Streaming 101

Through the cacophony of silverware, loud laughter, and good conversation at a senior center fundraiser luncheon, a lively discussion about Roku can be heard from the group sitting next to my wife. Call that motivation for today’s article!

In the good ol’ days, network TV programming from ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and others were received over-the-air (aka “OTA”) with a roof-top antenna or rabbit ears. But did you know that even after the analog-to-digital transmission transition mandated by the Federal Communications Commission, you could have continued to receive OTA programming?

Digital transmission also brought the benefit of enjoying TV programming for free in high definition (720P) or Full HD (1080P). This is how yours truly and family view Browns games. Yes, we are fans no matter how they are doing, although those fumbles and sacks surely are hard to watch in high definition! Another benefit of that transition almost 10 years ago was that ABC network programming, for example, started to transmit sub-channels (5.1, 5.2, etc.) with other niche programming; most stations now have sub-channels.

When I say “free” I am comparing OTA to the other reception option of monthly cable TV subscription where TV programming is transmitted through the cable or satellite dish. Depending on the package you subscribe to, you can get many more channels – even channels you’ll never watch – in exchange for your hard earned dollar.

With internet proliferation, much of the service origination and delivery continue to shift into the cloud. It was no surprise, then, that the internet has become a viable option for TV program transmission and enjoyment of additional content like YouTube videos by consumers who “stream.”

Just like the words “internet” and “the cloud” are synonymous, “transmission” and “streaming” also mean the same thing. But what’s needed to stream other than an internet connection?

Smart TVs that have the “smarts” – meaning having a computer-like circuitry to receive the streamed content through the cloud – are needed. However, a picture-perfect TV that predates the smart TV marketing push doesn’t necessarily have to be replaced. As long as it has an industry standard HDMI input jack, streaming devices like Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and several others can make TVs smarter at a fraction of the cost of a new smart TV.

Although everyone’s preferences/needs are different, what works for my family’s entertainment value (while saving money) consists of: an internet connection, dumb TV with an available HDMI input jack where our streaming device (Fire TV stick) plugs in, streaming TV service (Sling TV), and an OTA receiver connected to a paper-thin antenna inconspicuously mounted on our family room wall facing south towards Parma where most local channel transmission towers congregate. The same internet connection pulls double duty for how our computers and tablets connect to the internet.

In the near future I hope to review a device called “AirTV” that can receive OTA programming and stream Sling TV service on one box so users only need to familiarize with one user interface.

Tak Sato

Strategist with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder for the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, and Founder of geek with a heart with the service mark "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 9:54 AM, 02.06.2018