We discussed cutting the cord last year. Well, unsurprisingly, there have been a few changes since then so this week we’ll discuss alternatives to cable and paid TV.
Nowadays you might hear the term FAST. It stands for Free Ad-Supported TV. These are services you access over the Internet and stream their content to your device(s) (tablet, smartphone, Smart TV, Fire TV stick, etc). All have live TV “channels” which play shows on a schedule, not unlike regular TV. If a show starts at noon and you start watching at 12:15 you’ll usually not be able to go back to the beginning of the show. Many services also have “on demand” content which allows you to play movies or TV shows when you want. Some have news channels, generally only from one broadcast network like CBS or NBC.
If you only see news from one broadcast network, the FAST service is probably owned by that network. Some have sports channels but they don’t usually play live sporting events. They’ll likely be replays and discussions from years ago. The other channels will often play older TV shows that the service can broadcast for free like Gunsmoke or Bonanza. But, if you look, you can often find relatively recent cooking shows or do-it-yourself shows. And if the service is owned by a major network you can even find them playing shows that are only a few years old.
OK, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about a few individual services.
Pluto TV (https://pluto.tv) is CBS. You’ll find CBS news and sports there as well as older seasons of “CSI”, “COPS” and several generations of “Star Trek” TV shows. It really has a varied selection of content and if you want to watch something again or a CBS series you missed, it’s a good bet. They also have a nice selection of on demand content, and not just movies but shows like 60 Minutes.
Tubi TV (https://tubitv.com) is owned by Fox so you’ll get a nice selection of Fox sports, as well as news not only from Fox but also from ABC and NBC. TV shows and movies tend to either be very old or items that are owned by Fox and its affiliates like Paramount. They have iOS and Android apps as well as being on Roku and Amazon Fire.
Xumo Play (https://play.xumo.com/) is owned jointly by Charter Communications and Comcast and has content from their parent companies as well as some original movies. They have iOS and Android apps.
Sling Freestream (https://www.sling.com/freestream) is owned by Dish network. It has news channels from CBS and ABC, movies from AMC and IFC (the Independent Film Channel), select sports channels as well as game shows. And it has a kids channel. Not to mention a selection of on demand shows and movies.
Amazon bought IMdb TV and rebranded it Freevee (https://freevee.com). All the shows have ads and it’s all on demand — TV and movies. They’ve got some original content (I particularly like the series “Bosch”) and it has the Jack Ryan series as well as Reacher (yeah, I like cops and spies).
Even Samsung has a FAST service called Samsung TV Plus (https://www.samsungtvplus.com/en) with live news from CBS, Fox, CNN and Bloomberg, live movies, comedy, sports and a kids channel. And it has on demand content, too — both movies and TV shows.
I’ve listed just a few of the many FAST services available. You can just go with FAST TV or combine it with a digital TV antenna and pick up your local broadcast channels. See AntennaWeb (https://www.antennaweb.org/) for information on the various types of antennas and what you can expect to receive at your location.
And, yes, there are Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) available so you can record your local shows, but I won’t go into that this week… maybe in a future column. If you’d like to see it, drop me a note.
That’s all for this week’s column. I hope this brings you current on some free TV options.
As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.
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Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.