How to Watch Television without a TV
Q: I don’t have a television in my apartment but still want to watch network shows. How can I pull this off? –Ben G., Atlanta, GA
A: For the first time in my life, I decided to not have a television in my room. And by “decided,” I mean couldn’t afford. The first time I brought a girl back to my apartment, she was shocked that I didn’t have a TV. She asked me why. Instead of quickly blurting out, “I couldn’t afford it,” I responded, “Because I prefer to read before I go to sleep.” She thought it was sexy and sophisticated. Cashback! I wasn’t completely lying—I do like to read before I go to sleep. But as is always the case in relationships, a white lie was better than the whole truth. And the fact is that while I don’t have a television, I do have a computer, and I can access all of the prime-time TV I want while still passing as a sophisticated “reader” instead of a couch potato. Here’s how:
Probably the easiest method, iTunes has a tremendous library of television shows ready to download at your whim—for $1.99 per episode, of course. It’s convenient, but not ideal in regards to the reason you’re watching television on your computer in the first place: you’re trying to save money. Also, if your favorite shows are on NBC, prepare to look elsewhere.
For those of you not afraid to roll up your sleeves, start digging into the P2P world of BitTorrent. Here’s the basic premise: you download a file (called a torrent) that you open with a BitTorrent client (for windows or mac) which enables you to download another file (in this case a video file of a television episode). You get these magical torrents by searching for them on BitTorrent search engines. Two popular ones include The Pirate’s Bay and Mini Nova. You enter the show and even episode (file-naming format tends to be “Show Name, s2e4”—meaning season 2, episode 4). However, not every torrent you download will work. It’s a lot of trial and error. The upside is that you can get iTunes-quality television episodes. In fact, you can even download software. Downside is that this is mostly illegal. Use at your own risk—tons of people do.
Free and Legal: Network Websites
Don’t fret my television-deprived souls. There is an easy and free option to watching television without a flat-screen. Sure, you can search for episodes on YouTube, TrivialTV, and the like. But why go to a middle man when you can do directly to the source: the networks. Almost every single network offers their shows free online. Check out ABC, CBS, NBC, or this directory of other stations. The only types of content this doesn’t work for is cable.
…Or Sling It
The final option is the Slingbox. You connect your Slingbox to a cable box, and then to your home network. Now you can watch television on your computer using the Sling Player application (no television required), or better yet, you can watch it remotely (including utilizing full functionality of your cable box, such as DVR) by logging into your Slingbox over the net. This is great for someone traveling abroad who still wants access to their home television (most networks delay airing of shows abroad until a year after they’ve been out in the U.S. and block Internet users in foreign countries from watching the shows on their site). While there are no monthly fees, Slingboxes start at $110 and go up to just under $200 and you have to pay for cable service as well. But if you hook it from your parents’ house and offer to chip in for the cable bill (or not tell them), it saves on the cost of a TV. Moreover, you’ll be the coolest cable watching kid on the block when you’re watching that new episode of Gossip Girl in London.