Have you heard of "TV Everywhere"? Do you know what it means? In a ubiquitous sense, people often use it to describe all the different methods now at our disposal to access television programming beyond the traditional set-top box. We can stream video-on-demand from services like Hulu Plus or live TV from Sling TV and HBO Now directly to a smart TV, smartphone, tablet, or computer--cutting out the middle man entirely.
But the phrase "TV Everywhere" was originally created to describe a very specific aspect of this broader streaming-video landscape. It was an initiative by the pay-TV providers to grant subscribers access to TV content through mobile devices like PCs, tablets, and smartphones...essentially, to eliminate the need for them to turn to services like Hulu Plus and Netflix to get their TV content when they're away from home. It was a way to fend off the cord-cutter, if you will.
The TV Everywhere initiative has definitely come a long way since we first wrote about it back in 2012. Back then, these services were in their infancy and came with all types of limitations, both in terms of what content you could watch and where you could watch it. Many of the pay-TV providers only allowed you to stream content over your home broadband network, so you could watch TV anywhere in your home on a networkable device, but you couldn't watch it outside the home--which hardly lives up to the promise of TV Everywhere.
Thankfully, we've come a long way in three years. Now, many of the major cable/satellite companies have a TV Everywhere app/platform that offers access to live TV feeds, DVR content, and on-demand options, and a large number of content providers offer dedicated apps for their respective channels (think HBO GO or Watch ESPN). These days, as a cable/satellite customer, wherever you've got a broadband connection, you've got TV. Access to certain live TV channels may still be limited when you're on the road, but the total number of accessible channels is a lot bigger than it used to be (although it does vary by provider). Some providers even allow you to download content to your mobile device so that you can watch it even when there's no Internet/broadband service available.
Three years ago, we reported that only about 20 percent of pay-TV subscribers knew that their provider offered any type of remote-access streaming service. In 2014, the Cable & Telecommunications Association (CTAM) made a strong push to get the word out and educate consumers about their TV Everywhere (TVE) options, branding the initiative with a new logo (shown above) and the tagline "You Could Be Watching TV." The goal was to get awareness up to about 65 percent by January 2015; by last October, awareness was around 55 percent. Likewise, content providers like NBC Universal and Fox also launched their own promotional campaigns to let pay-TV subscribers know that many of those companies' channels are available to them in a streamed form as part of their subscription. These efforts appear to be working, as Multichannel News reported in March that TVE usage has surged 467 percent over a 24-month period.
Are you aware of the TVE options provided by your cable/satellite company? If not, here's a quick list of some of the majors. In most cases, you can access the service via any Web browser, or you can download the company's mobile app to your smartphone or tablet.
I'm a Dish Network subscriber, and the satellite company's Dish Anywhere service has become an indispensible part of my family's travel experience. Customers who use a Sling-enabled Dish DVR (we use the Hopper with Sling) can access all of their live TV channels and recorded shows, as well a lot of on-demand content. When you're staying in a hotel with a six-year-old who loves her some Nick Jr, the hotel's TV service seldom cuts it. Nick Jr is rarely offered as part of those hotel TV packages, but thanks to Dish Anywhere, the live Nick Jr feed and our many (many!) recorded episodes of Paw Patrol are always at our disposal via the laptop or smartphone.
DirecTV's service is called DirecTV Everywhere. Subscribers can access a wide variety of on-demand and DVR content, as well as many live-TV channels. Here's a list of which DirecTV channels are available everywhere and which ones are locked to your home.
U-Verse subscribers can access AT&T's U-Verse Anywhere service for live TV, DVR content, and on-demand offerings. Here is AT&T's channel lineup, with indicators that show which channels are only available for streaming in-home and which ones can be streamed anywhere.
Time Warner Cable
Time Warner Cable's TVE service is called TWC TV and provides access to on-demand content and limited live-TV options. From what I can tell, the list of live-TV channels that can be accessed away from home is much more limited than what you get through the other providers.
Channel-Specific TVE Options
The major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX) stream full episodes of recently aired TV shows and, in the case of ABC and NBC, may even stream your local live feed via Web browser or mobile app, depending on whether that service has arrived in your area. Many premium channels offer their own dedicated Web interface and mobile app, allowing you to watch live feeds and cue up shows on demand as desired. This is how HBO GO and Watch ESPN work. Via the Web interface or mobile app, you must enter your pay-TV account number/login credentials to obtain authorization to watch the content. If a certain live TV channel is not available through your cable/satellite company's own TVE platform, try accessing the channel's direct TVE app instead, as Internet streaming rights vary by channel.
Here's a nice overview of the many channel-specific TVE options, including channels like AMC, Bravo, Nickelodeon, TNT, CNN, USA, Showtime Anytime, NBA League Pass, and many more. This list was created by cable provider Cox Communications, which has yet to add outside-the-home live-TV streaming to its own TVE app (named Contour). However, Cox subscribers can use their account information via the channel-specific apps to remotely stream content.
Do you use your provider's TVE platform? If so, how well does it work? Which channel-specific TVE apps do like the most, and which ones need major work? Let us know in the Comments section below.
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• Why I Don't Pay for Cable at HomeTheaterReview.com.