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December 10, 2009

Tech Torture, Day 4: I bow to the Hulu

Posted: 06:28 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.

Hello all,

It's Day 4 of this little experiment and I thought it would be good for me to expand my online TV viewing and look at some sites other than Hulu.

So I checked out and was very disappointed. I decided to watch the season finale of "White Collar," clicked on the link and found out it was just the show's embed from Hulu. The user experience was terrible - they added more ads and the full-screen option was pixelated.

So for comparison, I went back to Hulu and watched the same show again. It looked great.

I also checked out a show using Netflix's instant-watch feature, which I thought was really good. There are no commercials and it buffers really well.

The big thing I have come to realize this week is that I am watching a lot less TV then if I was just sitting on my couch in front of my cable TV.

OK, so tonight is Thursday Night Football on the NFL network. I'll try to follow along on, which offers real-time updates. But I'd love to hear from you about your favorite places to follow live sports for fee on the Web.

Thanks for reading and watching, and please keep up the comments - the conversation on this topic has been great. Also, don't forget to hop over to my Twitter feed (TopherAtl) and join the conversation there.

Remember I'm working with the great folks at CNN's iReport to challenge our audience to try this tech torture themselves this week, then report back to us on how it went. View their challenge here.

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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Andrew   December 10th, 2009 7:36 pm ET

I watch my live sports on the web at its decent but it cuts in and out every so often, but its better than live updates or gamecast

Michael Yeager   December 10th, 2009 7:56 pm ET

I canceled my cable but I have cheated a little for sports. I use a Slingbox hooked up at a friends house to watch sports. Otherwise I spent hours searching fro free sports on the net and I got nothing!

katie   December 10th, 2009 10:05 pm ET

Legend of the Seeker is available on Hulu (least it used to be).

killermike   December 11th, 2009 12:43 am ET

Look, I know you're supposed to be "tortured" in these segments, but even you admit that this isn't THAT bad. I mean, this might have been difficult 10 years ago, but with the availability of streaming video virtually anything you want to watch on TV can be viewed online. I don't see this as a particularly interesting "experiment" to participate in since quite a few of us have replaced conventional TV already.

aaron mccoy   December 11th, 2009 1:54 am ET

Ustream is a good place to catch any type of game. it lags about 10 to 15 seconds behind live tv but is the best that i have found

scotty mo   December 11th, 2009 2:30 am ET works when i need to watch an nfl game thats only playing locally. love it

Jeff   December 11th, 2009 7:17 am ET

Wut's a TV 😀 I watch Hulu and the major networks (Fox and Co they have their shows to watch on the sites) to catch up on my shows that I have missed. I don't watch TV anymore as I work nights and besides that I only watch a few selected shows anyway.

Nick Marino   December 11th, 2009 12:19 pm ET

Fancast is a great way to find content (almost like a streaming TV and video directory), but it's not necessarily a good way to watch it. Seems like most stuff comes embedded from Hulu or YouTube. YouTube is pretty good for streaming full episodes, but there are some serious audio problems. Older TV shows don't have the volume maxed out, so I have my volume cranked to hear Spock talk on Start Trek OST, and then I have to quick turn it down every time an ad comes on before it can destroy my eardrums.

Netflix Watch Instantly is the best way to stream, in my opinion. It's fast, lightweight, and the selection is decent. My only complaint is that the selection could be even better if there was more demand from users. I hook my laptop up to my TV via VGA and watch everything like that. With my decently fast DSL, I stream at pretty high quality. While stuff isn't "HD," it's easy, available, and convenient. I'll take that over HD any day.

Robb   December 11th, 2009 1:04 pm ET

For sports, I use

For movies and TV, I use

Both just route you to host sites, so seems to be the best for sports, and and and seem to be the best for tv. Not sure about the legality though.

Erik   December 11th, 2009 1:11 pm ET

I don't think I have watched real TV for at least a year now. Hulu and streaming Netflix through my Xbox360 has done me wonders. Legend of the Seeker is also on Netflix with the new season, and it does not limit the number of episodes it can handle.

Bob   December 11th, 2009 1:37 pm ET

There's a site that features several shows called Yidio. The site doesn't have a player embedded, but provides links to video players. They provide links to Netflix, Hulu, the network's website (CBS, NBC), iTunes, and the one that's the most helpful, Megavideo (with what appears to be bootlegged recordings). I think the site is allowed to exist due to ad revenue.

