Internet-based video is becoming increasingly viable as an alternative to cable. And it represents a research tool that could boost your investing IQ without requiring any new equipment in the office.

Video has always been a useful way to disseminate knowledge. And television has always been a good source for news, investment advice and general background. But it can be difficult to absorb all that information when you get home at the end of the day and are out of work mode. And who really wants a flat-screen TV squatting in their office? For tech-savvy financial advisors, there are some neat, compact alternatives that enable you to get the relevant information feeds directly to your desktop.

Several companies now offer hardware TV tuners that connect directly to your PC. One, Haup-pauge Digital Inc., of Hauppauge N.Y., offers several tuner sticks that enable you to watch and record high-definition TV signals directly from within Microsoft Windows software.

However, there are now so many high-quality TV signals available via the Internet that you need not worry about installing a hardware tuner and connecting to a PC-top box at all. More mainstream TV networks are becoming available this way. For example, CBC and CTV offer most of their programming via a standard Internet browser.

But there are websites that offer more focused video. Bloomberg LP offers an online video feed summarizing its daily programming, for example, which is available on its website,, or using its own dedicated Windows Media Player-based video player.

Another, also offers an online video network, with a range of programs, including Intelligent Investing, and event-driven episodes.

The website of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Swit-zer-land (, for example, offers a range of interviews and news reports covering key trends and issues raised at Davos conferences.

These websites are produced in a TV format. They’re short, snappy and, in many cases, do little more than skim the surface of a subject. If you want to drill down into topics in more detail, there are even more options. For example, is an aggregator site, founded in 2005 by a former C-SPAN network executive, that collects vast quantities of lectures, debates and other talks from various fora (the Latin plural of “forum”) from around the world. Sure, there are some subjects that make for good watching without necessarily being good for business. But Can Video Games Predict the Next Financial Crisis? or Ackermann Blames Bad Management for Financial Crisis just might.

Similarly, Ted Talks ( is a go-to website for savvy financial professionals who want to feed their heads. It brings together people with bright ideas and interesting experiences. You can catch Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation, talking about post-crash investment strategies in social entrepreneurship. Or watch South African investment banker Euvin Naidoo on investing in African markets. All of these talks are free, and will provide useful, insightful and deep background information as you explore new ideas and opportunities.

The final stage in your switch to a video-enabled desktop may involve changing your interface altogether. Accessing video through a browser is a workable option, but dedicated software is appearing that makes the whole thing more seamless. Miro, a media player for the Windows and Mac OSX operating systems, is an open-source project by the non-profit Participatory Culture Foundation. Miro collects video channels from hundreds of sources and automatically downloads them to your desktop, ready to be played. It features 6,000 Internet-based TV shows and also pulls in shows from, and Ted Talks.

An alternative is software from Boxee Inc. that is available for both Windows and Mac platforms. This software, linked to an online service, contains social networking services. In addition to pulling in content from various video sources, including CNN and via installable plug-ins, Boxee is designed to run most effectively on a computer connected to a TV, operating for the viewer as a “sit back” rather than a “sit forward” experience. You “sit back” and control the TV (connected to a computer) using a keyboard or remote, and everything plays in full-screen mode.

All of these services mean more content and more information for you, the viewer, in the format that you want. But these services won’t make the cable companies happy. Cable providers have thrived on selling expensive packages to viewers that bundle lame content with the premium stuff. If you want Bloomberg, then you might be forced to pay for, say, the Spanish Parliamentary Channel, too.

@page_break@Well, no more. Now, you can get access to content using what is known as “over the top” video that doesn’t come from the cable companies but uses their networks. And for the most part, it’s entirely free, except for the cost of your Internet connection.

On that note, it’s worth rounding off with a warning about data caps. Cable companies and DSL companies are responding to the “over the top” phenomenon by capping the amount of data that you are allowed to download via your Internet connection. They’ll allow you to download a certain amount of data before they start charging you for the extra data downloaded on a per-gigabyte basis.

So, as you begin to expand your online viewing options, make sure that your cap is high enough so you don’t get dinged. I just ordered a 6Mbit/sec pipe with a 300Gb cap to my home office. The price is more than covered by the cable-TV plan that I ditched altogether. That cap and bandwidth is more than enough for all the World Economic Forum lectures I could want — plus the odd episode of Coronation Street on the side. All purely for research, of course. IE