It’s easy to watch TV online these days. Not too long ago, this was illegal, but now there are websites where the networks and/or show producers will allow you to watch almost any TV shows and movies you want, online. Here are the best ways to do it to get the greatest enjoyment out of your video streaming experience.
Why Stream Video?
I know, you’re paying for more than 600 channels of digital Cable TV or Satellite TV, so why would you want, or need to watch TV online?
Well, imagine you’re like me and you’re a huge fan of the CBS show “Criminal Minds,” and you have kids, one of whom plays soccer or some other after-school sport. Which are you going to miss: the game or the TV program?
Or maybe you’ve got a huge deadline at work and you can’t make it home in time to watch your favorite show and you can’t set your DVR over the Internet or with your phone.
You might also be a new convert for an older show and want to catch up on older episodes.
These are just three reasons why you’d want to watch those programs online.
How to Stream Video Online
This is the easy part! All you need is a computer with access to High Speed Internet and a web browser. I run the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate, so to make full use of it, I prefer to use Waterfox, but Firefox and Internet Explorer work just as well.
I’ve experienced some problems on my Windows platform with both Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari, as well as the Opera browser, so I stay from them.
Your next step is to choose a site to watch TV online from. You’ve got a few websites to choose from, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.
Netflix is probably the most popular site out there for video streaming. And, not only can you use it to watch TV online, but you can watch movies as well. Netflix is one of those sites that truly believes that bandwidth is king, so they constantly upgrade their network to allow their subscribers maximum video streaming enjoyment. There are also several easy ways you can improve your Netflix streaming experience.
The selection is excellent (three or four seasons of my favorite, “Criminal Minds,” the last time I checked), especially with available TV series. But one of the downsides is that the movies aren’t the newest ones that just left theaters. For those you’ll have to wait. And remember, Netflix is a paid subscription service. But at less than $10 a month for their streaming service, it’s well worth it.
Also, from a TV show perspective, there are dozens of older TV shows that are available, like “Cheers” and “Lost.” They even have some great TV shows that were cancelled too soon.
Most people have at least heard the name Hulu bandied about. You may have even seen the commercials with Alec Baldwin, but not really understood what he was talking about.
One Hulu option is called Hulu Plus, which is a paid subscription service like Netflix. The other option is regular Hulu, which is free.
With Hulu Plus you don’t have to put up with commercials because with the free service, there’s a commercial at the beginning that lasts about two to three minutes or so and another in the middle of that same length.
Hulu’s selection is all TV shows, not theater movies. But, it’s a great place to go to find the shows that Netflix doesn’t have, like episodes of shows from The History Channel and Discovery Channel. Did I hear “The Deadliest Catch”?
Vudu is a relatively new web service that not only lets you watch TV online, but you can also watch newer movies just as soon as they’re available on DVD or Blu-ray.
Vudu, like Netflix, is a paid subscription service, but unlike Netflix, it’s a pay-per-view service, which means you pay for each TV show or movie that you watch.
Rates vary from as low as 99 cents and up, and again, many of the movies that are available have just left the theaters, so, instead of paying up to $15 per person to go see “The Hunger Games’ in theaters, or wait a bit and pay around $5 to stream it. And, you get to save money on popcorn and drinks, as well!
There is also an option to buy the movies that Vudu has available, for those wishing to build a collection to watch when they want. However, the choice of real TV shows on Vudu is fairly limited.
Get More Enjoyment When You Watch TV Online
Ok, great, so now you know that you can watch TV online and a few sites available for doing so. But what happens when everyone in the family wants to watch?
That’s fairly easy also, especially if you have a Wii or Xbox 360 that’s connected to the home network for Internet access. Just bring up the browser built-in to these game consoles and surf on over to the websites listed above.
You can also purchase a Roku box, which works separate from any gaming console and only needs an Internet connection and a television set. Click here to read more about Roku and how it works.
But, what if you don’t have one of those gaming consoles and you’d rather not buy a Roku unit? No problem.
Do you have a laptop and a wireless network? If so, all you need is a VGA cable and a 1/8-inch stereo-to-RCA adapter cable, and you’re in business. Plug one end of the VGA cable into the blue auxiliary output port on the laptop and the other end into the VGA input on the TV, then plug the stereo adapter cable into the headphone out on the laptop and the RCA plug into the auxiliary input RCA plugs on the TV, and you’re set!
You can also use an older computer that nobody uses much. If you don’t want to run an Ethernet cable from the router to the computer, just install a Wi-Fi adaptercard and you’ll be able to stream video online using your big screen plasma or LED TV in no time at all.