As if we don’t spend enough time staring at our computer screens — neon green faces aglow with the glare of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and (very occasionally) some work — network television is giving us another reason to stay glued to the monitor longer: we can catch a lot of our favorite shows when we want them, online for free.
ABC, NBC, MTV, VH1 and Bravo are among the many networks that offer free on-demand online viewing of their respective lineups. Missed the last episode of The Office
? Catch it on NBC.com
. Even the 2010 Oscars were live-streamed on ABC.com
, allowing online viewers to catch the Best Documentary Short acceptance speech debacle just like their TV watching counterparts.
While you might be flinching at the thought of giving your computer even more face time, there's something in it for you: serious cost savings. With the average household cable/satellite bill running $72 a month, in addition to roughly $81 in annual energy costs to power your TV and cable box, shifting your habit by switching off the tube can save the average household more than $900 per year.
We challenged two families to forego TV (gasp!) and watch their favorite shows on their computers instead. You might think giving up the tube would be the last thing anyone would be willing to do, but it was easy to get these families to make the shift.
Exhibit A: Michael and Melissa from Huntsville, Ala., have three kids, Zoe, Jackson, and Cole, ages 4 to 11. They look at skipping TV as an opportunity to get the kids out of the house more during the summer months, and to get more quality family time together all year. The kids missed some of their shows initially, but with pre-recorded, stockpiled episodes, they were able to slowly wean them off without much of a fight.
Exhibit B: Jill and Jeremy from Orlando, Fla., were newly pregnant when we met them and started the shift. When they saw how much they could save, and realized how much content was available online, they were sold. And, as an added benefit for these new parents-to-be, chances are their young ones won't be brought up around a TV blaring an average of 8 hours per day.
The shift: Cancel your cable service and watch TV shows online through the network’s website. It’s free and totally legal.
Save $$: Over $900 per year or more on electricity and cable or satellite service costs.
Save the planet: Computers use far less energy than the typical television entertainment system, so you’ll be saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well.
Shift-it tip: Being intentional about the shows you watch will help you manage your time more efficiently, and not get sucked into staring at the glowing box regardless of what’s on.