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5 Easy Ways to Get Netflix & Other Video Streaming Services On Your TV

posted by on May 03, 2016 in Music & Video Services, Music and Video, Guides & Reviews :: 60 comments

Adding online streaming to your home entertainment setup won't cost you an arm and a leg, as streaming media devices can be had for as little as $35. Some have great extras, like letting your TV act as a jumbo display for your tablet, smartphone, or laptop.

Best of all, you might already own a streaming-capable device without even knowing it. Before spending a dime, check to see if you have one or more of the following gadgets.

Smart TVs: If you've bought a television from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Vizio or any number of other manufacturers in the past few years, it might be an Internet-enabled Smart TV offering access to services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus at the very least.

Blu-ray Players: Like some televisions, many Blu-ray players are now "smart," offering access to streaming services. A few video streaming apps, like Netflix, may come preloaded. Others you may have to download and install. If you already have one of these smart Blu-ray players, you may not need an additional streaming device.

Game Consoles: PlayStations 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and Wii U all offer streaming basics: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube and Hulu. Xbox offers the most—64 channels including HBO Go, Showtime Anywhere, Starz Play, CBS Sports,  MLB.TV, Nat Geo TV, Vudu, Sling TV and many others.

Smartphones, Tablets and laptops: If you have a newer smartphone and TV made by the same manufacturer, there might be a screen mirroring setting such as Samsung's AllShare or LG's Miracast on both devices. This enables you to cast whatever's on your smartphone to your TV. For laptops, just plug it into your TV with an HDMI cable. Or, if you want to go wireless, check to see if your laptop and TV support WiDi, Wireless Display.

If you can already access what you want to watch, there's no need to pay for another device. However, if you want access to more services, there are plenty of great options.

Which streaming media player suits you best?

Popular streaming media players range in price from the budget-friendly Google Chromecast to top-of-the-line Roku 4, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

These gadgets typically come in two formats: small set-top boxes about the size of a few stacked CDs, and even smaller sticks that are slightly larger than a thumb drive and plug directly into the back of your TV.

Boxes typically fall near the $100 price point and tend to have more features, which make them a good choice for power users who want everything. Stick-style streamers are budget buys that maximize simplicity and portability. Some sticks don't have remotes, instead relying on you to control them using a smartphone app.

Hardware specs aside, what makes deciding between one streaming media device and another — and makes it difficult for us to simply tell you which one is best — is that each has access to a different range of services. To decide which one is best for you, you'll want to not only look at the features on offer, but to also consider what you want to watch.

Here are the best streaming media players on the market today.

Best to access almost anything: Roku 4 or Roku Stick

Roku 4

Roku is the reigning king of streaming media, in large part because it simply offers users the widest range of streaming options that you'll find on any device. With over 2,500 channels to choose from, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Sling TV, HBO GO, Showtime Anywhere and more, Roku has the content most viewers want, setting the standard for other players to live up to.

Roku is available as both a set-top box (the Roku 4 retails for about $130) and as a stick (the Roku Streaming Stick retails for about $50). Both offer the same great streaming content and can act as mirrored screens for select Windows and Android devices.

The Roku 4 is one of the only players capable of receiving and playing 4K Ultra HD content. While there are select TV shows and movies available in 4K now, being 4K compatible makes the Roku 4 a smart future-proof option. The Roku 4 also has a remote with a headphone jack, allowing whoever has the remote to plug in and listen to their favorite shows without bothering anyone else — a great feature for multi-person households.

The Roku Streaming Stick plugs directly into your TV's HDMI jack and plays Full HD content. Through your smartphone and the Roku app you can enjoy private listening by plugging a pair of headphones (or pairing Bluetooth headphones) to your smartphone.

So your choice comes down to budget and whether you'd get $50 worth of use out of the Roku 4's 4K playback and remote with headphone jack.

