Today you can surf the Web to find, and watch, shows you’ve recently missed on television. You can also surf, find, and watch shows you didn’t know you miss.
Shows from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Shows like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, “Emergency!”, “The A-Team”, “MacGyver”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Hawaii Five-O”, “Good Times”, “Munsters”, “F Troop”, “I Spy”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “My Favorite Martian”, and so many, many more.
Classic TV has made the jump from cable and satellite TV to the Web, where you can find full episodes and entire seasons of shows you’ve probably forgotten about — but watched when you were a kid. These programs are free and play in the same ad-supported media players the networks use for their current offerings.
The Classic TV trend really became apparent in February when two leading networks, NBC and CBS, put some of their old shows on the Web, joining other retro programs we didn’t know were even there.
We haven’t paid much attention to classic TV on the Web because these programs are already available on TV, somewhere in the dead-of-night cable-sphere, or on DVD re-issue boxed sets. Even so, NBC and CBS are creating branded retro channels — NBC’s is “Way Back Wednesdays” — and putting considerable resources into their efforts, giving new life to Mr. T and Danno.
last100 took a look at what classics are available — there’s a bunch — and what the networks are doing with their old content on the Web.
NBC and CBS are, by far, the most active of the major U.S. networks, which also include ABC and Fox.
CBS is openly syndicating classic programs such as “Star Trek”, “Hawaii Five-O”, and “MacGyver”, through its CBS Audience Network. The network consists of more than 300 partners, including video-sharing start-ups such as Joost and Veoh and social networks such as Bebo, portals such as AOL and Microsoft, and others.
For now, only select seasons of each show are currently available online. CBS hasn’t given any reasons why certain programs, seasons, and episodes were chosen, but the network has hinted that more will be available in the future.
When you think about it, theoretically any show ever broadcast over-the-air could become available in the cloud — the Internet — because someone out there probably likes “McHale’s Navy” and “Lost in Space” and is willing to stream the ad-supported content.
Unlike CBS, NBC is making classic programs like “The A-Team”, the original “Battlestar Galactica”, and “Buck Rogers” available on its Web site through efforts like Way Back Wednesdays and genre sites such as SleuthChannel.com, ChillerTV, and SciFi.com.
NBC is also making its content available on Hulu, its joint venture online video site with Fox. Classic Fox TV shows — there are not many as the network launched in October 1986 — are not at the network’s Web site, which is good because the user interface for Fox on Demand still sucks.
Oddly, ABC has yet to debut its classic TV strategy.
Online Video Sites
For the most part, classic TV shows on network Web sites is severely limited. You will find many more oldies online at sites such as Hulu, AOL’s In2TV, Joost, Veoh, Bebo, and TV Land, a part of the MTV Networks (owned by Viacom)
Any fan of classic TV is well aware of TV Land (originally “Nick at Nite’s TV Land), a cable network dedicated to reruns of programs such as “I Love Lucy”, “Munsters”, “Designing Women”, and many more.
While its Web offerings are not nearly as extensive, TV Land does offer top-tier classic shows such as “All in the Family”, “Bonanza”, “Just Shoot Me”, “Little House on the Prairie”, and “Night Court.”
Joost, Veoh, and Bebo include some classic TV shows in their programming but it’s not nearly as much as Hulu, In2TV, and TV Land. Even so, you may enjoy watching a classic every now and then as you follow other content on the sites.
Classic TV on the Web is another form of distribution and a way for content owners to make additional revenue (through various forms of advertising) off its programs.
Watching classic TV on the Web is far from perfect. The selection is, relatively speaking, puny considering the number of TV shows that have been broadcast over-the-air.
You also cannot download TV shows to take with you on increasingly-popular portable devices. Unless you have a media center or advanced set-top box, you can’t easily re-route Web programs to televisions in the home. And not everybody likes to watch TV on a computer screen.
But the thing to remember is we’re at the outset of TV on the Web. At some point in the future, Cloud Entertainment will arrive and we won’t even bother with cable and satellite TV.
All of our favorite programs, current and classic, will be on the Web.
If you know of any other Web sites that stream classic TV, please add them in the comments.