Watch your favorite cable shows using Hulu.com, Netflix and Itunes

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
- House
- 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.

II. Netflix

Netflixicon 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 planicon 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.)

Next: Use my Showfinder tool to browse and search for your favorite shows on the Internet.

20 thoughts on “Watch your favorite cable shows using Hulu.com, Netflix and Itunes

  1. Greetings!
    thanks for stopping by my “cancel” post and offering your excellent insight! As you know, we are already using NetFlix, but I have never heard of Hulu.com! I am enjoying your site, thank you for all the useful info to get us over the first few weeks :) .

  2. One of the plusses of iTunes is that for HBO and first-run shows, new episodes are often available the day after they premiere, so you don’t have to wait like you do for the DVD. You can buy a season pass, and your iTunes will download them automatically as they become available. I am going this route for Mad Men, but you could also do it for the available HBO shows, if you don’t want to wait.

  3. We canceled Dish satellite in April, and we see more programs and movies that we like now than when we had it. He have Netflix, and purchased an HP slimline home theatre PC with a Blu-ray player for $600 to hook up to our television. Since it has a tv tuner, we can record all of our programs from local over the air digital tv, we usually watch Hulu, Fancast, TidalTV, and Joost, but have bookmarked all of the various network sites too, because they now show some programs in HD. Since we have ATT DSL, we also get to watch ESPN360. The new PC has been paid for with the savings from canceling the television subscription. We get to see what we want, when we want, and it’s at no additional charge. We will never go back!

  4. What about CW shows? I’m a big fan of Smallville, but the CW site only seems to have clips.

    I currently have a DVR (homeade), but I’m not sure how it will interact with the DTV converter box after February.

    I’ve also had difficulty finding a DTV/DVR box. That would solve my problem! Any help would be appreciated!

    This is an incredibly useful site!

  5. Hi pawnblue. I checked Hulu and the CW web site and it looks like they are only doing clips for Smallville. Netflix has seasons 1-7, but only via DVD (not instant download).

    If you are looking for a DTV/DVR, the new Tivos (Tivo HD and Series 3 HD) support digital broadcast TV, although the standard Tivo monthly fee still applies.

  6. is there any way i can use hulu and instead of watching my favorite programs on my pc, can i watch them on my tv. i have a bad back and sitting at my pc for prolonged periods of time is a killer. and since i am taking a 35% pay cut , i really need to downsize my bills as much as possible. if this is possible will it interfere with my magic jack. (switched to that for phone service), thanks

  7. My mother bought a set top converter box, and it “bricked” after 3 months. I would make the argument that before you spend $50-60 on a converter box, take that money to Walmart or ebay and upgrade to a better TV. Having another box, next to the RF converter, and power strip to run the whole pile of plastic is getting a bit silly. Walmart has several very nice HD (720p) LCD televisons (some with DVD internal) for around $200.

  8. I am considering cancelling my cable (the charges are up to $87 a month). I would like to do it in stages, but before doing this I have a few questions I hope someone will answer before I do this:
    1. Before going off the grid (as my wife calls it). I have a HDTV. Do I need the Digital Service/Digital Gateway with the cable company or can I cancel that? I called the cable coompany and of course they said I needed it. I don’t understand if my TV is digital why do I need a gateway.

    2. We do enjoy using the DVR. If I drop cable do the internet services keep programs saved somewhere?

    3. I am not a big sports fan but, I do enjoy NFL football. Is there someplace I can pick it up through the Internet?

    Hope these questions aren’t too off the wall. I am sick of paying huge cable bills. Now they are charging a “Broadcast Station Surcharge”.

    Thanx…Mike…

  9. I found you via the GMA website in the article about saving on technology costs. I was considering finally going back to the dark side (cable TV). I live out in the back of beyond and was happy with my roof antenna until this big mess with the swith to digital. Now the booster station in my area is gone and I get the direct stations from LA complete with snow and ghosts. You’ve reminded me about the broadcasts on the web so, once again, I am on the ‘true path’.

    By the way, I’m old enough to remember when cable tv was only a dream and the thought was we’d pay directly for programs and do away with commercials. If you check the cable broadcasts now, you’ll find there is more commercial time and subscribers are paying through the nose for it. Such a deal!

    Anyway, thanks for this site. I’m adding it to the favorites.

  10. Hi,

    Great site! My only suggestion is that you could add info on where to watch sports. One great resource is espn360.com, which is accessible to most people who have a high-speed internet service, I believe. Also some tournaments for certain sports stream their events, like Wimbledon, I believe. But what are other options to watch sports? Personally, I am most interested in European and Brazilian football, er, excuse me, “soccer”, as well as the FIFA World Cup. Any advice?

  11. Depending on the public library system, which will have some collection of dvds, many public libraries also carry great feature films that are recently released on dvd, including blockbusters, international, non-fiction documentaries, and indie films. If your system doesn’t carry something, make a suggestion for purchase to the library. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much the libraries take patron input seriously!

  12. I have been without cable for a year now and it did take some adjusting, but now, I will never go back. I was hooked on A&E Intervention which I get to watch online and I love their spinoff of that Hoarders. I love Hulu and You Tube. I found if you do some searching you can find most of what you want. I also love network T.V. and the digital picture is amazing. I did install an antenna on my roof and the picture is better then cable ever was. I love saving the $70 a month I was paying for cable and will never go back. Even as a kid I always thought it was crazy to be charged to watch t.V.

  13. I have been without cable for a year now and it did take some adjusting, but now, I will never go back. I was hooked on A&E Intervention which I get to watch online and I love their spinoff of that Hoarders. I love Hulu and You Tube. I found if you do some searching you can find most of what you want. I also love network T.V. and the digital picture is amazing. I did install an antenna on my roof and the picture is better then cable ever was. I love saving the $70 a month I was paying for cable and will never go back. Even as a kid I always thought it was crazy to be charged to watch t.V.

  14. Was wondering if anyone knows if it is possible to stream hulu through the samsung internet connectable/wifi built in blu-ray player??? Trying to figure out the smartest way with out buying a roku player and a new blu-ray player. Any suggestions would be amazing. Thanks

  15. Thanks for the great info! The wife and I are considering dropping cable and this was some great info to help make our decision. Just need to figure out if the kids will be out with it.

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