For the past year or so, it has been a dream of mine to develop some sort of home entertainment system that can replace cable television – the holy grail of free TV watching on the Internet. For some people, such a proposition would be easier than for other people.
For example, in my family we only really ever watch a few of the major networks, such as CBS, NBC, A&E, Discovery and of course the kids love Nickelodeon. In this case, all I’d really need to do to replace our cable TV needs is install a system that lets us watch episodes of our favorite shows when we feel like it.
There are still a few major drawbacks to getting your TV entertainment from the Internet. It’s a given that you have to wait for the latest episodes, so don’t expect to be able to follow the conversations around the water cooler about last night’s episode of Dancing With the Stars.
On the other hand, if you really only watch TV occasionally and for a select few television shows that you like, paying a monthly fortune for cable seems unwarranted.
In this article, I’m going to propose a setup that makes use of an Internet TV app Aibek mentioned briefly before called Miro. The setup has Miro installed onto a PC or laptop connected to a large flatscreen monitor (which will be our new “television”), and then I will transform my Android phone into the remote control with an app I reviewed before here at MUO called Gmote.
If you don’t have an Android phone, check out Karl’s article on configuring a PC remote control for Windows Mobile or install an app for your own mobile device that provides remote control over the PC via your home network.
Setting Up Free Remote Control TV Watching on the Internet
There are two major worries people have when they consider switching over to free TV watching on the internet. The first is that the video streams for all of your favorite shows are scattered throughout the Internet. Yes, there are full episodes available, but you have to go to the website for the show in order to watch it.
The second potential problem people worry about is resolution. Most streaming video doesn’t have the rich clarity and definition of digital cable television. However, if you’ve ever downloaded a television episode over high speed Internet, you know that while the image isn’t perfect, it is usually good enough – especially when you watch the screen from a little bit of a distance away from the screen. Once you finish this setup and test it, you’ll find that both of these worries are pretty much resolved – especially considering that your television entertainment will be free.
The first step is to place your television up with the laptop or desktop tucked away in an obscure spot. You won’t need to access the “media server” because your remote control will do everything. Then, download and set up Miro onto that PC.
When you first install Miro, you’ll see that there is already a decent mix of content for free TV watching on the Internet, video feeds and even a torrent search. Now, the point of using Miro is because it functions very well as a central collection point for all of the video sites and video feeds that you want to have access to. Miro will remove the necessity to go digging all over the net for your favorite TV shows – just find them once and add them into Miro as a new video website or feed. In my case, I love the show Paranormal State, so the first thing I do is go over to the video section of A&E to get the site URL.
The A&E video page has links to full episodes of just about all of its major shows. Many people simply don’t realize how much video content is available out there on the Internet for absolutely free. Honestly, there’s so much content that once you get rid of your cable company, you’ll find that you haven’t really lost much, but you’ve gained a great deal (like money, for starters).
When you find the network’s video page, just copy the URL and then go to Miro and go to Sidebar -> Add Website. Once you add the URL for the video page, you’ll see the site page show up right inside the Miro application.
Here, you can see where I’m watching an episode of Paranormal State from within the Miro app. Even though you’re inside Miro, the “maximize” button still works, so you can still watch the video in full screen mode.
Along the left menu bar, you can see that I’ve added all of my favorite station websites, from ABC and CBS down through Nickelodeon. In the video window, you can see where I have the selection of full episodes of the popular show Mythbusters. On this screen alone, there are almost four hours of great entertainment for free – why pay for cable?
My favorite part of Miro is the ability to add video feeds. Doing so sets up Miro as a “feed-reader” for the latest video content on your favorite video sites like YouTube or Hulu. To get a feed, just go to the site (like Hulu above) and choose the feed link that you want. Want to keep an eye on the newest movies added to Hulu, the most popular YouTube videos or Google videos? Just copy the feed link and in Miro go to Sidebar -> Add Feed.
Now, once you have all of your video websites and video feeds configured in Miro, the final step to enjoy free TV watching on the Internet is to install your local remote control software. In my case I’m using Gmote, so I’ll install the desktop client software and the mobile app to my Android phone. Now, whenever I have my entertainment system booted up I just have to launch my mobile Gmote app and I have a touchpad I can use to control the mouse on the “television” screen.
And don’t worry, if you tend to watch a lot of television and run out of full episodes to watch of your favorite shows, why not “channel surf” the Web 2.0 way – click on the Miro Guide and just start searching or browsing for the videos that are available there.
While taking that major step of turning off cable television can be a difficult decision, in the long run the cost savings combined with the enormous volume of video content available on the web, makes that decision a lot easier. Why not set up your own Internet TV system and try it out for a while? Maybe, after a week or two, you’ll find that you don’t even miss cable at all!
Do you have your own method of organizing shows and watching free Internet TV? Share your insight and experiences in the comments section below.