet whenever — and wherever — you want.
Sports Channel Subscriptions
Sports fans can pay for a short-term online subscription to favorite sports league games. The MLB, NBA, and NHL all offer packages for viewers to watch live games online. MLB.tv offers streaming of live games, spring training, and archived games. NBA League Pass offers the most customizable selection, including access to a single team, a single game, or just audio streams. And NHL Game Center features extra camera angles and DVR controls. All three leagues, though, have out-of-market restrictions, meaning local, home team games are blacked out — though most of these services still make live audio streams available.
Options for the NFL are among the most limited. The NFL Game Pass includes live game radio broadcasts and playoff games, but live video streams are not available.
Online News Broadcasts
A recent comScore survey found that live news was important to the TV viewing habits of 58 percent of pay TV subscribers and 46 percent of non-pay TV subscribers, making it one of the biggest drivers of TV consumption. While many major news networks require a cable subscription to access live news programs, several media brands offer live streaming for free. With a good ISP, you can watch MSNBC, Bloomberg, CBS News, NewsMaxTV, and HuffPost Live from your computer or smart device. Check your local stations, too. ABC 7 in San Francisco and Fox 5 in New York, for example, offer their news shows streaming during airtime.
Streaming sites like Livestream, Ustream, and YouTube have emerged as popular ways to watch live programming for free, be it a concert, sports event, or entertainment program. Selection and quality of content varies widely. Livestream hosts the BBC and TED Talks channels, UStream hosts the International Space Station and PBS NewsHour channels, and YouTube broadcasts notable political events like presidential debates and speeches.
Cable Online Services
New in 2015, online cable services are changing the cable game. The DISH® subsidiary service Sling TV, for example, combines traditional TV with online streaming, allowing subscribers to start with a basic 20 cable TV channel package, with the option to add more channels for an additional fee. XFINITY® Stream TV offers a similar service, offering local and premium channels to XFINITY Internet subscribers in select areas. Unlike traditional cable, these services require no equipment. Though your options are limited — the initial channel selection is small — these are affordable streaming options. Sling TV starts at a low price of $20 per month, while XFINITY Stream TV starts at $15 per month for XFINITY Internet subscribers.
TV Aggregator Sites
Although no TV aggregator site is perfect, many of them are great for watching a variety of shows and movies from around the globe. While quality is low, content variety is high. Try watching live shows through sites like Live TV Cafe, Live TV Center, and World Wide Internet TV, which are free with the creation of an account.
On Demand Subscription
Watch streaming media of popular television shows through on-demand subscription providers Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or HBO Go. Most of these services have their own set of critically acclaimed series only available through a subscription: Netflix features the popular shows “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”; Amazon Prime hosts “Transparent” and “Alpha House”; HBO Go is known for “Game of Thrones” and “Girls.” Hulu hosts the most prime time content of any of the on-demand services, though network shows are usually available a day after the initial air date.
Internet and TV Bundles
If you haven’t been able to find your show through any of the other options on this list, consider paying for a bundled cable package. Many ISPs also sell cable television service in bundles, and depending on your Internet and TV bundle provider, many of the same movies and TV channels included in your cable subscription are available for streaming on supported smart devices, too. Using your cable TV login, you can stream your favorite TV shows on your laptop, tablet, or phone. Which channels are available to you online depends on your cable provider and package selection. How-To Geek gives a breakdown of the streaming channels available for each major cable provider.
In 2016, you’re no longer stuck to your couch to watch your favorite TV shows. The Internet gives you the flexibility to stream TV shows and movies from anywhere. Now that you’ve got our guide to viewing TV online, the only thing you need is a good Internet connection. For the best streaming experience, consider upgrading your current Internet package, or bundle cable television with your Internet subscription.
*Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas. There’s good news and bad news for the pay TV industry. The good news is that, according to new research from the Leichtman Research Group, America’s pay TV gained nearly 10,000 customers during the first quarter of 2015. The bad news is that growth represents a 10-year low for the industry. Actually, there’s more bad news, and it’s also more interesting.
During the last year, 370,000 pay TV subscribers decided to cancel their subscriptions. The Leichtman data doesn’t indicate why these customers canceled their subscriptions, but we can reasonably argue that cost and lack of interest were among their reasons. And so were the increasing numbers of online video streaming services. Not everyone who cancels a pay TV subscription signs up for a streaming service, but those who choose to do so have a pair of new options to go along with existing services, such as HBO NOW and Netflix.
It’s Go Time for Showtime
The newest pay TV network to create its own standalone streaming service is Showtime. The service is now live, and free trials are available using Showtime’s streaming app, Roku, or PlaysStation Vue. Using any of these options, Showtime content costs $10.99 per month, which is less than the channel costs through many pay TV providers. However, if you’re already a Hulu subscriber, you can add Showtime for $8.99 per month. So if you haven’t seen them, now’s your chance to binge watch “Penny Dreadful,” “Nurse Jackie,” or “Homeland.”
