We talk a lot about streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and how to get them on your TV. To watch these services on your television, you need some type of streaming device. That could be a game console like a PlayStation or Xbox, but it is often a streaming box or streaming stick. Examples of a streaming device include Roku, Amazon Fire Sticks, or Apple TV.
These devices require a high-speed wireless Internet connection. Some boxes can be plugged directly into a modem, but that means you’ll be limited to having a device right there by the modem. Devices range in cost from around $30 for a basic streaming stick to $150 for something like AppleTV.
Streaming sticks plug into an HDMI port on your TV. Streaming boxes plug into an HDMI port with a cable. Streaming sticks are smallish, roughly double the size of a USB flash drive. Most boxes are quite small, roughly around 4″ by 4″.
Basically, these devices turn your TV into a tablet that’s capable of running apps (which is short for application and means the same thing as a program in this situation.) In most cases an Android tablet, unless you are using Apple TV. Instead of a touchscreen, you control the stick or box with a remote or with an app on your tablet or smartphone.
An example of an app that runs on a streaming box is Netflix. You can open Netflix and select from their library of programming to watch. You can watch any program you like at any time. There’s no schedule as to when things air as with traditional TV. These shows are not stored on a hard drive on your device. You are streaming them from a cloud server. Viewers are able to pause where they like and then come back later to pick up where they left off.
Some services, such as Netflix, have an individual monthly subscription fee. Others like PlutoTV or basic YouTube are free to download and to watch. You can have subscriptions to multiple services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. You won’t receive one consolidated bill for all of your services like with cable and satellite. You’ll need to pay for each subscription service separately.
You aren’t limited to watching Netflix programming on your TV. You can also download the app to watch on phone, tablet, or PC. In fact, you don’t actually need a TV at all for the service. The same is true for most other streaming apps.