I’m just as guilty as you are. I swore I was giving up TV for good … it’s all trash anyway… but I still had shows I wanted to watch! Unfortunately, my cable TV costs were breaking the bank. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be my bottom line. Fortunately, it turns out that there are many ways to watch TV online for much less than you’ll pay for a regular cable subscription.
Now, you may be thinking that the answer is probably something illegal. This isn’t true. From Netflix to Hulu to SideReel, there are dozens of ways to follow your favorite TV show online that won’t get you in any trouble with the law or make you feel like you’re stealing. Many of the them are completely free or cost just a few dollars a month. It’s way less than cable with the added bonus of being able to watch the shows at any time of the day instead of needing to hang out in front of your TV during prime evening hours.
One of the easiest ways to follow a TV show online is at the television network’s own website. Shows are usually available the next day and stay up for two or three weeks after their original broadcast. This lets the networks get their numbers for the actual broadcast on cable and then quickly collect popularity data based on how many people watch the show online for free on the network’s site.
The shows stream online, just like a long YouTube video. Unlike some of the other options available out there, watching on a network site will include commercials. You may also have to download a special plug-in, such as Microsoft Silverlight, to view the video. Still, it’s free, and you’ll have all the other resources for the show such as cast interviews and trailers heavily promoted alongside the main video.
Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes
After the network sites, the next path to check for watching your TV shows online is with the big video providers, namely Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes. While Hulu does have some free video viewing, like the other options there are many more shows that are available for a price. A $7.99/month subscription to Hulu gives you old and new shows, while a $79/year subscription to Amazon Prime gives you access to online versions of thousands of movies and TV shows along with free 2 day shipping on orders from Amazon itself. Netflix lets you choose subscription models that allow for instant streaming video to your TV or computer, or you can opt to have the disc of the season (usually about a season behind) sent to your house.
If you don’t want a subscription and don’t want to wait for a disc to arrive, there is also the option to just buy individual episodes of the shows you like. TV episodes in HD are available from Amazon Instant Video for $1.99 or less, with whole seasons for sale for $15 – $20. iTunes follows the same model, allowing you to buy a quick copy of your favorite show as a season or episode by episode for 99 cents and up.
SideReel and Blinkx
Another free option to watch TV without cable for the slightly more adventurous is to head out to video aggregator sites such as SideReel or Blinkx. These sites are ad supported with banners and pop up windows (ignore and block, no problem). They scour the web for uploaded copies of TV shows, often having shows available to view within a few hours of their original airdates.
While links that cost, such as iTunes or Amazon, are included, both sites also offer video links from other online TV streamers. These include MegaVideo, Videobb, and TVjunction. The sites make money by showing ads next to the video, but most of the video they show does not include commercial breaks. You just have to click through a few windows and wait for the video to load.
Obviously, it would be better if we all had the willpower to give up TV completely. However, I just can’t do it! If you can’t either, join me in cutting the cost of your indulgence. Cancel the cable and watch TV online for less!
©2011 Off the Grid News