Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly easy to watch your favourite programmes without having to shell out for a TV, lug it all the way to uni and cough up for a TV licence (which now costs a whopping £145.50).
Streaming and downloading programmes and films onto your computer is free, easy and legal. (we trust you wouldn’t even dream of illegal downloading...)
But best of all, providing you don’t stream telly programmes live, you won’t even need a TV licence to access video content online.
We've rounded up a few of the best ways to watch TV on your laptop:
We can’t imagine life without online television on demand. What with your hectic social lifestyle and all those hours in the library (or just your desire to watch everything you possibly can), online players are often a better way of keeping up-to-date with TV’s latest and greatest, rather than watching episodes in real-time. Sure, you might not be able to skip through the ads and most recently broadcast shows often won’t be available for longer than a week, but it’s a small price to pay for TV when you want to watch it.
If you’re not already familiar with these individual broadcaster players, here’s all you need to know:
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/tv) - There are 10 TV channels (inc. BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4, BBC News and BBC HD) AND 12 radio stations available (inc. BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 1 Extra, BBC 5 Live, BBC 6 Music and BBC World Service).
- iPlayer Desktop allows you to download BBC programmes so you can watch them withouthaving to stream them on the internet.
- You can set up your own iPlayer profile using BBC iD, which means you can save your settings and access them on any computer. You’ll also be able to ‘favourite’ shows and share them with your friends via Facebook and Twitter. Linking with friends on BBC iD will also mean that your recommended shows will pop up on their homepage - and vice versa.
- There is sometimes an option to watch certain BBC programmes live (iPlayer are currently streaming Commonwealth Games 2010). Just remember, you’ll need to have a TV license to watch live streams.
Find out more about BBC iPlayer here.
(http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/) - There are four TV channels available ( ITV 1, ITV 2, ITV 3 and ITV 4).
- There is a ‘Featured Series’ section, including the likes of Fearne and... and Law & Order UK.These series’ are available in FULL, up to 30 days after the last programme is broadcast.
- As well as using the search bar and ‘most watched’ tabs to find programmes, you can click through to the TV Guideand play that way. You’ll also be able to set a reminder for future broadcasts, which will be emailed to you before it screens. How very considerate.
Find out more about ITV Player here.
(http://www.channel4.com/programmes/4od) - There are three TV channels available (Channel 4, More 4 and E4).
- The Programme Finder allows you to find programmes (duh) while the 4oD search tool will also bring up trailers.
- Programmes broadcast within the last 30 days can be found in the ‘Recently On’ tab.
- Can’t find the programme you’re looking for? Leave a comment on Platform4, saying what you’d like to see on 4oD.
Find out more about 4oD here.
(http://demand.five.tv/Home.aspx) - There are three TV Channels available (Five, Five USA and Fiver).
- You can stream most of the programmes online for free but you can also rent some others for a small price (99p for programmes that have already been broadcast and £1.99 for programmes rented prior to being shown on Five). Rented episodes will be available to download within 14 days and once downloaded to your Demand Five player, you will have 48 hours to watch it.
- Demand Five gives you the option to own episodes you buy, forever. Once downloaded, these will be stored on your player.
Find out more about Demand Five here.
(http://www.stv.tv/) - There are two TV channels available (STV North and STV Central).
- STV has the same online content rights as ITV.com but the site also shows local Scottish content, such as STV News at Six.
- You can subscribe to an RSS feed so you will always know when new content has been added to the STV Player.
Find out more about STV here.
(http://www.seesaw.com/) SeeSaw makes watching catch-up TV on your laptop even easier, by showing programmes from some of the channels mentioned above, on one website. You’ll find free episodes available from BBC, 4oD and Five as well as Premium episodes (premium meaning paid-for) from BBC, MTV and Universal.
Rental prices vary per episode and complete series’ but promotions often run on the site, offering viewers the chance to buy the first episode of a series (including the likes of House, Grey’s Anatomy and Gavin & Stacey) for just 49p. Further episodes are normally about 99p each, with series prices starting at around £4.99 to about £17.99.
But what we really love about SeeSaw, is Tight Tuesday, which enables you to rent an entirepremium TV series for just 99 of you precious pennies. 99p! And you won’t have to view it all in record time either; you’ll have the standard 90 days to watch the series. Marvellous.
