Types of streaming services

The number of choices available for streaming TV is growing all the time. We’re here to help you make sense of the many options for streaming service providers today. 

What is streaming TV?

Streaming TV is distributing media content such as movies, series/shows, concerts, comedy specials or sporting events over the internet. It’s not the same as downloading media files from the internet and saving them on your hard drive to watch later. With streaming, you’re watching the video as it comes across your internet connection, in real-time. And, rather than watching your favorite programs through a cable or satellite provider, streaming allows you to take charge of what you want to watch, and in most cases, when you want to watch. 

Streaming TV is relatively simple to do, once you know the steps to take:

  • Sign up with one or more streaming service providers that have the content you want to watch (think Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.)
  • Make sure you have a broadband internet connection (we recommend at least 20 Mbps if you have multiple people in your household)
  • Get a streaming device for your TV, or watch from your tablet, laptop or smartphone

Types of streaming service providers

Streaming service providers deliver content through a subscription. They offer movies, shows, sporting events and more, either on-demand or live. Streaming is popular with a wide range of people, because it’s convenient and affordable. It also allows you to pick the content types you want. Streaming TV is ideal for cord cutters and anyone who wants to save money on cable bills. 

There is a lot of information about streaming out there, which can be a little overwhelming. To keep things simple, let’s look at the two main categories of streaming TV: on-demand streaming and live streaming. Within those two areas, there are over 200 service providers (and counting). 

Streaming video on demand 

You may already be streaming TV. Two of the most popular subscription-based providers of streaming video on demand (SVOD) services are Netflix and Hulu. Subscription-based models like these allow users to pay a monthly fee for access to large libraries of content. It’s easy to set up an account, and in most cases, you can start a free trial and cancel at any time. You can watch on any device (laptop, tablet, smartphone) — though if you subscribe to multiple providers, or if you simply prefer the larger-screen format of a TV, using a streaming device will enhance your viewing options and experience. Streaming video on demand can be pay-per-view or subscription-based. Netflix is an example of subscription based, and YouTube offers pay-per-view options. As “on demand” implies, you watch shows and movies on your own schedule. 

Live streaming

Live streaming TV generally refers to watching content online in real time. Popular live content options include concerts, sporting events, comedy specials, gaming events, the news and local live coverage. Examples of live streaming TV providers are YouTube Live and Sling TV. Live streaming TV is most often subscription-based and offers channels and DVR options, too. 

Free streaming services

If you’re looking for a completely free streaming service, there are options for you. Most free streaming services are ad-supported video on demand (or AVOD). This means that you will have to put up with some advertisements before, during or after the movie or show you want to watch.

Tubi is considered to have the largest library of free content, offering comedy, action, anime, horror and family movies. They aren’t the hottest releases or mainstream classics, but entertaining fare from Kill Bill to Cowboy Bebop and Mr. Bean movies.

If you can handle the advertisements, free streaming services might be the ultimate way to cut the cord to cable and traditional TV viewing! As with all streaming services, the options for free streaming are plenty — it just takes a bit of research to find what you’re looking for. 

Streaming sports

If sports are what you crave, you’ll love the sports streaming services available. Two of the biggest sports content providers are ESPN+ and FuboTV, both of which offer live streaming of sporting events. FuboTV offers over 100 sports channels, including local channels, featuring live sports from the NFL (football), MBL (baseball), NBA (basketball), NHL (hockey), MLS (soccer) and more. ESPN+ is owned by Disney and streams exclusive live sports as well as original content. These are only two examples of sports-specific content providers — but without a doubt, streaming sports content is expanding, which allows you to choose the sports you want to watch.

Visit the CenturyLink Streaming TV page to learn more about our partners.

The growing list of streaming services

With streaming TV’s popularity, there’s an ever-growing list of streaming service providers to choose from. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are probably brands you recognize, and new providers are coming up all the time. For instance, Pantaya is a streaming service provider that offers Spanish-language movies accessible through your smartphone, tablet, laptop or TV. Currently, they have over 300 films in Spanish. Giam TV is a streaming service provider that offers hundreds of videos to expand your mind and improve your body and spirit. Are you a diehard music fan? Quello has you covered on all music-related content. Watch music documentaries, interviews, full-length concerts, and rare footage of your favorite musicians. If you can’t find a streaming service to fit your needs today, just wait because there will probably be one tomorrow!

Skinny bundles

Some streaming providers offer a “skinny bundle,” which is a streaming service that is a trimmed-down version of a full package, often combining streaming TV with paid TV channels and allowing you to watch on different devices. A skinny bundle provides a way to save money while offering an attractive alternative to expensive cable packages. Prices start as low as about $25/month, and most offer a small channel lineup, which, depending on your viewing habits, may be all you need. 

New streaming providers and specialized streaming services are popping up rapidly. Making sense of what to watch can be overwhelming, which is why we offer the TV recommendation tool. It’s easy to use — by answering a series of questions about your family’s viewing preferences, favorite shows or channels, you can determine the TV streaming services that fit your needs. Try it out! 

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