Watching TV Online - Part 2 Of 4

In Part 1 of this series I introduced you to the world of watching television programming online. I reviewed ABC's offerings and told you I would cover the available programming offered by CBS and FOX in the next part of the series. Well, here I am and there you are, so let's get crackin'!

CBS offers up a ton of programming on its site. For a list of every show they provide online you can go here. As you'll see, they offer everything from daytime soap operas like The Young & The Restless and As The World Turns to the late-night shows with David Letterman and Craig Ferguson. Did you miss today's The Price Is Right? They have that as well.

If you're a fan of old-school programming, you won't be disappointed. Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Family Ties, The Love Boat, Perry Mason, and even The Twilight Zone are just some of the older shows that are offered. Of course, you won't miss out on any current programming. The trio of CSIs, Criminal Minds (I love this show!), Without A Trace, and How I Met Your Mother are available, as will be the new take on the old game show Million Dollar Password.

Episodes are streamed in a very familiar way (think YouTube) and there is nothing to install, unlike on ABC.com. There aren't too many frills offered for online viewers but if all you want to do is catch the last couple of episodes of Survivor then it's perfect for you. The video quality is good but I don't feel it's any better than ABC or the other networks and you can watch the videos in Internet Explorer as well as Firefox and other alternate browsers. You can post episode links on your MySpace or Facebook by using their Bookmarks button under the video pane or you can email the video link to a friend, family member, or even yourself if you'd rather watch it later on, perhaps, a different computer. When it comes to the ads inserted into the video, they're short if they exist at all. Sometimes the episode will have ads and sometimes it won't. I find that weird, but I have absolutely no complaints about it!

FOX doesn't offer up the grand assortment that CBS and ABC does, but it has a few features that the sites I've covered so far don't have. Click here and you'll find the shows that FOX provides online. House, Hell's Kitchen, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Moment of Truth, and even Cops are just some of the shows available to watch online.

As with CBS, there's nothing extra to install and I'd put the quality of video between ABC and CBS up to this point. It is the little extra features FOX offers that makes this network's online presence really shine. One of my favorite features is dimming the lights. If you move your cursor over the video you'll see various options on either side of the player window. On the right side you'll see the option to dim the lights. Click that and the brightness on the rest of the page will be lowered, but will leave the video you're watching at its proper lighting. It really makes watching the episode that much more nicer to me.

Another option lets you share an episode or a clip of an episode with others. You can email the episode link to somebody (or yourself) but even better, you can choose just a section of the episode to send. You set the start and end times and send it off. It's perfect for when you want somebody to just watch that that one hilarious segment or the last few minutes of a show that got cut off on your DVR when you recorded it. Another thing you can do on FOX's site that you can't do on ABC or CBS is to read comments that others have left about that episode. Those are further down on the page and you can even leave your own comment if you want, but of course you'll have to register to do what they call "Rate and Review."

Navigating to older episodes is not as intuitive as other sites though. Where you would usually find a link or arrow to click on to access more episodes you just get blue dots instead. Click on those blue dots on the right side under the video pane to scroll through to older episodes. As Internet literate as I am, it took me over five trips to their website on different occasions to figure that out. However, the biggest downfall of FOX's online programming is the time it takes them to put it online for viewing. Where ABC waits until midnight to put it up and CBS usually gets the episode up the same day, FOX will not upload the episode until eight days after it was originally broadcast. That's fine if you want to go back and watch a complete season, but not fine if you want to watch that latest show that everybody was talking about at work that day.

I've gone over the online programming offered by three networks so far but haven't really touched on why anybody would choose to watch it on the even smaller screen. So let's go through some such scenarios, shall we? You're on your lunch break and really want to watch that episode of How I Met Your Mother that everybody's talking about at work because Britney Spears was on it. As long as your workplace doesn't have a problem with you watching it on their computer, why not go for it? It's a Saturday afternoon and your kid(s) want to play their favorite movie or video game on the big screen in the living room. Why not catch the latest episode of Desperate Housewives on your laptop while relaxing in bed?

What about if you have three shows that you want to watch but they're all airing at 8:00 on the same night. Watch what you want to live as it airs, pick a second show to record on your DVR, and then use your computer later to watch what you missed and couldn't record. Of course, just make sure those shows will be available online first! There are so many different scenarios but you'll recognize quite quickly how watching TV online could help make your life easier. The next time you find yourself wishing you'd been able to watch that show, check that show's website online at the network's site. Your wish just might come true!

Tomorrow in Part 3 of this four-part series, I'll review NBC's online programming. I'll also go over the offerings provided by the smaller network staples, as well as some of the most popular cable channels higher up in the programming guide. So don't tune out just yet!

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HamsterDame's blogs: Silly Reality and Silly Hamsters: A Big Brother Blog.