Price: Roku 4 $119.99 on BestBuy.com; Roku Stick $49.99 on BestBuy.com

Best for Apple users: Apple TV

Apple TV

If you count yourself part of an Apple-using household, chances are that the Apple TV box is the right choice for you. Like most devices in Apple's product lineup, the Apple TV works harmoniously with other Apple gadgets, allowing it to easily work as a mirrored screen for iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

But the most compelling reason to pick up an Apple TV is its access iTunes movies and TV shows. Apple TV is the only streaming device that can seamlessly access iTunes content with no additional setup, so if you've invested in buying movies or television shows through iTunes, Apple TV is the best way to get that content onto the big screen. Like other streaming devices, Apple TV can also access the mainstay Amazon and Hulu channels, though it doesn't tap into Amazon.

In this most recent version of Apple TV, you'll also have access to a wide variety of apps and games. Currently, there are more than 1,000 to choose from. Multiple multiple players can play an Apple TV game with an iPhone or iPad. Players with iOS devices can also play in a co-op mode so, for instance, parents can help kids. Plus, an app bought from the Apple TV app store can be used on an iOS device; playing content on one can be transferred to another mid-play.

Price: $124.99 on BestBuy.com

Best on a budget: Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast

If you want basic streaming access, Google's Chromecast stick is simply the cheapest way to get it. In addition to apps like Netflix and Hulu, the Chromecast features the ability to mirror your Chrome web browser screen on to your television. For Google fans, this is a great gadget that will neatly interface with many smartphones, tablets, and PCs.

However, for those wanting a more traditional television interface, this isn't it: the Chromecast has no remote, favoring control through compatible streaming apps you have loaded on your smartphone, tablet, or PC.

Price: $30 on BestBuy.com

 

Best for young kids: Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV Stick

When you look at the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick from strictly a streaming media perspective, Roku still emerges as the winner. Roku has a wider range of channels, including Amazon Instant video and an interface that's arguably better. But Amazon has come a long way, adding many more channels and even adding premium channels a la carte, including Showtime, AMC and Starz.

The $99 Fire TV and $49 Fire TV Stick's Voice Remote does offer the same handy voice search that the Apple TV does, but that's still a slim reason to pick the player up in a sea of excellent options. (The basic $39 Fire TV Stick's remote has no microphone, though Amazon's mobile remote apps let you search by voice.)

However, the Fire TV shines in one place where most other streaming devices and services falter: children. Fire TV offers Amazon's excellent FreeTime Unlimited, a subscription service (for $3 to $10 a month) that offers kids unlimited access to age-appropriate content with easy parental controls. If you're a parent looking for kid-friendly entertainment options, the Fire TV is simply the best streaming device on the market.

And, if that weren't enough, the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick's Voice Remote also provides access to Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated personal assistant.  With Alexa, you can check the weather and traffic on your commute, play music and audiobooks through your TV's speakers and control your smarthome devices, among many other things. 

Price: Amazon Fire TV set-top box $84.99 on Amazon; streaming stick $39 on Amazon, streaming stick with voice remote $49.99 on Amazon

  Roku 4 Roku Stick Apple TV Google Chromecast Amazon Fire TV Amazon Fire TV Stick 
Price  $119.99 on BestBuy.com $49.99 on BestBuy.com $124.99 on BestBuy.com $30.00 on BestBuy.com $84.99 on Amazon $39.99, with voice remote: $49.99 on Amazon
Form Factor Box Stick Box Stick Box Stick
Picture Quality 4K Ultra HD Full HD Full HD Full HD 4K Ultra HD Full HD
Streaming Services & Games 2500+ 2500+ 1000+ 100+ 4500+ 4000+
Remote Control Yes, with headphone jack Yes Yes No, app adds voice search Yes Yes
Voice Search No App adds voice search and private listening Remote has Siri voice search App adds voice search  Remote has voice search Optional remote has voice search
Connection Wi-Fi, Ethernet Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, Ethernet Wi-Fi Wi-Fi, Ethernet Wi-Fi
Screencasting Android, Windows Android, Windows Apple Products Chrome Web Browser Android, Kindle Fire Tablets Android, Kindle Fire Tablets

Updated on 5/2/2016 with next generation products and pricing.

