Smartphones and tablets can add to the big screen TV experience, with "second screen" apps allowing users to search for supplementary information such as series synopsis, cast details and schedules. In addition to TV companion apps, selected channels and networks are even releasing apps that allow you to stream content right after release. And of course, subscription streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are putting pressure on classic television providers with high quality, all you can watch video streaming. Check out 15 of our favorite second screen and TV companion apps below.
The venerable TV Guide has its own mobile app that answers the age old question of "What's on tonight?" and more. As you'd expect, the TV Guide app provides detailed listings for a variety of networks and programs. Users can create personal watchlists for particular TV shows and sports teams, with users able to set up alerts for screen times as well as searches for shows and HD or standard def channels. Multiple filters let you find out what's new and premiering, shows that are trending with other TV Guide users, and items in your watchlist.
If you want to find out where to watch a specific movie, whether through TV, movie theaters, rental or streaming, try out GoWatchIt. The app searches through a wealth of sources, whether through movies on demand from TV channels, Amazon Prime or Instant Video, Google Play, Fandango tickets, Xbox Video and more. Users can build a queue of movies to watch, find platforms to watch them on and receive alerts when particular movies become available.
Beamly styles itself as a social network for TV buffs to gather, discuss their favorite shows and check out the latest showbiz buzz and gossip. Users can follow particular shows and celebrities for personalized story feeds, discover new shows based on their interests, and network and engage in live chat as new episodes are playing. If you're looking for a social second screen app to connect with fans of your favorite shows and series, give Beamly a spin.
The Internet Movie Database or IMDb is a mammoth collection of TV, movie and celebrity information, with users able to pull up casting details, trailers, plot synopsis, photos, reviews, trivia and more. In addition to the rich database, you can look up TV listings, movie showtimes and even recaps of last night's episodes as well as rate their favorite movies and TV shows. Whether you're a movie buff looking up production minutiae or a casual viewer who just needs the times for the latest episode, IMDb has got something to offer.
Series Guide (Android)
Keep track of your favorite TV series with TV Guide, an open source Android app. Series Guide allows users to track individual TV series, providing a guide to previous and upcoming episodes. Select your favorite shows and Series Guide will download show details such as episode listings, synopses for released episodes, and air times for new episodes. Show details are stored locally for offline access, and can be updated manually or automatically. Check in through Trakt.tv, view trending series, mark individual episodes as watched and set alerts on your calendar to inform you of upcoming episodes.
Get your favorite TV channels streamed straight into your device with Sling Television (Android, iOS), a subscription streaming service that skips the cable and the TV to bring the latest TV series to your touchscreen. Sling TV starts at $20 a month with a "Best of Live TV" package that bundles together channels such as ESPN, CNN and HGTV, with other packages and bundles available as addons. The app provides you with a quick at-a-glance view of what's on now, fast forward, rewind, and pause on most channels, and up to 3 days of replays.
HBO Go lets subscribers stream their favorite HBO content straight into their Android or iOS device. Enjoy the latest and greatest in movies, as well as access to the best HBO original programming, such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and True Detective, as well as bonus features and extras. Users can create a customized Watchlist of movies and series to catch up on at their convenience, which they can view on their mobile, laptop or TV with AirPlay.
DISH Network's DISH Anywhere app is a great example of some of the companion apps that networks are increasingly providing to their subscribers. The DISH Anywhere app allows you to watch every single one of your subscribed channels streamed right to your mobile device, along with a selection of on-demand videos, as well as a DVR programmer that allows you to manage your recorder from anywhere with a network or Wi-Fi signal.
If you're looking for some kid-safe viewing, try out PBS KIDS (Android, iOS), which brings the channel's acclaimed children's programming straight to your mobile device. Parents and kids can stream more than a thousand videos from more than a dozen of PBS KIDS' children's series, such as Curious George and Sesame Street. New videos are added every week, and the app comes with a variety of features such as a favorites list and educational information about what different shows aim to teach.
Amazon has also muscled into the video streaming wars with its own Amazon Instant Video, which allows users to rent or purchase a large selection of videos, as well as stream select first episodes from a variety of series. Amazon Instant Video really comes to its own with an Amazon Prime subscription, which then allows you to stream from thousands of videos on demand. iOS users can stream their videos to an Apple TV with AirPlay, and Whispersync allows you to resume viewing wherever you left off on a variety of platforms.
Vessel has found its own niche among other streaming services by providing paying subscribers early access to videos and episodes from a variety of sources, such as the Tonight Show, UFC and a variety of YouTube content creators. Users can follow shows, channels and categories, and free users can still access a wealth of (non-early access) content).
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A bastion of streaming media, Netflix delivers subscribers an incredibly rich library of media, from classic TV shows, the latest blockbusters, and even Netflix originals such as the American adaptation of House of Cards. Rather than be stuck with the tyranny of network schedules, Netflix users can stream any of the shows or movies in Netflix's library on demand. Users can search for and rate specific shows and movies, and Netflix uses your ratings to recommend other videos that you might find interesting.
Unlike other streaming services, Sony's Crackle delivers you all of its contents for free. No sign ups, no subscriptions required. Users can stream a wealth of TV shows, movies, anime and Crackle exclusives from a vast media library on demand. The main difference? Because Crackle is free, you will get video ads, which is the price to pay.
Hulu sits between the free, ad-supported Crackle and the subscription-based Netflix, with a two-tier free and paid service. Anyone can download the Hulu app for free and stream the current season episodes of a variety of TV series and kid's shows. Users can upgrade to a paid Hulu Plus service to gain access to thousands of episodes from current and past seasons.
If Japanese anime and dramas are more your thing, check out Crunchyroll (Android, iOS). Free tier users can stream a wealth of anime series and dramas straight to their devices (with Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku support) at standard definition, and subscribers gain access to some of the latest and greatest series simulcast from Japan, streamed ad-free at high definition.