More and more people are watching multimedia content online. It's only natural that content traditionally found on "TV" finds its way to the internet.
However, for the most part, the television industry is fighting this expansion. Large cable providers do not want to lose subscribers to the internet. Studios and content owners don't want their shows and material available free via 3rd party. Advertisers are concerned that they aren't getting enough exposure due to these losses. What's all this add up to? It's really not that easy to find TV for free on the internet.
I'll try to fix that for you now.
First off, some basic software you should be aware of:
Hulu - This is probably the best known and most popular way of getting TV over the web. Hulu recently added a paid subscription tier to it's service. This highlights my above comments, studios want money for their shows being played online. Hulu had to institute a paid service tier in order to continue operating, and to be able to continue serving "premium" content (i.e. new shows). Some people may or may not know that Hulu Desktop software exists and works quite well. Try it! You can even use your TV remote control. (I'll cover that setup in another post later on)
|Hulu Desktop Software|
|XBMC TV Library Screenshot|
Boxee - This software is an offshoot of XBMC, but it has a more "friendly" feel. Boxee also contains what I like to call a "TV Scraper". It has a library of all the available TV online. You can watch TV from Hulu, Comedy Central, USA, etc. If it's available from the provider online, it gets scraped up and added to Boxee's library. So instead of just being able to watch what Hulu has available, you can also watch, say Comedy Central, via one easy to use interface. Boxee, much like XBMC will also organize and play any existing content you already have saved as well. Boxee also recently released a set-top box.
|Boxee TV Library Screenshot|
Now for some free websites that show TV online, including sports!
MyPremiumTV - This website has limited channels and plays a lot of overseas/international. However, you can almost always find big sporting events in the US on one of the channels. This could include NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. For example, most Sundays, some NFL games will be shown. The website is very friendly and does not do a lot of crazy pop-up advertisements. You can also go full screen, and the quality of the video is pretty good.
HackedCableTV - This website is somewhat more difficult to navigate, but it has a lot of channels. It also plays sports as well, in addition to movies, and regular channels such as TNT, TBS, Syfy, etc. There is international programming available too. This site tends to take a "scraper" approach, which means if there is more than one source for a particular feed/channel, it will list them (source #1, source #2, etc.).
FromSport - This website focuses exclusively on sports. It covers all kinds of sports as well, not just north american. In addition to american football and baseball, you can also find cricket, rugby, and other sports available to watch. Many times HackedCableTV will actually be linking to FromSport. Overall quality and speed is very good, however you may find that some sources are better than others.
That's it for now! Do you have any other free TV sources online that you would like to share? Post 'em in the comments and I'll add them to this post! Also, what are your thoughts on bogarting TV via online sources? Piracy? Doing what has to be done? Saving $100's every month on the cable bill? Trying to teach the industry that most of us don't want to pay for channels we don't need? Making the set-top box obsolete?
Justin.TV - This is a good site, and good suggestion! Other users, around the world, host TV stations for anyone to watch. The TV stations can be regular "TV", or even a webcam show. You can find all kinds of good content on here, on a pretty regular basis. Quality tends to vary, as each user controls what they host. I have used this a little bit myself, but I often find good sports games (like NFL) get turned off fairly quickly. (thanks to Planet Ben and MarcABlax for this submission!)
Filmon - Another great reader submission! This is a site I hadn't tried before, but I was immediately impressed with the ease of use and quality of the channels. You can find major networks like KTLA (that's local Los Angeles), NBC HD, CBS, Bloomberg, and even a few international channels. All told there are about 30 channels or so (including 2 XXX channels!), which is pretty good for a single site. I would definitely recommend taking a look at this site for it's quality, ease of use, and fast load times. It looks like it used to be a pay service, but once they were sued in US court they decided to go all FREE! Their bread and butter seems to be the re-broadcast of free HD-OTA (over-the-air) channels, hence KTLA, KCAL, KTTV, etc. (thanks to Telia Tuli for this submission! note: he mentions the pending court case)
HackedCableTV - Alright, we got the site owner reading and commenting! Very glad to see that. Thank you for your support! He mentions an important note that should be passed along: a lot of these sites, like Hulu, Filmon, etc will tailor their offering to the country you live in. For example, without a US ip address, Hulu is a no-go. Filmon has both UK and US feeds, and tailors them based on ip. So try changing your ip address! Also, definitely head over to HackedCableTV.com, it's a great site, and it does a damn fine job of putting together all the tv available on the web. A great one-stop-shop for internet tv.
Fancast - This is an offering from Comcast that was launched earlier in 2008. This was submitted to me by a friend who, like me, does not have regular CableTV. You do not have to be a Comcast customer to watch TV and movies offered by Fancast, however some of the content is locked and available only for current Comcast customers. For example, HBO content is offered, but only for customers with HBO subscription. Also, mainstream shows are offered like Lopez Tonight, but only for comcast customers with existing cable subscriptions. So, it just depends on whether the free tv is enough for you. Quality is as good as Hulu, and the programming is as you would expect (new shows like Burn Notice, Bones, etc.).
ATDHE.net - Another reader submission! Woohoo! This is also a new one for me, and appears to be primarily sports, which is pretty cool. I see sports listed from all over the world, including the major North American sports like NBA, Hockey, etc. They also have the NFL Network! Big plus there. In addition to the sports channels they have about 12-15 "regular" channels. These include show driven channels, like The Simpsons, South Park, and Frasier. This site also has what looks to be some PPV action, with UFC and WWE channels. All in all, a pretty good site. Quality of the channels varies, but overall it is pretty good. Load times are quick, and pop-ups/advertisements are limited. (thanks to DDX for this submission!)
MyP2P.eu - And the reader submissions just keep on coming! MyP2P advertises on the banner for MyPremium, and this is one I have tried before. However, I am not a "huge" fan due to the software requirements needed to watch some of the programming. Without getting too much into detail, this site is really not bad, and plays both Live TV as well as Live Sports from around the globe. You can search by country, or by sport. There are music, entertainment, and kids channels as well. Overall, MyP2P has one of the largest channel listings of all the internet TV sites. It is fairly easy to navigate as well. Just be careful of the software like sopcast, etc etc that may be needed. You may also end up with problems steaming to Win Media Player too...Personally, I think it's easiest when they just use Flash, but YMMV. Still, this is a good site, with tons of good content - both TV and sports. Definitely check it out and decide for yourself. (thanks to DDX for this great submission as well!)
note: I am not necessarily endorsing stealing TV via online sources. I am not a lawyer. Some of these sources may be more legitamate than others. As for me, I don't have cable TV and catch all my NFL (as well as the recent MLB World Series) via these sources. YMMV.
hint: try these websites out on your PHONE! 3G is typically decent enough, though obviously wifi or 4G is better. also, make sure your phone supports Flash (sorry walled gardeners...) you can even go fullscreen on the phone!
hint: for those of you outside the US, you will need to change/disguise your IP address in order to access site likes Hulu. yes, this even includes the canadians. here is an excellent list of proxies by country, enjoy!