These are online services that provide TV shows and movies. You can watch most of these on your computer, and some of them on game boxes and set-top boxes like Roku or Apple TV. Some are pay-per-view, while some like Netflix have a subscription model.
If you are looking for a particular show, check out the findMyfavorites page of this site for a list of some current and classic shows that are available without cable. Or, try searching for it at clicker.com.
Netflix has a large subscriber base and good content. Unlimited streamed programming is $7.99 per month, and it works on a wide variety of devices including your computer, Roku, and Apple TV, as well as the PS3, Wii, and XBox game consoles. Some DVD players and TVs can also stream Netflix. Their DVD subscription service adds $7.99 more per month. A lot of people swear by Netflix.
If you own an Apple device, you know about iTunes. TV shows are $2.99 to buy and movies are $4.99 to rent. This is about a dollar more than other services like Amazon. Selection of recent movies and shows is pretty good. You can watch them using your Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, or computer.
Amazon Prime is a service that is well worth mentioning. For $79 per year (yes per year, not per month!), you get access to thousands of movies and TV shows on Amazon. Now, these are going to be some of the older movies and shows, but the selection is not bad. As a bonus, you get free two-day shipping when you buy stuff on Amazon, and you get to borrow one free Kindle book per month. It's not a bad deal if you use what it has to offer.
Amazon Video offers 75,000 movies and TV shows - a good selection. Movies range from 99 cents to $3.99 to rent. Click below for more info..
Note that these services don't work on Apple TV. They will work on Roku iPad, and your computer. For more info on Amazon Instant Video, check out my review of it on my blog.
Hulu is a great site known for offering old TV programs, but they offer lots of new ones as well. Watching these is free on your computer, however, the free service is blocked on most (if not all) of the set-top boxes. To get free Hulu programming on your TV, you'll have to connect a computer to your TV (see how here).
For set-top boxes (Roku and Apple TV), they offer Hulu Plus at $7.99 per month. For this you get access to many current TV shows. If you're really into TV, this could be for you. On the other hand, many of these shows are on the networks for free.
The network websites
Let's not forget full episodes available free on the major network websites. Although you do have to be careful to distinguish between "full episodes" and "clips", I've been impressed with what's available:
CBS has lots of full episodes of classic old shows like Star Trek (The Original Series), Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, and Melrose Place. The selection is quite impressive. There are some full episodes of newer shows like Big Bang Theory, Survivor, and Late Night with David Letterman mixed with a lot of clips.
So, yes, there is not a big selection of full episodes of new shows, but back when you had cable, you didn't have any choice either - you had to watch whichever episode that was playing! So, I don't see this as any different (except that you can watch it any time on the website, not just when it's being broadcast).
ABC has a good selection of previously-aired full episodes of current shows. Examples include Desperate Housewives, Dancing with the Stars, Modern Family, and so forth.
NBC has a good selection of full episodes of some classics including 30 Rock, the original Battlestar Galactica, Saturday Night Live, and The Office.
Fox - good stuff here too, including full episodes of Family Guy, Glee, Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, House, and the Simpsons.
CW doesn't have as large a selection as the other networks. They do have some full episodes of current shows like America's Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, and others. To try this out, I clicked on "Smallville" only to find out there weren't any full episodes available, even though it was in the "full episodes" section.
PBS has full episodes of some great shows like Nova, Frontline, Antiques Roadshow, and American Experience. Good stuff. Click on the "Programs" button for the full episodes.
You already know YouTube as a place to watch viral video clips and so forth. However, they do have some full episodes. For example, I was able to watch a good number of some older full episodes from the Discovery Channel just by searching YouTube. You never know what you will find. But most importantly, YouTube is free! You can watch it on your TV using Apple TV, but getting it on Roku is not as easy.
A new service called Aereo is getting a lot of attention these days. If you are not able to get broadcast TV, this service could be for you. Aereo basically takes broadcast TV and puts it on the Internet, where subscribers can watch it. There is also recording capability. Currently, this service is only available in New York City, but it is being rolled out in 21 other cities soon. There are various pricing plans, but basically the cost is around $8 per month.
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