What is TV? When you think about it, that is a tougher question than you might imagine. TV is short for television. And a television is a box full of electronics, specifically, the screen on which content is displayed. It was quite the revelation the first time I realized that you don’t actually need the television hooked up to get TV content. I had the sound from the cable box piped through separate speakers at the time of this revelation.
So if TV is not the box with the screen, then what is it? Is it the cable box? Is it the cable? Or is it the content? These days, television definitely refers to what you watch, rather than that on which you watch it. Those things have been disintermediated to the point that many of the most avid television watchers don’t even have a television. This is how they are using modern tech and services to get the most out of TV:
Content Is King
No amount of technology is useful if you don’t have the content package you want. This is where the cord-cutting movement completely falls apart. While living life without a content subscription to a giant conglomerate is an understandable and beautiful dream, it is not even close to coming to reality anytime soon. Netflix is a giant conglomerate at this point and Hulu was a project of the major networks as a hedge against cord-cutting. When you pay for Amazon Prime and iTunes content, you are paying the conglomerates. Therefore, you might as well get the best deal available.
These DIRECTV packages are a good example of the kind of deals you can find from content providers. You can get basic packages, or extravagant packages including over 200 channels of high-def. Bottom line: Before talking about how to watch your content, you have to secure the content in the first place.
If you have a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you already have what it takes to enjoy TV anywhere you happen to be. Almost everything with a screen that is connected to the Internet is a TV anywhere device.
The key to unlocking TV anywhere is not the device, but the Internet connection. Currently, T-Mobile in the U.S. might be the best carrier for this type of service, as they offer a truly unlimited, high-speed connection. As long as you are watching on your smartphone, and are in an area well served by T-Mobile, you can watch TV all day and all night without incurring extra charges.
Regardless of carrier, you will pay extra to do the thing that you really want to do, which is to watch mobile television on a bigger screen. If you use your mobile as a hotspot to connect to other devices such as tablets or laptops, you will be paying for some type of tethering plan. Those plans are never unlimited. So there will be limits on how much mobile television you watch. Check with your provider for the various plans available to you.
Software and Services
Software and services are so intermingled that they are practically the same thing. First, there is all the software that allows you to watch TV on your mobile devices. iOS has everything, it gets new software first. Android eventually gets most everything you could want. Windows Phone and Blackberry will always have gaps in their software portfolio. For TV anywhere, stick with iOS and Android.
Beyond the software are the services, each with varying costs and restrictions. When the major companies first started offering place-shifted content, they limited the service to wifi over your home network. Even now, many services have a restricted set of channels you can watch over wifi, and an even more restricted set when you are on cellular. This varies from provider to provider.
The best way to get around this is with a SlingBox. But you have to pay extra for the software that makes it work. You can watch free content from the networks. But the experience is limited. To relax some of those limits, you might have to pay extra. CBS offers such a fee service.
The thing to remember is that all of this is still in its infancy. The conglomerates are being dragged into this brave, new world kicking and screaming. But for all that, there has never been a better time to be a TV consumer. And it only gets better from here.