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Online Television Options

There are numerous online television options for those who want to set their own viewing schedules.

Streaming TV shows on a laptop computer is a popular viewing option. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Streaming TV shows on a laptop computer is a popular viewing option.

Online Television Options

With the latest available online television options, is media convergence finally about to become a reality? For years, new media critics have claimed that traditional media conglomerates, including television networks, do not yet understand what the Internet is and what the Internet audience wants. However, traditional television broadcasters have seen how the traditional music recording industry had been impacted by free (and often illegal) music downloads courtesy of technologies such as Napster.

Television broadcasters have also started to see illegal downloads of commercial-free TV shows. To head off this potentially damaging trend to the television industry, traditional broadcasters have created their own free television episode download Web sites such as Hulu (Fox and NBC) and Joost (CBS and Viacom are major investors).


In 2008, Hulu was essentially launched by its parent networks as a YouTube killer. When YouTube launched in 2005, video clips from millions of users as well as clips from commercial television broadcasts, such as from Viacom's Daily Show on the Comedy Central cable network became available almost immediately.

While there had been prior traditional media-sponsored free video download sites, such as Sony Connect, these sites failed because of the excessive legal restrictions imposed on users. NBC's Jason Kilar convinced fellow executives to launch Hulu, making an extensive list of network and studio full-episode programming available to users at an easy-to-use Web site that didn't require a media player download. Launched in 2008, Hulu's initial focus was on full episodes of new or floundering TV series. Hulu downloads, however, aren't completely commercial-free each episode typically includes two 15-second commercials and one 30-second ad in the middle.

An interesting feature of Hulu is that the service allows users to embed Hulu content on their Web sites. Also, the Hulu search engine directs users to TV program content not only on their site but also on competitor Web sites.


In 2007, Viacom filed a lawsuit against Google, YouTube's parent company. However, a few weeks after ordering YouTube to remove 100,000 unauthorized clips from its Web site, Viacom agreed to license some of its content to Joost. That same year, Viacom, along with CBS, became major investors in Joost. Joost's peer-to-peer file-sharing technology was developed by the same Luxembourg-based company responsible for Skype, the peer-to-peer technology that allows users to make free phone calls over the Internet.

The chief drawback with Joost is that it requires a media player download, unlike Hulu. The main advantage of Joost over YouTube is the increased video quality, as well as the ease of downloading large media files via their peer-to-peer technology.


Veoh.com is an online video service started by former Disney head Michael Eisner and Time Warner. Veoh is more of a video content aggregator than a standalone online video delivery service. The site easily accesses videos from Hulu and YouTube as well as an assortment of television networks that includes CBS, ABC, WB and MTV.

TV Network Web Sites

Some television network Web sites have offered their own free downloads of full episodes, episode video clips and original online-only programming spun off of popular series. For example, NBCs Blackmail is an online-only series featuring the character Creed Bratton from NBCs The Office.

The NBC Video Library offers an extensive collection of full current series episodes, including the entire first and second seasons of Friday Night Lights, as well as NBC classic show episodes such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Miami Vice.

TV.com is a Web site sponsored by CBS that offers free full episode show downloads for iPhones.

CBS.com offers free high-definition video clips from most of their series.

Fox.com has full episodes of current series such as House and The Simpsons.

Comedy Central offers "Week in Review" versions of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report.

ESPN360.com has an assortment of online full-game replays.

PBS offers over 50 full episodes of its Nova science series as well as full episodes of Frontline, a news documentary series.


While video social networks like YouTube and Google Video have caused alarm for traditional media executives, so has the trend of set-top box and video player technologies that transfer online video to television sets. These products include the Roku digital video player and Apples set-top box.

The Roku player provides instant access to 12,000 movies and TV shows to Netflix subscribers as well as instant movie and TV downloads for Amazon On Demand buyers. Other compatible Netflix devices that allow users to view online video on a TV include the Xbox 360, LG and Samsung Blu-Ray Players, and TiVo HD DVRs.

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