How do you access streaming channels on your TV in July 2020?

The Roku home menu (not pictured: Shudder, YouTube, Locast, AppleTV+ other free channels)

Something I used to do from time to time on my tech blog: ask people how they use their home screens on their desktop and laptop computers.

It was illuminating learning what other apps were being used and how they were organized. Sometimes I’d learn about useful apps and programs I didn’t even realize existed.

In the streaming channels world we live in today, July 2020, especially under the You Know What times, maybe your setup is better than ours? Always curious to look at how others are watching streaming channels, how much they are using a particular service, app, interface, etc. It could be personal preference, it could also provide unseen or little known benefits to others. Sharing, in this regard, is helpful and good.

Here’s how our setup at home currently works. I’m not saying it’s the best for others or even us, but it’s what we’re doing in July 2020.

We currently have three ways to access streaming channels through the TV: Roku (both attached device Roku 3 and a Roku-powered TV), Xfinity Flex and Chromecast.

Obviously on the phone, tablet and computer there are additional ways to watch (see: Where Do You MOST Watch Movies? (Theater, TV, Computer, Tablet, Phone)), but primarily we turn on the TV, tune into the correct HDMI port (Roku, Chromecast or Xfinity Flex) and off to the streaming service of choice.

We also have game systems hooked up to the TV: Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The Playstation and Xbox both have ways to watch streaming channels, but we don’t use those devices as portals very often or not at all.

The majority of streaming we do is through the Roku 3 box attached to the TV. I’d put the number at 80%. The other 20% would be mostly Chromecast for HBO Max and a small amount for Flex and Peacock. Less than 5% would be Peacock. If HBO Max was on ROKU, we’d probably be 90-95%+ Roku for watching streaming on TV.

A year from now? Who knows. Maybe some killer new way to watch streaming channels will be available that overtakes Roku in convenience and usability. Right now? They are king of the hill in our home.

You can see the dozens of channels we have in the Roku menu below but the top 10 are really our primary interest and focus. Also, HBO Now is used to more conveniently watch some of the HBO content that is available at both HBO Now and HBO Max. Our only total access option for HBO Max is through Chromecast or directly on the phone or computer (see: Tired of Waiting For Roku, 7+ Year Customer Buys Chromecast Ultra to Stream HBO Max to TV).

We have paid subscriptions as of this writing to: Netflix (monthly), Amazon Prime Video (annual), Disney+ (annual), DC Universe (monthly), HBO Max (monthly), hulu (monthly, just restarted a couple days ago), CBS All Access (monthly), Shudder (monthly, but canceled and access ends soon). We used a free trial (my son, actually) for AppletTV+ to watch Greyhound, but that week ends soon and we’re not renewing. Quibi we did the free 90 day trial but didn’t renew.

I think that covers the major streaming services. We don’t have TV, not Sling TV, Hulu TV, YouTubeTV, etc. None of them. The only live TV programming we can access are local channels through locast (a Roku channel) and if any of the premium channels provide live TV channels (some do, like CBS All Access). We do watch some live horse racing through TVG (Roku channel), have an account, but don’t pay for a subscription.

Really the only live TV I miss are occasional news programs, some special live programming and some sporting events. I used to love the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirectTV when we could access that, but that’s been many years ago. I probably will be more interested in live TV when the presidential race begins in the fall. Might consider adding on TV coverage for a couple months during this time if we can’t get through locast.

We rotate around paid subscriptions, including to premium add-on channels like Starz, Showtime and Cinemax, but are subscribed to none of these at the moment. HBO used to be in that mix, but right now we’re with HBO Max and have quite a bit we want to watch there, so we’ll be keeping that awhile. Since we are Xfinity internet customers, we have a free Flex box and get the $4.99/month Peacock streaming service available at no additional monthly charge.

  • Roku 3 attached to HDMI
    • Netflix
    • Amazon Prime Video
    • Vudu
    • Disney+
    • DC Universe
    • HBO Now (for portion of HBO content)
    • hulu
    • CBS All Access
    • Roku Channel
    • Google Play Movies & TV
    • Shudder
    • YouTube
    • locast
    • TVG
    • AppleTV+
    • tubi
    • pluto TV
    • Xumo
    • Crackle
    • Sling
    • CW Seed
    • popcorn flix
    • Spotify
    • Classic Movies & TV
    • Comet

The order is how often we watch the various channels, with perhaps the exception of Spotify for music. Don’t really “watch” that, but when listening to music through the TV that’s used more than some of the others above it.

