There was a post on Lifehacker entitled "Five Best Sites to Stream TV". Useful. I'm always looking for a "legal" alternative to torrenting TV shows. DVD's are okay, but considering you can fit thousands of episodes on a harddrive about the size of a single DVD, it seems like there should be a better solution, one that doesn't involve quite so many slices of plastic sitting on a shelve..

Oh. Importantly, I live in a country that isn't America (currently Australia).. Lets see how "best" these are for us damned Foreigners..


The first on the list. I search for a random show, Scrubs. No full episodes, only "excerpts" and "recaps". So, I search for "My Name is Earl", and there's a bunch of episodes. Great. I click one, and I get..

"We're sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States."

Legitimacy: Good. Usability: None. Quality: N/a.


This is apparently shutting down in a few days. Not a good start. I click the search button and it is disabled.

Clicking on one of the episodes on the homepage ("House"), clicked a link which then went to a random online video page, and launched an Online Poker advert. Then I could start watching the episode, in typical .flv quality (not great, but it worked).

Legitimacy: Low. Usability: Low. Quality: Low.


After searching for a show, and finding the "Links" section.. It seems to have links to various services (like the iTunes Store, where you can watch this episode, IF you are in America.

Legitimacy: High (mostly?). Usability: Low (hard to find links). Quality: N/a.

"Straight from the Source"


The networks that broadcast a lot of these shows. All only available in America.

I will say, there does seem to be a lot of "clips", "recaps" and other stuff that seems like it'd get in the way.

Legitimacy: Complete. Usability: N/a. Quality: N/a.

Amazon Unbox

(Getting slightly repetitive..) Only in America.

Legitimacy: Complete. Usability: N/a. Quality: N/a.

BBC iPlayer

Another network. The slight twist here is the iPlayer allows streaming of TV shows in the UK.

Legitimacy: Complete. Usability: N/a. Quality: N/a.

iTunes Store

This wasn't on the Lifehacker list, but it's another big one (and one that SideReel links to a lot). Unlike the others on the list, TV episodes cost money (3 AUD an episode), and it's a download service, not streaming.

While it's not quite as bad as the "Only available in The United States", the Australian doesn't have all that much content. Okay, it has improved recently, but judging by the current content list, I would probably "watch it all"

My biggest problem with the iTunes Store is that the price is pretty high (For season 1 of Scrubs it is $71.76 - for comparison, I saw the DVD in a shop for about $20 - which would have extras, commentary tracks..)

My other (debatable) problem with this is the restrictiveness. The episodes will only play back in iTunes. I can't stream it to my TV via an Xbox 360. It's an issue transferring to different machines. Things that are complete non-issues with Bittorrent..

Legitimacy: High. Usability: Okay. Quality: Good.


Okay, this wasn't on the Lifehacker list either, but.. Regardless of country, I could download nearly any TV show (I don't think "Brass Eye" will be on the iTunes Store anytime soon), at quality ranging from 350MB TV captures (which are more than watchable), to 9GB 1080p HD captures (rather overkill). Which can be streamed, transfered, downloaded again.

To be fair.. It requires a fair amount of technical knowledge. While setting up a torrent client is easy enough now (thanks to uPnP), and sites like and help avoid "fake" releases, it's not quite the "Open iTunes, click store, find show, click buy-episode, follow prompts to signup and give your credit card info".

Legitimacy: Nope. Usability: Okay (with technical knowledge, I'd say "great"). Quality: Variable (mostly good)

Predictable ending

I haven't found anything that nears Bittorrent. DVD's are the closest (they can be ripped into any format, albeit with quite some time and effort), but they have many-an-annoyance.. From being half-deafened by some ad telling me "now, you wouldn't steal a handbag, would you?", to unskippable copyright warnings telling me it would have been illegal to download this, to one seasons being split over numerous DVDs (which are quite-often sold separately)

What really baffles me is: why is this even an issue? Why should I even be looking for an alternative to Bittorrent in the first place?