smart spending

Save money by watching Internet television

Fed up with paying on average $59 a month for cable or satellite TV? Tired of ordering your life around their schedule?

Cut the cable and instead watch your favorite shows for free via the Internet 24/7 on your home computer, laptop or even your iPhone.

Streaming video of everything from classic movies to hit TV programs to screaming music videos of ’80s hair bands is available free at online portals YouTube and Joost, as well as Hulu.com (a joint venture of NBC and Fox) and the networking site MySpace, which is owned by the same company as Fox.

Similar online portals from the three major U.S. networks feature many couch-potato favorites just hours after they air in prime time, as well as vintage TV dating back to the black-and-white days.

Cutting the cable

  1. The revolution is being televised
  2. The coming of narrowcasting
  3. The new comforts of home

Get your weekly dose of "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost" and "Ugly Betty" at ABC.com. Over at NBC.com, they're serving "30 Rock," "Saturday Night Live" and "Law & Order," as well as classics like "The A Team" and "Miami Vice" (nice suit, Tubbs!).

CBS.com takes its portal one step beyond. In its Social Viewing Room Lounge, you can watch hits like "CSI: Miami," "Survivor" and "The Late Show with David Letterman" as well as soaps in a chat-room environment where you can LOL -- Internet slang for laugh out loud -- with others. The network site also features such vintage favorites as "Star Trek" (logical, Jim) and "Twin Peaks" (apple pie, anyone?).

Crazy for cable content? You also can pull up cable originals at MTV.com, TBS.com and TNT.tv, and vintage reruns at TVLand.com.

"There are now two prime times: the normal prime time and noontime, when you catch up with your shows," says Elroy Jopling, research director for consumer services for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., an information technology research company. "It's actually expanding the amount of time that people spend watching TV."

The revolution is being televised

In fact, Jopling says, free online TV content is just one of several technological innovations leading a revolution in the way we receive and manipulate televised content.

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Fiber-optic Internet protocol television, or IPTV, through AT&T's U-verse and Verizon's FiOS TV services has already vastly expanded both our viewing options and the ways in which advertisers will be able to use our viewing habits to pitch their products.

By the time three-dimensional TV arrives -- it's already in the works in Japan -- your home will likely be alive with interconnectivity, enabling your TV to talk to your computer and your cell phone in exciting new ways. Program your digital video recorder, or DVR, from your BlackBerry? No problem. Personalize Web data on the TV scroll? You got it.

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