Many times I miss shows like How I Met Your Mother or FlashForward, and I don't have DVR. Instead of waiting until the next day for it to upload to Hulu, I turn to Yidio about an hour or so after, and it's there! Not the best of quality, but if you're looking to watch a show for free without wating for days (and no commercials), Yidio is the place to go.

Rob Connor   December 11th, 2009 1:56 pm ET

For sports I go to scroll down to the listing of the streams that you are interested in and watch the live coverage. You'll probably want to install a SOPcast player or maybe a Stream Torrent player but depending on the stream you select the lag isn't too bad. They have Web Streams but often times they are just an embedded player from some other site and quite often lag in and out.

buffalo   December 11th, 2009 3:05 pm ET

I have never seen so many commercials as they show on They act like any scrap of football that does not have at least 3 ads on it cannot be shown. Their "live" broadcast on Sunday nigh shows approx. 3 minutes of the game, poorly, and then goes to the same three commercials over and over...and over. A really sad example of commercialism gone wild.

Ted   December 11th, 2009 4:10 pm ET

I'll give up my TV when something like Turner Classic Movies is available on-line.

Not interested in 99% of the new shows.

David   December 11th, 2009 5:23 pm ET has been the best site I've found for sports so far, but I've only used it to watch college football. They also have NFL, basketball, lacrosse, golf, etc. Pretty much every sport espn usually covers. You can watch games live or you can catch them on Replay if you're busy during the game. Haven't had any trouble so far with the player and it has a nice-looking interface.

ajoker57   December 12th, 2009 5:42 pm ET

I live in the country. When Directv crept up over $100 I decided to kill it. I was very used to the dvr and being able to zip through commercials so I got myself a TIVO HD which is similar to the Directv dvr without all the content. Locally we have 5 broadcast channels. The TIVO will download movies from Netflix, amazon, etc. but I have satellite internet that is limited by their fair access policy. Still I am able to entertain myself by recording shows throughout the day and watching them during my 4 hours or so awake at night. I am able to watch a few of my old favorite shows through podcasts downloaded on my computer and transfered to my streamed to my tivo.

Robert   December 13th, 2009 6:51 am ET

They all stink! You can only use them if your in the U.S. .

buffalo   December 13th, 2009 12:48 pm ET

Since ditching my cable, I went through a brief (2 weeks-maybe) of "cold-turkey" symptoms. Mainly from not having my "talking fireplace" in the house. Then I noticed I was doing more reading, exercise and getting out of my house. I also found that if you have to choose a show to watch,say, on Hulu or FastPassTV, you discover that you can really "live" without it. Also, I find the Networks' silly behavior regarding infringement or not allowing Hulu to air shows for 8 days, or whatever, to be as pathetic as their programs. This is not Shakespeare, folks!

Ed   December 14th, 2009 1:48 am ET

Our family ditched cable a while back and really haven't looked back. However, with that said, we don't watch sports or premium channel content such as HBO (which is pretty much all garbage as far as we're concerned - we never subscribed to it in the first place). We get a lot of stuff we're interested in via Netflix online (and a few DVD's when we want them) and (Hulu also has a lot, but not the stuff we typically watch last time I checked). My PC is about a 5 year old Dell with "issues" which makes it not so great for playback. I set up a dedicated media PC with a decent video card and that helps a lot. Verizon's FiOS service has congestion at times which results in additional buffering; not sure if Comcast would be doing the same - probably since it's been established that they impose performance constraints on different types of traffic - that is, slow down anything that competes with their services (IMHO). Anyway, I find it's a very compelling "media lifestyle" and I don't think we'll ever go back to any form of cable (or dish) - EVER.

Bernard   December 21st, 2009 12:01 am ET

We're traveling – and hulu on wireless is pretty much hopeless. It buffers every 45 seconds or so, and apparently, there's no way to increase the buffer for wireless folks due to some legal 'restriction' found in the FAQs. While Hulu works great on my wired connection, it's plain awful for wireless, and the user experience is so painful, watching "Dora" again on DVD is a walk in the park (other parents of 2 yr olds will know what I mean).

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