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November 24, 2014

Things I Hate About TV: Video on the web

by Brett Love, posted Oct 8th 2006 1:44PM
Microsoft failure to play
I'd imagine that, for most of you, I don't even really need to go into details on this one. Just reading the phrase 'video on the web' probably conjures plenty of your own experiences fighting with technology to get your dander up. Why? Why does it have to be so damned complicated to put a video file on the internet?

Now, part of my frustration with this comes from the fact that I'm one of 'those guys.' I loathe Windows. I could go on and on about the evils of Bill and the Gang, but that is probably a post for another site. It does bring up one of the most frustrating things we run into when we link to content from the various networks. Requirements to play. You need Windows XP, or Media Player 10, or Flash 6, or IE, or Quicktime, or to stand on your head and chant the namshub of Enki. Good grief, it doesn't need to be that hard.

Of course the Windows and Media Player ones are what really annoy me. Not just because I'm anti-Windows, but because it's just bad logic from the start. I don't get why any content producer would fight Microsoft's fight for them. How do they give the go on using Windows Video? If a company's pitch involves cutting off a segment of the market because they can't be bothered to make their product work, that's not a good thing. That means that their product is either unfinished, a piece of crap, or that they have ulterior motives. Either way, it's not a good choice for distributing your content.

Add to this the insane geographical restrictions. It only works in the U.S., or it only works in the U.K. What the hell is that? It's a brave new world. We can send information to the other side of the globe and back in a flash. Move into the future with the rest of us. And here's a tip. If a bunch of people are actively seeking out your content, and trying to get it from you, as opposed to more nefarious means, that's a good thing. That's a potential customer knocking on your door. They might be knocking with a long digital arm, from across an ocean, but they are still knocking. Answer the freaking door. Those Euros look a little funny at first, but they still spend just like American dollars.

And we can't forget the infrastructure. If you must stream, and won't embrace things like bit torrent for distribution, please do some math and figure out what kind of hardware and connection you will require. A choppy video that has to run in fits and starts because it is constantly buffering ruins the experience. The goal should be giving your customers the same kind of experience over the web that they get when they watch a traditional broadcast.

Part of this comes from the piracy bugaboo. Somehow those that make the content available have got it in their heads that they have to add this layer of cruft to the process in order to thwart those evil patch eyed bastards out to steal their intellectual property. And that is just outright stupid. Let's take the Veronica Mars premiere as an example.

Now, if someone is really set on getting a copy of that episode and distributing it in a way that the producers don't condone, why would they even begin to look at the streaming video as an option? The pilot was already available online, in higher quality, for anyone that wanted to go get it. And if they simply waited a week, they could record it at whatever quality they wanted when it was broadcast anyway. The only way to completely prevent a show from being copied and distributed by those bent on doing it is to never show it in any form. And that just isn't going to work, now is it?

Crazy DRM schemes on your streaming content, and downloads, only serve to generate headaches for your customers that are just trying to watch a video. It does exactly nothing to prevent unauthorized copying. I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the line 'the customer is alway right' turned into 'the customer is always out to get us.' where the internet is concerned. The fact that the customer is at your website, looking for your content, should be proof enough that they have foregone the unapproved options. Just give them a video they can use.

At the end of the day, all I'm looking for is simplicity. When you say, "Watch the premier of Veronica Mars online!", I want to click a button and see some video. Not a page of hoops to jump through to get to the video. And I want that to happen whether I'm on a Mac or a Linux machine. Even if, for some odd reason, I'm on a Windows machine. Is that really asking too much?

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Jennifer

I have to totally second this. It seems like you have to jump through special hoops for every individual video that you want to watch, and install new crap/upgrades for most of them as well. Sweet Jesus, it is not worth my time to always be upgrading and reconfiguring for every video.

October 10 2006 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Mc

The Veronica Mars thing also ticked me off, as I, too, have a Mac(Book Pro). However, I messed up Thursday night and The Office didn't record on my DVR. What's a fan to do? I went to the iTunes store and bought the episode. I realize that's not necessarily "video on the web," but (if you have Windows) you can view the web shows in an emergency.

October 10 2006 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Howard

I'm all for people offering content in as many different choices as possible. But if they're going to limit it for whatever resons, of course they're going to limit it to more Windows friendly formats. That's the only logical choice since even most of the Microsoft haters out there still have Windows anyway. They'd have a lot more people complaining if they offered it exclusively in other formats. Even if whatever format you would like it in is far superior, that doesn't make it the right choice for the networks who need to cast a wide net. Again, I'd rather they have as many choices as possible, but if they're not going to, Windows friendly formats are the smart way to go for them.

October 09 2006 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sipsie

What about we Mac users? Talk about feeling left out of the party. Windows no longer supports IE for Mac and content that's dedicated to Media Player isn't available to Mac users. DRM is dropping a big deuce on all of us.

October 09 2006 at 8:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Todd

I run Windows XP Home on a Sony Vaio desktop via cable modem and have found that both the ABC and NBC video streams work great. I guess my experience isn't as bad as the author's, though I have encountered the Microsoft Internet Explorer only issue a few times. I'd much rather use Firefox or Netscape as my browser. On the other hand, there is so much available--for free--for TV programs that I have missed or want to catch up on via video capsules that putting up with the technical problems that crop up from time to time is worth it. I imagine the technology will become more user friendly as more viewers turn to online viewing versus "appointment" viewing during the first run over the air, via cable, or via satellite.

October 08 2006 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aaron

I am constantly bugged by this as well. NBC lately has made high quality copies of their shows available for download, but only to people running computers with Intel Viiv certification. Now, there is nothing about these videos that can't run on a computer running, say, a non-Viiv Intel machine, or an AMD box, but the shows ahve been needlessly restricted anyway. I'm clearly not going to buy a new computer with Viiv simply to download episodes from NBC of shows theybroadcast for free on TV. If anything, these mindless restrictions drive me to find the episodes by more nefarious means! The insistance on proprietary formats and ridiculously complex DRM are detrimental to the network's attempts to fight piracy. I want to watch your stuff! I think they make a good show! Don't fight my attempth sto visit your site and watch your shows!

October 08 2006 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Borat

I'm using Firefox and there are NO buttons at all. Maybe if I click on 'Launch External Player' I would be able to pause it, but I don't want to open the crappy Windows Media Player.

October 08 2006 at 5:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Whoosh

pooh

October 08 2006 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Adam Finley

SJ: You can pause the Adult Swim Fix video by clicking on the PLAY button.

October 08 2006 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DarthPaul

I agree with brant.

Your rant seems pointless, you don't like streaming media because you don't like Windows?

Windows Media streaming is as good as the rest (& is a hell of a lot less intrusive than QT or Real) & if you use a codec pack (such as k-lite) then you should be able to view most stuff.

AS for the regionalisation issues, I think the reasons given are pretty reasonable from the point that the networks don't own rights to transmit to other countries via their official sites, doesn't stop you viewing webisodes via youtube or the other usual sites

October 08 2006 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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