The guide to TV streaming devices

Regular physical activity, socialization and a balanced diet are crucial components of senior living, but taking a few minutes to relax each day is equally important to senior health. One of the best ways to get 30 to 60 minutes of down time each day is by watching your favorite TV shows, whether you prefer gems of the past or hit series currently on air. 

It may be fun to watch sports, news and weather information live, but gone are the days of organizing your schedule around your favorite shows. In fact, viewers don't even need to pay for expensive cable or satellite services to catch new episodes and reruns. By harnessing the power of small, affordable TV streaming devices, you can use your Internet connection to watch what you want, when you want.

"7.6 million Americans stream television online."

In fact, an Experian study showed that nearly half of all US adults are already watching a downloaded or streamed video at least once per week. What's more, the same study showed that 7.6 million American households have ditched their cable and satellite subscriptions and are exclusively using the web to watch TV. If you're still watching "normal" TV – and working around the networks' schedules – here are a few things you might want to consider.

Streaming vs. downloading
TV streamers allow you to pull content piecemeal from the Web and display it on your television. Unlike a download, a stream occurs in real time and doesn't require the storage or management of complete files. In fact, by the time a later segment of a show or movie is streaming, the beginning segments may already be deleted from the device's hard drive.

In contrast, a downloaded file must be fully loaded before you can watch it. This isn't usually necessary, since so many shows can be streamed through Netflix, Hulu and other popular applications – but the option is still available with most TV streaming devices.

Your selection of shows
The series and movies you'll be able to watch may vary depending upon which streaming device you buy, but the most popular items are available on just about every platform. However, you will likely need to purchase subscriptions to one or more content streaming services. Some of these services offer wide and overlapping selections of movies and shows, while more specialized subscriptions are sometimes necessary for certain sports and news programming. Fortunately, even the combined cost of several of these services is often cheaper than a monthly cable or satellite bill.

Streaming television shows from the Internet is both easy and efficient.Streaming television shows from the Internet is both easy and efficient.

What are the costs?
While high-priced video game consoles can also function as TV streaming devices, most standalone streamers only cost around $100 – and in some cases much less! Aside from that one-time purchase, most users purchase one or two content services that each cost around $10 per month. Given the costs of satellite and cable – not to mention the DVDs and Blue Ray discs you'll no longer have to buy – a TV streamer can actually end up saving you money.

What if you want to keep your cable?
Of course, you don't have to get rid of your cable or satellite subscription if you don't want to. There are some shows the networks don't allow on content streaming services, and sports buffs are often willing to pay higher monthly prices for live access to all the big games. If you're one of these consumers, you might want to consider one of the streaming devices that can also record digital content straight from a cable outlet or satellite connection.