SMART CONSUMER: How to ditch your telly... and log on to your fave shows for free
Shane O'Reilly says the volume of free content available online means the laptop is fast becoming the cheaper alternative to TV
Is it unthinkable to live without a television set? The basic answer is no: your home computer or laptop is capable of doing great things, from shopping to having a free chat on Skype with those relatives in Australia.
From uploading to downloading, from viewing to creating, many people argue there isn't really any need these days for the TV, especially if you're looking to cut costs.
For many, the inexorable rise of the internet means the TV has long overstayed its welcome. Video killed the radio star -- will super-fast, super-reliable PCs and laptops now kill the television set?
1 I'm sick of paying a TV licence. How can I avoid it?
Get rid of of the telly and save €160 a year on a TV licence. Add in the cost of paying for cable and you're quickly up to €300 a year. Add in sports and movies and the price is headed for around €1,000 a year.
So, what can be got for free? Once you've factored in a reliable broadband connection, pretty much anything can be watched on a computer including movies, sports, games and catchup TV such as the RTÉ Player service, which offers hundreds of hours of TV programmes.
Many students for example already use their own laptops for study and at night as their own private television set. No fighting over what programme to watch on the one set.
Also, if needs be, laptop screens are more than enough to watch any movie.
Savings: €1,000 a year
2 Take me through the legals. I won't get a nasty knock on the door like in those TV licence adverts?
No, you won't. While you of course require a TV licence for a set, you do not for a laptop or PC. So long as the computer is unable to display television channels distributed by conventional television broadcasting networks (ie cable, satellite, IPTV, analogue terrestrial, digital terrestrial or MMDS) eg using a television tuner card or similar device, then there is no requirement to hold a television licence.
3 So, what are the TV-free options?
A good start is the RTÉ Player, a catch-up TV service on the station's website where a viewer can watch re-runs of documentaries, soaps, Masterchef, The Frontline and even the news, minutes after it has been broadcast on TV. All you have to do is go to the site and click 'play'. There's also a string of websites offering the the latest and best in American and British TV.
Another fast-growing internet phenomenon is www.Blinkx.com -- a legal entertainment site offering TV shows, films, celebrity news and music videos. It has every episode of every programme out there from Ally McBeal to Zig and Zag.
It is updated hourly and in most cases, streams the shows direct from US TV so it is often possible to be ahead of our own broadcasting schedules.
With an index of over 35 million hours of searchable video and more than 720 media partnerships, including national broadcasters, commercial media giants, and private video libraries, it has cemented its position as a leading destination for online TV.
Dailymotion is a US-owned website which provides content from TV shows, movies, and trailers from Hulu, The WB, Fox, HBO and videos from Ireland. The site -- which is completely legal -- lets viewers watch shows shortly after they air
Savings: No cable costs. Savings of €40 a month
4 But what about all the music channels I've grown up watching? I need to stay in touch with what's new out there.
You mean MTV. There was only ever the one channel.
But if you have got firmly adjusted to the various new incarnations of MTV and fear you might miss it a little too much, the answer is very obvious: YouTube.com.
Imagine every single pop, rap, indie and rock video ever created at your fingertips. Why would you want to sit in your armchair and wait for a particular video to come on the TV ever again? For a start you are cutting out all ads.
The newest, freshest videos go direct to YouTube and are advertised as such so you will never ever be out of touch again.
Savings: €40 a month
5 What about sport? I've heard it's illegal to watch it on the web. Is it?
A grey area -- it may be illegal to broadcast the sport but it is certainly not illegal to watch, and a string of sites including www.justin.tv show live sports broadcasts. Due to out-of-bounds copyright laws, the sports are usually broadcast from Asia or Scandanavia.
Viewers are not breaking laws, unlike the downloading of music and movies, and it is completely free of charge. The picture quality is good if you can stand the commentary in Chinese or Norwegian.
Savings: €30 a month in cable premium costs.
6 I love news. How can I keep up online?
Easy. Sky offers a live feed of its 24-hour news channel through the Sky iPhone and iPad app, while the choices of other news providers is growing by the week. Laptop users can get Euronews, the Huffington Post and CNN news on their computers, along with a string of other services including RTÉ, which has an internet-only news service called RTÉ News Now.
The scope of International news coverage is tailor-made for the internet, allowing full viewer interaction via commentary postings and Twitter feeds. Forget Xposé, celebrity gossip reaches the worldwide web quicker than any TV channel, and the cover of cultural and artistic matters is extensive
7 I'm a film buff. I do not want to download films illegally. What's on offer over renting a DVD or TV movie and trailers?
The internet is awash with free film sites and sites where you can watch free high quality trailers or entire movies for free or for payment. Don't illegally copy or download though. Sites such as Dailymotion and Video Detective offer free trailers of the latest releases at the click of a mouse so if you want a sneak preview of the latest Harry Potter flick, click and view. It's free and no need for the TV.