TV apps, because pay TV is for people who haven’t heard of the internet

By Louis Eksteen

TV apps, accessed via mobile devices, computers and media players for HD TV sets are taking over from pay TV for movies and TV shows. And sport. According to the latest information, cord-cutting in America has increased markedly during the first quarter of 2015. Some 31 000 previous pay TV subscribers (or cable subscribers in US parlance) cut all ties with traditional pay television service providers in favour of TV apps accessed via the internet.

These are scary numbers for subscription television companies, but great news for consumers. With TV apps, the days are over when somebody else decides what you can watch and when. The TV app revolution is happening so quickly, traditional TV companies will soon find themselves in the same boat as traditional print publishers. PVRs or not. The internet is simply so powerful that it is now starting to disintermediate previously untouchable TV business models.

Just ask Apple. It had to buy Beats just to play catch-up in streaming music. If Apple can miss an internet boat such as streaming, lumbering “broadcasters” don’t have much of a chance. Or, if they’re HBO, they learn very fast that it’s much better to join them if you can’t beat them.

But enough about industry trends. What are the hottest TV apps to get? Here are my completely subjective Top 10 TV apps that no self-respecting cord-cutter should go without. (Jump to the bottom to see my rating of the best TV app media players.)

Top 10 TV Apps

1. HBO Now

The Brink, Ballers, True Detective, all The Wire ever made — digitally remastered, Silicon Valley, Veep and Eastbound & Down. Oh, and all Game of Thrones ever made.

Enough said.

2. Apple TV native apps

Auto-available through Apple TV, Apple’s iTunes-powered movies, TV shows and music is only beaten by HBO Now because it currently still doesn’t have a low-cost subscription streaming service. But rumour has it the new Apple TV will bring with it an industry-leading streaming service, similar to what Apple Music is about. 4K, anyone?

3. Crackle

Ok, watching ads in movies is not great. At all. But Crackle streams excellent shows and movies all the time. All for free. Bargain.

4. Hulu

All Seinfeld ever made. Plus loads of movies and an increasing number of exclusive shows. (Plus old favourites such as A Touch of Frost.)

5. Netflix

Netflix is now so powerful globally that it’s increasingly calling for Hollywood content to be made available for streaming worldwide, irrespective of previous country restrictions (essentially put in place in pre-internet era distribution contracts to protect pay television providers).

Its House of Cards-type original content is world-class, but its movie archive isn’t the greatest.

6. Amazon (Instant Video and Amazon Music)

Amazon is becoming a serious player in TV apps. Its Prime offering combines shopping advantages with loads of free content on offer. It also runs music and video content seamlessly across devices. Amazon is the TV app player to watch. (Its hardware is also great. Check out Amazon Echo for what’s to come in home-tech.)

7. Sling TV

Ever wanted to watch live American TV as it broadcasts? With Sling TV, watch channels such as ESPN and see what America sees. Right now.

8. GoPro

Action and excitement never leaves your screen with the best GoPro video from around the world. It can get tiring just watching this stuff!

9. Basically the whole Roku channel list

Plasticcy and dumbed down it may be, but apart from some of the apps above, the Roku channel list is rife with choice. Indie movies, loads of news, long-forgotten series and many eclectic TV app options make an investment in the new voice-activated Roku 3 a worthwhile acquisition. It sits at number nine mainly because it can be frustrating to select top notch fare from mediocre apps, as the player is not very discerning in only allowing the best apps on its service, making Roku a totally opposite experience to Apple TV.

10. Google play

OK-ish movie service, but if you’ve got Apple TV, give it a miss.

Best media players for your TV apps

1. Apple TV (old or new)

2. Amazon Fire TV

3. Roku 3