Written by: Guest | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Guest Post by Hilary Thompson
So, you’ve cut the cord, but you’re still in the infant stage of online media. Don’t worry, getting started with streaming online content just takes a few baby steps to master. First, start with updating your viewing area. You’ll need, at minimum, a comfortable chair. Or, if you want more immersion, choose a home cinema with a sound system to rival your nearest theater. Now that you’re comfortable, follow these next tips to get the best streaming video experience for you.
- Take advantage of streaming media benefits
- High-speed internet is mandatory
- Choose VOD that satisfies your interests
- Magellan TV
- HBO Now
- Match the service to your viewing habits
Take advantage of streaming media benefits
Now that you’ve ditched cable, satellite, or antenna TV, it’s time to start taking advantage of what video-on-demand (VOD) and streaming TV offers. For one, you’ll be saving some money each month, especially if you have specific tastes. With VOD, you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t. Unlike bundled cable packages, VOD gives customers al a carte choices for their programming, making it easier and cheaper to watch only the shows you want.
Viewing portability is another advantage of streaming video. While cable and satellite services kept you watching at home, streaming services deliver your favorite shows on the go. Live stream March Madness on your smartphone. Or dial up the season finale of Downton Abbey on your laptop. Anywhere you’ve got internet, you’ve got content.
High-speed internet is mandatory
Fast internet speeds are a must for streaming video. Tons of data pass through fiber optic lines, and you need to have the bandwidth to keep up. But there are several factors to consider when choosing the best devices for streaming video to get the speed you need. Just to stream standard definition, you need somewhere from 1 to 10 megabytes per second (Mbps). For high definition (HD), kick that up to 10 to 18 Mbps. And for ultra-high 4K definition, you’ll need somewhere in the area of 18 to 25Mbps. These speeds will get you a reliable, clear video stream.
Your bandwidth size also depends on how many other devices are streaming at once. For families, multiple streams at once can lower video quality. If your teenager's upstairs play an online video games it could lower the quality of your 4K stream downstairs. And fast internet speeds are particularly important for live streaming broadcasts like sporting events. So, when in doubt, opt for the higher speed.
Choose VOD that satisfies your interests
The best part of cutting the cable cord is the larger selection of content available. But if you don’t customize your offerings to meet your interests, you're back to the old bundled package again — endless content with nothing to watch. Big name services like Netflix and Hulu satisfy demand for popular series and movies. But other VOD services cater to niche interests, like classic cinema and documentaries. Here are some VOD services you’ll find helpful in your search for the perfect streaming service.
MagellanTV is a documentary lover’s dream on-demand service. The new streaming service offers subscribers unlimited, ad-free viewing of over 2,000 titles on science, history, biography, space, technology, and more. The service has a large selection of HD, Ultra HD, and 4K content you can watch on your computer, TV, and mobile devices. MagellanTV also offers original programming like Apollo’s New Moon, a new look at enhanced NASA footage from moonwalks during the iconic lunar space program. MagellanTV has monthly, quarterly, and yearly plans, with prices decreasing with longer terms. New annual subscriptions pay just $4.99 per month, and you get a seven day free trial to check things out before committing. No contracts to sign and MagellanTV lets you cancel anytime. Available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Play and iOS.
HBO NOW is the streaming version of the iconic premium cable channel that brought you Game of Thrones. But the VOD service offers way more than dragons. It also produces many of today’s top infotainment programs like Next Week with John Oliver and Real Time with Bill Maher. HBO is also pushing out more original content to keep up with viewer demand for both comedy and drama series. And the box office titan is always good for an award-winning documentary or two. While it has traditionally catered to more mature audiences, HBO NOW also offers kids programs like Sesame Street. But unlike HBO cable viewers, HBO NOW subscribers have a small wait time for show releases — usually no more than a day. The service works on almost every type of streaming device. And at $14.99 per month, it's a great bargain.
Dish Network created Sling TV to offer cord cutters a cheaper more flexible way to enjoy traditional cable channels like Bravo and CNN. And, unlike cable, there’s no long-term contracts to sign or cable boxes to buy. Sling TV gives you some programming control with three different packages ranging from $25 to $40 per month, and local channels are free. Note: there are stream limits with each package. Pricier plans allow up to four streams at one time. Keep that in mind if you’re needing multiple device support. And if you only want a few channels, SlingTV offers an a la carte option for single networks starting at $3 each. There are also add-ons for sports junkies who want access to live football, baseball, basketball, and hockey coverage. For $10 more per month, you can add channels like ESPN or NBA TV to your standard package and enjoy live sports coverage.
Match the service to your viewing habits
Do you like to binge watch a show or follow a series once a week? It may seem like a trivial question, but in the world of streaming video content, it’s the key to choosing the right VOD service for you. Streaming services release their programming differently. For example, Netflix drops entire episodes of a series at one time. That satisfies the bingers but leaves the weekly viewers with not much to talk about with their friends. HBO NOW, however, releases its series (e.g. Big Little Lies or The Deuce) weekly. So, there’s anticipation and build up for those who want it. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you. But most people are either a binger or a waiter, and it’s a factor to consider when choosing a service.
As you head out on your new streaming video adventure, remember to put some thought into the services, channels, and devices you choose. Cutting the cord is about asserting your independence in your own media consumption. VOD services gives you the power to customize your online experience, what you learn, and how you see the world. So, while streaming video saves you time and money, it also helps form who you become, what you know, and how happy you are.
Hilary Thompson is a freelance writer, small business owner, and mother of two. She loves to write about everything from business to parenting, sleep disorders, tech, and stress. She geeks out on digital marketing trends, weekend yoga, and will likely correct your grammar if given the chance. Coffee is her friend. You can follow her on Twitter @TypewriterHil.