Although this post talks about watching television, it is really about saving money for retirement.
Instead, I have started watching TV shows online using my PC. It’s easy to do.
All of the major TV networks now inventory a lot of their best shows online for you to watch, in high quality video, whenever you want. Typically, each episode is available for viewing 24 hours after it is broadcast. (You can wait 24 hours can’t you, to save $40/month in cable access fees?) All you need is a broadband internet connection.
Some examples of free online TV programming:
ABC Online offers full episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, and four other series in true HD. Also available are Scrubs, The Bachelor, Grey’s Anatomy, and many others (including news programs). The online video player is full screen and high quality. Commercials are limited. If you have a laptop with a video output, you can even display the content on your full size TV if you want. I don’t need that because I have a 17″ wide screen laptop to use.
CBS TV has full length episodes of many prime shows, including Two and a Half Men, Survivor, NCIS, and CSI Miami. There are limited commercials. The video player is not as high quality as ABC but I’m sure they will improve it to remain competitive. CBS also has a “watch and chat” option where you can chat online with other viewers while you watch an episode.
NBC TV has a more limited selection of current prime time shows online, but a larger collection of older series. You can watch full episodes of the current season of Heroes, ER (one of my favorites), and The Office, for example. Again, there are limited commercials. The online player is quite good, even in full screen mode.
Fox TV On Demand has a very nice selection of current season, prime time shows, including 24, Family Guy (even baby boomers will enjoy this hilarious show). Fox on Demand has a fantastic new video player. However, it only runs in Internet Explorer and Firefox. I’d recommend FireFox for this because IE has a tendency to lock up.
Hulu TV has a huge selection of current shows and older episodes of many TV shows as well as movies, all for free. Examples of shows that baby boomers enjoy are the Colbert Report, the Jon Stewart Show, plus numerous cable shows from HGTV, Food Network, etc. Hulu TV features a lot of shows that you can also get on the other networks. You can also watch delayed broadcasts of sporting events, including college football games. The player is very good, even in full screen. For a lot of shows, you can choose a high resolution mode which works great if you have a very good high bandwidth internet connection.
Update 5/28/2009: Hulu Labs has introduced Hulu Desktop to provide the ability to use a Windows Media Center or Mac remote control to search for and access Hulu content.
Here is a SNL clip from Hulu TV (using its embedded player) to give you an idea of the quality. The full player provides a much larger picture:
I encourage all of you who (if you are like me) are searching for ways to save money on discretionary expenses to help rebuild your retirement nest egg. Using online TV as as substitute for overpriced cable is one of those ways. All you have to do is negotiate with your spouse about which pay channels you will cut. Good luck with that!
Update 1: I recently found this collection of links to dozens of sources of online television programs. Most are free but some are pay-per-view.
Update 2: I learned about two more sites that help you watch and/or organize watching of free movies and TV shows on your computer. The first is SideReel which is primarily for organizing your favorite shows and for providing links to online sources of those shows. The other site is Surf the Channel which I think does a better job of indexing and organizing free online TV programs for us to watch.
Update 3: PBS is now making many of its shows available online.
Update 4: More free onlive TV links. Sling media now has a free online TV service in beta mode. It offers shows from well-known channels like FX, CBS, NBC, FOX, and SciFi as well as a collection of movies. If you want to access over 3,000 different free online TV channels from around the world, TVChannelsFree is the place to do it. TidalTV has a very familiar channel guide, similar to TV Guide on cable channels.
Update 5: Joost is a fantastic newer entertainment site, describing itself as follows:
What’s Joost? It’s a way to watch videos – music, TV, movies and more – over the Internet. We could just call it a website … with videos … but that’s not the whole story.
We’re giving you new ways to find what you’d like to watch. You can search in “traditional” ways – by title or category – or you can find suggestions from other people on Joost. They may be your friends, or they may just be people who have something in common with you – but either way, they can direct you to great things to watch.
EzTakes concentrates on movies – including DVD content – that you can legally download for free.
Bravo TV is now offering full episodes of many of its shows for online viewing.
Image credit: Billy Alexander