We recently canceled cable TV service and use free digital broadcast TV. The deciding factor was we can still watch our favorite cable shows (even the ones on HBO and Showtime) without spending additional money. Here’s how you can too…
I. Watch your favorite shows for free using the Internet
One of our favorite sites is Hulu.com, a site which lets you legally watch hundreds of shows and movies for free. It is owned by NBC and Universal, but also features shows from other networks (Fox, Comedy Central, SciFi Channel, WB, etc.). Here are some of our favorites…
- The Daily Show
- The Colbert Report
- BattleStar Galactica
- The Office
- 30 Rock
- The Simpsons
- Family Guy
If you can’t find a show on Hulu.com, it may be available directly from the network or cable channel site. For example…
- ABC has full length episodes of most popular shows (Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.)
- CNN.com has live video feeds and is updated every few minutes.
- Disney and Nickelodeon have popular shows online like Hannah Montana, SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, etc.
The downside? Many networks also list short clips and promos making it confusing to find full episodes. Make sure you select ‘Complete Episodes’ when searching and check the video duration before viewing (or use my Showfinder Tool which filters out clips).
If you can’t find your favorite show on the Internet, check Netflix or Itunes.
Netflix provides DVD rentals via mail for a fixed monthly price and has just added a ‘Watch Instantly’ feature which lets you watch some movies and shows via your web browser. They also have an optional set top box to watch videos on your TV instead of your computer.
Most premium shows from HBO and Showtime are available on Netflix, so this is a great way to watch shows that aren’t available anywhere else. We already had a Netflix subscription, but if you don’t they have a $8.99 plan which includes unlimited rentals (1 DVD at a time) and unlimited movies and shows on-line. If you are interested in trying Netflix, they are currently offering a free two week trial here.
The downside? Shows are usually packaged by the season, so you usually have to wait to catchup on your favorite shows. (If you are addicted to a show, the first year can be rough, but you soon adapt to watching a season at a time). Also, most of the most popular shows and movies are not yet available to watch instantly.
III. ITunes Store
Itunes offers many premium shows both by the episode and by the season. Episodes typically cost $1.99 each and full seasons can cost as much as $30. The shows can be watched on your computer, ipod or via their AppleTV set top box.
The downside? The Itunes Store is very easy to use and their selection is great, but it can get expensive (especially when watching full seasons). As a result, we tend to use the free network sites and Netflix almost exclusively to watch our favorite shows.
End result? We’re able to watch just about all our favorite shows without cable TV. It’s not quite as convenient, but well worth the effort considering we are saving a lot of money. And we’ve even started to watch some of our favorite old shows which we could no longer find on cable.
An easier way to find your shows
I just finished writing a free Showfinder Tool which will tell you at a glance where you can watch complete episodes of a show. You can search for a specific show or browse various categories (e.g. HBO shows, kids shows, classics, etc.)