Cable and satellite television serve as primary news and entertainment sources, but that appears to be changing. With the proper hardware and services, you can bring dozens of the same programs that appear on cable and satellite television into your life via a host of new alternatives.
Cable and satellite television once served as the only viewing options for many programs. As computer use grew through the 1990s and the early years of the 2000s, several cable and broadcast stations began to experiment with providing content online through websites. Today, all major broadcast TV stations and more than one dozen cable networks offer programming online.
Alternatives to satellite and cable television often provide viewers with free or discounted access to their favorite television shows. Many websites offer shows for free. Therefore, viewers need only to pay for a computer and Internet access. Most homes already have both. The movement also has caused satellite and cable television providers to reconsider their pricing. Today, both offer cable, Internet and phone combo packages and other discounts in an effort to keep their customers.
Several alternatives to cable and satellite television service exist. To view movies and episodes of cable TV shows, you can purchase or rent movies from Netflix, iTunes or Blockbuster. iTunes offers downloadable movies and television shows that you can rent or purchase through the company's website. Netflix and Blockbuster ship DVDs by mail to subscribers who pay a monthly fee. Most broadcast television stations now offer full episodes of their most popular shows through their websites. Some cable TV networks also offer programming online. Among them are Comedy Central, Disney, TBS and the Discovery Channel. Websites such as Hulu.com, Fancast.com and ESPN360.com offer programming from major cable and broadcast stations, and user-content sites such as Youtube.com provide entertaining and informative video not available through cable television.
You can watch more over-the-air broadcast television if you live near several broadcast stations. Some online programming is available only to individuals who live in certain geographic areas. For example, ESPN360.com is available through specific cable providers, and individuals who do not live in the service areas of those providers cannot access the site.
With the high-speed capabilities of Internet service, lots of companies are taking shots at producing Web-specific content. As iTunes, a popular site for television programming and music, continues to grow, there is an increasing chance that it could become a powerful player in the competition to provide television viewers with a complete option. Apple, the company that created iTunes, introduced iTV in 2007. The converter makes it possible to watch Internet video on a television. To be sure, the move toward Internet television and the re-emergence of broadcast television opens the doors for lots more providers than the one or two cable providers that serve most U.S. markets.
Viewers today can watch hundreds of videos. Cable and broadcast stations provide dozens of high-quality shows and news programming, and much of it is free or available at a reduced cost. The growth of online video provides new opportunities for those who wish to produce programming. Several personalities have become well-known via sites such as YouTube.com.
Based in Central Florida, Ron White has worked as professional journalist since 2001. He specializes in sports and business. White started his career as a sportswriter and later worked as associate editor for Maintenance Sales News and as the assistant editor for "The Observer," a daily newspaper based in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. White has written more than 2,000 news and sports stories for newspapers and websites. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.