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December 8, 2009

Tech Torture, Day 2: Football on the Web

Posted: 04:33 PM ET

Editor’s note: This is the latest in’s ongoing “Tech Torture With Topher” video-blog series, in which we “torture” staffer Topher Kohan by depriving him of a technological convenience for a week to see how he copes with it. This week, Topher is trying to watch all his beloved TV shows online instead of on his TV.

So it's Day 2 and I'm on the road for work.

Last night was not that bad. I watched Monday Night Football on and, I have to say, it was a great experience. It wasn't as good as watching the game live, but I knew exactly what was happening the whole time.

Later, I caught some of my favorite shows, like "Big Bang Theory," on Hulu. I'm flying home tonight, so I'll try and catch up on some TV viewing if I can find Wi-Fi in the airport.

We still hope you'll comment below and keep the conversation going. Also head on over to my Twitter account (Topheratl) and join the conversation there.

To help you get started, I've made some short videos that walk you through the sites I'll be using to watch TV online. The first one is about

Editor’s note: Topher Kohan is the search engine optimization (SEO) coordinator for, a “Star Wars” aficionado, a tech dork and an all-around good guy. (No, really, he is — just ask him.)

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Dustin   December 8th, 2009 5:16 pm ET

This is great!!! From the day I got my DVR my live TV viewing has gone way done. If I am not watching TV live then why pay for it? The only thing that is keeping me around is sports.

Diane Weigle   December 8th, 2009 5:20 pm ET

This is so timely! Just yesterday I was discussing with some co-workers the possiblity of closing my cable TV account and using services such as Hulu and Netflix. I'll be following this closely.

Alan Glennon   December 8th, 2009 6:16 pm ET

Am I missing something?
Neither Two and a Half Men nor The Big Bang Theory are on Hulu or Fancast for that matter. Is Topher watching these elsewhere?

Matt Morgan   December 8th, 2009 11:43 pm ET

I ditched cable a year ago and have not missed it. The hardest thing to replace via internet is live sports, but progress is being made. I subscribed to and was able to get every single baseball game for $100 for the whole season, including world baseball classic games during spring training. Unfortunately they do have to follow some pretty arcane blackout rules, but the service has worked out all of the technical kinks it experienced in it's early years. It now streams beautiful 720p video w/ no stutters or jitters.

I spent roughtly $600 to build a small PC that sits under my TV and connects via HDMI, with a very nice bluetooth keyboard & mouse I keep next to the couch for control. Once I'm watching something, I have an actual remote control I can use to control the program. The PC had a return on investment of just 1 year. I am paying some money for content, such as the baseball package, and a few shows through itunes, but total this adds up to what just 2 months of cable would have cost. The other 10 months are avoided cost.

I will note that we opted to keep our basic broadcast package from our cable provider. At least 3/4 of the shows my wife and I regularly watch are on network TV, not cable, but I cannot put an antenna on my condo roof and am too far from major cities to get good reception. The basic 13-channel package with 2 DVRs only costs $25 per month. This $25 gives us the vast majority of live events, and the convenience of the DVR for major network shows. If we miss something, or want to catch up on a new show, Hulu and the other sites are always there for us.

In order to make the computer easy to use, I set up the Bookmarks Toolbar in my web browser to have big picture links to all of the major cable channels that post full episodes of TV shows online. I also put internet-only TV sources like Revision3 networks and Netflix streaming as well. This makes a very convenient top bar across my screen with the logos of all the "channels" I could chose to put on.

J Austin   December 9th, 2009 9:44 am ET

Topher – too bad ESPN didn't offer what NBC's SNF online coverage did this Sunday. They had extra coverage online that let you view teh game – live – from different fixed angles (cable suspended above the field, end zone camera, etc..) as well as an option to watch the game with their normal broadcast mix w/commentary.

Pete Z'hut   December 9th, 2009 11:52 am ET

I agree with Alan. There are no episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" on hulu. Trust me, I have been looking.

As far as football goes, using espn360, you can get some NCAA football, but there is absolutely zero professional football. So, I watch the standard games via OTA, and I read about Monday night, on Tuesday. Still best of luck.

Rob   December 9th, 2009 12:58 pm ET

I would be careful with doing this... At a hotel or at the airport, sure, use all the bandwidth you want. But a lot of cable companies have caps on the amount of bandwidth you may consume in a given month. Just make sure your ISP isn't going to gut you for the bandwidth at the end of the month.

For the record, my ISP doesn't track bandwidth due to poor management of their equipment.... Their loss, my gain. 🙂

Kip   December 9th, 2009 3:49 pm ET

I was going to buy a computer to replace my cable service, but I bought a PS3 instead and purchased the PlayOn software, which works as sort of a front end for websites that post videos/movies/ect. The system requires an Internet connection and a computer within your home network.

With this set up, I'm able to watch,,, espn, adult swim, cartoon network, cnn, msnbc, mtv and much more. It also allows viewing of video podcasts that are in RSS format, and usage of videos, photos and music from my pc on my ps3.

PlayOn even allows program writers to develop plug ins and scripts to add new web sites to the service. They are making some good stuff.

Add it up: PS3 $300, PlayOn $40, Netflix service (which can be streamed through PS3) $12 a month.

That easily beats paying $60 a month for cable that was full of filler and way too much advertising.

Oh yeah PS3 has Bluray and the best games anywhere.

I think this is the way to go. Cable is a rip off. Now I just need to move somewhere with TV service over the air and I'm set.

ryquil   December 9th, 2009 4:49 pm ET

I actually canceled my cable subscription about 2 months ago. Me and the wife were hooked with Discovery HD and some other HD channels. But we made the switch because you really only watch just a couple of channels and the rest of the time you spend it changing channels to see if there is anything better. we loved the DVR but it was time to move on. Now we use the xbox 360 to navigate to Netflix, the shows that we watched are most of the time available online. And if its a major PPV event like an MMA fight then we go to the nearest sports bar and make it a fun night with beer and wings. I do have an older tv in the bedroom with a digital converter box and we can see a few channels but we mostly do it for the news. So far I do not miss TV at all no commercial or at least very little commercials, is great.

Scott   December 9th, 2009 6:51 pm ET

Alan Glennon,

You can be linked to the Big Bang Theory from It takes you to which also owns which plays CBS shows and more.

andil_   December 9th, 2009 10:17 pm ET

I've been doing this since July 2009 and really don't miss cable tv at all...

Rich   December 9th, 2009 11:22 pm ET

Sadly, now that ABC owns Hulu, they recently announced that it will switch to a subscription service by the end of this year.

Nope. I'm not going to sign up! Let their customer base drop to zero, and hopefully they will bring it back as a free service. Salon and Slate both tried, and failed, with the same flawed business "plan": Take every cent you can from the consumer, and turn it into corporate profit.

No way. I've got other viewing options, and I urge you all to do likewise.

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