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Web TV

Web TV provides viewers with more options for watching television.

Large LCD screens mean clearer pictures for Web TV. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
Large LCD screens mean clearer pictures for Web TV.

Web TV allows viewers to watch full episodes of favorite TV shows they missed or to see again. Some network Web sites offer full episodes of upcoming shows for viewing. Full episodes may have some advertising but advertising can be much less than a viewer would experience on regular TV. Viewers can watch Web TV shows online or download shows for viewing later.

Most users of Web TV have a computer, a router, network cables, a multimedia player and a high-speed broadband connection. Some Web sites require downloading free, proprietary video player software. For those households that have a broadband connection on a TV, such as through an Internet-enabled video game console, Web TV can be viewed on a TV like programming through cable or satellite TV.

Free Network Web TV

All major networks allow viewers to watch episodes of some shows for free, and some programs are available in streaming high definition (HD). Here is a rundown of what the networks offer:

  • ABC allows users to watch more than 25 favorite primetime and daytime shows after downloading the site's video player software.
  • NBC features full episodes of more than 35 shows, including "A-Team" and other shows that are no longer on the air. The beta version of NBC Direct works on a Windows-based PC and allows users to download episodes and watch them later without an Internet connection. Downloading episodes in HD requires registering with the site.
  • CBS offers a mixture of clips and full episodes from its current season, including promos for upcoming episodes. The site also has full episodes for the first season of hit shows that are no longer aired, such as "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Family Ties." Full episodes are not available in HD as of 2009.
  • FOX allows users to watch full episodes of a number of its shows after downloading the required player.

Other Popular Web TV Sites

There are also Web sites that cater to people who are looking for a wider variety of programming, including TV shows from different networks, movies and music videos. The following Web sites have advanced search capabilities that allow users to quickly find something interesting to watch:

  • Joost features past episodes of TV shows, including news, sports, movies and music videos. Users can search by title or category.
  • Hulu shows TV shows from both NBC and Fox plus a selection of movies, including animated features and documentaries. Both full episodes and clips are available.
  • Veoh allows users to search for shows aired on networks such as ABC, CBS, ESPN and MTV, as well as other Web sites like Hulu and YouTube. The site requires downloading the ABC player to watch full-length videos and download videos for viewing later.
  • TheWB caters to younger viewers with full episodes of shows like "The O.C." and "Pushing Daisies."

Pros and Cons of Web TV

MSN warns that with a wireless connection, streaming video may have problems such as freezing or audio issues. Some people may not like having to download a Web site's specific video player. Portability, on the other hand, is an advantage. Downloading TV content and taking it anywhere appeals to commuters and those who have time to kill. For households that are spending $90 or more for cable or satellite TV, the lure of free programming has millions of people turning to Web TV.

The amount of TV content on the Web can be a little overwhelming. To help solve this problem, Web sites such as StumbleUpon and The Channel Channel help match Web TV content to an individual's preferences.

Future of Web TV

It is uncertain whether or not the Internet will make cable and satellite TV obsolete one day. AS of 2009, the NFL Super Bowl, which had 97 million viewers in 2008, is not feasible through an Internet delivery, according to CNN. However, technology in the near future could overcome this type of obstacle.

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