Watch TV Online - on demand, free & often before premiere

Australia has seen a dramatic increase in the number of households using a broadband connection, rising to over 37% in the last year. Hectic lifestyles, inconvenient programme scheduling and endlessly repetitive advertisements are making people more demanding with what they watch and when. The internet offers a number of options for viewing TV and movies online, and this month we're covering a few of the highlights so you can get straight into it.

If you're already familiar with the concepts of streaming, podcasting and downloading, you can skip ahead to check out our site reviews below. Otherwise, lets demystify some jargon.

Streaming TV online

The most common way to watch TV online is via "streaming". Streaming allows you to start watching the video before the entire file has downloaded - which is important since decent quality video files can be really big.

Unlike the TV we're used to, where you view a "channel" and someone else chooses what comes next, the streaming experience is usually more like viewing a website - you click on links, the stream starts, and if you don't like it, you can look at something else. Also like the web, what you can stream is controlled by the site/server, and thankfully there are many thousands to choose from.

While streaming quality is primarily affected by the speed of your internet connection, it's also affected by the server or broadcast end of where the file is streaming from. Some advanced sites actually tailor/optimise the stream for your internet speed, while other lower quality sites save money by only streaming low quality video to save them money on servers and connections.

When you stream a show online, you're not storing/saving the video on your computer, which makes for less potential legal issues surrounding file sharing.

ABC Television

In the free-to-air television channel stakes, the ABC has led the charge in online media by making its content more accessible to a broader audience. ABC TV Online offers streaming video in both Flash and Windows Media format. Flash just runs inside your browser, whereas Media Player requires a separate program which is already installed on most Windows computers.

ABC are also rare for a TV network because content can also be downloaded to your computer in WMV (Windows Media) or MP4 (MPEG, suitable for iPods) format, allowing you to watch the videos offline, or transfer them to a portable video player (e.g. iPod).

ABC TV's hugely popular "The Chaser's War on Everything" was a favourite with almost 9 million episodes downloaded in 2007

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