I’ll try to run through what’s currently available and where to find it.
First of all, I went spent almost 6 years studying abroad, so I know what it’s like to be on a desperate search for internet tv. For the majority of that time, it just didn’t exist. It was either a problem of not enough content or a massive fee. A lot has changed since then.
There are basically 3 or 4 very good options in 2007, but that is very dependent upon what you mean by “free tv on the internet.”
The first, and by far the most popular version of internet tv is on-demand viewing. There are several different companies that offer you the ability to watch previously-aired programs and television series for free. If you are looking, perhaps, to discover a television series that you never really got into and now you feel out of the loop, this is the way to go. If you scroll down the page later you can read some of the reviews I did on the specific sites and software.
However, this isn’t really internet “tv” to me. This is kind of like a free movie rental of a television series. That’s not what I was searching for myself, so I’ll assume there are some of you out there like me who want a real television experience on your computer (and one that isn’t going to cost you monthly fees).
Ok, in that case, there are basically two really good options: place shifting or an all-in-one solution.
Placeshifting was a term coined a few years ago by a company called SlingMedia, but it’s more of a marketing buzzword than anything, really. What’s important to know is that this tool allows you to take the cable service that you already pay for in your home, and transport it with you on the road, over the internet on any computer, anywhere in the world. For about 50% of you reading this, the SlingBox is the answer to many of your prayers.
If you travel with any kind of regularity, even to a neighboring state, this little devil makes you feel right at home. Anything you have on your own cable network you’re able to access on your computer. Local news, local sports, local weather. Any premium channels you subscribe to like HBO. You can even access the “on demand” screens and pay-per-view channels! Even cooler than that… are you ready for this? On the premium models, you can even control your home dvd player, DVR, or other external devices that are plugged into your home network!
I have tried out the very first version of this product, some 3 years ago, and i was blown away. There were some small things I would have changed about the quality of the image when connecting to some slower internet connections, but for the most part it was awesome. I’m sure today it is really, really good.
The sling box itself is an actual piece of hardware that you connect in your home to your cable box. It’s not very large and pretty simple, just plug and play, but if you aren’t looking for equipment to buy, you want more channels than what you currently pay for with cable, or you want to drop cable all together, this product probably isn’t for you.
However, I have to mention their website because it’s freaking awesome. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Mac VS Pc commercials, but I love them. This site does a sort of a rip off of that general idea, but in the end it makes it even better. There are a few screen shots that can be found but you really have to see it to understand the humor.
Moving along… The second option, and the one I use right now, gives you a lot more freedom and can save you a boat load of money even if you never leave your house.
It’s basically a downloadable software program that uses the internet to connect to a network of satellite channels. The premium version of the software gives you access to over 4000 stations! That’s insane. The cool thing, I thought, was that you can get channels from virtually any country on the planet. I would list them here but it’s a big waste of space. If you don’t live in the US or you travel abroad, this thing is great because it works anywhere.
Again, some places have a few screenshots of what the software looks like, channel listings on the left in this view. You can play around with a multitude of settings, window sizes and resolutions, etc., etc.
Another great thing is that the product costs 1/2 of what the sling box costs. And that’s just for the actual product. It’s just a one time fee and then no monthly fee after that. Where I live, part of the year in the US, my cable + internet bill is $120. And I’m almost never here. Even with Slingbox I would have had to continue paying. Now I use this other service, and I pay nothing!
That’s as close to perfection as you’re going to find in free tv on the internet in 2007. I’m totally happy with my setup, but I am going to keep watching to see what is coming up over the horizon in the next few months. I hope that answered some of your questions.