• Streaming, Online, and Broadcast Content

    Learn how to get even more entertainment from your home theater.

    Online Movies, Music, Radio, and More

    Online is by far the richest—and most rapidly evolving—source for video and audio. Connect your home theater to the Internet, and you'll probably find anything that's available on disc or TV, in some form. Plus, there's a nearly infinite supply of content that's available only online. And right how, premium streaming services are your only source of native UHD 4K content.

    Where to Start

    First, you'll need a broadband connection from your Internet provider. It should be able to provide a consistent download speed of at least 1 to 2 megabits per second (Mbps) for normal video, 5 Mbps for high-definition video, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD. These are minimums: keep in mind that other people in your household being online, for instance, will eat into your available download speed.

    Next, you'll need one home theater component that can connect to the Internet, either through wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi®:

    • A/V receiver (or preamp/controller)
    • Blu-ray Disc™ player
    • TV
    • Game console

    If you have an existing home theater setup but no components that can connect to the Internet, you can add a dedicated streaming player (also known as a DMA, for digital media adapter). Some of the better-known examples include:

    • Amazon Fire TV
    • Apple TV®
    • Roku® box

    Some DMAs are dongles that plug directly into an HDMI port on your TV. Examples include: 

    • Fire TV Stick
    • Google Chromecast™ device
    • Roku Streaming Stick®

    Some streaming services also have dedicated dongles. Not all of the dongles support Dolby Audio™; check the specs before you buy.

    All DMAs need AC power; most include an external power supply that plugs into an AC wall outlet.

    DMA boxes generally can connect to the Internet via Ethernet directly through a broadband modem or through a router to your home network, or through Wi-Fi. DMA sticks rely on Wi-Fi.

    Connect to the Internet directly through a broadband modem or through a router to your home network.

    Streaming Online Content

    You name it; it's probably available online. Major streaming services offer movies, TV shows, homemade videos, sports, and more. You'll often see these services referred to as OTT (over the top) services, as they piggyback on your ISP bandwidth (and count as data).

    Here are a few of these services, some of which offer streaming content with Dolby Atmos or Dolby Audio:

    • Vudu®
    • Netflix®
    • YouTube™
    • Hulu Plus™
    • Facebook®
    • Pandora® Internet radio

    Some of these require subscriptions. Although most content right now is standard definition (SD) and stereo, high definition (HD) with surround sound is rapidly becoming more available. Netflix and Amazon now offer some movies in Dolby Atmos, and Netflix is beginning to offer UHD. Count on increased availability of these advanced formats.

    Getting the Best Sound from Your System

    You'll access these services through portals built into your connected component; you'll see the logo on your TV screen. Not all components provide all services, so look at the manufacturer's specification sheet before you buy.

    Also, some components are better hubs for audio. We recommend a Blu-ray Disc player and/or a stand-alone DMA. These connect directly to your audio system and are designed to use onscreen access and navigation effectively.

    With a few exceptions, the TV itself is not a good hub for multichannel audio. The sound has to be routed back to your home theater system; advanced surround formats are not currently available; and the results may be unpredictable.

    Discs, Cable, and TV Broadcasts 

    It's popular right now to declare that optical discs—DVD and Blu-ray—are passé, if not dead.

    No doubt the future lies in streaming. But discs are still very much a presence. And they have some advantages. Take a look.

    Blu-ray Disc

    • Outstanding picture quality and sound: 1080p video, lossless audio, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision capability
    • Best source for 3D movies and programs
    • Many interactive features, including streaming, over an Internet connection
    • Growing inventory of feature films

    DVD

    • Lots of titles
    • Good picture and sound quality
    • Inexpensive players

    Future Blu-ray standards will add UHD capability. A Blu-ray Disc player will also play all your DVDs and CDs. Some, called universal players, will also play Super Audio CDs (SACDs) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A) discs.

    Check out Blu-ray players and Internet-enabled Blu-ray players with music, movies, and TV series.

    Cable and Satellite

    Cable and satellite services give you the widest range of HD programming. Other widely available advantages include:

    • Set-top boxes with built-in digital video recorders (DVRs) for time shifting
    • Extensive video-on-demand (VOD) offerings, both free and pay-per-view

    HD quality varies. Services often use very aggressive compression in order to carry the maximum number of channels. This can degrade the signal and even cause pixelation.  

    Plain Old Broadcast TV

    Somewhat surprisingly, over-the-air digital TV broadcasts may offer better HD quality than cable or satellite feeds. If you were able to receive analog TV through an antenna in the past, you are able to get digital TV now.

    Advantages and considerations:

    • Service is free.
    • Programs generally use much less compression than cable or satellite broadcasts.
    • An indoor antenna may work well; you don't need a special digital antenna.
    • Viewing is limited to local broadcast stations and their coverage areas. 

    Games, Movies, Photos, and Mobile

    Games become even more involving when you play them on a home theater system. Just connect your game player to the receiver, and select it as you would any other source. And consider game consoles and game titles with Dolby sound for outstanding audio quality.

    Even if you don't play games, consider a video game console. The most advanced offer considerable additional capabilities:

    • Internet connections
    • Wi-Fi
    • Full-featured Blu-ray player
    • Internet portals to streaming services

    Home Movies

    Many newer HD video cameras will connect directly to your system through an HDMI® connection.

    Photography

    Similarly, many newer digital still cameras have HDMI outputs, so you can view your photographs on the TV screen. (Increasingly, these cameras have video capability, sometimes very advanced, as well.)

    Mobile Devices

    Many receivers include docks for popular players. New players and many smartphones and tablets can also connect via HDMI or USB. Smartphones and tablets with Dolby Audio can let you play downloaded movies and videos on your home theater in full surround sound. Some also include Dolby Atmos capability.

    Maximize Your Entertainment Investment

    Cutting the Cord

    Canceling your cable or satellite TV service may be a viable and money-saving option, depending on your viewing priorities and your location. Ideally, you'll need the following:

    • 4.5 to 5 Mbps broadband connection
    • Access to a wide variety of streaming services through your choice of equipment
    • Ability to receive over-the-air network and local TV broadcasts

    Of course, if your cable or satellite company is also your ISP, cancel only the TV service.

    Wireless or Ethernet?

    A wired connection has these advantages:

    • Faster
    • Less prone to interference from cordless phones and Bluetooth® enabled devices
    • Less need for extra hardware for your components

    But wireless connections have their own advantages:

    • Less clutter than wired connections, more visual appeal
    • Easier to install if your Internet access point is in a different room
    • Often able to connect to a wider array of devices

    If you use Wi-Fi, be sure to set up Wi-Fi security so that nearby computers can't "borrow" your bandwidth. Your Internet provider should be able to help.