I will be the first to admit that I LOVE television and movies. I have been an avid TV-watcher since I was a kid. To this day, I can still remember the schedule for my favorite show, a cartoon called Doraemon, when I was 6 years old and living in Japan – Friday nights at 7:00 on Channel 10. Despite being a pretty intelligent kid — I read a lot and got good grades — I loved television. Some of my favorite shows as a kid (now living in the States) were Flipper, Lassie, Saved By the Bell, Full House, Growing Pains, I Love Lucy, etc.
I haven’t changed a bit as far as this area of my personality is concerned (as a matter of fact, I have passed my love for video entertainment on to my dog), but can proudly say that I have survived since 2001 without cable. For some reason, our TV doesn’t work without paying for cable. We don’t get any local channels and antennae don’t work — don’t ask me why. But for almost 8 years, my appetite for video entertainment has been sated solely by DVDs. Luckily, I am one of those people who can watch the same movie over and over (even more than once in the same day) and still enjoy it, so we haven’t gone broke feeding my addiction.
Then last year, I learned about this marvelous site called Hulu, a network approved video hosting site for watching free TV shows and movies online, and I have to say, life has vastly improved — not that I wasn’t happy before, I’m just even happier. I was now able to watch shows that I’d only vaguely heard or read about such as House, and have discovered an array of new shows that I had never even heard of that have come on air since 2001.
Free and Legal Online Videos
Since then, I have learned a lot about where, when and how to watch TV shows online and thought I’d put together a list/guide of websites for those of you who are considering cutting off cable, because you can live without cable these days and still be able to watch all your favorite television shows and keep up with local, national and international news.
Pros of Online Video Viewing
- You can watch what you want when you want
- New episodes are usually available for about a month
- Some canceled shows make 1 or 2 seasons available for free online viewing
- You can catch up on episodes you missed from current and past seasons
- Commercial breaks are shorter than on television — most are 15 or 30 seconds
- You can pause, rewind or fast forward during play so you can visit the facilities or fetch more popcorn
- You can watch your favorite episodes again and again as long as it’s still online
- Most sites have a notification system where you can have alerts sent to your email when new episodes of your favorite shows are posted
- It’s free!
Cons of Online Video Viewing
I haven’t really come across any except that my computer screen isn’t as big as our TV. But you might be able to circumvent that by connecting your computer to your TV with a VGA or HDMI cable.
Some shows don’t release new episodes until 8 days after the original TV broadcast, but you still get one new episode a week, just one week behind the TV watchers. But as long as you have a decent internet connection, you shouldn’t have many problems.
Websites for Watching Free TV Episodes and Movies
There are a couple of different types of websites that offer free video viewing. One is the Network sites, the official homepages of the television studios or channels. These sites have official pages for each of their shows with information and interactive material such as photo galleries, games and forums for their fans. The other is the online video service sites which host video content from various networks.
The official network sites seem to offer more HD videos (see Technical Requirements below) than the online video services, which mostly offer Standard-Res or HQ (360p or 480p) videos.
Online Video Service Sites
These sites have current and new episodes as well as offer more back episodes of previous seasons and canceled shows than the network sites do.
- Hosts videos from over 100 content providers including FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Bros. and more.
- Offers free full movies, full episodes, clips from films and TV shows, news, talk shows, and more.
- Includes past episodes and seasons not available on the network sites.
- Past seasons of current, older and canceled shows include: Arrested Development, New Amsterdam, The Journeyman, The Riches, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, The O.C., One Tree Hill
- My favorite shows on Hulu: House, Bones, Crusoe, Burn Notice, Battlestar Galactica, Life, Monk, Psych, The Office, 24
- Many of the videos on this site are streamed from Hulu, but it also offers videos from CBS which aren’t available on Hulu.
- The CBS site is sometimes a little slow, so I watch CBS shows here.
- Offers quite a few shows in HD quality video.
