Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Which smart TV should you buy?

So you're looking to purchase a new TV. Which smart TV should you get?

A Roku TV? If so, which one? Hisense? TCL? Roku Plus Series?

A Fire TV set? If so, which one? Insignia? Toshiba?

A Google TV set? If so, which one? Hisense? TCL? Sony?

A Samsung TV?

What is the best one to get?

Here's the answer you may not expect. The platform doesn't matter. Get the one with the best picture and sound. Forget about the platform (Fire TV, Roku, Google TV, Tizen). Well, lower that to tie-breaker status. Look at all the other features instead.

Why doesn't platform matter? I mean, if you're a fan of Roku, shouldn't you get the best Roku TV? No, not necessarily. If you're a fan of Fire TV, shouldn't you get the best Fire TV set you can find? No, not necessarily.

You see, even if you get a Roku TV, you can still put a Fire TV device on it. If you get a Google TV, you can put a Roku on it. The platform of the TV really doesn't matter. What is most important is the value in price compared to picture and sound quality. And if you get a sound system, even a sound bar, then only the picture really matters.

For example, suppose you really like Roku, but you found a great Toshiba TV that has the Fire TV platform. If the Toshiba is the best TV, apart from the platform, get it, and put a Roku device on it.

Likewise, if you really like Google TV, but the best TV you found is a Samsung, get the Samsung. You can put a Chromecast on it, and you have a Google TV devices with a great picture.

The only time that the platform of the TV really matters is if you can't decide between two TVs, and one has your platform of choice, and one doesn't. Get the one that has your platform.

My Streaming Life has mainly used Google TV for the last several months. I even bought a Sony TV, running Google TV, during that time, but still put a Chromecast on it, because I didn't like the Sony remote. I bought the TV because I liked the TV and didn't care about the platform, even though it was my current platform of choice. Focus on the TV features. The streaming platform can always be added.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Best Streaming services for 2024 (according to Tom's Guide)

Recently, Tom's Guide published an article about the best streaming services in 2024. I don't agree with it all, but it is a good write-up on the services. They make good cases for each of the services they list.

So, what is this list?

Here's what Tom's Guide says:

These services are just one-half of the streaming equation, though. As the cable box slowly withers away, it's being replaced by smart TVs and the best streaming devices, which include Rokus and Chromecasts. And by testing the best streaming services and devices side-by-side, we figure out the best way to build the ultimate streaming setup with the best selection of content and live channels.

  1. Max - The best streaming service overall
  2. Hulu - The best for new TV shows
  3. Netflix - The best streaming service for variety
  4. Disney Plus - The best streaming service for families
  5. Sling TV - The best streaming service for live TV
  6. Peacock - The best cheap streaming service

I'm not sure I agree with all these selections, but they are pretty good selections. But I have some different thoughts.

Best cheap streaming service is Frndly TV, followed by Philo. Paramount Plus should be considered. I would put Peacock no higher than 4th place.

Best for live TV would be YouTube TV. It's a lot more expensive than Sling TV, and Sling TV is my go-to in the fall for college football via ESPN, because of the price. But overall? Not just sports? Probably YouTube TV.

Best for families would be either Disney Plus or Frndly TV. For children, Disney Plus, but for the whole family, I think Frndly TV is better.

I agree with Hulu for new TV shows, and Netflix for variety.

For overall, I'm not sure I agree with Max, but I don't strongly disagree. Paramount Plus is a good alternative and one I'd pick instead. Prime Video is an alternative to consider as well. It should be better organized, as it's the streaming version of the bargain bins at Walmart. Not in quality, but in arrangement. Lots of stuff, some really good, but not as easy to find.

My Streaming Life doesn't use all these services all the time, but I do use them on occasion. I like to rotate them, and doing that, then lists such as this don't carry as much weight. These services are all good, and have different benefits. By rotating them, you get to sample them all a month at a time. It works for me. And I'd suggest rotating services to see what works for you.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Easter (2024)

Luke 24:1-9

  1. Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
  2. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
  3. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
  4. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
  5. And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
  6. He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
  7. Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
  8. And they remembered his words,
  9. And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Phone network privacy

Sometimes on weekends, we take a moment to look at security or privacy (or both). It doesn't always relate to streaming, at least not directly. But with so much data collection and people using and selling your data, which can include online advertisements, including streaming, I feel it's worth doing from time to time.

Today, we're going to look at a video from Rob Braxman about phone network privacy. Or lack of privacy.


We make decisions and compromises regarding privacy and security every day. Sometimes, without knowing. It's good to know. My Streaming Life isn't fully private or secure, due to the nature of Roku, Amazon, Google, Apple, and others. But at least I'm more knowlegeable about such things than I used to be. It's good to understand just what the situation is, even if I don't always like it.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Streaming local channels (well, some of them)

I'm fortunate in that I have an antenna to watch local channels. Not everyone is in such a situation. I wasn't, for a while, and it cost me a bit to get where I could.

