HD Watching at Your Fingertips

It's hard to believe how far HD television has come in the last few years. Barely five years ago, even having an HD TV was something of a novelty, and there wasn't much you could use it for, besides for live sports broadcasts. Now, more than half of Americans have an HD television, just about everything is broadcast in HD, and you can even stream HD television online. With the right combination of services, just about everything is available in HD via streaming or cable.

In the modern HD environment, no single service or provider can offer you everything - not even the biggest, most expensive cable package. That's why it's important to have access to a wide variety of services, some for HD movies and television, some for live HD sports, some for older HD shows, and so on.

The best place to start is with an HD satellite television provider, like DirecTV. Satellite generally costs less than conventional cable and offers more channels and bundles, including local channels. DirecTV in particular has better HD sports offerings than any other cable television provider, especially for the NFL. New subscribers can find special deals via affiliate sites such as SaveOnTVDirect.com.

HBO Go, which comes with an HBO subscription, is the best way to get access to new movie releases in HD, along with the full slate of HBO's original programming - all of it, ever. Since this content isn't available on any other HD streaming services, HBO Go is the only way to go.

The broadest swath of HD programming comes from Netflix. It has the widest variety of programming, including relatively recent movies, classic movies, many current television shows, and some full series of classic television. Netflix doesn't have everything, though. It rarely has recent blockbusters, and it never has current seasons of television shows. Netflix is also increasingly venturing into its own original programming.

Hulu and Hulu Plus fill in many of the gaps in Netflix's programming. Most notably, Hulu offers HD streaming episodes of television shows that are currently airing, at least for most networks. So if you want to get caught up on older seasons of "Family Guy," go to Netflix. But stream the newest episodes from Hulu. Hulu Plus also offers the entire Criterion Collection - a curated selection of the greatest and most artistic films ever made, all of which stream in HD.

Amazon Prime Instant Video, which comes free with an Amazon Prime membership, also offers an increasing amount of content, including older movies, some new television shows, and international programming. Most of it is completely free. The service also offers rentals and purchases of some movies, many of which are hard to find anywhere else.

The Apple TV digital media receiver is a key part of the overall HD streaming ecosystem as well. Most importantly, it allows you to use all the other streaming services - Netflix, Hulu, etc. - right on your HD television, instead of on your computer. It also provides on-television access to YouTube, Flickr, a number of sports offerings, and everything in your iTunes library. Essentially, Apple TV is the hardware hub that connects all the HD streaming services to your television.

So to create a perfect HD streaming ecosystem, that's what you'll need. DirecTV provides live television, sports, and premium channels (including their respective streaming libraries). HBO Go or Showtime On Demand provides the newest movies. Hulu offers the newest seasons of television shows, as well as classic movies. Netflix offers the widest selection of television and movies. Amazon Prime Instant Video fills in the gaps when you're looking for something very specific. And Apple TV streams it all to your HD television. The combination of several or all of these services can give you a truly wide variety of HD content to enjoy.

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