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Streaming TV Shows on Your Smartphone or Tablet

Whether you’re using an iPhone, iPad, or an Android-based smartphone or tablet, if you want to stream TV shows (or movies) on your mobile device, you need to have a continuous Internet connection. You’ll also need to download and install a specific app offered by a television or cable network, your cable or satellite television service provider, or a streaming service. These apps are all available, for free, from the App Store (iPhone/iPad) or the Google Play Store (Android).

Using Network-Specific Mobile Apps

All the popular television networks offer their own proprietary mobile app that enables you to stream current or recent TV show episodes and watch them, for free, on your mobile device’s screen. The number of recent episodes for specific TV series varies, and programming typically includes commercials. Episodes are often made available via the mobile app 24 hours after they air on the network, but this varies.

Some of the network-specific mobile apps also offer the capability to stream live programming directly to your mobile device’s screen. Each television network has its own app, and the features, functions, and programming selection offered by each app varies greatly.

To find network-specific apps for your mobile device, visit the app store for your device and enter the name of the network in the Search field. Tap the appropriate search result listing to view the app’s description screen. Next, tap the Get button (iPhone/iPad) or Install button (Android) to download and install the free app.

Table 4.1 lists a small sampling of apps available from the popular television networks.

Table 4.1 Popular Television/Cable Network Apps

Television Network

App Name




Watch ABC (primary app)

ABC News (news app)

Many local ABC affiliate stations across the U.S. also have their own mobile apps.



BBC News

BBC News


Bravo Now


CBS (primary app)

CBS Sports (sports app)

CBS News (news app)

CBS Local (access to local affiliate programming)

Many local CBS affiliate stations across the U.S. also have their own mobile apps.





Food Network

Watch Food Network


FOX Now (primary app)

Fox News (news app)

Fox Sports Go (sports app)

Many local Fox affiliate stations across the U.S. also have their own mobile apps.


HBO Now (for non-cable TV subscribers)

HBO Go (for paid cable TV subscribers)


HGTV Watch




NBC Watch Now (primary app)

NBC News (news app)

NBC Sports Live Extra (sports app)

NBC Sports Talk (sports app)

Many local NBC affiliate stations across the U.S. also have their own mobile apps.


PBS Video (primary app)

PBS Kids Video (kids’ programming app)


Showtime Anytime

SyFy Network

Syfy Now

The CW Network

The CW


Watch TNT

USA Network


Use a Network’s Mobile App

When you’re ready to begin streaming and watching specific shows using an app from a particular television or cable network, make sure your mobile device is connected to the Internet and then follow these steps, which are demonstrated here using the WatchABC mobile app on an Android smartphone.

  • circle-1.jpg Launch the app from the Home screen.

  • circle-2.jpg Tap the app’s main menu icon and select Shows (or a similar option) to view a listing of the network’s shows (displayed alphabetically).

  • circle-3.jpg Tap the title you want to watch, and then tap the episode you want to stream.

  • circle-4.jpg Tap the Play icon for the episode.

  • circle-5.jpg Tap the Full Screen icon to view the streaming show in full-screen mode, rather than viewing it within a small window onscreen.

  • circle-6.jpg To see the largest image possible, rotate your smartphone or tablet to landscape mode. The onscreen icons automatically disappear after a few seconds. To make them reappear, tap anywhere on the screen.

Using a Mobile App from Your Cable or Satellite Service Provider

Instead of loading individual apps onto your mobile device for all the television and cable networks you watch programming from, another option is to install the app offered by your existing cable or satellite service provider.

Many of these service providers, such as Cablevision, Comcast/Xfinity, DirecTV, Dish, and Time Warner Cable, offer their own apps that give you access to the live feed of many popular television and cable networks from your mobile device, as well as stream on-demand episodes of shows starting 24 hours after they originally air on their respective networks.

The programming you’re able to stream is the same as what you’d see on your television set as a paid cable or satellite TV subscriber, so if a particular show included commercials, you see those same commercials as you stream the program. However, if you watch programming from premium cable channels, such as HBO or Showtime, via your cable or satellite provider’s app, this programming is commercial free.

The Xfinity TV GO app (for Comcast/Xfinity cable TV subscribers), for example, allows you to stream live programming from many popular networks. Simply tap the Live icon that’s displayed near the bottom-center of the app screen, and then tap a network’s logo to begin streaming that programming.

To watch TV shows on an on-demand basis (as opposed to live), tap the TV series icon that’s displayed at the bottom of the screen, tap the thumbnail graphic for the TV series you watch to watch (they’re listed alphabetically), and then tap the listing for the episode you want to watch. Tap the Play icon to begin streaming that episode.

If you want to stream live programming, tap the Live icon at the bottom of the screen and then tap the logo for the television network you want to watch. (Not all TV networks can be streamed live to your mobile device, however.)

The apps offered by a growing number of cable or satellite TV service providers also offer the capability to download specific TV show episodes, store them within your mobile device, and then watch them at your leisure, even if an Internet connection is not available later. If this function is available, you see a Download button near the Play button for a TV episode listing.

Using a Streaming Service’s Mobile App

To recap, a streaming service such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix is a paid, online-based service that offers a vast and ever-growing library of current and past television show episodes, classic television episodes, and current and classic movies from many content providers that you can stream on a commercial-free basis to your computer, smartphone, tablet, video game system, streaming device, or Smart TV.

Many of these streaming services also produce their own original television series and movies, which are available exclusively from that service.

For the iPhone, iPad, and Android-based smartphones and tablets, each of these streaming services has its own mobile app that’s available from the App Store (iPhone/iPad) or Google Play App Store (Android). After you begin paying for the streaming service, which typically costs less than $10.00 per month, and set up your own account, you can stream unlimited programming using the app you’ve downloaded.

For more information about any of these services, and the unique collection of programming each offers, visit the following websites:

Use the Netflix App

The layout of the various streaming services’ apps vary, but how they function is pretty much the same. To give you an idea of how these apps work, the following are general directions for using the Netflix app on an iPad.

  • circle-1.jpg Make sure your mobile device is connected to the Internet, and then launch the Netflix app from the Home screen.

  • circle-2.jpg When prompted, sign in to the service using your username and password (not shown).
  • circle-3.jpg Scroll through the listings of available TV series and movies, perform a search by typing what you’re looking for into the app’s Search field, or tap the Categories option/icon to find programming based on a specific genre.
  • circle-4.jpg Based on your past viewing habits, the app may suggest specific shows or movies you might like. See the listings under the Suggestions for You heading. You can also view listings for newly added programming under the New Releases heading.

  • circle-5.jpg Tap the Season pop-up menu and then tap a specific season number (assuming multiple seasons of that series are available). You see individual listings for each episode within that season.

  • circle-6.jpg Tap the Play option associated with the episode you want to watch.

  • circle-7.jpg Use the onscreen controls to play/pause the programming. In some cases, Fast Forward and Rewind icons and a Time slider are displayed. When a Time slider is shown, drag your finger to the right along the slider to fast forward, or drag your finger to the left to rewind. Additional onscreen controls allow you to turn on/off closed captioning, adjust the volume, and switch to full-screen viewing mode. If the onscreen controls are not visible, simply tap anywhere on the screen.

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