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Best Free Online TV Viewer

In a Hurry?
Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide
 
Introduction

This area is still quite new, but in the last year it has 'exploded' with content and applications. There are still very few standards, so you will end up having several viewer programs if you want to access a wide variety of shows. 

What I was looking for was a replacement for cable TV. Once I started finding TVoIP programming I discovered that this just isn't cable TV like I was used to. For one, my favorite cable channels are nearly impossible to find eg A&E, Showtime, PBS Kids, Spike TV, CBS, FOX, Comedy Central, C-Span, HSN, The Sci-fi channel and Nick.

The Movie channel can be found on one service or another. CBS, Fox and CW have made reruns of their past shows available. Not so much ABC or NBC. I also found many independent and international networks that just aren't carried by the cable companies.

When you find shows on the Internet, they will be in one of three forms:

  1. A live video stream, which is like over-the-air broadcasts. In fact many TV stations are making their over-the-air broadcasts available as live streams. When you connect to a stream, it is like tuning into the station over the air. You join the broadcast in progress. You can't pause it or rewind it (unless you have some sort of PVR software). Many network stations consider streaming video an experiment, so the quality can be variable.
  2. RSS feeds, which are better known as video Podcasts or Vcasts. You don't need an iPod to enjoy them. There is software available to receive and watch them on your computer.
  3. Video on demand, which is self-explanatory, connects you to a video server and allows you to choose the program you want to watch by using a menu or channel guide.
 
Discussion:

When you think about online TV, you'll find that both terms seem to change each other in a way. Traditionally, TV has always been about others programming you, now with online TV you can program yourself. We can pick and choose what we want to watch and when. For this reason alone, YouTube stands out as the premiere online TV experience. What do you think?

A quick search will turn up many free Internet TV viewers, but most are cut down versions of a paid software. However, there are a few that are not. Some of my favorites (NOT IN ORDER) are:

JLC's Internet TV Viewer is a simple, but effective streams viewer that doesn't have much overhead.  The channel guide is maintained by the users' and is very complete. But I was able to find two local streams that weren't listed (they are now). Users can submit, rate and update the channels. A favorites category helps you corral the streams you like. Web cams, porn and spam entries are not allowed in the guide. JLC is not responsible for the quality of the streams, some are quite poor, and can stop working without warning. The user ratings can help you choose a good stream.

JLC's Internet TV Viewer
Condition Yes/No/N/A Comment
Requires downloader yes somehow suspicious
Bundle no good
Installation process n/a easy = good
Configuration n/a easy to medium - users can submit, rate and update the channels
Stability n/a regular - sometimes it crashes for no reason
Extra software no good
Overall n/a the best option but too many unsupported stream feeds
 

Miro will do live streams like JLC, but also does RSS. It makes heavy use of your hard drive and Internet bandwidth because it wants to download everything to your hard drive, TIVO style. The program guide is preloaded, but there is very little network content. If you know where to get your video, you may like Miro. Advisory: Miro is bundled with OpenCandy. More information here.

Miro
Condition Yes/No/N/A Comment
Requires downloader no good
Bundle yes nitro PDF, not such a good idea to me
Installation process n/a easy and advanced = very good
Configuration n/a medium to advanced = good
Stability n/a good - did not crash
Extra software yes bonjour is required, not such a good idea to me
Overall n/a some tv streams - multimedia player combined with web browsing, tested the Ubuntu version too
 

VeohTV, a video on demand viewer, re-streams video from the Hulu website and CBS content (allowable) and others. Veoh will tap into the available amateur video on the Internet. Think of it as aggregating YouTube and all its brethren. Has yet to be test driven.

VeohTV
Condition Yes/No/N/A Comment
Requires downloader no good
Bundle yes nitro PDF, not such a good idea to me
Installation process n/a easy = good
Configuration n/a medium - not all feeds worked for me
Stability n/a regular - did not crash
Extra software no good
Overall n/a some tv streams - multimedia player combined with web browsing
 

Vuze, a video on demand viewer, doesn’t offer anything that you can’t get elsewhere. You have to buy the premium content. Has yet to be test driven.

Vuze
Condition Yes/No/N/A Comment
Requires downloader no good
Bundle no good
Installation process n/a easy to medium = good
Configuration n/a regular - not all feeds worked for me
Stability n/a regular - did not crash
Extra software yes java tm required - good
Overall n/a some tv streams - torrent downloader with web browsing

All tested on a basic Acer laptop:

  • CPU - AMD Phenom II X4 N950
  • Memory - 4 GB RAM
  • O/S - Windows 7 Home plus Kubuntu 10.04 in a dual boot configuration.
 
Quick Selection Guide

JLC's Internet TV Viewer
4.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Simple, but effective streams viewer that doesn't have much overhead.
Many unsupported stream feeds.
1.2.1
131 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 2000 and later
Miro
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Does live streams like JLC, but also does RSS.
Makes heavy use of your hard drive and Internet bandwidth because it wants to download everything to your hard drive, TIVO style.
http://www.getmiro.com/
6
646 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows, Mac OSX, Linux

Miro is bundled with OpenCandy. More information here.

