Before current advancements in technology, the availability
of television programming such as shows, movies, news and live events was
limited solely to TV sets. These days, anyone can watch television programming
anywhere online via Internet-accessible technologies, and the overall scope of
programming available to viewers seems nearly limitless when compared to
options available locally through traditional television cable or satellite
Ad-Supported Network Sites
TV networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC and others have expanded their reach by
offering new and archived (previous year or decade) programming on their
websites. Typically, programs are free to site visitors, as they're supported
by advertisements -- network ads for upcoming shows as well as product and
service ads by network partner companies.
Subscription Network Sites
Subscription cable and satellite networks such as HBO and Showtime also offer
online "On Demand" options. Unlike ad-supported offerings, viewers
must have a subscription to the network through a television services provider
to gain access to programming. Sometimes these networks will offer a free
viewing experience in an attempt to gain new subscribers. The free offering is
usually the first episode of a series edited to remove content that contains
profanity or sex scenes.
General Entertainment Sites
Many general entertainment and multimedia companies offer general entertainment
websites such as Hulu, Crackle, Netflix and YouTube Movies with free
ad-supported and subscription new and archived television programming as well
as Web-based TV-style shows and special programming not found elsewhere.
Programming is available through partnerships with those who own the rights to
the programming such as TV networks, film studios and media
Television Service Provider Sites
Cable television service providers also
offer websites such as Comcast's Xfinity Online and AT&T's U-verse Online
with ad-supported and subscription television programming. The sites are
promoted as a bonus offering for current customers and a sampling of available
cable and satellite services for potential customers to review.
Live Streaming Sites
Many websites online such as Ustream, Livestream and Justin.tv offer live
streaming of television events including government
proceedings and sports, as well as user-generated content. Government and
other entities such as NASA and the UN also have their own sites featuring
videos and webcasts. Some websites provide 24-hour access to live events and
some provide access at a prescheduled time.
Typically, television programming found online is presented in thumbnail or
list format and searchable by release date, alphabetical order or
user-preference. Newer and archived programming may not be made available until
the next day or as late as a month later, if at all, and may not include the
entire season of a show or its entire run. Some websites offer users free
accounts to create playlists of shows and movies to watch at any time and many
offer videos of live events and webcasts as a convenience to those who can't
watch the live broadcast.