Nothing that Makes Sense Rhymes With “Lifetime.” Sorry.
In what may not be the most anticipated cord cutting news of all time, Lifetime announced it wants to offer streaming of its older movie library with its Lifetime Movie Club service for $4/month. That $4 won’t even get you that bizarre new one with Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell; the subscription includes just 30 movies for the time being, some of which you may have accidentally seen at your grandmother’s house, with dramatic titles like “Too Young to Marry” and “The Bride He Bought Online.” If you enjoy movies that explore ways that personal tragedy can lead to growth and empower women to become stronger and more independent, this announcement is great news.
Not Without My DSL
Okay, so Lifetime movies are an easy target, we admit it. But look at the news another way; Lifetime is part of A&E Networks, which also owns A&E, History, the Military Channel, and fyi. So perhaps this is a low-risk test case for A&E. If it fails, people will say “What did you expect?” But if it proves viable, these other channels may soon offer streaming programming as well. So if you want to see war documentaries, get in touch with your feminine side first.
Dreaming of Streaming?
No matter what kind of programming you want to stream online, you won’t be able to stream any of it without a decent high-speed Internet connection. While neither Showtime nor Lifetime list a specific minimum speed, both recommend a minimum of a broadband connection. If your current plan isn’t fast enough to support high-definition video, upgrade to a new service that will give you the viewing experience you crave.
Photo Credit: Shanti Knapp/Flikr For the past few years, we’ve heard the same prediction that this is the year that cord cutting really takes off. Here’s the thing, though: people wouldn’t keep making that same prediction if it had already come true. So far, subscribers have been more reluctant to abandon pay TV providers than many experts assumed.
Data from Leichtman Research shows that the number of pay TV subscribers did decline last year. As an industry, cable and satellite TV providers lost 125,000 subscribers in 2014—but there are still more than 95 million pay TV customers in this country. So although losing subscribers surely got the industry’s notice, it’s not very likely to have them in panic mode.
As pay TV loses subscribers, streaming is gaining them. In its “The Total Audience Report” for Q4 2014, audience tracker Nielsen shows that streaming video services are increasingly popularity. More than 40 percent of homes now have online subscription video on demand (SVOD) service from a company like Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. So why aren’t these two combined data sets a bigger worry for the pay TV industry?
People Don’t Always Follow Through
According to Clearvoice Research’s 2014 “TV Everywhere Market Profile,” 13 percent of those surveyed indicated they were likely to discontinue cable service. Of that group, 74 percent thought they’d do so within one year. Perhaps surprisingly, Baby Boomers indicated they were more likely to cut the cable than were MIllenials or Gen-Xers. Half a year after publishing the survey, though, Clearvoice says that only 22 percent of subscribers who said they’d probably cut cable have actually done so. So what’s stopping them?
One possible hurdle is that the economics of cord cutting hasn’t necessarily played out as its fans had hoped. As we’ve previously reported, PlayStation’s Vue streaming service provides an alternative to cable or satellite, but not necessarily a cheaper one. Some streaming services still lack major channels and sports subscriptions that people want. Another possibility is that as more cable companies offer Internet service in addition to TV, the convenience or pricing of bundling the two services wins out over cutting the cord.
Time Spent With Each Technology
Additional information from Nielsen shows that regardless of the total number of subscribers, users spend far more time watching live TV than streaming video. In the final quarter of 2014, users watched an average of 149 hours and 14 minutes of live TV per month; in the same period, they spent only 10 hours and 29 minutes watching video online. Although year-over-year (YoY) data from 2013 shows that TV viewing time is down and streaming video time is up, TV still enjoys a greater than 14:1 advantage in total viewing time.
Over time, though, that advantage could disappear. After breaking the above data up by users’ age, we can see that viewers over 65 years old have the highest TV:streaming time ratio, over 44:1. Young adults aged 18-24 have the lowest such ratio at just under 6:1. In other words, cord cutting might not be something that pay TV providers have to worry about much today, but if these current trends by younger viewers continue, cord cutting will become a serious problem for pay TV revenue.
Change is Coming, But You’ll Have to Wait
There’s no doubt that the Internet changed the way people listen to music. Given time, it will also change the way people watch video programming—it no longer feels appropriate to call these programs “TV.” However, it’s also possible that just as radio found a way to coexist with TV, TV will find a way to coexist with streaming video. One doesn’t necessarily have to die to make room for the other.
How long will this fundamental change take? We don’t know, but here’s a bold prediction: it won’t happen this year. Of course, you may hear that same prediction next year as well. But it will happen eventually, and when it does, you’ll want to be ready for it. Make sure your Internet connection is fast enough for current and future streaming technologies now and you’ll find yourself ahead of the curve, rather than behind it.
Photo Credit: Guilherme Caldas/Flikr