Furthermore, if you’re on Facebook, you can vote for the next series you want to be offered as part of the Tight Tuesday promotion - all you’ll need to do is hit the ‘Like’ button next to the series you want.
(http://www.apple.com/itunes/) While there are some rogue TV episodes available to download for free on iTunes, you’ll have to cough up for most of the gooduns. The main advantage to viewing through iTunes however, is that you’ll have access to loads of channels and studios including E4, Warner Bros., HBO and Sky1 to name a few.
Providing you have an iTunes account (and if not, then setting one up is simple), you’ll be able to buy individual episodes or entire series’ from iTunes, to keep. From there, you can also transfer these onto a portable player, making those long journeys home for the weekend that bit more bearable.
TV Series’ under £5
iTunes offer a great selection of TV series under £5 (there’s also an ‘under £10’ section but ya know, the cheaper the better). You can currently purchase the following for justunder a fiver: I’m Alan Partridge (series one and two), The Thick Of It (Series one and two), Spaced (Series one:) and The Mighty Boosh (Series one) are all there for £4.99. Sold.
If you literally cannot wait until the the next episode of your favourite show (or you don’t subscribe to the channel it’s shown on) andyou don’t mind forking out a bit, you might be able to download it before it’s even aired. Visit the ‘Pre-Air Premieres’ section in iTunes to see what you can watch before all those old-fashioned real-time-TV folk.
You can also buy rent or buy films via iTunes. Newly released films are normally priced at around £9.99 to buy and start at £3.49 to rent. Once you’ve downloaded your rented film, you’ll have 30 days to watch it and once you’ve started viewing, you’ll have 48 hours to finish it. You can even watch rented films on an Apple portable device, as each one will recognise when you’ve stopped watching and will pick up where you left it. Clever stuff.
(http://www.blinkbox.com/) Similarly to iTunes, Blinkbox offers a broad range of British and American TV and film choices to stream on your laptop.
There are loads of free TV series’ available on Blinkbox. You can currently download two series’ of Hustle, the one and only series of T4’s Ultimate Traveller and for all those Dr. Who fans, The Classic Series’ collection can be watched in its entirety, for nothing. Not too shabby, ay?
You can also buy TV programmes and movies from the site, with prices normally setting you back at around the £2 mark for individual episodes. Be sure to check the Special Offers tab to see what you can save money on. You’re likely to find a selection of TV shows at 99p as well some other lovely reductions.
If you’ve got a TV at uni but haven’t paid for the license fee, Blinkbox gives you handy tips that show you how to connect your laptop to your monitor, so you can watch Blinkbox shows/films on a regular screen. What’s more, those of you with a PS3 or an XBOX will also be able to access Blinkbox via your games console - just read here to find out how.
If you need a break from all those episodes of Lost/Gossip Girl/The Office why not hit the books procrastinate some more on one of those sites with endlessly pointless videos. You know, like YouTube or Break. And if watching people go crazy over video games, or viewing the Keyboard Cat ever gets a bit much (which might actually never be the case), then YouTube also hosts a catch-up TV section, so you can stream normal telly to you heart’s content.
You might also want to try a bit of Vimeo - the slightly more serious older brother of YouTube - and Funny Or Die, the comedy video website that combines user-generated content with it’s own stuff. Oh, and it was co-founded by Will Ferrell. We love the exclusive show: Between Two Ferns With Zach Galafinakis - a spoof interview programme that sees celebrities take the piss out of themselves. Which, let's face it, is always a winner.
Sky has an online streaming service for most major channels, including Sports and Movies. It's called Sky Player. Obviously, you need a Sky subscription but, here's the clever bit, you simply need your parents' subscriber details to sign-up to the service on your laptop - or Xbox 360.
Providing your parents don't need to watch Sky stuff on their PC, you can use their subscription for no extra cost.
With all these online streaming and downloading options, it's becoming so simple to watch TV withouta TV. And that's not even counting those DVD box-sets that you can be played on your Laptop. And if you do still use a TV, how about linking your laptop to your TV with one of these? How is there ever going to be time to study?