How can I watch TV on my computer?

I was planning to watch the next episode of Lost on TV tonight but my sister has some friends over and she won’t let me watch my programme. Can I watch it online?


I got this question from an avid Lost fan (aren’t we all) who was distressed at the possibility of not being able to catch up on his latest instalment of his favourite show. Luckily a number of TV channels are also allowing you to watch some of their shows online, but the answer does depend a bit on the country you’re living in and what channel the show is on.

For example, here in the UK, the likes of BBC iPlayer and 4oD let you catch up on missed shows on BBC channels and Channel 4 respectively, but there is one caveat. They’re termed “catch-up TV” as they let you see shows you’re missed, but they don’t really stream what is currently playing at the moment. I would recommend an alternative which works in a number of European countries too.

The program I have in mind is called Zattoo. It’s a TV player that you can download to your computer and lets you watch a range of TV channels in your country. It’s available in Belgium, Denmark, France Germany, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the UK and offers a great selection of channels that can be legally watched for free in your country.

So here’s the line-up of channels you can watch here in the UK

  • ABC News
  • Al Jazeera
  • AutoMoto TV
  • BBC Four
  • BBC News
  • BBC One
  • BBC Parliament
  • BBC Three
  • BBC Two
  • Bloomberg UK
  • CBBC
  • CBeebies
  • Channel 4
  • Channel 5
  • Community Channel
  • Deutsche Welle
  • EuroNews
  • France 24 English
  • France 24 French
  • GOD Channel
  • GOD Europe
  • HTV
  • Information TV
  • ITV1
  • Russia Today
  • SF info
  • STV
  • sumo.tv
  • TeleZuri
  • The Poker Channel
  • TV8 Mont-Blanc
  • Ulster TV

That’s quite a nice line-up actually. It’s almost worth throwing your TV away, popping your laptop on a tv stand and watching TV in that way. There’s certainly more channels than you can get with your aerial.

7 thoughts on “How can I watch TV on my computer?”

  1. You forgot Windows Media Centre, which is installed on most installations of Windows Vista. If you have Windows Vista Home Premium or above, you have it.

    Windows Media Centre is by far the most reliable and easy to use HTPC (Home Theatre Personal Computer) I have found (and I’ve tried a few, and worked on one) out there. Not only does it allow watching on your PC, but if you have an XBox 360, you can do everything on there, too so you don’t need a bulky computer in your front room. It works with Terrestrial, Digital Terrestrial, $ky, Freesat, Freesat from $ky and Cable. What other platform offers such flexibility? (Apart from my beloved, but neglected TiVo)

    “Apple TV” is only a half solution, MediaPortal is open source and badly architected from the outset, MythTV is too technical for most users, TiVo is no longer available in the UK. There are others but Media Centre is by far the best solution for the average user. Hopefully in Windows 7, we should get full HD PVR functionality for the UK, too.

  2. @Andrew: Sorry I wouldn’t know one for the US off the top of my head, but maybe some other reader can recommend one?

  3. @Nathan: Thanks for your informative comment.

    I was under the impression that to use Windows Media Centre to watch live TV you would need a TV card and a signal source (aerial, satellite dish etc). Mike (the person who asked the question) had a laptop and and internet connection, which is why I pointed him in that direction.

    Can Windows Media Centre stream UK channels?

  4. Type hulu into google. Its a really cool website where you can watch most shows. I dont know how they do it legally but its completely legal. There was a commercial for it during the super bowl. Try “Its always sunny in philadelphia” Best show on TV. I hope this helps

  5. Technically, yes. It is just an 11-foot experience wrapper around Windows Media Player, after all. But, as ever, MS don’t give a crap about the UK market and as they’re US Xbox 360 dashboard is loads better than the UK one, so their Media Centre is. Used to have a BBC channel, but then they pulled it. Used to use it all the time, was great VOD. Coolroom is quite neat, which is one of the “channels” on the service, but I don’t think MS push it as much as they should. I suspect their Media Room is their current focus, which looking at the latest demo from BBC’s Journalism Labs is quite awesome (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/journalismlabs/2008/12/journalism_and_iptv.html).

  6. Nice list. For people living in the US be sure to check out Hulu, Sidereel, OVguide or ALLUC. I’m 100% sure you can find any episode of lost on their!

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