There are several ways to watch TV online these days. Today I’ll be explaining the various ways to do this, as well as the pros and cons of each. Anyway, let’s get started with the easiest…
Official Web Players
Whether you live in the US, UK, Germany or anywhere in the world for that matter, most of the major TV broadcasters will have an internet based web player. These usually allow you to watch live and catch-up content online.
Web players have by far the best video quality and some broadcasters even show programs in HD (connection permitted). They also have the latest programs to catch-up on and many show major live sporting events like The Olympics or The World Cup. To help pay for the content and video bandwidth bills, most providers will place adverts throughout the programs on offer.
Web-based players generally only work in their designated country though. For example, if you were to try to watch Hulu anywhere other than in the US, your computer IP will be recognized none US. This means Hulu will block you and you will not be able to stream any content (There is a walk around this limitation, read my How To Use A VPN article).
Pros – Excellent video quality, large library of content, reliable.
Cons – Only works in target country, shows adverts.
There are several free P2PTV software clients available that let you stream TV on your computer. Sopcast, PPLive, PPMate etc to name but a few.
These all use a technology called p2p (peer-to-peer). This essentially means everyone who is watching a particular channel becomes part of that video stream distribution network. The program uses some of your internet connection to “pass” the stream to the next person so they can watch. It very much like p2p file sharing only with streaming media instead.
The quality of these streams are based on a few factor. This includes thing like how good the source content is being encoded, how fast the encoders connection speed is for transmitting. Also, if there are many leeches watching the channel (people who don’t allow their connection to be used to distribute the stream), this too slows the overall p2p network performance.
Unlike the web players, there is usually no schedule so it can difficult finding what you want to watch. There are specialized websites that do show schedules for sports but I have yet to find a similar website showing general TV listings for the most popular P2PTV programs.
Here are a few fast download links to some of the better programs I have used – Sopcast.
Pros – Live TV, lots of sports channels.
Cons – Poor video quality, slow, unreliable, limited programs.
Illegal/Grey Area Websites
(Disclaimer – I don’t want to get into a debate over if it’s morally right or wrong to watch illegal TV streams. It’s entirely up to you what you do online, I am just discussing this as an option)
Do a Google search for “watch movies online” or “watch live football” and you will find thousands of websites that show pirated TV streams.
One thing I would say is to be careful using such websites. Because the streams are “free”, there are a few unsavory people involved in these kinds of operations. If you are ever asked to download a new codex to view a channel, run a mile as it’s almost definitely going to be malware.
The quality of streams are also below standard from what I’ve seen. Their even worse than the P2P software mentioned above in many cases. Last and by no means least are the ads. My god, there are a lot of ads. You generally have to spend several seconds staring at adverts obscuring the video stream. Even once they have gone, they seem to systematically return throughout watching.
Pros – Free (though illegal)
Cons – Illegal, poor video quality, thousands of adverts
In my experience, using official web players is the best option. Using a web player coupled with a proxy or VPN service and you’ll have literally hundreds of programs to choose from and all watchable as high quality video streams to boot.