If you miss your favorite shows or you want to catch up on older series long after they've ended, chances are good that you can watch them online. Although some websites charge a fee, others are completely free. It's worth your time to check out some of the best online viewing services to see what's available.
Free TV Show Services
Many free TV show providers also offer some unique content that is unavailable on their competitors' sites. This works in your favor since it gives you a wider selection of free content.
Hulu is definitely one of the front runners in online and streaming TV, and the service posts shows from TV and cable. They also have older shows, movie trailers, and clips from current shows. Even though basic Hulu is free, the site encourages you to purchase Hulu Plus for $8 a month. Hulu Plus has premium content not available on Hulu.
Crackle is a TV and movie service that is geared to the connected guy. You can watch classic shows, much like NetFlix offers, but Crackle's shows are screened for their appeal to men. The service also boasts original content like Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
If you don't mind watching your favorite show on the morning after it runs on TV, head on over to the network's website and watch it for free. You can watch favorites like:
- Revenge, Grey's Anatomy, The Goldbergs on ABC
- How I Met Your Mother or The Big Bang Theory on CBS
- The Blacklist, The Voice, or The Late Show with Jay Leno on NBC
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Mindy Project, or New Girl on Fox
Comedy Central offers full episodes of The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and more of Comedy Central's hits on their website. Their site also includes blogs, video clips and show lineups.
Pay or Subscription Services
You can watch TV shows on the following sites, but you will be required to either purchase a subscription or pay as you go.
Amazon Instant Video has a decent amount of free content, but most of it tends to be classic movies. If you want to watch current shows, expect to pay at least $2 for.the latest episode of your favorite TV show, and $2.99 for HD. At $80 a year, the service is slightly cheaper than NetFlix and HuluPlus, since both charge $96 annually. Amazon throws in a few freebies like two-day shipping and a free Kindle book each month.
Netflix is the pioneer in streaming and classic TV content. For $8 a month, you have access to a significant library of classic TV shows, current TV shows and new movies. This service is renowned for their library of classic TV shows, and they are largely responsible for the birth of "binge watching," where people sit down and watch a show's entire season in a weekend. In addition to TV shows, which are always one season behind, Netflix offers original programming like their hit series Arrested Development.
Hulu Plus is comparable in price to Netflix, but its library is completely different because this service focuses more on current TV shows and current episodes. Like Netflix, the service also offers original shows, including Misfits, Mother Up, and more. The downside of Hulu Plus is that, unlike Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, you have to watch commercials; thankfully, they are limited.
Xfinity is an online Comcast subscription-based product that posts network and cable TV shows, as well as current and classic movies. Their digital economy package with a minimum of 45 channels starts around $30 for a 12-month subscription, and there are several other options available to suit your viewing needs.
Mixture of Paid and Free Content
The following sites will help you find nearly all of your favorite shows online.
TV.com carries a slate of popular TV shows from most networks -- Walking Dead, Mom and How I Met Your Mother. When you select a movie you are interested in -- you will be given a menu of options showing you which online service (like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, etc.) has the video available for rent, or where you can watch it for free. The site also includes gossip and news blogs with gossip upcoming shows and their actors.
TVFull has a wide variety of shows available, including a section of free shows ranging from HBO to network TV. If a show must be purchased, you are required to buy it with points. The current fee per episode is 7 points, and the episode can be watched up to 10 times in a 24-hour period. You can purchase 100 points for less than $15.
Side Reel is more of a clearinghouse for channels that host TV shows and movies. The service lets you track a show, which means adding it to a queue associated with your account. When you choose to watch the show, you will be given options to the various paid services that host it. The site also includes free independent and Web-only programs.
Due to the huge demand for streaming video and TV, these services -- and especially the paid services -- are keeping up with current technology. TVs now come with built-in streaming capabilities, and sites have been optimized for tablets and iPads. These improvements extend the reach and popularity of these sites way beyond a computer monitor.
The sites mentioned here have entered into legal agreements with the owners of the content. However, sites do exist that are under suspected of showing pirated shows where the quality is not as good as what you would see on a television set. One way to double-check the legality of the site is if you can go to the website of the station airing the show on TV, such as ABC or NBC, and view the TV program; if you can, you know that the site is legitimate.
Online Services Versus Cable and Satellite
Whether or not you need to keep paying for cable or satellite TV depends on what your viewing habits are. However, if you're paying for two or more subscriptions, the savings may be a wash depending on your current bundle. The best thing to do is test drive several of the online services and see if the shows you want to watch are available in a timely manner at a reasonable price. Also, test the sites on your device to make sure you can watch your favorite programs on the go.