[Family watching TV image via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

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Missed the Most Important Point

From Tim Morgan on February 27, 2015 :: 4:22 pm

Great listing of streaming devices.  Utterly missed the most important point: short of reverting to a TIVO subscription, what devices will all on demand recording with fast forward, etc., for those of us without enough distractions to live through commercials?

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Iphone mirroring

From Fred on January 17, 2016 :: 3:19 am

Can I mirror my iPhone to a tv through a blueray that has screen mirroring?

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Hulu Plus and others skip and stop and start

From Toni Wright on May 27, 2016 :: 3:15 pm

I have a Vizio smart tv. I also have wireless 75/75 service. Computers, phones work fine with it. Netflix usually works well too. But HuluPlus, Amazon and other streaming channels I get on Roku or just on my smart tv alone take forever to load, stop and restart all thru the movie. I have checked with my internet provider and my speed is more than enough to support streaming anything. Any ideas? It is driving me nuts to pay for these services and cannot use them! Thanks

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Confusing

From Richard Wolf on August 31, 2015 :: 3:14 pm

I am not techi but would like to get netflix but in looking at what I would need, it looks really expensive and complicated.  I do not have wi-fi so I assume that this will cost a fortune.  I have comcast cable and a cable wired computer. 

I’m sorry but this was not written for a novice.  I guess I’ll just give up on getting netflix and the other streaming services.  Damn shame.

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NOT so difficult

From Tim Morgan on September 01, 2015 :: 6:24 pm

Any BlueRay DVD player should be able to access Netflix (and multiple other services).  You’ll probably want a couple of HDMI cables for live and recorded inputs to the TV, and you can connect the BlueRay player by Ethernet cable, so Wi-Fi is not needed.  Speed of your internet connection could matter, but Comcast probably offers options.

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Not so easy either

From Randi on December 24, 2015 :: 11:41 pm

That works great if your Ethernet connection is close to your BluRay player. Mine are on different floors in my house and I’m not about to string cable all over.

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A powerline network extender will do that for you

From Josh Kirschner on December 27, 2015 :: 8:06 pm

You can use the power lines in your house to extend your network to other floors without running wires. Check out the
TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter Kit we recommended in our story on boosting your network/Wi-Fi range: http://www.techlicious.com/guide/boost-your-wifi-with-a-range-extender/

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+1 for Tim

From Josh Kirschner on September 01, 2015 :: 7:04 pm

The Roku 3 we mention above (as well as the cheaper Roku 2 for $70) has an ethernet jack, too.  And you may want to contact Comcast to see if you already have wireless available on your current cable modem (you may, and just not realize it) or if they would be able to provide an updated modem that includes wireless (may not cost you anything).

The Roku devices are easy to use, even if you’re a non-techie.

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netflix

From James Trivette on September 27, 2015 :: 6:38 am

what did you find out we live way back in the stix no cabel or wifi here barely have cell service in one window of the house but would like to get netflix is there any hope for us too!!??

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Ditto

From Greg on September 19, 2016 :: 1:30 pm

Yeah, same thing I was thinking.  My wife and I are using DVDs via Netflix, but a little tired of the mail-back-and-wait process.  We watch very little TV, mostly because it’s all CRAP with way too many commercials.  It sounds like we’d have to shell out boo-koo bucks for a new TV, player, streaming device, and then have to pay more on top of that for the services, not to mention the headache of learning all the required techie stuff.

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help

From Confused 2 on September 10, 2015 :: 9:54 am

Very rural area, no cable, have to resort to a MIFI device for internet service. the information was not clear on how to stream.

