As the Internet continues to become more powerful and advanced, it also changes the way we do everything else. And that includes the ways we watch TV. We no longer have to tune in at the right time to see the shows we want to see, and we don’t have to go out hunting a box set of DVDs to catch a season of our favorite shows. We can do most of this online.
Of course illegal downloading and streaming is very popular, but it deprives the many people who worked to make a TV show of the compensation they deserve for their blood, sweat and tears — plus the options available can often be low-quality and you run the risk of infecting your computer or mobile device with a virus if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Here’s a guide to the many different legal ways to watch TV online for those unfamiliar with the process who are longing to break free from scratched-DVD hell or demanding TV schedules. Yes, it will cost you a little bit of money, but there are also many benefits.
There’s a litany of options for watching content online. One of the more popular methods is using an online streaming service like Netflix, Hulu Plus, or Amazon’s Prime Instant Video. Those services charge either a monthly or yearly fee and give you access to tons of content, though there’s always the chance that a specific show you’re looking for won’t be on whatever streaming service you have. The content these services have access to is always changing as they make new deals, so you’re not stuck with the same options month after month. The aforementioned services are also great for movie-watching and have also started making original shows that you can’t find on traditional TV channels. Many of those shows, like Netflix’s House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, have gotten glowing reviews.
There are some limited options for streaming online that are both legal and free. Crackle is a website that offers movies and TV shows to stream for free, but it is ad-supported and you’ll end up seeing about as many commercials as you would watching the programming on cable. The amount of content Crackle offers is also slimmer pickings than the subscription services, as the site doesn’t have the financial muscle to make giant content purchases like the bigger sites, so it might be tougher to find your favorite show. (But it does have Seinfeld!)
The disadvantage to an online streaming service is you’re at the mercy of the content the company has available to offer; you can’t just pick any TV show under the sun and be guaranteed to be able to watch it. You also don’t own them, so if Netflix gets rid of your favorite sitcom, you’ll find yourself unable to watch it.
One way to own the shows and watch them online is to download them. Whether you’re a Google or Apple fan, both iTunes and the Google Play store offer shows to purchase through those accounts that become yours to own. Prices can vary if you’re buying single episodes or whole seasons. Of course, buying individual titles to own is more expensive than paying the small fee for a streaming service and gaining access to oodles of content.
Whether you prefer to own or stream shows, watching them online is the way to go if you’re sick of dealing with DVDs and TV schedules. There are plenty of safe, legal options that don’t cost too much and allow you to watch on all your devices at your convenience.