I really hate television. The advertising, the soap opera endings to every popular show, local commercials that are all of a sudDEN LOUD AS F**KING BALLS. I cannot stand it. So, short of major sporting events that I give a crap about, I don’t really turn on my T.V set. Not sure why but the T.V. feels like a naggy woman in the room, demanding that I buy her things.
That said, television is going through a bit of a renaissance, coming out of the dark ages of the 90’s fictional fluff and finding more real, interesting stories in characters. (Battlestar Galactica, anyone?) Still, I cannot be bothered to turn my set on, because even the good shows share time and ad space with a complete bevy of reality TV garbage.
So I like the programming but cannot stand the delivery. What am I to do? Like most problems, this one can be solved by the interweb’s dump truck tubes. TV is available everywhere online. Most of it perfectly legally! Some of it in legal gray areas! Lets take a look.
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Free TV Online after the jump!
Hulu: Ok so Hulu isn’t ‘non-network,’ but I’m going to put it here anyways because it isn’t directly affiliated in the way that say, CBS.com is affiliated with CBS. Hulu is an experiment in web-based advertisement distribution, brought to us by NBC and Fox.
On Hulu you can watch many episodes of television shows produced by these two networks and their affiliates (Battlestar Galactica, Family Guy, 30Rock, etc) with only three ads per episode. Which, considering the full 10 minutes of ads you see on TV, is pretty damn good. Hulu offers the normal suite of Flash-based video controls, high resolution, full screen, etc. There are also some full length films on Hulu, though the selection is less then stellar.
Best Shows on Hulu: Family Guy, Battlestar Galactica, Bones, Arrested Development, Burn Notice, House, 30 Rock, Firefly
SouthparkZone.com: Cannot write about free, streaming television without mentioning this site. I have no idea how it’s still in operation, or if it’s affiliated with Comedy Central–given that they now have their own South Park episodes streaming, I’d assume it isn’t. Let me break it down for you. Every episode of South Park, ever. No ads at all. Streaming in the browser, decent quality; the movie is also there, and it’s updated regularly. Prepare to waste hours.
Familyguynow.com: This site is just like Southparkzone. Again, I’m not exactly sure how this site stays in operation, but it’s been up for a long time. Same deal, almost all the episodes, no advertisement, decent quality. The catch is that FamilyGuyNow is less reliable and has a lot of broken episodes, but for a whopping price of 0.00$ and no advertisement in the videos proper, it is hard to complain.
Sidereel: Different from Hulu and the show based sites, Sidereel.com is more of a hub for the many, many video stream start-ups that pollute populate the web these days.
Since YouTube blew up, everyone and their mom has decided the cash on the net is in fast, streaming video. Way too many to list, and way too many for networks to track if illegal stuff gets uploaded. Sidereel is a site that ‘catalogs’ tv shows and facilitates discussion. It also acts as a link center for where you can watch the show your looking for online. It’s hit or miss but has some good finds.
Best Shows on Sidereel: Mythbusters, Entourage, True Blood premiere.
Streaming, Network Based
Every TV network is trying to get on the streaming video bandwagon. Most of them are kinda sh*tty. CBS.com and NBC.com, etc, they don’t offer anything worthwhile in comparison with sites like Hulu.
Occasionally you can find premieres of shows on these networks, or their affiliates, online. For my money, the best network based sites are Adultswim.com and ComedyCentral.com.
AdultSwim.com: Good episode selection of all their programming, limited in-episode advertising, and a willingness to put up premieres of their shows over other networks. New episodes of shows like Metalocalypse, The Venture Bros, Tim and Eric and Aqua Teen Hunger Force can always be seen day-of (or sometimes before) on Adult Swim’s site.
ComedyCentral.com: Ok, there aren’t that many entire episodes here, but with fresh clips of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report you can basically catch the episode you missed last night, or at least its funniest bits, without leaving the computer. Always speedy and relatively easy to navigate. Their Southpark area features a lot of hilarious behind the scenes footage and commentary, as well.
(Both NBC and Fox have their own streaming services, but since Hulu is owned by those two companies, we recommend using that. It works better)
Alright, so this may or may not be “legal.” While downloading entire movies, video games and albums that you don’t own is probably illegal, downloading episodes of television, that you have paid for because you pay for cable may or may not be against the law–if I pay for HBO, why can’t I download episodes of Entourage? Who exactly is that hurting?
Now that we’ve got the ethical disclaimer out of the way, welcome to torrents. Basically, torrenting is an alternative form of downloading data. Using a torrent client, a user can download a very small file off of various websites and use that data file to download large files from many different users at once. So if I have an episode of The Office, someone would download some bytes from me (or you) and some other bytes from someone else to get the full episode. This allows for giant files to be shared without requiring a huge amount of storage.
You can find almost any television episode in torrent form, if you know where to look. I reccommend downloading the best application for torrenting, uTorrent, and head over to thepiratebay.org. Do a search for a television show you enjoy. See what happens. Or don’t. We didn’t say nothing to nobody.
Sopcast is another maybe illegal/maybe not method to watch television online. All these other sites are great, but they don’t do sports. Even if they did, recorded sports would be boring as hell. It’s all about the live stream. Unfortunately, college kid budgets don’t regularly include the NFL network. So try Sopcast, a windows application that is basically a pirate television receiver.
This piece of Chinese software displays a long list of ‘channels’ that are basically people, all over the world, who have rigged their television to a capture card and decided to host whatever they are watching live, over the net, using Windows Media protocols.
Sopcast can be finicky and at times latency is an issue (which happens when you watch the NBA live from some Chinese guy’s basement) but it’s a free way to watch games you wouldn’t have access to normally.