Monday, June 30, 2008

Best Free Online TV Viewer

This area is still quite new. But in the last year it has exploded with content and applications. There are still very few standards, so you will end up having several viewer programs if you want to access a wide variety of shows.

What I was looking for was a replacement for cable TV. Once I started finding TVoIP programming I discovered that this just isn't cable TV like I was used to. For one, my favorite cable channels are nearly impossible to find. A&E, Showtime, PBS Kids, Spike TV, CBS, FOX, Comedy Central, C-Span, HSN, The Sci-fi channel, Nick, Movie channel can be found on one service or another. CBS, Fox and CW have made reruns of their past shows available. Not so much ABC or NBC. I also found many independent and international networks that just aren't carried by the cable companies.

When you find shows on the Internet, they will be in one of three forms:
  1. A live video stream, which is like over-the-air broadcasts. In fact many TV stations are making their over-the-air broadcasts available as Live streams. When you connect to a stream, it is like tuning into the station over the air. You join the broadcast in progress. You can't pause it or rewind it (unless you have some sort of PVR software). Many network stations consider streaming video an experiment so the quality can be variable.
  2. RSS feeds, which are better known as video Podcasts or Vcasts. You don't need an iPod to enjoy them. There is software available to receive and watch them on your computer.
  3. Video on demand, which is self-explanatory: you connect to a video server and choose the program you want to watch by using a menu or channel guide.

A quick search will turn up many free internet TV viewers but most are cut down versions of a paid software. There are a few that are not. Some of my favorites (in order) are:

JLC's internet TV viewer. A simple, but effective streams viewer that doesn't have much overhead. The channel guide is maintained by the users and is very complete. But I was able to find two local streams that weren't listed (they are now). Users can submit, rate and update the channels. A favorites catagory helps you corral the streams you like. Web cams, porn and spam entries are not allowed in the guide. JLC is not responsible for the quality of the streams, and some are quite poor, or can stop working without warning. The user ratings can help you choose a good stream.

Joost A video on demand viewer. Has a very large selection of network content and full shows. One of the nicest and creative user interfaces. Lots of independent shows like Green TV, Soma girls, Indivisual, etc. Content is selected by the Joost staff and is very good. Working to add live streams. Still in beta.

TVUNetworks A combination of Live streams and Video on demand. Not as many channals as the others, but you wil find Nickelodian here as well as a lot of content from China.

MIRO: ( This one will do live streams like JLC, but also does RSS. Makes heavy use of your hard drive and internet bandwidth because it wants to download everything to your hard drive, TIVO style. The program guide is proloaded, but there is very little network content. If you know where to get your video, you may like Miro.

Bablgum: ( Another RSS based viewer. ---yet to be test driven ---

VEOH ( Video on demand viewer. Re-streams video from the Hulu website and CBS content (allowable) and others. Veoh will tap into the available amature video on the internet. Think of it as agragating YouTube and all it's bretheren. --yet to be test driven --

Vuze ( Video on demand viewer, doesn’t offer anything that you can’t get elseware. You have to buy the premium content. ---yet to be test driven ---

Video Discovery Full episodes of a few shows from the discovery network (Discovery, History, Animal Planet). Only a few episodes of 4 shows. (blah!). I only mention it because you are likely to stumble upon it. Don't get too excited when you do.

The Amazon Unbox: ( The viewer is free and there is plenty of content; for $1.99 per episode. Also movie rentals. You can buy videos on line and have them sent to your Tivo. There are better options, in my opinion.

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