Demo: Tune in to movies and TV shows on the web

Snapshot from this demo

Watch this demo to learn how to use your computer to watch entire TV shows and movies over the Internet. Websites and services mentioned in the demo include Netflix, Joost, Hulu, and NBC.




Read the transcript

Video sharing sites such as MSN Video and YouTube are great for watching short TV and movie clips, but you won’t find any full-length programs on them. If you want to watch an entire TV show or movie on your computer, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Hi. I’m John Shaw, a writer on the Windows team at Microsoft. Today I’m going to show you a few sites and services that let you watch an entire TV show or movie on your computer for free (or close to it).

If you’ve got Windows Vista and a broadband Internet connection, you’re good to go.

Most of the services I’ll mention today are free. However, one does require a subscription: Netflix.


For the past few years, I’ve been renting my DVDs from Netflix. I go to their website, pick a movie, and a few days later the DVD arrives in my mailbox. That usually suits me just fine, but sometimes I crave instant gratification.

Now, thanks to the company’s new video streaming service, I can use my laptop to watch a variety of TV shows and movies directly over the Internet—no more waiting for the DVD to arrive in the mail. I just sign in to my Netflix account, go to the Watch Instantly section, and pick a TV show or movie.

If you haven’t installed the Netflix player on your computer previously, you’re prompted to download it.

After you’ve installed the software, your show starts playing in your web browser. You can use the controls below the video to pause, fast forward, and rewind your show just like you can with a DVD.

If you want to stretch the video to fill your entire monitor, just click the Full Screen button.

There’s a lot to like about the Netflix “Watch Instantly” feature. It’s included in the cost of my monthly DVD subscription fee, so I don’t have to pay anything extra to watch shows online. Netflix is rapidly adding more things you can watch online, but there are still many titles in the Netflix library that are only available on physical DVDs.

If you don’t want to subscribe to Netflix, there are a variety of other video sites and services that you can enjoy for free. The tradeoff is that you’ll have to sit through a few commercials before or during your shows. One of these ad-supported sites is called Joost.


Joost has an eclectic mix of short clips and full-length TV shows and movies that you can play online.

Like Netflix, you can use the Joost website to browse available shows, or search for a specific show. If you haven’t installed the Joost player software, you’re prompted to do so the first time you try to watch something.

After you’ve created a free account, installed the software, and signed in, your show starts playing in the Joost player.

You can use the buttons at the bottom of the window to control playback and to find other shows to watch. Other buttons in the window give you access to a variety of social features, such as chat and blogging.

The nice thing about Joost is that it’s free, but you do have to sit through some commercials. Next up is Hulu, another ad-supported site.


Unlike Netflix and Joost, Hulu doesn’t require you to install additional software. That’s nice. All you have to do is go to the website, pick a TV show or movie, and then click Play.

Your show starts playing inside your web browser. If you want, you can also watch the video in a separate window or in full screen.

Hulu does offer a few full-length movies, but most of the current content is TV shows. And, like Joost, everything is free, but you’ll have to watch a few commercials now and then.

Many TV networks, such as ABC, CBS, and NBC, let you watch full-length TV episodes on their websites. NBC is an interesting example.


Like Hulu, NBC doesn’t require you to install additional software to watch programs online. You just find the show you want and click Play. The program starts playing inside your web browser. You can also choose to watch the show in a larger window or full screen.

However, NBC does let you download certain shows to your computer so you can watch them when you’re not online (like when you’re stuck on a plane or in the car). If you’re interested in downloading shows, though, you do have to install a free program. The downloaded shows expire after about two days, so you’ll need to watch them soon.

The sites and services I showed today are just the tip of the iceberg. Many similar services are also available—some for a fee. Give one a try. You might stumble upon a favorite TV show from years gone by or discover a great new film that you missed in the theaters.