Many of us love the convenience of watching TV shows and movies in the privacy of our own homes. While video stores may have gone the way of the dinosaur, and we don’t always have time to watch our favorite shows when they are broadcast, the internet has given modern viewers a ton of options for what to watch—all right at the tip of their fingertips. Whether you want to watch the latest blockbuster movie or the old TV show you grew up with, there are plenty of perfectly legal—and easy—ways to watch both movies and TV online but they will cost you either time or money.
Paying to Watch a TV Show or Movie
- 1Pay a one time fee to rent a program. In a modern-day version of the video store, online rental services allow viewers to watch a program once in a specific amount of time. Obviously, services, titles, and costs vary but renting a TV show or movie is a good option if you only want to watch a title once, as it is cheaper than purchasing the program outright. A few examples of popular online sites that provide program rentals are:
- iTunes. Apple’s iTunes store has a ton of television and movie content available for download, and downloading the necessary software is free and easy. Prices vary but renting an individual TV show will cost about $1.99, or an entire season will cost around $30. TV shows are usually available on iTunes within a couple days of having been broadcast but not all TV series are available.
- Amazon also provides a rental program for TV shows and movies. Rental costs are pretty comparable to those of iTunes, but if you have Amazon Prime, Amazon’s paid membership, many titles are free to stream. Unlike iTunes, most titles are available for streaming instead of downloading, although programs can be downloaded onto Amazon mobile devices.
- 2Pay a one time fee to own a copy of a TV show or movie. Buying a movie or TV show for download or streaming will cost you as much as buying a DVD but it gives you the convenience of watching it on any number of devices. You’ll be able to watch them whenever you like, for as long as you like, and they won’t expire the way that online rentals do. Remember that even though you have bought the title, it doesn’t guarantee you will be able to make hard copies of it or send a digital copy to a friend. Some sites that sell digital copies of movies and TV shows include:
- iTunes gives you the option to buy or rent all of their TV and movie titles, although one option may be available before the other. iTunes purchases are downloaded straight to your computer and can be accessed through the iTunes program. When buying a TV show or movie, you will have the ability to watch it as many times as you like.
- Amazon also allows you to buy copies of TV shows and movies. Unlike iTunes, however, Amazon gives you the choice of downloading the content, so that you can play it when not connected to the internet, or keeping your access through streaming from their site. The second option is great if your computer’s memory is getting full and you don’t have enough storage room for a big file, like those of movies, but requires specific software from Amazon or an Amazon mobile device.
- 3Subscribe to a streaming service. Pay a monthly fee to access TV and movies online. These services allow viewers to watch a wide variety of programs without the hassle of paying for each program individually. Whether you are concerned about watching the latest episode of your favorite show or you want to watch all of the episodes of an old obscure sitcom, there are different services for you.
- Netflix started out as a DVD rental service that operated through the mail but they have switched their focus in recent years to their instant streaming service. Netflix now allows you to watch TV shows and movies on your computer, or on your television through an approved device, without having to wait for the mail to arrive. There’s a monthly fee but with Netflix you are able to watch as many streaming movies and TV shows as you want. If you love to watch TV shows and movies, but aren’t particular about seeing the very latest releases, then this paid subscription might be for you.
- Huluplus is a subscription that greatly expands the amount of videos you can watch on the free content website Hulu. It has all of the free content available on the basic Hulu site, but includes many more TV episodes and movies. Huluplus also gives access to many TV shows the day after they originally air, while Hulu takes approximately a week to make shows available. For up to the date episodes, paying for Huluplus may be worth the cost.
Watching Ad Supported Programs
1Watch your favorite show on the website of its television network. All of the major networks make many of their shows available to watch online for free via their own websites. You may have to wait a day or two for a prime-time show to become available on the site, and you’ll have to sit through a few commercials, but the pros far outweigh the cons. You can watch when you want to, or when it fits your schedule, and there are actually fewer commercials online than on TV.
- Don’t wait too long to watch the latest episodes because shows are usually only available for a limited amount of time after they’ve aired.
2Watch shows on a website with a wide variety of ad supported programming.While the number of movies you can watch on these type of sites is very limited, this is a great way to be able to watch current TV shows for free. Not all shows, or current episodes, will be available to stream for free, so if you’re desperate to watch something specific this may not be the best way to go about it. But remember, it’s free!
- For example, Hulu pulls in shows and movies from several online sources, mostly the major networks and a few cable networks, too. Hulu only makes five episodes of any TV show available at any given time, so if you miss one, you’re out of luck. The site is free to use, but they also recently launched their Hulu Plus service where you can watch any episode of any TV show season they have available without worrying about expiration, and get access to other premium content as well. Either way, you still have to sit through some commercials.
3Use your paid cable subscription to access online content. Many of the cable TV stations now offer online streaming as part of your cable TV package. This includes basic cable channels, such as FX or USA, as well as premium channels like HBO or Showtime. To access the content, you will need to know your account login and password, available from your cable company. While its true that the cost for access is included in your cable bill, the downside is that many of these channels make you watch ads as well, basically costing you both time and money. In general, these sites are currently only available to paid cable subscribers, however there is some talk that individual subscriptions to the websites may be available in the future.
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