As advanced and forward-thinking as the Internet may be, it seems to lack a vital necessity: organization.
Data is posted on the fly, which is great when you’re hunting down breaking news, but tough when you’re seeking out scheduled information.
Television, for example, is scheduled information. You know exactly when your show will air on TV and on what channel.
But the Internet, with its vast network of websites posting information at various times, is not.
It’s no surprise, then, that with Internet TV, you don’t really know when all of your shows will get posted online or in what capacity – free, subscription, on-demand, etc.
Sifting through the Internet to find when, let’s say, "American Idol" is available to watch online (it’s not; not ever), is a time-consuming, headache-inducing endeavor.
To provide some virtual aspirin, we have compiled a chart based on Clicker.com’s index of Internet TV shows and the five major broadcast networks’ primetime schedules to indicate what shows are available online and how long you have to wait to watch the full episodes, for free, after they air on TV:
As you can tell from the graph above, almost all of these primetime shows are available online the day after they air on TV. Of those shows, most offer at least five consecutive episodes at a time, with the exception of NBC’s Chuck, which only offers three.
Those that Bend The ‘Rules’
So why do shows like "House," "American Idol" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" stray from the majority of their network colleagues?
As we learned from the "Modern Family" scare back in September of last year, even after a network approves online streaming rights, the producers behind each show often also have a say.
Not all is lost, though. If you’re willing to pay for episodes, subscription services like Hulu Plus will give you access faster to some of its network partners’ shows' new episodes.
"House," for example, which streams for free eight days after it airs on TV, is available for day-after-air online viewing via Hulu Plus. You’d also get access to all of the episodes from the current season, instead of the most recent five (this is true for all shows available on the Hulu Plus service).
Along with Hulu Plus, you also have for-pay options through iTunes and Amazon. Both offer episodes for many primetime shows the day after they air, even episodes for some shows that are not available to watch for free online. That landscape is equally confusing, though.
In some cases, episodes are available for-pay the day after they air on both services, and in other cases, only one service will offer them. For example, "Cops" is available on both while "Criminal Minds" is only available on iTunes.
Long story short, it’s by no means a package deal across a network’s lineup of shows when it comes to online viewing, yet, but hopefully the above ‘schedule grid’ helps explain when and where you can watch your favorite shows for free online, on-demand.