Online streaming services are usually considered an alternative to pricey cable subscriptions for cord cutters. But TV networks have been trying to change that for years, and they’ve released more and more services that give you free access to on-demand video if you have a cable subscription.
If you have a cable subscription anyway, there’s a good chance you have access to many of these “TV Everywhere” services. But most people aren’t aware of them and don’t use them. We’re focusing on such services in the USA, although similar options may exist in other countries.
TV Everywhere, also sometimes called “TV Anywhere,” has been discussed since 2009, and the first of such services started rolling out in 2010. TV networks noticed more people want to watch content on-demand and on a variety of devices, from computers to tablets and smartphones to Roku-like streaming boxes. To compete with services like Netflix and Hulu, they began rolling out on-demand streaming services that were “authenticated” with your cable TV subscription. If you’re paying for the channel in your cable TV package, you get access to their on-demand service.
This may be known as “authenticated streaming,” as they’re services that allow you to stream after authenticating with a TV subscription and proving you’re already paying for the channel in question.
The most famous example of this is HBO Go, which allows you to watch HBO shows on-demand — on a computer, smartphone, tablet, game console, or other TV-streaming box. But you need to subscribe to HBO through a TV provider to log into HBO Go and watch it. (This has changed now that HBO Now offers you the option to pay $15/month for HBO without paying for a TV subscription.)
Other TV Everywhere services aren’t network-specific applications like HBO Go. Your TV provider may offer their own service, too — for example, Comcast’s Xfinity TV Go service. Not every TV provider offers their own service, and the ones that are available aren’t always worth using.
TV networks think these services can encourage people to keep subscribing to cable TV. Even if you want to watch on other devices, you’ll still be paying for that monthly TV package. That’s their goal, to the annoyance of cord cutters everywhere. But, if you’re paying for a TV subscription anyway, you get all these services as a bonus.
You sign into these services with the account you use for your TV provider’s website. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll need to sign up for one. Some services are enabling easier authentication methods. For example, if you’re accessing some of these services from a home with a Comcast Internet connection and you have Comcast Xfinity TV service, the service will notice you’re a customer and authenticate you without the login.
Such easy authentication schemes aren’t widespread yet. You’ll probably have to sign in with an account. Your TV provider’s website will walk you through getting such an account. Try to log in to a network’s service when you don’t yet have an account and you’ll probably see a link that will help you set up an account, too.
There are quite a few different services available. The exact list of available services depends on your TV provider and which networks you’re paying for. You’ll authenticate with each service using your cable TV provider’s account. Different networks support different platforms, and some apps are available on more devices than others.
To find available TV Everywhere services, consult your TV provider’s website for a comprehensive, up-to-date list. Here are a few examples:
For other TV providers, perform a web search for the name of your provider and “TV everywhere” or “TV anywhere.” Or, just head straight to one of the network websites listed on one of the larger provider’s sites and try to log in. You’ll see a list of TV providers they support.
Remember, these aren’t just websites you can use on your computer. Some of them offer smartphone apps, tablet apps, and apps for TV-connected boxes like the Roku.
If you depend on Netflix and other online services — or use an antenna to get a few broadcast channels — this sprawling ecosystem of different websites and apps for every channel probably won’t convince you to pay a monthly cable bill. But, if you’re already paying for these channels, you can get more out of them with these included streaming services.