Like basic traditional television, Internet streaming television has been mostly free to viewers (the exception being paid services such as Netflix). Free streaming TV is made possible in mostly the same way as free traditional television has---advertising. Because it is free, it is one of the latest media advancements most available to the masses.
The streamed programming that is often free to viewers falls under a variety of categories. Many movies categorized as public domain are streamed for free. New episodes of series aired by major television networks are often streamed for free, but usually for a limited time. Viewers can even watch famous classic and grade A movies on free streamed TV although many of these are also available for only a certain period.
Other programming that are often streamed for free are episodes of old TV shows that have been off the air for several years, and B-rated movies---movies that did not do well at the box office, although many have a cult following---many of which fall within the public domain. Many educational shows, such as documentaries, as well as programs made particularly for the Internet, such as webisodes, are also streamed for free.
Free Streaming Services
There are many services that offer free streaming TV, ranging from television networks to Internet video distribution websites. Some of the most well-known television networks that offer free streaming TV are ABC, CW, Fox, ESPN, Discovery Channel, AMC and PBS. One of the most popular and oldest of free streaming TV websites is YouTube. Some others are Hulu, Google, Fancast and Joost.
Advertising mostly pays for free streaming television. In this way, Internet television is much like traditional television. Yahoo!'s Rebecca Paoletti is quoted saying that "'brands have a seat at the table in online video, just like they do on traditional television or cable.'"
Unlike traditional television, however, most of the commercial intermissions in Internet TV programming are not much longer than 30 seconds. This is probably because streaming video on Internet is relatively low in cost, compared to traditional television.
The software needed to receive free streaming TV on your computer is mostly the same as that needed for paid streaming video. Many basic versions of media playing software are free. The most popular of these are the following: Windows Media Player, RealMedia, quickTime, Apple's Darwin Streaming Server. The upgraded versions of these media players provide extra features (often, for a price) and so are many media playing software with video recording and/or producing capabilities, Microsoft's Media Services and Real's RealSystem iQ being two examples.
Image and sound quality are two major things to consider when viewing free streamed TV. These two qualities are relatively low, as is stated on College of New Jersey's Instructional Technology Services website and by StreamingMedia.com's Industry Announcements. StreamingMedia.com also states that there are many buffering interruptions in streamed video. The quality and capabilities will also vary between browsers and devices. Geoff Daily, in his commentary at StreamedMedia.com, indicates that there may also be stalled viewing of programming due to ads freezing or playing at times when they aren't supposed to.
More and more viewers are watching free streaming TV. According to Wired.com's Betsy Schiffman, a study indicated that the majority of people surveyed "said they used free streaming sites to watch TV." She also says that "we should expect this trend to continue."
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