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This New Tool Will Tell You Where You Can Watch Almost Anything Online — Legally

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

It’s official, TV is moving online. Fewer customers are buying cable packages and more are opting for lower-cost options that let them watch movies and television shows wherever they want — at an airport or in a coffee shop.

But there are more than 100 online services, from Netflix to Hulu, that allow customers to watch all their favorite episodes of The Simpsons at any time they want. Meanwhile, big broadcast and cable companies have struggled to compete with mobile-ready entertainment market, clamoring for customers’ attention.

“Ten years ago there was no competition, now you have AT&T;, Verizon, satellite cable companies offering TV. You have new competitive ideas like Aereo, Hulu, Netflix,” Jeff Kagan, an independent technology industry analyst, told ThinkProgress. “What we’re seeing for the first time is cable companies are losing customers. Why? Because the fact that they’ve never had competition, they’ve never had a proper relationship with the customer, and that’s hurting them. There was no reason for them to act right, to make friends, to make partners with the users. So we’re seeing customers leave.”

The Motion Picture Association of America joined the pack with a new site called WheretoWatch Monday, a sort of online search engine where customers can type in the name of a movie or TV show and find out exactly where they can watch it legally.

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Users can search by title, genre, year it was produced or released, MPAA rating (PG or R), and whether it’s online, on DVD or in theaters. For example, if a user wants to watch the animated film Frozen, WheretoWatch shows that the movie can be purchased from Amazon Instant Video or iTunes, and watched on Disney Movies Anywhere or Vudu.

WhereToWatch is the entertainment industry’s answer to escalating online piracy. HBO’s “Game Of Thrones” and Netflix’s hit TV series “Orange Is The New Black” were named the top two most pirated shows in August. Most of the latter’s 60 million total downloads were illegal.

Moreover, nearly every blockbuster, award-nominated and critically-acclaimed film or TV show ever produced is available to stream somewhere on the internet, according to a recent report by KPMG, a market research firm. And if Orange Is The New Black is any indicator, much of that available content is pirated.

Barely half of all Americans get their entertainment through purely legal channels. Instead of buying it themselves, many will opt to burn discs, copy files from family or friends, download music or movies for free, or buy bootleg DVDs, according to Columbia University’s The American Assembly report on media piracy. But only a small minority — 3 percent for music and 1 percent for movies and TV shows — do it regularly and have collections of thousands of files.

The entertainment industry was resistant to embracing online streaming. Many still cling to the traditional TV and film models that lock customers into pricey cable bundles.

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“The cable television model is broken. It worked [before] because it had to work — it was cable or nothing,” Kagan said. “So it has to totally reinvent itself over the next few years if it wants to continue to be a player. The question is whether they’re going to make the right moves.”

And companies are slowly coming around. In October, HBO announced a standalone HBO Go subscription in 2015 for the approximately 80 million people in the United States who don’t subscribe to the channel. CBS also unveiled its own subscription-based online streaming service “CBS All Access” that will let customers watch live television programming and shows on demand without cable.