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Netfkiz

From Rudy on January 06, 2016 :: 4:46 pm

Go to netfkix on your computer hook it to your TV via VGA or HDMI cables.

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Rural answers

From Timothy Morgan on January 07, 2016 :: 6:50 pm

At least as good as cable service are Dish and DirecTV satellite connections.  Dish apparently now markets satellite internet service.  It may be the best connection for many rural areas.  Very fast download, but slow upload (using phone lines, I think).  So I would start searching options for internet service—personnally I like dish.  Once you have that, you can get to Netflix in various ways, the simplest (short of a new “smart TV”) being a DVD or BluRay player, which you should be able to find for under $100.  At that point you can decide whether to subscribe to BOTH Netflix services, because mailed disks will be another option (Redbox is cheaper, if accessible to you.)

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Control streaming media app such as Netflix on a remote PC?

From Martha Mosquera on January 12, 2016 :: 3:59 am

Are there any devices that allow a user to remotely control playback from a PC, such as with VNC Viewer etc? My kids TV is on the other side of the house, and it would be great to control playback via a remote PC or even Android phone/app? Thanks

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Yes, with Chromecast.

From Josh Kirschner on January 14, 2016 :: 9:49 am

If you use Chromecast, you can control Netflix (and other video apps, like YouTube) from anywhere in your house using your phone or PC. You “cast” Netflix using your home’s Wi-Fi network from the device to the Chromecast dongle attached to the TV via HDMI. Once connected, you can control playback, choose new titles to play, etc. from anywhere in your house. Chromecast is $35 through Google.

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Help with netflix

From LOLLY on March 02, 2016 :: 1:35 am

Can you stream Netflix on 2 tvs with a samsung blue ray dvd player. Or can you use the Roku 3 to stream on 2 tvs.

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Android app

From Chloe Sanders on September 26, 2016 :: 6:14 pm

I use an app called younity that lets you stream content stored on your computer onto your TV with a Chromecast or Airplay, and then you can use your phone to control the playback. It works better with Chromecast in my opinion. Also, your comp needs to be on and connected to Wifi but if you have a desktop computer that usually is always the case.

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remote?

From Lisa on January 13, 2016 :: 1:46 pm

So, if you go with the stick instead of the box can you just use the remote that comes with your tv to change channels?

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Which stick?

From Josh Kirschner on January 14, 2016 :: 9:51 am

All of the sticks come with a remote, except for Chromecast which you control through an app on your phone or PC.

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Only have Smart Tv

From Pam from Houston on January 21, 2016 :: 1:21 pm

Is there a way I can stream Netflix with only my tv I have a Smart Tv?

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SHould have Netflix built-in

From Josh Kirschner on January 21, 2016 :: 1:28 pm

Almost every smart TV should already have Netflix on it. Does yours not? What model TV do you have?

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Slow streaming.

From Jim Stroup on January 23, 2016 :: 10:42 am

I do not have a smart TV and am trying to stream Netflix. I have a netgear 400 cable modem and a Linksus ac1200+ smart wi-fi. I added a Roku streaming stick to the TV. Still don’t have enough to stream movies without stopping to buffer. What do I need to do?

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Here are some tips

From Josh Kirschner on January 25, 2016 :: 1:57 pm

There could be a number of reasons for why you’re having this issue, from your cable ISP plan being too slow, to interference with your Wi-Fi to your Roku being too far away from your router. Follow the tips in this article and see if we are able to help you resolve your problem (or at least identify where the issue lies): http://www.techlicious.com/tip/9-tips-for-faster-wifi-streaming/

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Samsung Cell & TV no Netflix connect

From Eliza López on January 23, 2016 :: 8:25 pm

I have Samsung smartphone & Samsung smartTV screen mirroring works however; Netflix will not open up. TV & phone have Netflix

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Can you clarify?

From Josh Kirschner on January 27, 2016 :: 12:58 pm

Are you saying that Netflix won’t open on either your phone or TV? Or is it just your TV? Are you getting a specific error message or it just nags when loading?

