Oh good for you! You’re just starting to watch TV online, and you’ve heard that sometimes people do it illegally, and you’d never want to break the law, especially copyright law. (Right, because you’re not reading this because you broke your boss’s computer with a virus you got while streaming illegally in his office, or because the feds are after you for more illegal downloads than Napster.) Contrary to what any 16-year-old may tell you, it is actually possible to watch TV online. You just might have to pay for it.
Check out network sites from home or from any electrical device
A lot of major networks, such as ABC and Fox, will post the last five or so episodes of popular TV shows online. This is a good way to stay up-to-date with a favorite show without getting cable or TiVo, or, in the case of many people in their early 20s, an actual television. (For specialty networks like HBO, you’ll have to buy an actual subscription.) Hulu, for example, will also do this. What’s the catch? You have to watch advertisements. If you’re part of the disenchanted youth of today, who simultaneously loathe advertising as the worst of capitalism and love How I Met Your Mother, ads can be a real irritant.
Only watch what Netflix offers
The beauty of Netflix: you pay a flat rate and can stream as many different shows as your heart desires. Depending on your bandwidth, they image is very high quality. You can even buy a Roku, and watch instantly on your TV. The downside: Netflix doesn’t offer everything you might want to watch (and does offer a whole lot of stuff you certainly won’t) and you can’t watch anything that aired recently, i.e. in the last six months at least. You can also pay for an Amazon Prime account, which has pretty much the same deal, or Hulu Plus.
Spend your whole life on YouTube and never leave your apartment
If you want to be super high-maintenance and super cheap, you can troll YouTube for very recent episodes, before they get taken down for copyright infringement. We can’t promise consistency or quality. We can promise a lot of wasted time.
Buy seasons or episodes for your home TV marathon!
Hubs like Amazon and iTunes allow you to purchase episodes, either individually or slightly discounted for the entire season. Again, good quality, no ads, and you can re-watch as much as you want. Apple TV lets you rent them for two days.
Why pay for it?
Well, there’s the issue of the law. I know multiple people who’ve received Cease and Desist orders for downloading copyrighted content. On another self-interested note, television that you pay for—whether through Netflix or a pay-per-episode site like Amazon—is much better quality. And you don’t have to watch ads, almost ever. Whether that’s worth up to $2.99 per episode is up to you.
Might I suggest…
If you’re considering paying for episodes, but you don’t need to watch them more than once, check out your local video store. They might have DVDs of whatever you want to watch, and could be cheaper than buying them online. Hopelessly old-fashioned, I know, but it beats yelling at a cliffhanger that suddenly won’t load.
If you have any other legal suggestions then let others know on Facebook!
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