Watch TV, on your computer – without the need for an antenna, TV card or subscription. FilmOn is a free service offering a wide variety of TV channels in the US and UK.
Internet TV service Aereo’s been in the news a lot recently – an upcoming US supreme court decision will determine whether they’re stealing from broadcasters, or helping people access content already on the public airwaves. But Aereo, a subscription service, isn’t the only online TV company with something at stake. The lesser known, and ad-supported, FilmOn also provides access to local TV broadcasts.
FilmOn probably can’t replace a cable subscription, but if you only need access to a few live channels it’s worth looking into. You’ll find a variety of local stations, and a few rotating collections of old movies, among other things.
FilmOn can be overwhelming, to understate things. I’d start by heading to filmon.com/group and looking over the categories.
Not the greatest first impression, is it? Bikini Babe as a category and Daniel Tosh representing comedy might prompt some to close the tab, but give it a chance. Click the “Live TV News” button to start watching immediately.
The first channel to come up is France24, a France-centric news station presented in English.
You can channel surf by clicking the arrow overlay on your video, or even check out a TV guide to see what’s on:
These are all channels you can easily find online elsewhere, of course. Things get interesting when you click “Local TV”.
Live TV Streaming
FilmOn offers over-the-air TV stations to you online – for free.
What’s listed here, for American viewers, seems to change regularly and at least partially depends on your location. If you’re in NYC, for example, you’ll probably see your local ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates. If you’re in Colorado, as I am, you’ll probably just find a bunch of PBS, CW and other stations from around the country.
This is the result of ongoing legal disputes, which may or may not be cleared up by upcoming supreme court decisions. Still, there’s plenty to explore here.
Viewers in the UK have a lot more choice: you’ll find all the terrestrial stations.
I wonder if it’s only a matter of time until lawsuits question the legality of such a service in the UK as they have in the USA, but for now this is a great alternative to setting up an antenna.
With Your Media Center
Love the content, but don’t think FilmOn will work well on your TV? I’d recommend watching with XBMC (our complete guide to XBMC). A plugin called F.T.V gives you access to all these streams from a remote-friendly interface:
If you’re in the UK, you can take things even further with OnTapp.tv (once known as TV Guide Dixie). This uses streams from FilmOn and other sources to give you a satellite-style TV guide you can browse:
It’s a nice interface, and relatively easy to use, but works best with UK TV at the moment.
More Online TV
Looking for some more live TV to watch on your computer? You could check out LiveStation, which provides live news broadcasts over the Internet. The station selection isn’t overwhelming, but it offers a nice interface.
Or you could check out our list of places to watch TV online legally and free.
The best part of this service is, without a doubt, the access to broadcast TV content from around the country. This will presumably go away completely should Aereo lose its pending supreme court case, of course, but for now the service is well worth checking out.
Beyond broadcast, FilmOn is a bit of a mess, interface wise, but buried in there is some great content. You just have to do some digging. FilmOn also offers free streaming apps for iOS, Android, and Blackberry.
Did you find any channels worth bookmarking? Let us know in the comments below, okay? Or recommend other ways to watch TV online.