I get asked by friends and co-workers all the time about how I get my TV Shows and Movies online and how I have been able to cut the cord and get away from paying for a TV subscription. This post will talk about how I do it now, with links to all the software that I use to do it and the services that I use. I hope that people will find this helpful.
Back in the beginning, I just used the Pirate Bay to torrent all my TV shows and movies, until I got a couple of DMCA notifications. At that point, one of my co-workers at the time pointed me to the newsgroups. Newsgroups are hard for me to describe, but you can read about them on Wikipedia.
To get the full setup like I have, you should either have an old PC that you can install linux on, or have a Mac that you can install a linux app on. I use a couple of different applications to search for my TV shows and automatically download them into a folder that I sort into my media folder that my media center application, Plex, can scan and access.
On the linux box (or Mac), you will want to install SickBeard. SickBeard is a server application that you setup and access via a web browser to search for and add your TV shows that you want automatically downloaded after they air. I see that while looking for the link to download the software, that they also make a Windows version as well, so that makes it easy. After you install SickBeard and configure it with your shows, you will want to setup an NZB downloader. For me, on the same linux box as SickBeard, I installed SABnzbd which will also run as a server and look for the .nzb file that SickBeard found and start the download from the newsgroups.
Now, you need to get some form of newsgroup access. I use AstraWeb for my news provider as they have excellent retention and very low downtime. You can sign up for an account at astraweb.com and they also have discounted accounts if you do a quick Google search for AstraWeb discount. You can get it for $8 a month. Once you have an account with a news provider, you can setup SABnzbd to access your new account to get the files. SABnzbd automatically combines the multiple files back into a singe video file that you can watch.
If you want to do all the above manually without all the complicated server setup, you will still need to get an account with a provider like AstraWeb and then download a client like Unison to login to the newsgroups and download shows after searching for the latest episode on an NZB search engine like binsearch.info. If you search for a show this way, you will want to search for it with the syntax of “Show Name S01E01” for season 1, episode 1 of “Show Name” in this case. For example, if you wanted to download season 2, episode 4 of True Blood, you would search for “True Blood S02E04” and then look for the set of files that is about 350Mb for a standard definition hour long show and 2.5GB for a high definition hour long show. You will get the hang of what to look for the more you use the search engine. SickBeard does all of this for you and allows you to choose SD or HD versions of the shows that you input.
If you are using this manual method, you will also need an application that will combine the files back into the single media file after the download has completed. On the Mac, I use MacPAR deLuxe.
Once you have your media files downloaded, then what? Well, I have a folder called TV Shows that I make sub folders in for each show and season. For example, TV Shows / True Blood / Season 1. Then I name the episodes in the format of Show Name [SeasonxEpisode], so for the True Blood example, it would be titled “True Blood [2×04]”. It doesn’t really matter what format you want to organise your files, but they need to be consistent.
Once you have done that, go and download Plex. Plex is a free media server application that has front ends for Windows, Mac, AppleTV (when hacked), Roku, PlayStation 3, X-Box, iOS, Android and numerous other platforms. When you install Plex Media Server, it will ask where the media files are and what type of media they are (i.e. TV Shows, Movies, etc.). It will then scan your folder and download all the show and episode information, artwork and even show themes so when you browse them on the device of your choosing, you will have a more interesting presentation.
Now that I have gone over TV Shows, the process for movies for me is a little more straight forward. I just go to the Pirate Bay and search for what I’m looking for and find the best quality (based on the comments) of what I am looking for with the highest amount of seeders. Once I get the magnet link, I use Transmission on the Mac and uTorrent on the PC to download the movie. As soon as I am done downloading, I stop seeding and close my BitTorrent client so I am less likely to be hit with a DMCA notice.
Your mileage may vary on how well my setup works for you, but it has made keeping on top of my media and TV very easy and effortless after cutting the cord. Sure, there are some things that you can’t find online like local news. For that, I have rabbit ears to get over the air signals from my local stations. You may also find that less popular shows are also hard to find using the above method, but generally, you can find pretty much anything that you may be looking for.