Internet Video on your TV

Posted By BrokenClaw on February 16, 2009

Watching TV on your computer is becoming more and more commonplace, but the next step in home entertainment is finding a way to get Internet video, including streaming programs, video podcasts, and paid downloaded shows and movies, to play on your actual television. While it is possible today with a variey of hardware and software manipulations, none of the solutions are simple and some are rather expensive. It is the promise of tomorrow when even high-def video can easily be delivered on demand over the Internet, to be watched at your convenience on your high-def TV. Let me repeat: All of these methods require a level of expertise that most casual home users do not possess. This article is not intented to be a tutorial, but rather a manageable explanation of some things you may have heard.

Direct Connection

The simplest solution is a direct connection between your computer and your television. The connection itself depends on the available ports on your computer and your TV. The newer models of both provide the most options. For example, the best connection would be an HDMI cable. With your computer attached to the TV, it is then a relatively simple process of playing the video on the computer with the TV acting as the monitor. The disadvantage of a direct connection with the computer, of course, is that you have to have the computer right there, and you have to control it with the keyboard and mouse — not very convenient. Some newer versions of Windows PCs have a special software package called Media Center, which is an enhancement of the regular Windows Media Player. The Media Center is designed to control all sorts of digital media on the computer, and even uses a remote control.

Game Consoles

Modern game consoles — the X-Box 360, PlayStation 3, and the Wii — all have the capability to play Internet video. As a Microsoft product, the X-Box has built-in software which makes it a Media Center Extender, which means that you can stream video from your Media Center computer to the X-Box and then onto your TV. With the Wii, it’s possible to purchase a premium browser, Opera, from which you can play Internet video.

Apple TV

The Apple TV is not a television set. It is a device which is designed to play videos — which you purchase and/or download from the iTunes store — on your own TV. It seems strange that Apple would call it an Apple TV, since they might actually decide to build televisions in the future. Nevertheless, the idea is that it allows you to play the video on your regular TV instead of just on your video iPod. Although it was designed solely for iTunes, it is possible to modify the Apple TV to play other types of Internet video as well. To be sure, it is a rather expensive solution intended for media savy customers.

Popcorn Hour

Popcorn Hour is device that describes itself as a networked media tank. It can download video from the Internet, but its best feature is that it can stream video from other computers in your home. Like the Apple TV, it is an expensive option.


Roku is another digital media player. It has been around for awhile, dealing mostly with music and displaying digital photos on your TV. Recently, however, it became more popular when they partnered with Netflix to stream movies intantly for Netflix subscribers. The Roku box is less expensive than other choices, and it has the potential to expand its service to other types of Internet video.


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