In the battle for the couch potato, the Internet is going strong. There are obviously millions of cable potatos left to sway, but in December Hulu announced they had 3 million paying customers, and in 2011 alone an estimated 1 million Americans dropped their pay-TV service [TCCG]. We think these million Americans are on to something. We challenge you to get your TV through the internet for one month. Get a Netflix free trial, find your shows on Watchily, and take a look at pro sports services (below). We bet you don’t need that costly cable package (or the un-wanted extra services you can’t remove from your bundle). If we’re right, take the next step and join netBlazr for locally owned, super-fast, highly affordable broadband. To get you started, here is our guide to TV via the Internet.
Where to find… TV Shows and Movies
If you know what you want to watch, head over to CanIStream.it or Watchily.com and see where it is available. It’s often worth doing a quick Google search as well, CanIStream.it and Watchily miss out on some shows available free from the content producers’ website, such as The Daily Show or content from CBS or the USA Network.
If you don’t know what you want to watch, and you have Netflix, head over to InstantWatcher. The site isn’t much for looks, but its Critics’ Picks list can usually point you to good content faster than Netflix. InstantWatcher Hulu is in its infancy, but hopefully will offer the same for Hulu in the future.
Since one of the biggest hurdles is finding content, it’s worth pointing out of the set-top-boxes, Roku has nailed search. Pop open “Roku Search” and Roku will sift through Amazon, Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Vudu for the content. Easy!
No lack of national news online. ABC World News, ABC Nightline, CBS Evening News, Frontline, Fox News Sunday, NBC Nightly News, PBS News Hour, 60 Minutes can all be streamed for free, and in almost all cases, watched through iOS and Android apps. Viewing on your TV requires some experimenting, some news broadcasts (ABC, Fox, and NBC for example) are available through Hulu Plus, some systems like Roku have apps for the major networks; if you have AppleTV, your best bet is to send iPad/iPhone content to your TV with AirPlay (we’ll followup with AirPlay and device options in another post).
Where to find… Sports
Netflix isn’t the only streaming game in town, the major professional sports leagues have streaming services, too. Figure out the “blackout” scheme for your sport before buying. For most leagues, nationally broadcast games are blacked-out and streaming delayed (from 30min to 24hours). Don’t forget, your $80/mo cable bill buys a lot of drinks at the local sports bar!
Cost: $100 ($8.34/mo)
Gotchas: National and locally televised games (including home-team games broadcast regionally for the away team) are available 90 minutes after the game.
Devices: Computer, iOS, Android, Xbox, PS3, AppleTV, Roku, Boxee, Sony TVs and Blu-Ray players, LG TVs and Blu-Ray players, Samsung TVs and Blu-Ray players, WD TVs
Cost: $35 ($3/mo)
Gotchas: Local and nationally broadcast games are delayed 24 hours.
Devices: Computer, iPad, iPhone ($13 extra), Roku, Panasonic TVs.
NBA League Pass
Cost: $129 ($11/mo) to follow 5 teams; $189 ($16/mo) for all the games.
Gotchas: Important! League Pass has permanent blackouts. Blackout games (those televised nationally on TNT, ESPN, ABC, NBA TV or on a local station) are not available. Unlike other pro sports services where blackout games are delayed become available as part of the “season archive,” League Pass blackouts are forever. Sticking up an antenna or heading to the bar are your only options for blackouts.
Devices: Computer, iPad, Xbox, AppleTV, Roku
NBA D League:
Streamed live on YouTube.
NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball:
For the past two years, March Madness has been streamed live at NCAA.com and with the March Madness Live app (iOS and Android).
Cost: $4 for the season.
Devices: Computer, iOS, Android
NFL Game Rewind
Cost: $35 ($3/mo) to follow one team; $70 ($5.84/mo) for all the games
Gotchas: Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday night broadcast games are available at the completion of the game. Monday night broadcasts are blacked out for 24 hours. Catch Sunday night and NBC games on NBC SNF Extra (below).
Devices: Computer, iPad, and Android tablets.
NBC Sunday Night Football Extra
Streams NBC Sunday Night games, several Wild Card games, and the Pro Bowl. Includes DVR features and extra camera angles.
Super Bowl on CBS Sports
The entire Super Bowl, streamed online from CBS.
NHL GameCenter Live
Cost: $50 ($4.17/mo)
Gotchas: Local and nationally televised games are blacked out for 48 hours. Grab them on NBC NHL Extra (below), stick up your antenna, or hit the bar.
Devices: Computer, iOS, Android, Xbox, PS3, AppleTV, Roku, Boxee, Sony TVs and Blu-Ray players
NBC NHL Extra
Streams NHL games broadcast on NBC. Includes DVR features and extra camera angles.
PGATour.com and PGA Tour app.
The PGA announced they will simulcast all 2013 PGA coverage online and through mobile apps, for free, it appears. Historically, Masters, US Open, and PGA Championship games have been available free online and on mobile.
On-Demand, On-Budget, and on the Couch
TV via the internet might even be better than through the cable. Grabbing your media via the internet means you can watch on your own schedule. Forget programming Tivo or cumbersome DVRs, Broadband Television lets you watch whenever, fast-forward, and rewind (care to watch the episodes of your favorite show in reverse?). And Broadband Television is cheaper than cable. The US average pay-television charge reached $86 per month in 2011 [NPD group]! Netflix costs $8/month, Hulu Plus is $8/mo, and even NBA League Pass, the most expensive of the major pro sports services, costs less than $11/mo.
And before you start wondering whether the new LCD TV was a good idea, relax, internet television is flexible. Services like netFlix, Hulu, and even pro sports packages stream to everything from smart-TVs to tablets and phones. Your La-Z-Boy and remote aren’t out of a job (yet).
I’ve touched on a few content-discovery sites (CanIStream.it), but I haven’t even gotten to apps that help you find movies/shows/sports games. If you’ve got a favorite app, tell us about it in the comments!