Imagine this: your TV set has just blown up and you’re in the middle of watching the season finale of Downton Abbey! Oh no!
Thankfully, if you have a computer, tablet or smartphone, you can carry on watching the episode live on the internet. Or if you couldn’t get to your device quickly enough then don’t worry – you can still watch the episode on Catch Up, which let’s you watch any episode of any show that’s been on TV in the past 7-14 days (can be up to 30 days depending on which channel the show was aired on). Some services, eg. All4, have what they call Box Sets as well. These are always available to watch – there’s no time limit.
Live TV vs. Catch-up TV
Watching live TV on any device means you’re seeing the programme at the same time that it’s being shown on TV. This means that you legally need a TV licence. You need a licence to watch live TV on any device, even if you don’t actually own a TV set at home. It’s the law so it’s best to check you have one and that it’s up to date.
Watching catch up TV means you’re watching a programme that has already been broadcast. For catch up TV you don’t normally need a TV licence. You could watch all your TV on catch up and not pay for a TV licence if you wanted to – that would be completely legal.
The one exception to that is iPlayer. You need a TV licence to watch any BBC programmes, live or not, so even if you only watch iPlayer on catch up, you still need a licence.
Streaming vs. Downloading
There are two ways you can watch TV on any device.
Firstly you can “stream” it – that means you’re watching it directly across the internet. You need a decent internet connection to watch it this way. If your internet connection isn’t great or you’re going on holiday soon and you want something to watch while you’re on the plane, then you can download programmes onto your device.
You do need an internet connection to download the programme but you don’t need one to watch it as it’s stored on your device, so you can watch it anywhere. You’ll find that all programmes can be streamed but only some programmes can be downloaded. It’s probably a good thing really as if you downloaded all the programmes you wanted to watch onto your device they would take up a lot of memory.
Watching TV on your computer or laptop
There are quite a few websites where you can catch up on programmes that you’ve missed and also watch live TV if you don’t have access to a TV set. Here’s a few examples of some of them:
http://go.sky.com/ (you need a sky subscription for this one)
Watching TV on an Apple device
All Apple devices come with the iTunes store installed where you can pay to download TV programmes to watch on your device. You can also download different apps through the app store to either stream Live TV or catch up on programmes that you’ve missed. Some of the most popular apps are the BBC iPlayer app, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 which cover a lot of the programmes you can watch on your TV. If you pay a monthly subscription fee for TV (for example Sky or Now TV) then you can also download their app and watch the extra programmes they offer.
The apps all run in a similar way and you can also download some programmes onto your device (like on their websites).
Watching TV on an Android device
All Android devices come with Google Play Movies and TV app installed where you can pay to download TV programmes and watch them on your device. Like on Apple devices, you can also download different apps through the Google Play store like BBC iPlayer etc. to stream or download TV programmes. On an Amazon Kindle device, you can download programmes from the Amazon Video store.
Some programmes are limited to the location that they were originally aired in. Most apps will ask for your permission to access your location so they can show you the available TV programmes from your local area.
There are plenty of options for watching TV online, you can check them all out and use them all as they show different things. So get watching, but remember to check your TV licence first!