Xfinity Flex – Peacock

There are applications for the Xfinity Flex box to stream other channels, but currently we only use Flex to watch Peacock. We could use this as an alternative box to Roku, and I’m sure that’s what Xfinity/Comcast is hoping we’ll do, but that’s not what’s happening.

It’s just easier and force of habit to switch the input and go back to Roku. It would probably take less than 15 minutes to hook up all our accounts through Flex, and probably someday we’ll be inspired to do that, but the reality is once you have all your logins setup with one service, do you really want to take the time and input them through another service?

Chromecast Ultra

This is a fairly new service we picked up in May as a means to be able to access HBO Max. I like the service, but honestly, it still feels a bit unwieldy using this over Roku. I prefer having one menu and a remote over using my phone as a remote. Am not saying using the phone isn’t a good idea, but definitely not my wife has any interest in using the phone to cast to TV — she wants to use the remote — and I’m in the same boat.

Also, I realize there are ways to use Chromecast with third party services to have a menu and user interface on the TV. We haven’t explored any of those, but I know they exist.

In our case, it wouldn’t make much sense to have three different services with menus with most/all the same underlying streaming services.

Anyway, let’s look at how the apps on my Samsung Note 10+ phone are arranged. They aren’t 100% in the order of most watched (HBO Max is the most watched streaming app for us through Chromecast, not Netflix), but the order of the icons is what is being used as of this writing.

  • Chromecast Ultra
    • Vudu
    • Netflix
    • Amazon Prime Video
    • HBO Max
    • CBS All Access
    • DC Universe
    • Shudder (subscription expires end of July 2020)
    • Quibi (not currently subscribed)
    • Regal
    • Peacock (not being used)

Regal’s app doesn’t have any streaming, it’s used for our unlimited monthly pass, currently in hiatus since the theaters are closed. They are still saying on their website that they will reopen on July 31, but I think chances are at best a coin flip this will actually happen. If they do reopen, we plan to visit the theaters again.

Even though I have apps installed for Chromecasting, HBO Max is the only app I use. When I made a video about using Chromecast last month, someone commented that it was bad timing buying a Chromecast when there was a new version coming out soon. The point was I wanted to watch HBO Max on launch day, May 15, not in the future. NVidia Shield Pro was another device the commenter recommended.

Since buying the Chromecast Ultra, I did more investigation and found another device of interest that included a Roku-like menu option, 4K support (although reviews say it is very sluggish for the price), games, remote and cost about the same as the Chromecast Ultra. I don’t know how good or bad it is, but I like the feature set, it’s called: Xiaomi Mi Box S.

I might pick one of those up and give it a try in place of Chromecast since it seems to give me everything I’m looking for: a remote (with voice control), a Roku-like menu, Chromecast. It does have some sound limitations though (no Dolby Atmos).

I also haven’t mentioned the Amazon Fire Stick. Because HBO Max isn’t on that, it doesn’t check all of our boxes.

As for Nvidia Shield Pro? That badboy retails for $200 and seems more gaming-focused than streaming service oriented, but since it was recommended by somebody watching our video, I might research that more as well.

One Technical Solution To Fit All

Bottom line is we’d like one device that has all the features we use (remote, menu, voice search is bonus, though we don’t use that often) and most importantly all the streaming services we subscribe to. Peacock is available as an app, but haven’t set it up yet. Is the experience as good as going through the Flex box? Don’t know. HBO Max is available for Chromecast, but it’s not as friendly as clicking an icon on the TV and watching, which is what we want.

What are you using to watch streaming channels on your TV?

Your turn. I’m very curious how others are watching streaming channels on their TV.

This post will be repeated in the future because our subscriptions do change as well as the hardware used. Admittedly we’ve been using the Roku 3 pretty much since it came out and been very happy with it. What are you using? A Roku-powered TV? Chromecast? A gaming system(s)? Amazon Fire Stick? AppleTV? Cast from your computer to TV? Two cups and some string?

So many different ways to watch streaming channels on our television sets. What do you use most, why and what are your most watched streaming services?

2 thoughts on “How do you access streaming channels on your TV in July 2020?

  1. DirecTV is 99% of my viewing, and 90% of that is via recorded items on the DVR until live sports returns (NHL August 1). DTV is easy and comfortable due to experience. Streaming is via Amazon Fire Stick 4K, and 99% of that is Prime Video. I added a Disney+ subscription to get Hamilton, The Movie. I won’t add Peacock because it’s not supported by the Fire Stick, I’m not interested in a new device, and I’m void of HDMI ports even if I considered another device. I also don’t wish to have scores of subscriptions for video.

    Liked by 1 person

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