Vuze
4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Video on demand viewer, doesn’t offer anything that you can’t get elsewhere.
have to buy the premium content.
https://www.vuze.com/
5.1
8.6 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP

FKA Azureus

VeohTV
3.5
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
Re-streams video from the Hulu website and CBS content (allowable) and others, tap into the available amateur video on the internet.
http://www.veoh.com/
3.9.5.1039
18.4 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows XP, Vista, Max OS X (pending)

Additional software required: IE or Firefox

 
Editor

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Tags

stream video free, stream tv video, best free stream video, top free stream video, free online tv, best free online tv viewer, free internet tv viewer, top free online tv viewer, free internet video.

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Comments

by tom4455 on 1. March 2013 - 4:56  (105847)

From their website: "NOTICE:TVU Networks shut down service to the TVU Player on February 25,2013."

by gizmorattler on 4. March 2013 - 22:01  (105943)

Thank you, I've removed TVU from our listing.

by oldblackcat (not verified) on 21. April 2012 - 17:11  (92389)

Hi guys, has anyone knows about sopcast? (sopcast.org) It's freeware but what about pros and cons? :D

by gizmorattler on 3. January 2013 - 6:43  (104189)

Thank you for contributing!

I went ahead and checked out sopcast.org. It's a quick download and cool platform for broadcasting a video stream from your own computer.

The only draw back for me was that literally every channel was Asian. As much as I love my friends from the east, it's hard to enjoy online TV if I can't understand it. Whether it's Chinese, Korean, or Japanese I could not tell... Sopcast would be great if more U.S. stations caught on.

by ceaualbi on 14. December 2011 - 0:49  (84974)

Sorry guys, could You try to observe the line on the post? I mean free software.

Of course lots of us tend to watch live streams using any of the finest web browsers that let us do this. But keep in mind that we are checking for free software only!

Many thanks for respecting that line, any comments not letting us follow this line, please go to proper software category. Because, otherwise we are mixing concepts.

Many thanks for understanding the concept.

by deb (not verified) on 8. November 2011 - 2:16  (82887)

really nice article and after all this article is helpful also.

by Regine Tschoepe (not verified) on 8. October 2011 - 3:37  (81083)

Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. It contains truly information. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more!

by Marilla (not verified) on 8. June 2011 - 2:58  (73467)

Free Software for live TV:
http://www.rcpsoft.net/tvnations.html

Free Online TV website:
http://tvnations.com

by ceaualbi on 7. December 2011 - 23:32  (84606)

I will test that, really soon. After all I search over the internet and I look for tv streams of my favorite channels.

by musicabaja (not verified) on 10. May 2011 - 11:36  (71725)

Confused as the link below says
"Best Free Online TV Viewer

TOMA - Internet TV, a browser-based version of JLC's internet TV viewer, lets you watch TV programs from a large database of over 3,000 TV channels maintained and updated by the community every day in the world. (Review)

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-online-applications-and-services.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gizmosbest+%28Gizmo%27s+Best-ever+Freeware%29

I dont see it on this list also the link http://online-media-archive.net/tv/browse.php
is Not Found =
The requested URL /tv/browse.php was not found on this server.
==========================================================
My vote for the best functioning player/recorder

Readon TV Movie Radio Player!
http://www.readontech.com/aboutinternettv.html

Readon TV Movie Radio Player is a revolutionary new software that allows you to watch Live Satellite TV and radio broadcasts directly on your computer. This new technology, called TV/music over IP, requires no additional equipment and gives you access to a brand new world of digital entertainment.

by ceaualbi on 7. December 2011 - 23:34  (84607)

Bear in mind, that this is not a full scale tv stream test of all available software.

by Jojo Yee on 10. May 2011 - 13:33  (71735)

Thanks for the info Musicabaja. The link has been updated.

by brocklesby (not verified) on 28. November 2010 - 23:01  (61751)

I downloaded jlc internet tv and it put a trojan on my computer, and that was just downloading before the install. punters beware

by ceaualbi on 7. December 2011 - 23:30  (84605)

Test our link, it works fine.

by MidnightCowboy on 29. November 2010 - 7:03  (61774)

This type of information is of little use without knowing where the file was downloaded from, details of the supposed "trojan" content, which security software was responsible for detecting it, how the detection was made (signature, behavioral/heuristic) and what the results were of a file upload to Virus Total.

Quite often these things are "false positives" but the only way to know for sure is to have the full details to check out.

