Q. I have a Samsung Smart TV and I don’t watch TV much. I definitely don’t want to pay for cable. So, what is a Fire TV stick and does it give you access to cable TV? — Bri, Las Vegas.
Bri, for starters, a Fire TV streaming stick is a small device from Amazon that is connected to an HDMI port in your television. Once installed, you can use it to connect your television to your Internet’s WiFi network, which allows you to stream hundreds, if not thousands, of TV channels on the Net such as Netflix, HBO Now, DIRECTV Now, Sling TV and Amazon Prime Video.
The price for an Amazon Fire TV stick starts at $39.99.
Now to your second question: Can you access cable TV on the Fire TV stick?
The answer is yes and no. (But mostly no.)
Charter Cable (under the Spectrum brand name) has an app available on Fire TV tablets and set-tops that enables you to watch live channels and On Demand programming. However, user reports say it doesn’t work on the stick.
Plus, if it did work on the stick, you would need to have a subscription to Charter’s TV service (which includes a set-top) to access the programming on the Internet as well as a subscription to one of Charter’s Internet plans. I suspect that’s not exactly what you’re looking for.
Comcast and Cox have similar apps, but they, too, are not compatible with the Fire TV stick (or other Fire TV products.)
Not good news, I understand. But if I can broaden your definition of cable a bit, I might be able to help.
If you already have a cable subscription, most cable TV services (and satellite TV) will enable you to watch your subscribed channels via apps on the Fire TV stick. (This service, known as TV Everywhere, is also available on numerous other devices including Apple TV, Roku and the IPhone and iPad.) You can download an app for channels such as HBO, CNN and TBS on your stick and watch them on your TV without need of another cable set-top.
You could argue this means the Fire TV stick gives you access to cable. But, again, I suspect from your question that you are looking to watch a cable service such as Comcast or Charter without getting a cable subscription. And that you can not do.
Last note: There are live streaming services such as DIRECTV Now and Sling TV that sell cable-like programming bundles starting at $25 a month. You don’t need a subscription to a cable TV service to watch them so this might be a solution. Also, some cable channels such as HBO and Showtime sell their programming online directly to consumers. You can subscribe to them on your Fire stick without getting a full subscription to a cable TV service.
Hope that helps. Happy viewing, Bri.
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— Phillip Swann