How to Download Movies and TV Shows

January 28, 2009

in Internet

by Tina Gasperson

The television and movie-watching markets are expanding, right onto your computer desktop. It’s no longer necessary to even own a television or a DVD player to watch your favorite TV shows and movies, because online services such as the iTunes store, Netflix, and, as well as major networks such as CBS, NBC, and ABC, make entire episodes and full-length movies available online. It’s easy to access these programs and play them on your computer.

First things first, though. A broadband connection is an absolute must for watching television and movies online. The sheer size of the files and the speed needed to enjoy a smooth, synchronized viewing experience preclude the use of a dialup connection. If you have cable Internet, most types of DSL, FIOS, or a T1 or greater connection, you’re all set. Now, it’s just a matter of deciding what you want to watch first.

If you want to go the free route, each television network has its own method of providing episodes to watch. Sometimes you’ll need to download a special player, other times the player is built into the network’s Web site. Most shows “show up” on the Internet the day after they air on network television. The best time to watch these shows is two days after they air, to avoid possible network congestion but still be current. Another way to watch for free is via This site aggregates most of the free television programming content online and makes it easily searchable and accessible, at no charge.

The iTunes store provides a good selection of “for pay” movies and television, most with the option to rent for a short period of time, or to buy permanently at a higher cost. ITunes continuously makes new shows and episodes available, so it’s helpful to use a service such as TV Show Tracker to keep you automatically updated. Just browse through TV Show Tracker’s list of shows, find the ones you like, and click through to see the episodes available. Then subscribe to the RSS feed so you can receive automatic email or news reader notifications when new episodes are available. Another popular movie download site is Netflix does a lot of business the old-fashioned way, via the U.S. Postal Service, but it does have a limited selection of new release movies and television episodes, as well as a larger choice of old movies, available for online download.

With all the content now available online, you might never need to turn on your TV again.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.