Q. I’m 73 years old and we just bought a Smart TV at the local TV store. They delivered it and the installer guy said I needed the cable company to watch it. I thought you only needed the Internet to watch it. We have had cable TV for 20 years and we want to get rid of it! Can you help me? I’m new to this stuff. — Beth, Dover, Delaware.
Beth, you are not alone in your confusion. I often receive e-mails from readers asking if they need a cable subscription to watch a Smart TV, which, as you know, is a television that can stream video and audio over the Internet.
The reason for the confusion is that the answer can be yes or no. Let me explain.
If the installer was referring to watching video on your Smart TV, he was wrong. You don’t need a subscription to a cable TV or satellite TV service to watch programming on a Smart TV.
You can watch video on one of the television’s apps, such as Netflix. (Most Smart TVs come with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, among other programming apps.) You can also watch some video for free on Smart TV apps such as YouTube. (If your Smart TV doesn’t have a favored app, you can connect a Smart TV device such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV to the set. Both offer thousands of different streaming apps.)
However, if the installer was talking about subscribing to a cable Internet service, he was right if that’s the only Internet service available to you at your home. (In some markets, the local cable company basically has a monopoly in providing home Internet service, particularly high-speed Internet.) You will need to connect your Smart TV to the Internet to watch all the programming that available via streaming.
Of course, you could just connect an antenna, or a Blu-ray or DVD player to the set, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re looking to do. You bought a Smart TV because you want to stream.
So, in sum, you don’t need cable TV, but you will need the Internet, which might have to come from your cable company.
Last note: If you want to watch cable TV channels on your Smart TV, you will need a cable TV subscription for most of them. Some, such as HBO, Showtime, Starz and Epix, can be purchased as apps without a cable subscription.
For more information and products that can help you get the most out of a Smart TV, check out this page from Amazon.com.
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Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann