There's one great big difference between Internet TV and good, old cable television. Cable television, even at its most complex, is simple - you either subscribe to a channel or you don't. Once you make up your mind, you can sit back, relax, and surf away. Internet TV is a whole other story, with a mountain of different apps vying for your television screen. Luckily, there are a few that do an exceptional job at organizing the sometimes overwhelming variety that is the video catalog available on Internet TV. Here are our picks.
This post was brought to you by Samsung Electronics America. The amount and types of Apps available on Samsung Smart TVs vary depending on TV Technology and Model. Make sure to check www.samsung.com/apps to see a complete list of apps available on Samsung Smart TVs and which apps are available on specific models. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Samsung Electronics or its partners.
Netflix, Hulu Plus & Amazon VOD
Let's just get these guys out of the way first. If you don't have one (or all) of them, then you're missing out. They're the one-stop-shop for everything current and big-name in television and on the big screen. Netflix just started offering a streaming-only subscription plan in November for $8 a month. Hulu Plus is the paid version of Hulu that you can get on systems like Roku, Boxee or Google TV, and it runs at $8 a month, with a more current catalog of TV shows. Amazon's Video On Demand is an à la carte version of these two all-you-can-eat offerings that has everything from blockbuster hits to your typical Tuesday night sitcom. Each has its strength - whether it's Netflix's recommendation service, Hulu Plus' backlog of current TV shows or Amazon's non-committal à la carte ordering - and depends on your Internet TV surfing style.
Clicker - A One-Stop Shop
Clicker, the self-dubbed "Internet Television Guide" is about as indispensable as the big three above and, if you subscribe to to both Hulu Plus and Netflix, Clicker is the perfect intermediary. The brilliant thing about Clicker is that it is an aggregator and guide to nearly all the video you would ever need that can be found streaming over the Internet. Whether you want to watch TV episodes on the network website or find current episodes of Internet-only offerings like Democracy Now!, Clicker can get you there.
As Clicker co-founder and CEO Jim Lanzone told us when we interviewed him last September, "The incredible opportunity for Internet television is a world of infinite video on demand. It's no longer about 200 channels. It's about thousand of channels and very niche verticals; and being able to access them whenever you want."
Crackle - Like Hulu, But Not
Crackle. Started in 2007, the site does much the same thing as Hulu: It provides a long list of standards for free but inserting a bunch of commercials. If you're just kicking it around and you want to watch a classic you've likely seen a hundred times before (Stripes, anyone?) Crackler is exactly where you want to go.Unfortunately for Hulu fans, the site is blocked on most every Internet TV device, meaning no easy, free access to streaming movies and TV shows. Luckily, for those same fans, there's
Blip.tv - Nevermind Hollywood
Blip.tv is for you. Since 2005, the site has been featuring independently produced Web content. Its mission is "to make independent Web shows sustainable" and it currently provides services to more than 50,000 independently produced Web shows. What this means for you, of course, is less of the same, assembly-line-produced laugh-track sitcoms and more quirky, indie content. If it's on TV, you won't find it here, but that's the great thing - if you find it here, you won't find it on TV.If you've had enough of the same Hollywood claptrap and you like your content a bit more, say, independent, then
Revision3 - Internet TV for the Techie
Revision3 calls itself "the leading television network for the Internet generation" and it's content shows it isn't lying. We're talking about a site founded by Digg founder Kevin Rose among others that is behind techie shows like Diggnation and AppJudgement, a semi-daily Web show that focuses solely on smartphone apps.Let's face it, if you have an Internet TV device like a Logitech Revue, Roku or Boxee - or even if you're just looking for Internet TV content on your computer - you're likely a bit of an early adopter, techie type.
Just the Surface
This is just a scratch on the surface of all the ways to approach television on the Internet (and vice-versa). We didn't mention Chow, the Food Network of the Internet, or Vevo, the early-1990s MTV equivalent, because there are just too many to choose from. Pick a topic and there is a website, Google TV app and Roku channel awaiting your click. If you're looking for a place to start, though, these five are a great beginning - but we're always looking for more. What did we miss? What's your favorite way to approach Internet TV content? Let us know in the comments below.