Watching TV in the Electronic Jungle
Watching TV was so simple for anyone who remembers life before cable. Today, we have more options than ever before – and more confusion. If you’re ready to go back to Square 1 and start all over again, here’s what to look at to reset your TV – or streaming content.
If you are still into watching live broadcast TV, which many do for news and sports, you could start with good old rabbit ears. That’s the term for an antenna – just in case you hadn’t known. Channel availability and picture quality depend on whether you can get a strong broadcast signal. Cable solved that issue nearly 50 years ago and gave us more choices. (Digital channels for broadcast offer more choices, though quantity should not always be confused with quality.)
Cable was simple. A cable company got the franchise for your community, and you paid – more and more without any recourse until satellite and the internet eventually gave you more options. The old cable companies and telephone carriers still have lines that carry the internet to most of America, but our “TV viewing” is changing at the pace of a revolution.
We have countless ways to get our programming because there are so many content providers and so many companies that package or bundle the programming we want to see. Even the carriers are becoming content bundlers and creators.
For this discussion, let’s focus on the systems that deliver content for viewing on a TV. Comcast’s Xfinity and Verizon’s Fios, the two major cable carriers in my area, still offer the most programming from traditional broadcasters and other producers. With more people spending more time at home, you probably want the most variety you can get to keep everyone happy. The cable companies still deliver by coaxial cable, and we know how to use their systems. You can watch content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, etc. through your cable system, although you will need to pay for them either through the cable company or the content provider. However, convenience comes at a price. You can pay $5 or more for every cable box you have.
If you get your internet service from a cable/phone company, you may be able to stream your cable channel and – maybe – save the cost of the boxes. Why maybe? Xfinity, for example, has an agreement with Roku to stream content over TVs that use it as the streaming service. If you have a Roku-equipped TV, you can add the Xfinity channel from your Roku Home page by clicking on Add Channels. If you don’t have a Roku-equipped TV but have a TV with a USB port, you can buy a Roku connection device for as little as $30 and use your home Wi-Fi network. Your payback period is six months, and quality depends on your network.
You can get Roku boxes from Xfinity, which you pay for as with the old coaxial cable box, but we found a price break of sorts. We have nine TVs in our house, including one we carry out onto the back deck. By paying $40 per month for DVR service, we’re only paying for five Roku boxes; the rest are “free.” The advantage to the Roku boxes is that they’re not tied to a coaxial cable, giving us more flexibility.
We just installed this system, so we’ll need to get some operating experience before we can report on its success – or lack of it.
If you watch all your content on a computer or mobile device, the question of a cable box or Roku box is moot. If you don’t want to use your cable company to get cable-like viewing for broadcast TV stations and programming such as news and sports, there are numerous streaming providers.
What will work best for you? The variables include:
- Broadcast signal strength for some live TV
- The provider of the content you watch
- Your preference of cable or internet-based content delivery
- The devices you watch on and the number of devices you use at any given time
- Your internet connection
- Your Wi-Fi network
- Your TV/internet budget
We can help you sort through the possibilities to put together a package that will meet your priorities, and we can install and configure any equipment you need. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your wants and needs.