Internet television has taken the UK by storm, changing the way we see TV forever. Providers, broadcasters and websites are all getting in on the action, have you tried broadband television?
What is internet television?
While some broadband providers, such as BT Broadband (www.BT.com) utilises your broadband connection to deliver their digital TV services, the term 'internet TV' more commonly refers to programmes watched directly online and usually on a computer - though you can still hook your PC up to your TV and watch internet television in more comfort.
How does internet TV work?
Watching TV online is very easy - using your laptop, PC or tablet simply log on to an internet TV website, such as the BBC iPlayer, the ITV Player or Channel 4's 4oD, and you'll be able to stream content there and then, allowing you to watch all your favourite shows from the past seven days, and even an entire series at a time.
Some programmes are also available to download, allowing you to watch them later, even if you're no longer connected to the internet.
Many of these services are free to watch, though selected programmes or movies on certain platforms, such as 4oD, are only available on a pay-per-view basis.
What do I need to watch TV online?
In order to access internet TV services, you need to have a computer and a broadband connection. However, broadband speed is the key when it comes to accessing many online TV services. Although the headline speeds advertised by internet service providers are impressive, according to Ofcom, actual speeds received by customers are still much lower. In fact, there are still a significant number of people getting less than the 2Mb necessary to get a decent service from the BBC iPlayer or be able to watch YouView via BT.
Use our free broadband speed tester to see how your provider performs.
Do I need a TV licence to watch online TV?
You don't need a TV licence to watch online TV, as long as you don't watch or record shows at the same as they're being broadcast on TV.
This means that if you only use the catch-up options on these services - and don't watch things "live" or "virtually live" - you could save yourself almost £160 a year by ditching your TV and going online only.
However, you should take into account that it's a criminal offence to watch "live" television without a TV licence or to posses or control a device which you know or reasonably believe will be used to watch "live" TV without a licence. You could be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000 - plus legal costs - for these offences.
Broadband download allowances
If you're watching a lot of online TV and don't have an "unlimited" broadband package, you'll need to keep an eye on your download limit. Even if you're streaming content rather than downloading it - the data will still count against your allowance.
You need a package with a generous fair usage allowance - such as those offered by BE (www.Bethere.co.uk) - or a high set download limit, like the 60GB offered on Plusnet (www.Plus.net) Extra package.
Alternatively, Sky and BT offer packages with truly unlimited downloads - with no fair usage policy or traffic management.
Is broadband really the future for TV?
Broadband TV - and the easy on-demand viewing that it offers - has changed the way that we watch TV forever.
Gone are the days when you had to stay in on a Friday night or set the video just to watch your favourite show - internet TV has freed us from the TV schedule and you can now simply catch up on everything from soaps to comedy and current affairs at the touch of a button and at a time that's suitable for you.
As well as the great on-demand shows offered by online services like the BBC iPlayer and 4oD, digital TV providers also offer on-demand programmes. Between them, Sky TV, Virgin Media and YouView from BT all offer thousands of hours of programmes, movies and even music - available whenever you want. As a Virgin Media customer you can even enjoy the BBC iPlayer direct to your TV.
Or you could connect your computer to the latest generation of flat-screen TVs to watch everything you download and stream on the big screen instead. Watch our videos on how to hook your PC up to your TV now.
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