Streaming TV 101


For a long time, watching television was pretty simple: you turned it on and found the show you wanted to watch. There were certainly advancements over the years – what started with bunny ears and three channels morphed into satellite dishes, DVRs and a couple hundred channels.

But the basic functionality stayed pretty simple, and shows were on when the networks aired them.

That was until about a decade ago, when streaming came along and turned the television industry upside down. The last decade has seen a complete shift in how we consume television.

Fortunately, we have more choices than ever. Unfortunately, it can be confusing figuring out which services have which shows.

For older adults who may not be as adept with technology, it can be overwhelming, but in this blog, we’re going to go over the basics and hopefully help you become more comfortable with the technology.

Why Did So Much Of TV Move To Streaming?

In theory, it’s better for the consumer. The cable model was extremely profitable for the big companies, but at the (literal) expense of the users.

With cable, the companies bundle hundreds of channels together and charge you whether you watch them or not. A prime example is ESPN – even if you don’t know the difference between Nickelback and a quarterback, cable users get charged for that channel regardless as part of their bill. Consumers subsidize all sorts of networks they might not watch at all.

For a long time, that business model enriched the companies and propped up the industry because people had no other choice.

But once internet speeds and technology got to a point where streaming was reliable, it allowed upstart companies to provide a la carte offerings to users.

So Streaming Has Been Good, Right?

In many ways, yes. Now if you don’t want to pay for ESPN, HGTV, or any other channel you don’t watch, you’re not charged for it. Streaming services are cheaper than cable, and as mentioned, you can watch shows or movies on your schedule as you please.

Furthermore, the explosion of streaming services led to a much greater number of shows and movies to choose from as the companies spent big money to fill out their libraries.

Not only that, but streaming companies bought the rights to old shows and movies as well, giving them a second life years, or even decades, after their first run. You can find almost anything if you know where to look.

And for many people, the best part is that streaming services didn’t have commercials. So instead of a show being interrupted every 10 minutes, you could watch it in its entirety. But as we’ll discuss later, even that is changing.

OK, But Has There Been A Downside?

At first, it seemed like only the cable companies were going to see a downside as their business model started eroding.

But as streaming has exploded, it’s fragmented the industry and made it difficult to know where you might be able to find what you’re looking for.

For instance, suppose each day you like to watch The Price is Right, Jeopardy!, the local news and maybe an episode of Law & Order. Well, rather than just turning on your television at the appointed time as you did most of your life, you might need a different streaming service for each of them.

When it comes to their original programming, most streaming series have much shorter seasons, maybe 10-12 episodes each, as opposed to the 20+ in the traditional network model.

Furthermore, when a streaming company licenses an old TV show or movie, they do so for a limited time, and so titles regularly come and go from streaming services.

And of course, each streaming service has a monthly fee, and if you’re subscribing to multiple outlets to get everything you want, that total cost can start to approach, or maybe even exceed, the cost of cable. And where most services started commercial-free, many are now introducing tiered pricing with the cheapest having, you guessed it, commercials, and rate hikes just about every year.

What Are The Main Streaming Companies?

Netflix was the first company to really shake up the industry. For a much lower monthly fee than cable, users could browse their catalog of TV shows and movies and watch when they wanted to. No longer did they have to wait until 8 p.m. for their show to come on, they could fire it up whenever they pleased.

From there, the market started overflowing with other options like Hulu, Apple TV, Peacock, Paramount Plus, Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, and so on.

What Does Each Streaming Company Provide, and What Does It Cost?

Each streaming company has a vast library that would be impossible to list out here, but for purposes of a broad overview, here is what each one offers.


Netflix is the #1 streaming service in the world. It has the most original programming, and lures many big-name stars to tv shows and movies. In fact, Netflix made history in 2019 when its movie Roma became the first movie primarily distributed by a streaming service to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Netflix also buys the rights to many of the most popular syndicated TV shows and old movies, giving users a vast array of old favorites and new options.

The downside to Netflix is you don’t have access to live programming like the news or sports.

Cost as of April 2024: $6.99/month with commercials, $15.49/month without.


You can get any of these as a standalone, but often they are bundled together as they’re owned by the same company.

Hulu is affiliated with ABC, so it features network shows like Abbott Elementary, along with its own original programming like The Bear. Hulu also has live sports, and it can tie into the local news as well.

ESPN+ is the streaming home to the sports network, where it has live sports, documentaries and just about anything else a sports fan needs.

Disney+ is of course the streaming home to all of the company’s classics, as well as more modern options like Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Cost as of April 2024: Because you can buy any of the three individually, bundle them, and add live TV as an option, they have a detailed breakdown at their site.


Peacock is NBC’s streaming service, so that’s the place to find the Law and Order franchises, the Chicago PD/Fire/Med shows, and everything else you can get on regular NBC.

They also broadcast live sports that NBC has the rights to, including in 2024, the first ever NFL playoff game ever to be exclusively streamed, being unavailable on cable. Like the others, Peacock also has digital-only programming.

Cost as of April 2024: $5.99/month with commercials, $11.99/month without.

Amazon Prime Video:

You know there’s market saturation when one of the biggest streaming services is an offshoot of the world’s largest online retailer.

Amazon has developed lots of popular original shows, including Reacher and Bosch. They also have an exclusive Thursday night NFL game, and are poised to make a bigger splash in sports when the leagues have their next rounds of broadcast negotiations.

Cost as of April 2024: $14.99/month.

Apple TV+:

Like Amazon, the tech giant has branched away from its core business to lavish significant capital into building a popular streaming service.

They lure big name actors to star in glossy shows and movies, including Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon in The Morning Show, along with the recently-complete Ted Lasso, a perennial favorite for its three seasons.

Also like Amazon, it’s believed they may make a bigger play into live sports in the coming years.

Cost as of April 2024: $9.99/month.


Paramount+ is the service affiliated with CBS. It’s where you can find Survivor, the FBI franchise, and original programming like the popular show Yellowstone.

They also broadcast CBS’s NFL games and other live sports the network owns the rights to.

Cost as of April 2024: $5.99/month with commercials, $11.99/month without.


Max is the streaming home of HBO, where you can find all of their original programming, including classics like The Sopranos, The Wire, Succession, Sex and the City and more.

They also broadcast live sports like the NBA, and have a robust library of movies.

Cost as of April 2024: $9.99/month with commercials, $15.99/month without.

How Prestige Can Help

At Prestige, we can help residents set up their cable or streaming preferences when they move in. We can work in tandem with the resident and their family to determine the best options for them.

Contact the Prestige community nearest you to learn more about how we help residents celebrate life at every age.