Things I Hate About TV: Video on the web
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?