Internet TV most often refers to television shows that are available to watch on the Internet via downloading or streaming video. In broader terms, Internet TV may also refer to movies, viral videos, clips, and other video content available on the Internet.
Although YouTube is the Internet’s most popular video site, it is not widely considered to be the best site for watching Internet TV. Major television networks such as NBC enforce copyright laws which prohibit YouTube users from uploading many of their TV shows onto YouTube, minimizing YouTube’s selection of popular programs. Most networks now feature their television programs on Internet TV sections of the show’s official website; however, these are often only viewable to Internet users located within the United States. As well, YouTube has limited its videos in the past to a maximum length of 10 minutes each, which can require that Internet TV episodes be split up into at least three separate videos. Like other streaming video sites, such as MySpace, Google Videos, and Metacafe, YouTube sometimes also buffers its data when users are watching on a slow connection.
Unlike streaming video, downloadable video allows users to keep the video content on their computers, and is the most popular method of watching Internet TV. BitTorrent has become a major way of facilitating Internet TV downloads, by allowing users to share and transfer video content in file form. Major television networks such as HBO have sought legal action against BitTorrent for distributing their content. Meanwhile, other networks and Hollywood studios have worked around these obstacles by signing deals with BitTorrent. In 2008, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) became North America’s first public broadcaster to make a full program (Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister) available for Internet TV download on BitTorrent.
The major benefits of Internet TV include programming selection and flexibility. Unlike regular television, Internet TV users can select virtually any program and episode they choose to watch at any given time, including shows that have long been canceled. Internet TV watchers also don’t need to record programs with a digital video recorder (DVR) in order to pause, rewind or fast forward through certain sections – both streaming and download sites allow users these capabilities with Internet TV.