- What I watch on TV.com: NCIS
- This site also streams a lot of videos from Hulu, but also has episodes not available on Hulu. For example, it has the pilot episode of Psych which isn’t on Hulu.
- What I watch on Fancast: Friends
- Originally a download desktop player service, Joost recently launched an online viewing service; however I find the search function could be improved.
- Content from from CBS, Showtime, HBO, TheWB.
- Still in beta, this site streams videos from Hulu as well as CBS and others.
- Still in beta, this site offers a large selection of TV channels including Animal Planet, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, The Travel Channel, and lots more.
- Selection is vast, but video quality isn’t quite as high as other sites.
Official TV Network/Channel Sites
- Home of 24, Bones, House, Fringe
- Offers HD quality video
- Home of The Office, Crusoe, Life, My Own Worst Enemy, 30 Rock, Heroes and many more
- Offers HD quality video
- Home of Burn Notice, Monk, Psych and The Starter Wife
- Home of NCIS, CSI, Numb3rs, How I Met Your Mother
- Offers HD quality video
- Home of Desperate Housewives, Lost (which I saw for the first time last night), Pushing Daisies, Grey’s Anatomy (which I’ve not yet seen but seems popular)
- Offers HD quality video
- Sci Fi
- Home of Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Sanctuary
- Includes enhanced episodes with commentary by the film makers
- Home of Damages, Nip/Tuck (which I’ve not seen)
- Show include Chuck, One Tree Hill, The O.C., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Smallville, Gilmore Girls, Firefly and many more
- I’ve watched 1st season episodes of Chuck here, which aren’t available on Hulu or other sites.
- Still in beta
- Has more commercials than the other sites
- Cycles through seasons of shows so you can watch them in order
- The CW Network
- A joint venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS with a target audience of women between age 18-34
- Shows include 90210, Privileged, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, Superatural, Smallville and more
- ABC Family
- Shows include 7th Heaven, Greek, Gilmore Girls and more
- Also has a couple of full length movies
- TV Land
- Classic TV such as The Andy Griffiths Show, The Beverly Hilbillies, etc.
- This site seems to rotate available shows and episodes and advises bookmarking the above page and checking back frequently to see what’s on.
Shows and video clips on all things educational – history, animals, environment, science and more.
- The History Channel
- A vast collection of full episodes and video clips on an array of historical subjects including American History, Military History, famous speeches
- Shows include Ancient Discoveries, Cities of the Underworld, Moster Quest and more
- National Geographic
- Videos on a variety of subjects: Animals, Environment, Science & Space, Travel & Culture, Specials and News
- My dog especially enjoyed the clip on Arctic Hares
- The Discovery Channel
- Full episodes of 2 shows and clips from scores of others on a variety of topics including animals, current events, environment, archaeology, technology and more
- Animal Planet
- Full episodes of shows including Untamed and Uncut, Pet Planet and Living with the Wolfman
- Scores of other videos on all things animal-related: wild and domestics, informational and political
- Current events, history, arts, cooking and more
- Includes shows such as Frontline, NOVA, NerdTV, WIRED Science, Julia Child and more
- Home and garden channel with shows on home decorating, improvement, buying and selling
- The Food Network
- Including shows such as 30 Minute Meals, Ace of Cakes and more
Local, National and International News, Politics, Economy, Personal Finance, Technology, and more
You need a decent internet connection (preferably DSL or Cable and faster). There are various video quality levels available and you have an option depending on your internet connection.
- Standard Resolution: 360p — 1,000Kbps or higher
- Hi-Res/High Quality (HQ): 480p — 1,500Kbps or higher
- High Definition (HD): 720p — 3,500Kbps or higher
- Internet Explorer 6.0 or above, Firefox 1.5 or above, or Safari 2.0 or above
- Adobe Flash Player 9.0 or above
- Microsoft Windows XP SP2, Microsoft Windows Vista, Macintosh OS X, or Linux