With more than half of the homes with Internet access using high-speed services, the future of interactive television is now. In an attempt to reach more viewers in more ways, television outlets are turning to the web for broadcasts. Combining the allure of television programs with the interactivity of the Internet allows for a whole new form of entertainment.

Though many Internet sites have been offering web-based video programming for a while now, the medium is quickly becoming mainstream, with higher quality video and easier accessibility. And with newer and better software programs and faster connection speeds, you can say goodbye to the jerky footage you used to receive and say hello to crisp, clean, cable quality video.

Web casts don’t exist alone, either. Television, streaming video, and Internet sites are all great for cross promotion. Many sites featuring videos show longer clips or trailers previewing existing or new television shows on their cable stations. For example, Nickelodeon’s TurboNick video site featured an 11-minute preview of its show “Catscratch” preceding its premiere on the cable network. Like TiVo and other video recorders, web-based programming offers convenience. With 24-hour access, viewers can catch their favorite programs, regardless of when they were originally broadcast. It also allows users to choose which segments to watch and in what order.

Many sites, like VH1’s VSpot, offer additional features such as outtakes and interviews. MTV Overdrive offers most of its television programming online, as well as backstage footage, blogs, photos and up-to-the-minute news on all your favorite celebrities. Unfortunately, VSpot and Overdrive cannot be viewed with Firefox or Netscape. They require the MS browser program. Hopefully, they will see the light soon and accommodate millions of Firefox users.

In addition to your favorite television programming, sites such as Yahoo and TurboNick will also offer original content. These original programs can be viewed in shorter segments to allow users to customize their viewing experience.

Fans of PBS’s NOVA series will be able to watch archived episodes from the PBS website http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ Entire PBS programs such as “Dying to Be Thin” and “The Elegant Universe” are available. National Geographic also offer webcast special events. There’s even a way to keep track of all the web videos with the new Google Video Search. Major news outlets are in on the trend as well. CNN’s previously fee-based video service is now free to all users.

And CBS viewers can access all of CBS’s newscasts via their site http://www.cbsnews.com. Many of these are previously aired broadcasts, but there are also 2 minute clips for a quick look at the day’s top news stories. When you miss a 60 Minutes segment that everyone is telling you about, you can now be easily view it on the CBS News web site. AOL is currently beta testing its video hub site. There you can find future updates to the site as well as offer feedback for the programming. Because this medium is pretty new and growing quickly, most of these sites are relying on feedback from users to improve the service. Questions include not only likes and dislikes, but technical issues as well. Users can share any technical problems they have experienced in order to help work out some of the bugs.

Advertisers are also taking advantage of this rising medium. With broadband users hitting critical levels, video advertising has come of age. Web advertisements are typically 15-30 second spots at the beginning or end of the program. And unlike TIVO or tape recorded television programs, users can’t skip these ads. Another useful tool in web-video advertising is the banner ad alongside video ads. This allows users to click on an advertiser’s banner for instant access to information, which in turn increases page views for businesses.

Subscription video services are increasing as well. CNN will soon provide extensive clip archives for a fee. And millions of baseball fans pay for game-to-game or monthly access to web-broadcasts of their favorite teams. See http://mlb.com/

Most of these web-based video programs do have minimum system requirements, high-speed or broadband Internet access being one of them. Before viewing the videos, users will be prompted to check their systems to ensure that they meet these minimum requirements. In some cases, the site will already detect your system settings and inform you of anything you need. Programs such as Windows Media Player and Real Player can be downloaded or upgraded from these sites. Registration is required for use of some of the video, but the sites assure users that their information is used for updates only and will not be shared. Most sites also offer FAQ sections to help trouble-shoot any problems users may experience. The technology of viewing web video has become a lot more friendly than it was in the old days of a few year ago. Many of the Firefox issues and other non Microsoft browsers and players have already been corrected. Those who offer video on the web want you to view their video so if have a problem with a particular site and the video they offer, let them know.