See this note about JLC's TV from the Softpedia website where the file is certified as being clean:

"Some antivirus and antispyware programs flag JLC's Internet TV as being infected/malware, although the application is perfectly safe and does not pose a threat to your system. This is called a 'false positive'. The term false positive is used when antivirus software wrongly classifies an innocuous ( inoffensive ) file as a virus. The incorrect detection may be due to heuristics or to an incorrect virus signature in a database. [Similar problems can occur with antitrojan or antispyware software.]"

by ceaualbi on 8. December 2011 - 1:24  (84617)

First rule above all: security. Windows has a lot of leaks. I'll remind You, we all must have a firewall, antivirus, antispyware, etc.

by FedUpWithSoftpedia-deceiving, disguised ads (not verified) on 8. January 2011 - 2:14  (64108)

Sorry to intervene, but what Softpedia is saying is no guaranty of a software being free of nasties. A lot of people got infected downloading various software from Softpedia. My advise, avoid even accessing www.softpedia.com.

by MidnightCowboy on 8. January 2011 - 6:25  (64115)

One can only assume there must be a hidden agenda at play here but I'll ask for your evidence anyway, just to be polite.

This is the Softpedia statement regarding downloads (example):

"This product was last tested in the Softpedia Labs on 22nd of March 2010 by Radu Bogdan

Softpedia guarantees that Avira AntiVir Personal - Free Antivirus 10.0.0.609 is 100% Clean, which means it does not contain any form of malware, including but not limited to: spyware, viruses, trojans and backdoors.

This software product was tested thoroughly and was found absolutely clean; therefore, it can be installed with no concern by any computer user. However, it should be noted that this product will be retested periodically and the award may be withdrawn, so you should check back occasionally and pay attention to the date of testing shown above"

Of course it is possible for a file to be tampered with in between test dates but this is not restricted to Softpedia and all right thinking folks should check every download from whatever source before they execute it on their computer. There are several tools to assist with this process including the Dr Web Antivirus Link Checker extension. Additionally most realtime and passive antimalware programs offer a right-click "scan with" option including Malwarebytes and HitmanPro which are two of the most effective.

It is true that downloads remain one of the biggest sources of malware infection, but they are also just about the easiest to avoid.

by ceaualbi on 8. December 2011 - 1:32  (84619)

Anyway, remember at any time have all possible defense active.

by Toffer (not verified) on 14. August 2010 - 13:58  (56001)

Information

Location / England

Advertisment / 30 Secounds before watching your chosen channel

Channels / (Most channels you would find on freesat from England)

BBC ONE
+ 1
BBC TWO
BBC THREE
BBC FOUR
BBC NEWS
BBC PARLIMENT
CBBC
CBEEBIES
CITV
ITV 1
ITV 2
ITV2 +1
ITV 3
ITV3 +1
ITV 4
ITV 4 +1
CHANNEL4
FILM 4
FILM 4 +1
FIVE
FIVER
DAVE
FIVE USA
MORE 4
MORE 4 +1
MUSIC 4
E4
E4+1
DEJAVU
YESTERDAY
QVC
SKY NEWS
SKY SPORTS NEWS
SKY 3
VIVA
VIRGIN 1
MOVIES FOUR MEN

MY OPINION

Yes there are adverts but you are only presented with one before per channel of choice, and for 30 secounds, it's a very small thing, for the great service this site provides.

Anyone intrested try it, and tell what you think in here for others.

by ceaualbi on 8. December 2011 - 1:34  (84620)

Excuse me, about what software are You talking?

by MidnightCowboy on 14. August 2010 - 16:26  (56011)

Thanks for coming back and posting this which now gives anyone who might be interested more information without having to register. Does anyone know if this can be accessed from outside the UK.

by ceaualbi on 8. December 2011 - 2:03  (84621)

I'm living in Latin America, and the answer is nope.

by Toffer (not verified) on 14. August 2010 - 3:00  (55984)

Try this and free deffo worth a mention

http://www.tvcatchup.com/

by Simon Bar-Sinister (not verified) on 26. April 2011 - 23:45  (70986)

U.K. only.

Full of our U.S. drama rot as well!

by COA (not verified) on 25. January 2011 - 14:47  (65175)

Use this site all the time and have no issues. "Low Bandwidth" versions of channels work less well than the "Normal Bandwidth" versions though! LOL. Guess my ISP doesn't support them properly.

You can block the adverts in IE by simply putting a few sites into the Restricted Sites zone; and I'm sure a no-add add-on for Firefox would do the same. ;)

by MidnightCowboy on 14. August 2010 - 8:28  (55995)

Just be prepared for this:

"Before tuning into each TV channel, advertisement may be visible on members' screen for a certain period of time. TVCatchup may also use other means of advertisement such as banners, links, interactive and virtual advertisement, split screens etc. Members agree to being exposed to advertisements in general and targeted advertisements in particular."

by Anupam on 14. August 2010 - 9:31  (55996)

MC, another thing is the site is available for UK only. Should the link be allowed?

by MidnightCowboy on 14. August 2010 - 11:15  (55999)

I think this is OK. I'm not sure about the regional availability and not prepared to register from here to find out. Maybe the OP or others who are running this can tell us what they can receive and at which location (just country please - don't publish your town or address! :D)

The ads are something folks just need to be aware of. Most will probably be more than happy with these so long as the service works.

by The Online Video Man (not verified) on 17. July 2010 - 18:31  (54427)

Another great site is www.notyourtv.com