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April 24, 2014

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Top TV Stories of 2009: The continued rise of online video

by Annie Wu, posted Dec 23rd 2009 2:05PM
alec baldwin for hulu
When Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Emmys, Dr. Horrible conveniently invaded for a moment, spreading webseries fear throughout the TV industry audience. It was a funny bit, serving mainly as a vehicle for some jokes about buffering and tiny screen sizes. Hopefully that made the TV people feel better, if only for a little while, because online video is showing no signs of stopping.

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BBC sci-fi classics show up for free on on YouTube

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Dec 21st 2009 4:05PM
BBC is offering classic sci-fi shows like The Quatermass Experiment.The BBC's official YouTube channel is offering free Christmas gifts to sci-fi fans in the form of a classic hero and a field full of deadly plants. The move gives American viewers a great (legal) chance to catch up on quality productions that didn't (yet?) make their way over to BBC America.

Among the many full episodes of BBC programming now awaiting your computer's perusal is the creepy 1981 production of Day of the Triffids. Most pop culture and horror buffs know the title from the 1962 monster movie of the same title. But this BBC production was a much more faithful and in-depth production of John Wyndham's book.

The online series serves as a great lead-in to the new BBC production of Triffids -- set to premiere Dec. 28.

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BBC's legendary EastEnders soap goes online

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Nov 8th 2009 10:30AM
Eastenders is going online with a new web soap opera.Think of the most popular American daytime soap. Then, multiply that by a factor of 10. That's the ongoing craze known as the BBC's immortal EastEnders. Premiering in 1985, the working-class melodrama remains one of the U.K.'s highest-rated series.

Now, EastEnders is set to kick off its own web spinoff series next year. According to a Beeb press release, the online BBC Vision Multiplatform commissioned EastEnders: E20 to go live in January, 2010.

In addition to taking advantage of TV's online evolution, the web series will help to celebrated the EastEnders 25th anniversary.

Now, the question is if anyone in Hollywood can catch on to moves like these and adapt more successful U.S. shows into big name web series. Shows like 24 tried brief web dalliances, but nothing this ambitious has yet to take flight from American networks.

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Little Monk web series to explore big Monk's problems

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Aug 13th 2009 5:03PM
Monk's mental problems will be explored in the web series, Little Monk.With USA Network's Monk entering its final season, this is as good a time as any to explore how its title character developed his obsessions and ticks.

According to a network press release, USA Network and Sleep Inn Hotels (No, I don't get the connection, either...) teamed up to launch USA's first live-action original web series on usanetwork.com, Little Monk.

The web series seeks to explore the origins of the anal-retentive and obsessive Monk's chronic conditions.

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WGA strike gives rise to new web series

by John Scott Lewinski, posted Jun 18th 2009 11:02AM
The WGA strike caused trouble in Hollywood, but might've created top web series.The painful writers strike of several months ago could prove a boon to the development of a new web TV channel packed with original content.

The months long Writers Guild of America strike that began November 1 of 2007 touched off a storm from which Hollywood still hasn't recovered. It slowed not only the production of new TV shows but the purchase and development of fresh material. The jury is still out on whether the settlement agreement that ended it all accomplish much for writers -- or merely set-up another strike in 2011.

Reports say, during the work stoppage, a group of top-shelf TV creators decided to step out of the traditional production model and develop material just for the web.

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Fox offer students online looks at Terminator and Fringe

by Brad Trechak, posted Aug 28th 2008 11:04AM
TerminatorWhy do college students get all the breaks? It looks like Fox will be offering the premieres of both Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and J.J. Abrams' Fringe at fox.com for those with a .edu e-mail address. They will also offer some behind-the-scenes footage, music videos and interviews.

This is a clever marketing ploy by Fox. The demographic for those shows definitely leans towards the young, and since college students are more exposed to computers than anybody I know who doesn't work in the industry (and are probably more used to watching stuff online rather than on the television), the idea has definite appeal.

