A few weeks ago, I met with some students at the Schreyer Honors College who are blogging about their experiences at Penn State. One of the students and I started talking about how nice it is to finally have some online services where we can watch TV shows and movies that we like without the copyright issues or spyware problems associated with some peer-to-peer file sharing services. Here are some of the ones that I use, but if you know of others, please leave a comment and let me know.
Hulu – Since their launch in 2007, Hulu has become a popular site for viewing movies and TV shows from “more than 100 content providers, including FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Bros. and more. (from hulu.com)”. Their model is supported through the inclusion of advertisements. The real killer application is the large number of popular shows that you can view on this site for free. I like this model. It’s free to the consumer and on-demand. The provider gets ad revenue. And it’s all legal. The only major drawback that I’ve seen is that episodes of shows aren’t on Hulu forever. It’s typically the last few shows for currently running series. This may be done so Hulu doesn’t compete with DVD sales.
iTunes – From the beginning, iTunes has been a popular application for downloading music. With the addition of movies and television shows, plus the idea of a “season pass” for TV series, iTunes has become a great way of finding what you need. They have a very large selection and integration with the AppleTV, so you can download and watch shows and movies on your normal television. This model is supported by payments for individual shows or series. They also have a rental option, which gives you access to some content for a limited time.
Joost – A nice service if you’re looking for a few specific movies or TV shows. Say you wanted to watch The Fifth Element. Joost has it online for free (with with rather nice quality). You have to watch one commercial every 15 minutes or so (which is the mechanism for supporting this services). But it is a lot less of an interruption than traditional movies on television.
Netflix – I’ve been a Netflix member for several years. In addition to the DVD rentals included with my membership, I can now watch over 12,000 movies instantly on my Mac or PC. This model is financially supported through monthly membership fees. A nice new addition to this instant watching service is that you can get a Netflix player, so you can browse and watch Netflix movies on your television. Very recently, they added this ability through the Xbox 360 (which is $199 now). That’s almost enough to make me want to buy one. If I were going to write a script for an anti-movie-piracy video (like the other videos on this site), I would probably focus on the “why pirate when you can get this stuff for free or low cost through legitimate and safe channels” argument. It’s an argument that I practice.