For the past five years, I have had satellite TV. I moved to Las Vegas two years
ago and continued watching DirecTV. For the past year, I’ve really started
noticing how bad the commercials were getting. It’s getting so bad that you can
barely watch enough programming to know it’s a program. This is what brings
me to my question. Is it possible to getting both local, networks, and all the
other channels off the internet to your TV? I know you can watch TV on your
PC, but from what I’ve seen, the quality isn’t that good. What about porting
it over to your TV? My TV is internet ready.
The practical answer to your question is a pretty clear “no”.
There are piecemeal approaches that can get you a lot, but there’s still
no complete replacement for getting your local or cable or satellite
Assuming that’s what you actually need.
Let’s look at a few of the common approaches and their limitations.
The single biggest limitation to any type of online video, be it TV or otherwise, is the speed of your internet connection.
Most online video is available in either multiple formats or sizes, or they have some automatic detection of your video speed so as to adjust the flow of data required to watch video.
The adjustment that they make?
Even what we’d consider standard definition TV requires a fair amount of bandwidth – it wasn’t until I’d upgraded to a three megabits per second connection that I could reliably live stream SD TV. HD takes significantly more.
And, of course, if you have other devices sharing your internet connection, they can also take away from your actual available bandwidth. Watching online video might not be a good idea if one of your other computers is doing a large download, for example.
Once you get past the bandwidth issue, most current PCs are quite capable of displaying streaming video, such as TV.
Your PC and your TV
I’m not sure exactly what an “internet-ready” TV really means. In the cases that I’ve seen, all that it really means is that the TV can connect to the internet to update its own firmware, perhaps provide some kind of on-screen guide or other services.
It’s certainly not a means to watch TV.
Or you could do as I have and connect a PC to your TV. That way, anything that you can watch on your PC can be watched on your TV.
The question is: what can you watch?
Let’s start off with what is not available: your traditional TV channels. You won’t find your local channels or most of the cable stations or premium channels online.
However, most news channels offer live streams. Even your own local stations may, but only when news programming is on.
Some public stations provide live streams.
Some international stations provide live streams, although often of lower quality due to the distances involved. Frequently, these are also geographically restricted so you may not be able to watch the live stream from one country in another.
If you’re interested in specific shows currently being broadcast, definitely check out their websites. Often, the most recent episodes will be available for a limited time – either hosted directly or on sites like Hulu. (I’ve found these particularly handy when for some reason or another my DirecTV failed to record an episode.)
Finally, check the websites for the specific network that you might be interested in. Some have been playing with premium offerings that will allow you to stream some of their content to your PC or mobile device (for a price).
If movies and other non-current programming is more of what you’re looking for, services like NetFlix or Amazon Instant Videos might be a reasonable approach. Personally, I’ve been using Amazon’s service while I exercise to watch TV series that I missed when they were new.
What about those “hundreds of free channels” offers?
Every so often, I am asked about the services that offer to deliver hundreds of live TV channels to your PC.
The majority of them act only a front ends to aggregate streaming TV channels that you could find yourself.
If you choose to investigate such a service, be absolutely sure that they provide the channels that you care about – most do not. While they might sound wonderful, you’ll probably find that they provide access to hundreds of channels that you’ve never heard of.
So far, I’ve not encountered one that is a viable alternative for traditional cable or satellite programming.
Oh, and there’s a catch
It’s very possible that some of the alternatives that I mentioned above might feel like a solution for you and have you ready to drop your cable or satellite.
Cool. But you should also know this…
The free services – like recent episodes of your favorite shows, the news channels, or even the free videos available from Hulu – include the very thing that you’re attempting to escape.
Sometimes fewer, but more often than not, just as many and in the same spots.
To be completely honest, the “fast forward” button on your DirecTV remote is probably a much easier approach to managing commercial overload.
That, or waiting until the shows you care about are available on DVD or a premium streaming service.