Mind you, such systems can be fooled, particularly if you have a friend or relative with a .edu address (or so I've heard). With that in mind, I don't understand why Fox wouldn't just offer this to everybody. I can only guess that it's a way for Fox to control illegal downloading of these highly anticipated shows.

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Oops! ABC posts wrong version on Men in Trees online

by Kristin Sample, posted Jun 23rd 2008 12:05PM
Men in TreesApparently, ABC has posted the wrong season finale of Men in Trees on their site. The show had filmed two endings: one in case it was renewed and one in case it was canceled. On deciding which ending to use a few months back, executive producer Jenny Bicks said, "One is a little more of a cliffhanger. It may also depend on how we want to end the season regardless. They're both very effective endings."

Rob Owen of TV Q&A at the Post Gazette discovered that ABC had posted the "we're not canceled" cliffhanger ending online by mistake earlier this week. One of his readers asked, "Much to my surprise the episode on the Internet had a different ending than what was shown on TV. It ended with Jack's ex-girlfriend, Lynn, leaving their baby girl on the doorstep of Marin's house and driving off."

Owen confirmed that ABC had indeed posted the wrong ending online for a short time. He also expects that Warner Bros. will save both endings for a DVD release.

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Why you probably don't watch downloaded video on your TV

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 5th 2007 5:30PM
Linksys media center extendersMicrosoft, Linksys, Niveus, D-Link, and HP recently announced the next generation of media extenders for Windows Media Center users. But here's the thing. If you've got a Mac, these things are useless and you'll probably need an AppleTV or similar device to watch downloaded movies and TV shows on your TV screen. And if you've got Windows XP (the non-media center version), you might prefer a different kind of box altogether for your streaming needs.

And that, in a nutshell is why you probably don't watch streaming or downloaded videos on your TV. It's just too complicated. If your computer is next to your PC, you probably need to buy a new video card that will let you run a cable from your PC to TV. And if you're like most people your PC is in a completely different room and you'll need to get a $300+ box which plugs into your TV so that you can stream video over your home network.

But as Techdirt's Tim Lee points out, shelling out the money for additional hadware is only the tip of the iceberg. You also need to find the right hardware for your operating system and software. If you download your movies from iTunes, Amazon, MovieLink, or Vongo, you'll need to make sure you have the right hardware to support your online video store of choice. And if you use multiple services, good luck. Oh yeah, and good luck trying watching Joost, VeohTV, Vuze, or Babelgum using a media extender.

While we don't expect everyone to start using the same video codecs anytime soon, it's interesting to note that Amazon, Apple, and other online music stores are starting to offer DRM-free music. Maybe one day we'll see the same thing happen with online video and as long as your hardware can support a wide selection of codecs, you'll have no problems playing any video on it.

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Vudu launches set top box with access to 5,000 movies

by Brad Linder, posted Sep 6th 2007 3:03PM
Vudu
Since folks just can't get enough extra set top boxes to stick next to their TV, Vudu has decided to launch a new AppleTV competitor. Because you know, the AppleTV is selling so well.

We first told you about Vudu back in April. But if you promptly forgot about it, here are the details. It's little black box that lets you download 5,000 movies from major studios and independent producers. But you'll have to pay. Prices range from $.99 to $3.99 for rentals and $4.99 to $19.99 for purchases. That's on top of the $400 you pay to buy the box.

Oh yeah, and once you buy a movie, it's stuck on the box. You can store up to 100 movies at a time, but once you fill your Vudu up, there's no option to transfer files to a spare hard drive, PC, or burn to DVD.

On the upside, CNet reports that the video quality is pretty good and that videos begin to stream almost immediately after a download begins.

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NBC to Apple: We never wanted to sell episodes for $4.99

by Brad Linder, posted Sep 1st 2007 1:41PM
Bionic WomanThe spat between NBC and Apple continues. Yesterday NBC said it would terminate its contract with Apple when it expires in December, to which Apple replied that it would stop selling NBC Universal programming before the start of the fall season.

At issue is Apple's pricing scheme. But while Apple had said that NBC wanted to change the wholesale pricing of TV shows so that individual episodes could cost as much as $4.99, NBC disputes that figure.

