On Demand Content & TVs

On Demand Content

If subscription packages and over-the-air programming aren't enough, there's also a huge number of "on demand" options direct from content providers and subscription services. This category covers everything from Netflix and Hulu to apps from CBS, NBC, ESPN, Bloomberg, HGTV, and just about any other content provider you can think of.

Unfortunately, this also means that there's no unified standard for what you can expect from each app. Some offer full access to every season of a particular show, others offer access to only the most recent few episodes of some shows, some are free while others require either a direct payment or proof that you subscribe to one of the cable-like subscription streaming services, and so on.

This not only makes it occasionally difficult to find what you're looking for, but the need to jump between apps (and the fact that each app has a different interface and amount of content) can make it a hard sell for those who want a more simplified experience.

Of course, it's also possible to roll your own "on demand" service via an app like Plex. We've talked about Plex before, but the big addition since then is support for live TV including DVR. The Plex live TV setup lets you watch live TV locally, stream it to your remote and shared Plex libraries, and record your favorite shows and movies which then get sorted seamlessly into your existing Plex media library.

For NVIDIA SHIELD users, the ability to host a Plex server directly on the device means that cord cutters can achieve a relatively complex and robust setup with just a SHIELD Pro, cheap TV tuner, and maybe a small USB hard drive. Another benefit is that users can enjoy all of their existing media, live TV, and DVR content from within a single app, which makes understanding and navigating a new cord cutting setup much easier for inexperienced users.

Choosing the Right TV

There's nothing wrong with keeping your existing television as you cut the cord, especially if it's a relatively newer model purchased in the past few years. But just like cable and satellite, online content is moving rapidly to new technologies and you'll want to make sure that your TV can handle them if you want the absolutely best experience.

If you decide to base your cord-cutting experience around a media device that supports 4K and HDR — such as the NVIDIA SHIELD or a high-end Roku model — any TV with high definition HDMI input will work just fine. But to take full advantage of your media device's capabilities, you'll need not just a 4K television, but one that supports HDR.

It's important to note that those two technologies, although frequently marketed together, aren't always found in the same TV. Many early 4K televisions lack support for HDR, as do many current smaller TVs below 46-inches or so. There's also HDR formats to consider. The most common, HDR10, is supported on most televisions that tout "HDR support," although the competing Dolby Vision standard is growing more popular.

Another factor when it comes to television selection is built-in apps. Most "smart" TVs can run a variety of media apps including Plex, while some include full-featured media player features such as the Element Fire TV or the TCL Roku TV.

The experience of these options is almost always worse compard to a dedicated standalone media player (e.g., reduced features, slower processor, limited file format support), but they're worth considering for those with tight budgets or those who want the cleanest possible setup. If you're serious about cord cutting, you'll definitely want a dedicated media player, but these TVs with built-in apps can make a great option for a secondary viewing location.

Next in Part 2: Putting It All Together

This initial article was intended to present an overview of the hardware and content options for cutting the cord. In our next article, we'll actually setup and configure a system based around NVIDIA SHIELD, including Plex, live OTA television, subscription streaming services, and DVRs.

If you'd like to see any specific apps or services tested, or have any questions about a cord cutting setup, let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to address them.

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