Keeping up with our favorite television shows is a tough task for college students. Sometimes that late night astronomy lab prevents us from making it home in time to catch “The Office,” or that paper might never get done if we take an hour out of our night to watch the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives.”
Fortunately, the great ally of the undergraduate has come to our aid yet again. From the source that brought us Facebook, YouTube and weather.com — the internet — we now have the option of watching our favorite TV shows online.
p. The online television industry is small but growing, and even now there are a few options from which to choose when settling down at your computer to watch a show. A handful of networks, following the lead of MTV and shortly thereafter picked up by ABC, are offering free streaming of their most popular programs on their network websites. The shows are usually available about 24 hours after they originally air and the networks vary in how long they keep the shows available. While this option has the advantage of being completely free, it does have its setbacks. Video streaming can be a frustrating process, especially for those with a spotty wireless connection. The picture often stalls and sometimes flakes out altogether. You also aren’t safe from commercials; the episode is broken up into a few segments with 30-second commercials between each one.
p. These are still minor inconveniences compared to the nearly 10 minutes of commercials you have to suffer through while watching a show at its regular airing time. The networks may be sacrificing a lot of revenue by making shows available on the internet and it’s nice to know that you can at least minimize the browser on your desktop and play a quick game of Minesweeper while the commercial runs.
Nonetheless, commercials can be avoided altogether by coughing up $1.99 for an episode on iTunes. This option has its drawbacks too, including a wait time that can stretch to 20 minutes, depending on the speed of your connection. You also have to pay, and once they have your credit card number, it is all too easy to get sucked into the money-hole that is a convenient iTunes account. Still, the price is reasonable and you don’t have to stick around while it’s downloading. Plus, once you’ve paid, you can watch it offline and have access to it forever.
p. Opening an iTunes account is most likely your best bet, especially if you like television shows on networks like Fox, which does not yet offer free access to shows on its website. If you give up the notion that you will ever leave your weekly Thursday meeting in time to catch “Grey’s Anatomy,” you can save yourself some money and buy a “season pass,” which pays for the entire season ahead of time.
p. While there is still only a limited selection of shows available online through either method, things are looking up. Microsoft recently announced that TV shows can soon be downloaded at the Xbox Live website to be watched on a TV screen. Even the former mecca of illegal video downloading, BitTorrent, is in talks with networks to provide authorized videos — at a price.
The CW is one network that has yet to jump on the Internet bandwagon, so if you’re a “Gilmore Girls” fan you might be best off investing in TiVo. While the industry is still developing, its future looks bright. Television might not be headed toward obsolescence, but for the busy college student it is finally time to throw out the TV Guide because TV is now ready to rot your brain cells at whatever time is most convenient for you.
p. __Brittney Pescatore is a senior at the College. She enjoys watching TV the most when avoiding work on her thesis.__