In case you didn’t already have a Roku device, an Amazon Fire TV, a Chromecast, or an Apple TV, Verizon is launching a new set-top box called the Verizon Stream TV. It’s free for new subscribers to Verizon’s 5G Home Internet plan through a promotion that runs until the end of the year, costs $69.99 otherwise, and it’s possibly the worst option for streaming on the market right now.
First, and probably most importantly, it doesn’t support Netflix. I’m guessing that’s all you need to know to never want to use the Stream TV, and I would understand if you’ve now decided to click away to read any of the other wonderful articles on The Verge. (Verizon confirms it doesn’t support Netflix at the end of this FAQ.)
But if you’re still with me, here’s what else the Stream TV offers. The box runs on Android TV, supports 4K HDR, and has the Google Assistant and a Chromecast built-in, which could theoretically be a decent combination for $70 if not for, you know, missing a key streaming service. 9to5Google says it will also come with a free month of YouTube TV, if that’s any consolation, and we know it supports Disney+ because it’ll come pre-loaded.
Given that the Stream TV runs on Android TV and has a Chromecast built in, we’re not quite sure why you can’t just download the Android TV Netflix app or cast Netflix from your phone — perhaps the box doesn’t have some kind of hardware requirement for Netflix? Maybe it doesn’t support the PlayReady DRM? Or maybe Verizon is just being petty. When asked why Netflix doesn’t run on the Stream TV, Verizon replied with this meaningless statement: “We’re always evolving the features and functionality of the product. We’ll share more updates as we have them.”
There’s also a chance this actually isn’t the worst option out there for streaming. You could have been paying a $13 monthly fee for Comcast’s “free” Flex streaming box, which was initially going to cost $5 a month until Comcast decided it’d be sneakier to insist you pay monthly for a Comcast modem / router combo, and then finally changed its tune yet again last week to make the Flex free with just an Xfinity internet subscription.
There are way better options out there. Verizon’s promotion for a free Stream TV with a 5G Home Internet subscription also lets you pick from an Apple TV (unless you live in Chicago), an Amazon Fire Stick, or an Amazon Fire Cube. The Verge recommends the Roku Premiere because it’s pretty cheap at $39.99, still supports both 4K and HDR at that lower price, and can run just about any streaming app you want. And none of those are made by a telecom company.
Correction, November 13th, 2:07PM ET: The Stream TV is not free for FiOS subscribers, as we originally stated — it is free to new 5G Home Internet subscribers through a promotion, and we have updated this article to reflect that. We’ve also listed the other streaming devices available through that promotion.
Update, November 13th, 4:50PM ET: Added statement from Verizon and updated the article to reflect that Comcast no longer requires you to rent a modem / router combo to use its Flex streaming box.