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Apple will no longer sell NBC shows on iTunes

by Brad Linder, posted Aug 31st 2007 3:18PM
The OfficeWhat happens when a major content producer like NBC tells a major digital content distributor like iTunes that it wants more money per episode? If you guessed contract negotiations devolve into a hissyfit, you're right.

NBC says it will not renew its contract to sell television shows through iTunes when that contract expires in December. And Apple says that's fine by them, even though NBC is the top supplier of video content for iTunes, with popular shows like The Office, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica.

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Hulu is NBC and News Corp's answer to YouTube

by Brad Linder, posted Aug 29th 2007 4:01PM
huluNBC and News Corp have announced a name for their YouTube competitor. Hulu doesn't seem to stand for much of anything, but it's "short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself."

Since hulu is positioned as an alternative to YouTube, I suppose they're tied with YouTube for syllables, and have a slight edge in the number of letters. As for content, right now, there's nothing. Hulu is accepting e-mail addresses from anyone interested in signing up for a private beta, which will launch in October.

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Hackers discover how to download streaming movies from Netflix

by Brad Linder, posted Aug 6th 2007 6:45PM
Netflix
Earlier this year Netflix announced a new service that would allow you to watch a limited number of videos online instead of waiting for the DVDs to come in the mail. The service is free with your regular subscription. If you pay $17/month for access to 3 DVDs at a time, you can watch 17 hours of video per month. If you pay $5 per month for access to 2 DVDs per month, you can watch 5 hours of video online.

There's just one problem. You have to watch on Netflix's terms. The video player is browser based, and the movies are encoded using Windows Media DRM. If you want to begin a movie now and finish it later, you're out of luck. Or if you want to copy it to a portable device for viewing during your morning commute (on the train, not while driving, of course!), no soup for you.

Well, the smart folks over at the Rorta forums seem to have cracked the code, using Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player 11, FairUse4WM, and Notepad. The solution involves finding the URL of the video file, downloading it, acquiring the license key and then stripping the DRM. It's a bit involved, and will probably take longer than just sitting down and watching the movie. But hey, it's the principle of the thing, right?

Keep in mind, this hack will not let you download more than 17 hours of video per month, so it's not exactly going to be a great trick for starting your online video piracy empire.

Update: As several people have pointed out in the comments, you can indeed stop a Netflix "watch now" movie and start it again later, or fast forward to any point in a film to begin watching. Thanks!

[via Brent Evans]

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If Joost ran in a web browser

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 28th 2007 1:20PM
Joost Flash Mashup
Kind of the whole idea behind internet television platform Joost is that there's a better way to watch internet video than using a web browser. But developer Paul Yanez tells NewTeeVee he was frustrated that every time Joost issued a new beta release he had to download a new application. So he decided to build a Flash-based Joost clone that would run inside of a web browser. He can push out any updates he likes and you'll never have to download a thing.

Of course, he doesn't have permission from Joost to use their graphics. Nor does he have access to the same content Joost uses. But he's done a pretty good job of replicating the Joost interface using web video from sites like YouTube, MySpace, and iFilm.

The interface isn't perfect. For example you can't use your keyboard to navigate the menus, you'll need a mouse. Given that an independent developer was able to put this together in less than a month, it'd be nice to see Joost come out with something similar. Because while the idea of a standalone full screen video player is nice, the truth is people do spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer with a web browser open. It'd be nice to give them a better way to slack off at the office.

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BBC launches iPlayer internet video service

by Brad Linder, posted Jul 28th 2007 12:30PM
iPlayer
As expected, the BBC launched its online iPlayer service allowing UK citizens to download and watch any BBC program that's aired in the last 7 days. Once you've downloaded a video you can watch it for up to 30 days. The service is not currently available outside of the UK.

The service also only works on Windows machines right now, since it uses Microsoft's digital rights management software to prevent users from sharing files with friends or uploading them to the internet.

The iPlayer is still in beta, but users can sign up for an invitation, and a wider release is expected this fall. Meanwhile, here's a roundup of iPlayer related news:

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