TV on the Internet

After reading Ditch Cable and Satellite for Free Internet TV, Warren Kernaghan asked where on the Internet he can find television programs comparable to what's on cable.

I should have been clearer when I wrote that article (which became the lead Here's How article in the October print edition of PC World). Internet television isn't a perfect substitute for cable or satellite--just a cheaper and acceptable substitute. Among its shortcomings:

1) You won't get every program you're used to watching on cable.

2) You'll get almost nothing broadcast live. As I was forced to admit in a forum post, this will be a particular disappointment for sports fans.

3) The image quality is a major let-down.

On the other hand, Internet television has it's advantages:

1) You get a whole lot of stuff that isn't available any other way.

2) There's no need for time-shifting, since most of the stuff that's currently available will remain so indefinately.

3) It can save you money, since you can still get it after you've cancelled your cable or satellite subscription (as long as you keep paying your ISP, of course).

So where do you find television worth watching in the Internet? Here are some choice free sites:

Channels.com: Basically an RSS reader for Internet video, this site lets you subscribe to all sorts of video streams, including favorite TV shows, webisodes, and stuff you've never heard of. See Channels.com: All Your Web Videos in One Place.

Hulu: This popular site offers a lot of TV shows and some movies with "limited commercial interruptions." Hulu will typically provide only a handful or complete episodes and a lot of clips, but the full ones are often the most recent.

Youtube: I'm going to assume you already know about this vast collection of user-contributed entertainment and oddities.

Any TV Station's Web Site: Many channels and networks provide the same programs online that they broadcast.

You have more options if you're willing to pay a bit. If you're already a Netflix subscriber, you can watch unlimited videos online as well as receive discs in the mail. Both CinemaNow and Amazon Video on Demand let you stream movies (and in Amazon's case, TV shows) from the Internet on a pay-per-view fee.

There are plenty of others out there, too.

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

October 11: This article has been altered since I first posted it. I have have corrected a typo.

Subscribe to the Now Playing Newsletter

Comments