If it is just your TV, I would make sure that you’ve updated the TV’s firmwware through the settings. That will fix a known issue on some Samsung UHD models.

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It was a provider problem!

From Eliza López on January 27, 2016 :: 5:16 pm

It was a provider problem! The cell phone company did not adjust plan update correctly! Thank you!

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Smart tv does not support Netflix

From Pete on January 28, 2016 :: 6:00 am

I have an LG Smart TV that does not support Netflix which I found out after I purchased an LG WI-FI dongle. Is there a way I can watch Netflix on my Smart TV without using cables as my computer is in my study & is too far away to reach the tv & I can’t afford to purchase Chromecast etc just yet?

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Can you take dongle back?

From Josh Kirschner on January 29, 2016 :: 12:01 pm

Yes, LG has done a poor job at supporting older model smart TVs. My mother has one and Netflix doesn’t work on it anymore, either. Not so smart…

That said, Chromecast is only $35 and Amazon Fire Stick $39, both probably less than you paid for the LG dongle. Can’t you return the dongle? YOu won’t need it once you have CHromecast/Fire stick.

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hi & thanks for the

From Pete McMillan on January 29, 2016 :: 4:53 pm

hi & thanks for the info.
the dongle I bought is no longer available through LG so I bought it through ebay for convenience and even though it was brand new sealed in its box and does what it was made to do; no returns. I ended up running Netflix through my 9yo’s PS4 which has caused another issue of trying to kick him off to watch Netflix. I’ll buy one of the other suggestions later, thanks again.

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netflix

From conorb on February 05, 2016 :: 4:30 pm

I have a smart tv and wifi in the house.How do I get set up for netflix/ tks

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Netflix

From Tim Morgan on February 05, 2016 :: 5:24 pm

As I recall, you log in to Netflix on a computer (or phone, perhaps) and that enables you to “register” your TV for the service.

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streaming

From Michelle on March 04, 2016 :: 9:21 pm

Can I stream to my smarttv without these extra devices like i do with youtube.

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You shouldn't need any device with a smart TV

From Josh Kirschner on March 07, 2016 :: 10:31 am

Hi Michelle,

If you already have a smart TV, it will have Netflix streaming available as one of the apps. I don’t know of any smart TV manufacturer who doesn’t include Netflix.

Josh

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I want to disconnect my

From Nina Simone on March 11, 2016 :: 4:38 pm

I want to disconnect my expensive Comcast services, but am unsure if I need one of the smart tv to begin streaming.  Will these devices work with an older model tv?

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Depends on the TV and device

From Josh Kirschner on March 11, 2016 :: 5:13 pm

Most of the streaming boxes use HDMI to output the video, so your TV would need an HDMI input. The one exception is the Roku 1, which has composite (the old red and white) outputs. However, you won’t get an HD picture using composite.

If your TV has component inputs (red, yellow and green), you could get a converter to take the streaming device’s HDMI output and convert it to component, but they run $30-40, which seems like a lot to spend for that purpose. You would probably be better off just buying a new smart TV. We have a great recommendation for our favorite TV under $500: http://www.techlicious.com/blog/best-tvs-under-500-dollars/

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Dropping Comcast entirely, getting Verizon MIFI

From Daniel Mejias on March 21, 2016 :: 6:09 pm

Hi, I can’t find any concrete statement saying if the Amazon FireTV will work with a Verizon 12 gb MIFI home internet setup. Please advise. Thank you!

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I don't see why it wouldn't work

From Josh Kirschner on March 21, 2016 :: 6:18 pm

Your Fire TV should have no issues connecting to the MiFi hotspot. The one issue you may encounter is with whether you have enough bandwidth to stream HD content without a lot of buffering time or being forced to stream in SD. I would definitely go with an LTE Jetpack if LTE is available in your area.

