Ditch Your Cable Company With Free, Legal Alternatives
Ditching your cable company has never been more viable than it is today. The rise of online, streaming TV shows allows you to save on one of the most expensive household bills if you are willing to sacrifice a bit of the convenience of having either a cable box or DVR. The main question you will need to ask yourself is what shows you actually enjoy watching. Several name brand shows are now available online in free, ad supported formats; if your particular shows are not available then you may be stuck with your cable company, at least for now. More and more shows are always coming online, so keep checking back to see if your favorite show is available.
1. Joost [No Longer Available]
Joost, formerly known at the Venice Project, is the undertaking of the creators of Skype and Kazaa. Using P2P protocol to deliver its video, it is a free, legal video service. Joost is currently in deals with several networks including CBS, VH1, MTV, other Viacom channels as well as several other video distribution networks. Joost’s interface is one of the best around, and is meant for a ‘big screen’. It is workable via mouse, keyboard, or remote control. The strong point of Joost is it’s interface and its content that is available so far. A sampling of currently available shows:
- Star Trek: The Original Series
- Several VH1 Shows
The weakness of Joost is also its content. Although there is a huge amount of content available, it is mainly niche content and is not very attractive for a large audience. Since there is so much content it is necessary to wade through much of it to find the gems. If Joost can get additional deals with other networks, it could really be the cable killer. However, since cable systems own stake in many distribution companies, I have a feeling that they are not very anxious to get their content online. Therein lies the problem – not a technical one but a political and dollars and cents problem.
Hulu is where it’s ‘at’ if you want to watch many of your favorite shows online. It is a project of NBC Universal and News Corporation and is currently in private beta. If you want me to send you an invitation I currently have 10 invites – please add your email to the comments area and I will send one off. If I have used my invites up – please use [NO LONGER WORKS] InviteShare to get an invite.
The single biggest feature and draw of Hulu is the volume of shows available. Not all content is available but a handful of currently airing shows are available to stream, as well as a multitude of ‘Clips’. Shows currently available include (but are not limited to):
- The Office
- Family Guy
- Saturday Night Live
- American Gladiators
- Prison Break
- The Simpsons
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
As you can see – it is an impressive offering. Hulu also allows you to embed whole shows or clips into your website in a YouTube-esq fashion.
The downside (isn’t there always one!!) is that the interface isn’t the greatest. It is pretty apparent that this is meant to be a small screen offering; you need your mouse to navigate the shows.
Hulu offers a multitude of shows and therefore in my own eyes is the best video site currently out there. They are always adding more shows and as it moves out of beta we may see more providers sign on.
3. Episodes via Network Websites
The television networks are now streaming a lot of their content onto their own individual websites. Remember the writer’s strike that recently settled? That is what it was all about – the writers were not getting a fair share of online ad revenue.
Dealing with each individual network is a pain but if you know where to look there is a lot of content available.
This is a sampling of ABC shows are available:
- Lost (HD)
- Grey’s Anatomy
- Ugly Betty
- According to Jim
Shows such as:
- Real World/Road Rules Challenge
- My Sweet 16
- The Hills
- Dirty Jobs
There are too many networks to list all of them, but check out the website of your favorite network and see if they offer streaming shows online. You’ll be surprised to find that many of them do!
Miro player is technically a video player. It does not have any direct content, so you need to be able to add content to it using RSS feeds.
Using its directory there are a plethora of Video podcasts available, such as Diggnation, Tekzilla, CBS News and much more. Adding this content to Miro is easy, however shows must be downloaded before you can watch them. Miro will gladly run in the background and download new shows as they are available. However, this can quickly add up to a lot of disk space lost, so you may want to customize your settings to only keep a few shows at a time.
The Killer feature of Miro is the integrated BitTorrent client. It allows you to set up an RSS feed of episodes which it will then automatically monitor and download. One such site that offers these types of RSS feeds is tvrss.net .
So about that television provider…
As you can tell, the choices available for replacing your television provider are really getting viable. Although nothing beats plopping down in front of the television after a long hard day at work, products such as Joost almost replace your current set top box and actually Joost is rumored to be working with hardware providers on creating a Joost set top box. DVR functionality isn’t quite there yet; but with content being on-demand on many of the sites above, replacing a DVR may work for many people.
Have you already made the cut? Please let us know about your experiences with ditching your cable company!
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UPDATE 1: (Hulu Invites)
My name is Christina and I work at Hulu. I noticed a bunch of readers were interested in getting Hulu beta invites. We’ve created a page at www.hulu.com/beta/makeuseof that will provide the first 500 users a Hulu beta invitation. Just submit your email address and we will send you an automated email with your temporary login and password. We hope you will enjoy!
Let us know what you think after you check it out. firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE 2: Sorry guys, all invites are already gone.