How to Watch Television

Whether you’re a Game of Thrones fanatic or a nightly news watcher, there are so many different ways to get your TV fix. Go with traditional cable if you like live television, like sports or talk shows, or choose from one of the incredibly popular streaming services if you want your favorite episodes anytime, anywhere. Just remember to tell Netflix, “Yes, I’m still watching,” the next time you’re binging on old Friends reruns.

Streaming TV

Select a streaming service based on the shows you want to watch.

Different services have different networks, shows, channels, and movies. Browse their offerings before you commit to a service and pick the one that has what you like. For example, if you love The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll want to get Hulu, because it’s only available on that platform.

  • Keep in mind you’ll need internet, through an internet service provider or data provider, to stream TV.
  • If you aren’t sure which service you want, most offer a free 1-week or even 1-month trial, so you can get a feel for what they offer.

Sign up for a subscription to the streaming service.

Visit the service’s website to choose your subscription package. You may have options for how many devices can connect to the service, whether there’s high definition streaming, or whether you want to watch your 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 high definition.
  • The monthly cost for a streaming service ranges from $8 to $10. If you choose one with live TV, the cost goes up to $20 to $40.

Use a streaming device if you want to watch on a TV screen.

To get your shows from a phone, tablet, or laptop onto the big screen, purchase a smart TV where you can access your service directly on the television or connect a streaming device, which is usually a stick or box that hooks up to your TV.

Download the streaming service app if you want to watch TV on the go.

Most services have apps for your smartphone or tablet that will let you watch your shows anytime, anywhere. Find the apps on iTunes if you have an iPhone or Google Play if you have an Android.

  • Depending on which plan you chose, the app may be included in the price of your subscription. If it’s not, you’ll likely have to upgrade to a plan with a slightly higher cost.
  • Streaming apps use a lot of cellular data if you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. Fortunately, some services now let you download shows to your phone in the app, so you can watch them without draining your data plan.

Customize your viewing experience with different features and add-ons.

One of the best things about a streaming service is that you can completely personalize what you watch and how you watch it, based on your own preferences. There are plenty of free extensions available to download that do everything from help you find a new show to speed up the playback so you can get through episodes faster.

  • If you want to avoid spoilers, use an add-on like Flix Plus, which hides the episode descriptions while you’re searching shows.
  • Install a plug-in like Netflix Party, which includes a chat window on your screen, if you want to talk to your friends while you’re all watching the same episode.
  • Don’t want anyone to know what you’ve been watching? Go to “Account,” then “Viewing Activity,” and click the “x” to delete a show from your viewing activity.

Using Cable

Choose a cable provider depending on your location and budget.

Some areas only have 1 cable provider, so you won’t have a choice. But if you live somewhere where there is more than 1 option, consider how the prices vary for each service 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 over $100 per month.
  • Be aware that your monthly charge could change, even in the middle of your contract. Read the fine print and don’t be fooled by tempting deals or low prices.

Sign up for a monthly service based on what features you want.

Cable providers offer all different bundles and packages with a variety of channels, speeds, and add-ons. Some bundles will 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 deals and packages are available in your area.

  • For example, if you’re a huge sports fan, you’ll want a bundle that includes extra sports channels. On the other hand, if you only watch the same 5 programs, you can get a basic package with limited channels.
  • If you don’t see a package that fully fits your needs, ask if the provider would be willing to create a custom package for you.
  • Feel free to negotiate! Ask if you can trim off any costs, or if there are any current promotions. This is especially effective if there’s another cable provider offering the same services for less.

Set up 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 technician setup. Instead, purchase your own modem and router and install it yourself, along with the cable box provided by the company. Pick your devices based on the speed and picture quality you want. The faster speeds, the better image.

  • You can buy a separate router and modem, or buy a modem/router combo. The separate devices allow for more flexibility if you decide to upgrade your services in the future.
  • Many cable providers list suggested brands and types of modems and routers on their website.
  • Modems and routers can be as cheap as about $30, or as expensive as over $100.
  • If you have trouble connecting your devices, call your cable provider’s customer service. They can help figure out what’s going on and walk you through the setup process.

Arrange for a technician to install the equipment if you need extra help.

When you sign up for your service, you’re given the option to have a technician come set up your equipment or to install it yourself. While there is usually a small fee for professional setup, it’s convenient and will ensure that your equipment is hooked up correctly.

  • You will have to be home while the technician sets up your cable, so plan accordingly. They typically give you a window of 2 to 3 hours for the setup.
  • The one-time setup fee can be anywhere from $60 to $80.

Choosing Additional TV Services

Install an antenna if you’re only interested in local broadcast networks.

You can use either an indoor or an outdoor antenna to pick up the signal from local stations. An outdoor antenna on the roof typically provides the best reception, but indoor antennas are great for apartments or condo buildings where you don’t have access to the roof, or in areas where there’s a strong signal, like in major cities.

  • You need a TV that has a digital tuner to receive the antenna signal. The words “HD”, “ATSC”, or “HDTV” indicate there’s a digital tuner, or you can look for the antenna coaxial port, which looks like a big 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.

Use a pay-per-view service if you just want to watch one show or movie.

It’s pointless to spend money on a subscription service if there’s only 1 thing you want to watch on TV. Buy individual movies or seasons of a TV show online via a pay-per-view service.

  • Both iTunes and Amazon Video offer pay-per-view options.
  • Individual TV episodes can cost as little as $2.

Sign up for a single channel if you want specific premium content.

Adding premium channels like HBO or Starz to your cable service jacks up the cost of your monthly bill. Instead, subscribe to an individual channel or download their app to have access to the shows for a cheaper price. Think of it like a la carte TV.

  • This is a good option if you want to add live sports channels, too.

Watch shows online for free if you don’t mind waiting for new episodes.

Some channels let you view a couple of their most recent episodes on their website for free. However, you won’t be able to watch the show or program live, and it may take a few days for the episode to air.

  • These free shows also have a lot of ad or commercial breaks.
  • Many major networks, like FOX, ABC, CBS, and NBC, offer recordings of their popular programs, including the news and TV shows.
  • Some of these channels might require you to have a TV provider, however. Check their website and plan details.

Connect to a VPN if you want to stream international shows.

Most shows are only licensed in their original country, so you won’t be able to access them via 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 anywhere from $5 to $15 per month.
  • Be aware that some streaming services, like Netflix, frown upon using VPNs. Check the rules for your subscription 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 let you connect to a cable service and stream shows.
  • Share a streaming service subscription with a friend to save money.
  • Download the app for your streaming service so you can watch your favorite shows on your phone or tablet, too.

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