Also keep in mind that you will burn through 12GB VERY quickly if you’re streaming video. You can expect to use up to 3GB of data per hour streaming HD video.

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Thank you!

From Daniel Nejias on March 21, 2016 :: 6:46 pm

Your answer is exactly what I was looking for!

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phone to tv

From lora wolch on April 21, 2016 :: 4:40 am

I watch netflex on my phone which has wifi i have amazon fire stick how do i hook phone to tv so i can use wifi is there anyway that will work

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You could create a hotspot

From Josh Kirschner on April 21, 2016 :: 11:55 pm

You could set up your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot and then connect to that hotspot from the Amazon Fire Stick in your TV. Though keep in mind that you will use a lot of data streaming video, so that will impact your phone’s data plan.

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We used to have this

From Michele on May 05, 2016 :: 12:49 pm

We used to have this Zenith console tv from the early 90’s (Thanks Dad!) and it was a dinosaur. I hated this tv. I was able to hook up an old desktop pc with wifi and we streamed netflix when it first came out. We also watched other things online. It was pretty neat at the time since smart tv’s weren’t really around. Now we have a smart tv with a built-in roku and also a standalone roku for another tv in the house. I cannot say enough about how much we love and use the Roku. Hand down I think it is the best option. Some smart tv’s have built-in casting that you can use your smart phone to enable.

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VPN Working

From Tomsonn on May 14, 2016 :: 6:05 am

I am a movie lover and Netflix is the best source of movies for me. I have tried many VPNs and most of them worked only with PC. A very few worked with TV. Currently I am using “Hide-My-IP” VPN to access Netflix. It is working perfectly.

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Hide my VPN

From Melissa Hoffpauir on May 27, 2016 :: 2:17 pm

After having issues with Comcast not providing the services that I was told I would receive I no longer have cable or internet in my home and I’m trying to figure out how to use either my windows phone that’s running on metropcs service or what service I could get to be able to use with a roku box. Is there anyway someone could explain what the, hide my ip address and VPN do to be able to get Netflix?

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New to this...need help

From Melissa on June 12, 2016 :: 3:59 pm

I am interested in getting netflix on my tv. This is probably a dumb question but how do I know if I have a smart tv? And,do I have to have a amazon fire tv to use the amazon fire streaming stick? I have a LG TV, that was manufactured in Dec 2013. Thanks for any suggestions.

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LG's 2013 Smart TVs have

From Suzanne Kantra on June 12, 2016 :: 11:36 pm

LG’s 2013 Smart TVs have a button that’s labeled “smart” or “netcast” on the remote. Press the button and you’ll be taken to a setup screen.

And for Amazon Fire TV for getting Netflix, you’ll need either a Fire TV OR a Fire TV Stick—not both.

Hope this helps.

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Feeln

From Debbie on July 03, 2016 :: 4:53 pm

I’d like to sign up to stream from Feeln I do have a vizio smart tv about 5 years old now.  I do have Netflix on it but want to know what I need to get other streams as I do want Feeln they have more Christian type movies on than any other.  Can’t figure out how to get it as I looked at all the apps it shows and there is none for Feeln.

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Any of the devices above will get you Feeln

From Josh Kirschner on July 05, 2016 :: 1:32 pm

Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Apple TV all have Feeln available. Though a membership to Feeln is required to access the content.

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bluray and net flix

From Virginia McCarthy on July 07, 2016 :: 1:24 am

How would I go about watching movies and shows on my tv from net flix using a blu ray player?

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Many Blu-ray players are smart

From Josh Kirschner on July 07, 2016 :: 2:34 am

Many Blu-ray players have built in apps. If your does, I’m sure Netflix is one of the options. If not, you can buy a new Blu-ray player or get one of the streaming devices we mention above.

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Please let me know any media device work without wifi

From Harry on July 24, 2016 :: 7:05 am

Please let me know any device I have wifi connection but wants to play video without wifi

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