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The world of TV has changed dramatically in the last few years. The big hitters like Sky and BT have come under fire from a raft of internet-TV companies, and even social media firms like Facebook and Twitter.

But just what is TV streaming? How do you do it? And what kind of equipment do you need? Below is everything you need to know to get started.

What is TV streaming?

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It's a way of watching TV where the programmes are delivered over the internet instead of being broadcast the usual way.

Who offers TV streaming?

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All sorts of companies. Netflix is the biggest, with more than 100 million subscribers all around the world. But Amazon, Apple and Sky all stream shows, as do terrestrial players like the BBC and Channel 4 through their catch-up and on-demand apps.

What equipment do I need?

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The good news is, not much. Most streaming services can be accessed through any internet-connected device like a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. You can buy a range of streaming devices to connect to your TV too, to get the programmes on the big screen. These include the Amazon Fire TV, Roku Streaming Stick+, Now TV Box, Google Chromecast and Apple TV, all of which plug into your TV's HDMI port (so you'll need a fairly modern TV).

If you have a smart TV, you can access most streaming services through the menu, with no need to buy any extra equipment. Most modern TVs are smart models.

How much does it cost?

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Subscriptions generally cost between £5 and £7 a month. This gives you unlimited access to the service's entire library of shows and films, to watch as many times as you like. You can also download some to watch offline, though they'll expire, so you never own them.

You can pay more for a more advanced service. Netflix charges £9.99 a month for its Premium service – this gives you shows and films in HD and 4K, and lets you watch on up to four screens at once.

Sky's Now TV is a little different. It lets you mix and match with different packages every month. You can subscribe to Sky Sports one month, for example, then Sky Cinema the next, and the Entertainment package the month after. Or all three, plus the kids' package one month. Or none at all the next. It lets you spend as little or as much as you like.

For more info, check out our guide to Now TV.

What's on?

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There's all sorts. Netflix and Amazon have a broad spread of (mostly American) TV shows and films, but their real selling point is original content. These are shows and films that they produce themselves (or buy exclusively), so they can't be seen anywhere else.

Netflix's best-known are 'Stranger Things', 'Orange is the New Black' and 'House of Cards'. But there's plenty more where that came from: next year, it will make 80 original films. It's also pumping billions of dollars into original content.

Amazon's selection isn't quite as impressive. It offers 'The Man in the High Castle', 'The Grand Tour' and 'Mr. Robot', among others.

Now TV, meanwhile, offers all of Sky's content, including live sport, films and US TV shows like 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', as well as original Sky shows like 'Sick Note' and 'Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year'.

What's next?

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Facebook and Twitter are eyeing up the TV streaming space with increasing interest. The former launched a Watch video service in the US recently, which includes a handful of original TV shows. Both are said to be keen to bid on the broadcast rights to the next World Cup. Looks like even more change is on the horizon...

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  • Dave Beck 9 months ago EU portability streaming law:... Netflix already provide a service if the country has a Netflix service. My UK Netflix account works for US...
  • Robert KołOdziej 9 months ago EU portability streaming law:... Netflix, for example, detects and blocks VPN. Tried it and failed just before Easter when we were abroad....
  • Vorteilspack 9 months ago Is Netflix making its own news... Oh no! Whoever told Netflix to do that did a good job sucking up money for something the world doesn't...

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