I bought an antenna, pole, and paid to have it put up. Then bought Tablo to make the channels available on all my TVs. Altogether, it cost a few hundred dollars. But there has to be a cheaper way, right?

Well, there is. Maybe. Kinda.

Of the vMVPD services that carry locals -- YouTube TV, Sling TV (limited markets), Hulu+Live TV, DirecTV Stream, Fubo -- the cheapest that carries them in all markets is $73 YouTube TV. But can't it be obtained cheaper?

No. But maybe.

If you only want CBS, you can subscribe to Paramount Plus for $12/month. You'll get your local CBS station live.

If you only want NBC, you can subscribe to Peacock for $12/month. You'll get your local NBC station live.

So, for $24/month you can get CBS and NBC, Plus a lot of other content. That's not bad. But what about ABC and Fox?

There is no comparable option for those channels live. If you are willing to get them on-demand -- think of it as if you always used a DVR for those channels and never watched live -- and are only concerned about prime time shows, then you have an option with Hulu, for $8/month.

That means $32/month gets you two local channels and two other prime time channels. Not exactly what you get from, say, YouTube TV, but not too bad.

Of course, if you can get locals with an antenna, do that. It's a lot cheaper in the long run, especially if you live close enough to get them with an indoor antenna. My Streaming Life enjoys local channels with an antenna. But, if that wasn't an option, Paramount Plus, Peacock TV, and Hulu would get me close enough for my purposes.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

MLB still doesn't want my money

In the 22 years since MLB TV launched (yes, it launched in 2002), Major League Baseball has continued to black out games to fans willing to pay good money to watch them.

Even if I don't start counting until I started streaming full time, it's still been over 13 years that MLB doesn't want my money.

I enjoy watching baseball games, and would love to watch the Braves play ball this year. The season starts today, but, as it's been every year since I dropped cable, I can't watch Braves games live. Major League Baseball blacks out the Braves in my town, even though we're over four hours (and nearly 250 miles) away from the stadium.

The usual explanation is that the rights are part of contracts with sports networks. And while it is true that the blackouts are part of the contracts, those contracts aren't 22 years long. They aren't 13 years long. The contracts have expired but been renewed with the restrictions still in place. MLB has kept it. It's not that they are prevented by contract, it's that they chose to have contracts like that. MLB is to blame, not the regional sports networks.

I'd like to stream baseball, but it won't happen this year. Maybe in the future, but I'm not holding my breath. My Streaming Life would be better if there was baseball, but I've done without it for all these years. Until they lift the blackouts for streamers, I'll continue to miss the games on TV. But I got radio, so I can still enjoy the games.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Most popular paid live streaming services

I'll say up front that I don't normally use a paid live TV streaming service. At least, I thought I didn't. Turns out I do.

Recently, a survey by Cord Cutters News revealed that by far, YouTube TV is the paid live TV streaming service that most respondents use, with all the others far behind.

YouTube TV, according to our survey, has more subscribers than Sling TV, Hulu, Philo, and Frndly TV combined.

Here is a breakdown of the live TV streaming services results according to our readers.

  • YouTube TV 27.4%
  • Sling TV 8.7%
  • Hulu with Live TV 7.5%
  • Philo 6.5%
  • Frndly 2.9%
  • Fubo 2.9%

Clearly, YouTube TV is connecting with cord cutters in a way that is helping it stand out. Yet many cord cutters do not subscribe to a live TV streaming service. According to our survey, 41.7% of our readers do not pay for one, which is a slight increase compared to the same period in the fall 2023. This lines up with what the Leichtman Research Group found: almost 7 million Americans canceled a satellite or cable TV service in 2023 but only 1.9 million switched to a live TV streaming service.

Of that number of new subscribers to a live TV streaming service, the majority picked YouTube TV. YouTube TV added 1.9 million subscribers in 2023. Hulu + Live TV added 100,000 and Fubo only added 173,000 subscribers. Sling TV lost subscribers in 2023.

Those services, called vMVPD (virtual multichannel video programming distributors), are essentially streaming cable platforms. I don't use them. Except, I do.

I subscribe to Frndly TV, but it's not exactly the same as YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu+Live TV, or DirecTV streaming. Those have local channels -- Sling has some local channels in some markets, while the others have all the major local channels -- while Frndly and Philo do not. But, in reality, Frndly and Philo are otherwise just like those services, except missing local channels, major news services, and major sports networks.

My Streaming Life doesn't use the big services except during college football season. I like Frndly TV because of its family friendly content. But, if  you are a fan of YouTube TV, you are not alone. Not by a long shot.