How to stream video to your TV and other devices

A breakdown of the many hardware and software options for streaming videos via online services and local network solutions.

Combine a high-speed local network and broadband connection with the right software/apps and you can discover a wealth of ways to stream video around your home.

There are several hardware options that help streamline the process of video streaming to your TV or other screens.

Online streaming services support a number of devices, and there’s also the option of using media server software to locally stream your own digital video collection.

Let’s start with the hardware streaming peripherals available in Australia. 

Apple TV

This is primarily targeted at homes that are part of the iOS ecosystem (iPhones, iPads, etc.).

Apple TV comes with a physical remote control, and with support for wi-fi or Ethernet connections.

Like compatible iOS devices, Apple TV offers Siri integration, which means you can use your voice control or manual remote input.

Apple’s streaming device supports major streaming apps including Netflix, Stan and YouTube, as well as local catch-up TV channels ABC iView, Tenplay, 9Now, SBS on Demand, and Plus7.

The fourth-gen Apple TV supports the Optus Sport app, or it can be streamed to older versions of Apple TV via AirPlay.

AirPlay support also means you can stream video from compatible devices on your local network.

Apple TV allows direct access to iTunes for streaming purchased TV shows and movies.

Chromecast / Chromecast Ultra

Image courtesy: Google

Google offers two video streaming devices, both of which require a compatible Android/iOS smartphone or tablet to navigate.

The second-generation Chromecast supports major streaming apps such as Netflix, Stan and YouTube, as well as local catch-up apps ABC iView, Tenplay, 9Now, SBS on Demand, and Plus7.

Installing the Google Home (previously Google Cast) app on a compatible smartphone or tablet lets you ‘push’ video content to your TV, as well as a range of streaming apps.

Chromecast connects via wi-fi only at a maximum resolution of 1080p.

Chromecast Ultra offers all of the above as well as 4K streaming, with a choice of wi-fi or Ethernet connection.

Both these Chromecast devices have direct access to Google Play for streaming purchased TV shows and movies.

Telstra TV

Telstra TV offers all the mainstream and local catch-up options listed above, but also supports Foxtel Play.

It has a range of other supported apps, such as those that allow streaming via your local network.

You can search for content across compatible apps on Telstra TV, instead of having to search each service individually.

Telstra TV also has a direct link to BigPond Movies for streaming purchased TV shows and movies.

Fetch TV Mini / Fetch TV Mighty

Fetch TV Mini acts as a digital TV set top box, which means you can connect an aerial to it for free-to-air TV channels.

Like the options above, Fetch TV Mini supports the listed mainstream streaming services and local catch-up services.

It doesn’t support the installation of other apps, though.

Fetch TV Mini can also be used to pause and resume live TV.

If you want to record TV and set recording or season pass schedules, you’ll need to look at the Fetch TV Mighty.

This upgraded device has all the functionality of the Mini plus an inbuilt quad tuner PVR with a 1-terabyte (1TB) internal hard drive for storing up to 585 hours of standard-definition content.

Both Fetch TV devices are also compatible with Optus Sport. 

Gaming consoles

New-gen consoles and some last-generation consoles allow for local network streaming (via NAS or media server) and have support for specific online streaming services.

The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One offer mainstreaming streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube, as well as support for streaming local catch-up channels.

Stan and Foxtel Play are available on the above consoles except for the Xbox 360.

The Wii U only supports Netflix and YouTube in terms of online streaming services.

The Xbox and PlayStation consoles support a variety of exclusive streaming services.

For instance, PlayStation has streaming services such as Animelab and Dailymotion, while Xbox has Machinima and TED.

Smart entertainment devices

Compatible connected entertainment devices such as TVs, set top boxes and home theatre systems may support local streaming.

This is achieved by way of Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) technology, which allows video streaming to DLNA-compliant devices on a local network.

These connected entertainment devices may also include app stores that allow you to download streaming services such as Netflix, Stan, YouTube, and local catch-up services.

Refer to the manual of these devices to confirm DLNA and/or app support.

Manually connected devices

Though not technically streaming, it’s possible to connect computers to TVs via HDMI-to-HDMI or DisplayPort-to-HDMI (with audio pass-through support) for video playback.

This will share video and audio playback on a connected computer with the TV, making the TV act as a second screen for your PC or laptop, allowing you to watch videos stored locally on the computer or by streaming online services via a browser/app.

Computers can also be configured to act as a media server – devices that are used exclusively for storing and playing digital media. 

Network-attached storage

Network-attached storage (NAS) drives are external hard drives that connect to your local network via Ethernet.

Certain models are powerful enough to transcode (stream media on demand) video stored internally to DLNA-compliant devices such as compatible smart TVs.

The more powerful the internal hardware of a NAS, the higher the fidelity it is capable of transcoding, which can go as high as 4K. 

Streaming services

There are a number of streaming services available in Australia for streaming to TVs or compatible devices.

Netflix and Stan are direct competitors, with their own exclusive TV shows and movies to offer.

YouTube also dabbles in original exclusive content, but you’ll need a YouTube Red subscription to access that.

Amazon Prime Video is available in Australia now, but streaming is currently restricted to web browsers, as well as compatible iOS and Android devices.

Other Australian video streaming services include Quickflix, Mubi, Dendy Direct, and HayU.

Apple TV, Chromecast, and Telstra TV allow streaming from their respective video stores for on-demand content: iTunes, Google Play, and BigPond Movies, respectively.

Some of these streaming services allow for offline viewing with compatible devices.

Free-to-air networks ABC Television (ABC iView), the Nine Network (9Now), Network Ten (Tenplay), SBS TV (SBS on Demand), and the Seven Network (Plus7) all offer catch-up services for streaming specific exclusive TV content.

There are also premium sports streaming services for some of the major local sporting codes, though these may be limited to streaming to mobile devices and/or a web browser.

These sports apps include AFL Live Pass, Cricket Australia Live, and NRL Digital Pass

The Foxtel Go streaming app is available to Foxtel subscribers, while Foxtel Play is for people who aren’t Foxtel subscribers and only want to stream content on compatible devices.

Optus Sport is also compatible with several smartphones, tablets and web browsers.

Local streaming software

If you want to stream existing video content on your computers and/or connected hard drives, there are several software options to stream from computer to DLNA-compliant TV and/or compatible smartphones/tablets.

Two mentioned above are Apple’s AirPlay and Google Cast.

These streaming solutions let you wirelessly mirror content from one compatible device to another.

Apps like Videostream enable straightforward local streaming, as long as you have a Chromecast device.

Plex is one of several media servers that can be used for streaming local video content.

The Plex Media Server software is installed on a compatible computer, NAS, or router, where it transcodes to the Plex app on a separate device.

The Plex app is available on a number of compatible devices including Chromecast, Apple TV, certain smart TVs, as well as new and last-gen PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles.

A Plex Pass, or a one-time unlock fee, is required to stream from Plex Media Server to the Plex app on iOS or Android devices.

Kodi is an open-source (freely available, redistributable and modifiable) media server alternative, though it’s more complicated to configure.

Universal Media Server is another open-source media server for PC, Mac, and Linux computers that streams video to DLNA-capable devices such as PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, compatible smart TVs, as well as iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

There are similar alternatives such as Serviio, Emby Server, PS3 Media Server (which supports more than just PlayStation 3 streaming), and Subsonic.

As you can see, there’s a wealth of online and offline (local) streaming services available in Australia to meet your home’s movie, TV, family video (if hosted on your PC or laptop) and sporting needs.

If you'd like to keep the shows rolling, you also can check out how much data your video, movie and TV streaming services use here.