It is possible to ditch your TV and watch shows on your computer or a mobile device instead. — Richard Drury/Getty Images
Now, however, you can watch almost everything on TV without a TV. And sometimes, with computers, tablets and smartphones, you can watch more than what's on TV. This season, for example, Kevin Spacey's House of Cards aired only on Netflix, not on any broadcast or cable network.
There are numerous reasons to ditch your TV, downsizing (who needs that big screen?) and economizing, chief among them. The average monthly bill for basic cable in the U.S. was $86 in 2011 and analysts say that will rise to nearly $200 by the end of this decade.
Of course, to watch online you need a connection through an ISP or data provider. Monthly high-speed plans can be purchased for as little as $10 a month, depending on the speed and data you require. But many online viewing options are free, and even the fee-based options cost far less than a monthly cable bill.
For the most part, it's entertainment programming that is easy and cheap to get on computers and mobile devices. News and live sporting events are another matter.
Channels such as CNN and ESPN — and many other cable networks, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime — can be viewed online and on mobile only by cable subscribers. But for sports fans there are some a la carte options. Many leagues, including Major League Baseball and the NBA, offer subscription packages for online viewing all games during the season. These packages sound pricey — MLB.TV's package, for example, is $129.99 per season. Still, that's far less than seven months' worth of cable bills.
Here's what's available:
Network websites: The four broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX — offer most of their shows for free on their websites. Some networks don't offer the most recent episode for a short time after it airs, but, typically, from three to five recent episodes of each show are available, and you can watch on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. You'll have to sit through a few ads — not as many as during a typical prime-time telecast — but you can watch just about any network show online, including nightly newscasts, morning shows, specials and lots of classic programming like The A-Team (at nbc.com) and I Love Lucy (at cbs.com).
Hulu: Hulu.com is a joint venture between the broadcast networks (excluding CBS). Think of it as a viewing hub, offering network shows, plus content from a roster of cable channels including USA, AMC and the Turner channels. Hulu is trying original content as well, and has exclusive U.S. rights to several foreign hits such as Israel's Prisoners of War, on which Homeland was based. A limited backlog of recently aired episodes of each show is available for free, but can be seen on a computer only, not mobile devices. The site has a pay option, Hulu Plus, explained below.
FOR A FEE
Hulu Plus: The pay version of Hulu costs $7.99 a month and offers access to a more expansive selection of series episodes (including full seasons of some shows). Subscribers can also watch all Hulu content on tablets and smartphones.
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