Best Free Online TV Viewer

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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

TVU networks

4
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
A combination of live streams and video on demand.
Does not have as many channels as the others.
2.5.3.1
5.4 MB
Unrestricted freeware

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.
6
646 KB
Unrestricted freeware
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.
5.1
8.6 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
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.
3.9.5.1039
18.4 MB
Unrestricted freeware
Additional software required: IE or Firefox
 
 
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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

Just went to JLC's website to D/L the player. The website states that he is no longer hosting the site nor is he offering support. The site is unofficially dead.
~/Lee the Geek.

Just d/l'ed and installed JLC's Internet TV. At startup, the program offers to update channel list but fails to contact the update server repeatedly. Went to their page to see if I could do a manual download, clicked on their Forums page, got a phpBB : Critical Error Could not connect to the database. Guessing that means I'm SOL on this one.

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

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