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Can I Watch TV Online?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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If you’ve missed your favorite show because you lack a digital video recorder (DVR), or you forgot to turn on your DVR, take heart. Chances are you may be able to find the show online. Most networks are now offering opportunities for people to watch TV online, at least with their most popular shows. Sometimes, shows doing poorly in the ratings are also available, since they can establish a larger fan base if they’re watched online. You can also watch portions of programs online through sites like YouTube, though occasionally, watching TV on non-network sites actually violates copyright laws.

As Internet connections have become faster, the ability to watch TV online has become much more feasible. Yet at this point, you can’t pick up a TV guide and watch TV on the Internet according to the regular schedule, though some believe we’re not far from this advancement. Efforts to convert all TV to online viewing, as well as efforts to translate Internet services to the television, have been underway for years. In the near future, you might be able to watch the same shows that are airing on TV, on streaming video online.

If you have a cable subscription, you can most likely go to a channel’s website and watch live TV online. However, some channels make this option a separate monetized service. People who want to watch TV without antenna or cable have a few options. Some streaming services are free or inexpensive, and you can choose from an abundant collection of movies and TV shows as long as you sit through some brief ads. Alternatively, you can take the money you would normally spend on cable and pay for a premium streaming service, such as HBO.

You may not be able to watch TV online without paying. Very popular shows like Lost may charge you for podcast versions of the show. Programs showing up on premium channels like HBO are also not available for free. Yet the average sitcom may be available on the Internet, through the network’s Internet site, for no charge.

You do however, have to sit through commercial breaks, and usually can’t fast forward through them, as you can do with a DVR. The good news is that these breaks are often much shorter than those offered on regular television. Frequently, just one advertiser sponsors the show; so commercial breaks are far less intrusive than they are on “regular” television.

In these early stages of offering some shows online, many people wonder if the networks are attempting to figure out how to make this more profitable. Ultimately, there’s a good chance that networks will find a way to charge viewers of popular shows instead of offering the ability to watch TV online for free. There also may be some conflict to the networks if free TV becomes too popular. If you can watch TV on the Internet with fewer commercials, why sit down to watch regular TV at all?

Many theorize that Internet TV will not replace the home TV. Unless you have a huge computer screen, it’s simply not as comfortable to watch TV online. Small laptops won’t replace the latest enormous flat or plasma screen, and especially family programs would be hard to watch on many of the smaller computer monitors. Yet, for now, if you’re really kicking yourself that you missed your favorite show, do check with the network’s Internet site. You may need to pay for the privilege of catching up, but you also might get lucky and get to watch TV online free, with minimal commercial interruptions.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon262084 — On Apr 18, 2012

I bought an online software that allows access to about 3000 satellite TV channels and cable TV (I have no time yet to see them all), and the tuned channels have a very good signal.

By Moldova — On Oct 20, 2010

Sneakers41-I think that would be neat too. I know Direct TV offers international channels but they are not free.

I did want to mention that you do need to make sure that you have a high speed internet connection and have installed a Windows Media Player, and have speakers on your PC so that you can view and hear the programming available. The high speed internet connection reducing the amount of buffering or interuptions that might take place.

I like to watch TV channels online especially when they play the Christmas movies for the kids.

Sometimes these movies are played when my kids have to be in bed, so they would miss these movies. But now we just watch TV online with a pc on the weekends for them so they don’t miss out. It is really a great idea.

By sneakers41 — On Oct 20, 2010

Bhutan-I think what would be great would be to watch television that is offered in other countries.

I would love to watch live TV online from foreign countries and see what type of programming they have in like Spain or England.

It would be even better if they offered subtitles if you happen to be watching a program from a country in which you did not speak the language.

For example, I am curious if you can watch satellite TV shows online free from like China. Since this is a society that does not allow free speech, I wonder what types of shows people watch for entertainment.

By Bhutan — On Oct 20, 2010

Sunny27-I love Hulu. I try to watch the Saturday Day Night Live shows because I can never stay up when the original episode airs.

This is really an advantage to watch internet TV online. Also, I wanted to say that Hulu generally has NBC shows or cable shows from the NBC family networks. I think TV Duck has a wider selection of programs to watch TV episodes online.

By Sunny27 — On Oct 20, 2010

You can watch TV online with TV Duck or Hulu. Both offer streaming of your favorite shows in case you miss an episode.

They have shows like Modern Family, and Burn Notice which I absolutely love. With Burn Notice, when they air a new episode on Thursday night, you will have to wait an entire week for that episode to appear on the viewable list, so there is that downfall.

The nice thing about it is that you can plan to watch episodes online when you have the time, not when the show actually airs.

Sometimes there might be competing shows at the exact same time, so this way you can see both programs.

Watching TV shows online free is actually fun and the commercials are much more limited. This is especially great if you are stuck in an airport and waiting to catch a flight. As long as you have your air card you should be able to watch internet TV online. In this situation, I would use ear plugs to that you don’t bother anyone else.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia...
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