Online Television Not The Real Thing Yet But Will Do In A Pinch
We are lucky enough that television (or at least websites with television-like qualities) is making it's way online. Great for people like me who don't want to pay for high speed internet and cable (guess which one won out for me?) Let's check out our options, shall we?
YouTube, Metacafe, Videojug, etc.
The Pros: Short enough to "sneak a quick one", easy to keep clicking from one to the next
The Cons: Often short, sometimes crappy, highly addictive to some people
My Take: I don't like these kind of videos. Nerve Scanner, a blog I love, is great about getting the coolest, funniest ones off the web. I'm not patient enough to watch a bunch of ok videos to find one good one. (Meanwhile Sean will watch YouTube karate videos for hours, though he also likes people being clumsy). To each his own I suppose.
iTunes, or any online location for video podcasts
Idea: User generated and submitted content; like a audio podcast, you can subscribe and get all the episodes; most often a series (it's kind of a commitment). Also, iTunes often has a free television episode every week if you are looking for something random.
The Pros: Usually when people commit to making a series of videos, they are more commited to it then the average person. You can expect content that was thought about at the very least, and if you like what you see, you can see more on the same subject by the same people. Easily loadable on the newer iPods.
The Cons: Sometimes videos seem a little more on the informative side and a little less on the fun side. Sometimes podcasts also just "disappear" (as in they stop being updated with no explanation).
My take: I don't count on anything from iTunes. I use it to learn something (like I love the WhoWhatWear Daily video podcast) and when I go on a trip, I'll download some free television for entertainment. Other then that, not much iTunes for me.
SurftheChannel.com (from Comment faire de l'argent…en economisant)
The Pros: Hundreds of shows (everything from Little House On The Prarie to Will and Grace) and by hundreds of shows I don't mean just different shows. There are over 300 LHOTP episodes! You can take the experience to full screen too.
The Cons: It takes awhile to load full screen (so just get up and make popcorn while you wait). The quality is also a little bad. Oh and sometimes the videos have distracting subtitles:
My Take: If I'm bored some Friday night and want to watch a little bit of "Make Me A Supermodel" to test drive it, I will. If I really like the show, I may rent a DVD of a season of it. This is the closest thing to a cable experience I can have at this point.
ABC, NBC, (Television Network websites in general), Hulu
Idea: Networks, not wanting to lose their audience or potential for online revenue, have moved some of their shows online. The good news is sometimes independent companies (like hulu) are thinking of better ways of bringing the episodes to the average computer.
Pros: Video quality is usually good, automatically blowing up to full screen well. Full length shows!
Cons: If you have a five year old (and on it's last leg) laptop, your video card may not be up to snuff. I could only watch about 5-10 seconds of any NBC show before my computer spaced out.
My take: If I had a good enought video card, this would actually be the closest thing to a cable experience for me.
So the good news is, if you want a television experience, it can happen online. It certainly does have a little bit of a ways to go to make it similar to a real television experience though. If none of what I've listed above works for you, here is someone who has done enough research to rank each site and list what's available in table format.