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Ditch the Cable Bill – Watch Your Favorite TV Shows on Your Computer

Are you sick of paying too much for cable TV? Are you tired of waiting months and months for your favorite shows to come out on DVD? You don't need to spend that extra money and wait that extra time when you can use your computer to watch your favorite TV shows — on your TV set and often for free!

The hardware requirements are easy on your wallet. The set-up is (ideally) so easy that anyone who can hook up a DVD player can do it.

Connecting your computer to your TV is easiest if you have a laptop, for the simple reason that you can just pick it up and set it on a shelf or table near your TV. Then, you'll need an S-video cable, which you can buy for less than twenty bucks if you shop around online. Check to make sure your laptop has an S-video jack on it; most laptops sold these days do, so it's not exactly a rare feature. Also, your laptop's video card has to support TV-out. If you're not sure if it does, check your computer's documentation.

Of course, it isn't necessary to connect your computer to your TV to watch your favorite shows. Many people are quite content watching shows on the computer, no TV required.

Regardless of what you decide to do, your next step, obviously, is to find the TV shows you want. This is easy.

The popular music-download service iTunes also offers many of today's best TV shows for sale. You get to choose what you want to watch and pay per episode or per season. There are several advantages to this. Not only do you only pay for what you want (unlike cable, where you pay for a bunch of channels that you end up just flipping past), but you can often download episodes well before they're for sale on DVD. For example, the third season of the hit TV show "The Office" isn't scheduled for release until Sept. 4, but it's all available on iTunes right now.

A quick side note: Apple, maker of iTunes, offers a product called "Apple TV" that allows you to watch videos and TV shows from iTunes on your TV via a wireless connection. The downside: the retail price of the basic model is $299, and the more advanced model is $399. It's not exactly the best choice for the budget-conscious.

If you're not eager to pay for TV episodes, many networks offer shows on their Web sites. At ABC's site, you can watch Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Lost and a dozen others. At CBS' site, you can see CSI, Survivor and Pirate Master, among others. You can watch shows on your own schedule at your own pace, without a video recorder or TiVo.

It's not hard to imaging that one day, all TV shows will be available via the Internet, and you'll be able to pick and choose what you want, when you want — just like "on demand" TV now, but cheaper: much of it will be free, supported by advertising. We won't need to pay for channels and shows we don't need.