Hockeynut! wrote: I like streaming in theory, but if you like to watch a lot of shows that are "new" it can be a pain.
Hulu/Hulu+ does remedy this, to an extent
For starters, who is your internet provider? Comcast just started encrypting QAM channels. Before they did that you could get your local channels in HD if you were an internet subscriber. Other providers like Verzion are still sending them through in the clear.
Netflix used to have every episode of SVU thru season 12 on there. Now its only 8-12. They also used to have a ton of A&E Networks programming - including lots of History Channel stuff. Its mostly gone now. But instead they have more independent documentaries with the same kind of subjects.
I don't really get Chromecast - do you really want to use your phone or computer just to watch tv? Do you want to be limited in what tv programs you can watch if you break your phone screen?
What device(s) do you have now? Smart bluray player, Xbox 360, PS3, spare older computer, unused laptop?
In general a PC has access to the largest variety of streaming solutions, but not the best quality (either in terms of A/V quality or interface navigation). Lots of networks put free episodes on their websites or on Hulu. But they also block devices like Google TV from opening their sites and watching the programming.
Roku has to have the largest assortment of streaming services you can subscribe to. They all have free trials - give them a try. I bet the overlap of services is 70% or more just from what I've seen of things that interest me.
Xbox 360 has actual apps from National Geographic and History, but you need to subscribe to a cable package iwth those channels and an affiliated cable provider to get them.
You can also do things like buy season passes of shows from places like iTunes or Amazon. So for instance if you are a die hard Always Sunny fan you can buy access to the episodes shortly after they air.
Use Crackle. Its a free webiste ran by Sony/Columbia. Not the best selection of movies but they often have the caliber of films shown on Encore. Right now they have Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Step Brothers, Rudy, Groundhog Day - all for free.
And don't forget the library! I just got season 1 of Game of Thrones on bluray for free from the library.
Perhaps a device that can play mp4/mkv files from a hard drive is something you might consider too. I like the WDTV Live for streaming AND local playback.