If your feed keeps telling me something is new there, even when it is not, I am going to unsubscribe.
Yesterday I cleaned up the corner of my room that had a pile of papers that needed to be filed and a bunch of empty boxes I thought I might need one day. This enabled me to vacuum in that corner. The rest of the room got cleaned and straightened too. All of this enabled me to sleep better last night. (It may have also been the Rum and Cokes, but I truly think it was the decluttering.)
Recently I viewed several of the shows I regularly watch on ABC, NBC and CBS using their Flash video offerings on their respective web sites.
I have always argued that if the record labels had offered a better product than Napster, they could have avoided the adoption of peer-to-peer networks for music sharing. All they needed to provide was easy access to legally downloadable music at a reasonable price.
With the arrival of the fall television season, the broadcast networks are finally doing just that for their shows. Last year, after trying out these online players, I found myself feeling they were a last resort. I don’t know what the differences are since then, but it feels like things have improved.
CBS offers two viewing sizes, small and full screen. NBC and ABC offer multiple sizes with ABC including HD resolution for some shows.
CBS’ “innertube” has the poorest picture quality with visible, chunky interlacing, even on the 1.5 Mbps connection I was using for all the viewing I mention here. I’m not sure why interlacing would still be present in lower-than-tv resolution video. It is tolerable to watch CBS’ shows on their web site, but they are clearly falling behind the other two networks.
NBC’s picture quality is good but edges are a little soft when viewing full screen. However, it is still superior to what you might download using bittorrent, unless you are obtaining very large files which would take a long time to download. At least with their site, you don’t have to wait.
ABC’s offering is tops in my book. They have the best picture quality, even when watching one of their non-HD shows in full screen mode on my 22” widescreen (1680x1050) lcd monitor. Sharp edges. Fine detail. It is impressive.
Interactive features are hit-or-miss. ABC makes you click to continue after one of their commercial interludes. Don’t make me click just because you can. I’m sitting back or laying on my bed watching this. There is no reason to make me click.
NBC has some extras available that will show up simultaneously while watching a show unless you are in full screen mode. It looks like it is just episode data and it does not change throughout the show like I thought it would.
For some reason, CBS makes you click a second full screen button that appears after you have already clicked a full screen button. Why add this extra click?
All three offer some way to skip to a specific spot in a show. Though I don’t see a way to skip to another section of the shows on CBS’ player. You have to advance the playhead to the end of the first section, watch the commercial, then advance again, and so on. This is a problem if you are coming back to a show and just need to watch the last section.
ABC and CBS do well at letting you navigate to other episodes and other shows within the player interface. ABC’s is the slickest from start to finish. NBC backs you out to the web site to get to other shows.
All three networks have short commercials or interactive advertisements within the shows. They are placed at several spots in the show and you can’t skip to the next part of the show without going through one of them.
The audio of all the commercials is much louder than the show volume. We are familiar with this technique from regular television viewing, but it is still annoying and unnecessary. Even more-so because a computer viewer doesn’t necessarily have a remote control to adjust the volume. Stop it. Check your freakin’ levels.
In general, I think these commercials in their current form are an acceptable part of online viewing. Networks should resist temptations to add more, but I do like CBS’s decision to mix up the advertisers. NBC uses one per show and it get repetitive and tedious. ABC also uses one per show, but it is not necessarily the same thing each time and occasionally they skip commercials where they are indicated on the timeline and go right into the next part of the show, a small gift for which I am always thankful.
Now that the networks offer a superior online viewing option, I would not consider using bittorrent or other peer-to-peer technologies to obtain their shows. Hopefully, they will not do anything to change this formula except continuing to enhance their service.
I wish HBO and Showtime offered subscription or advertising subsidized online services for their original programming, I would be signed up for those as well.
“Last Friday, the woman in front of me didn’t order anything but threw down a $20, received a coffee with two sugars a moment after she’d stepped to the window, and no change. As they chatted, I learned that the woman pays for her coffee in advance. The coffee guy asked her if she was sure she owed today. ‘Yep,’ she replied, ‘It’s payday today; I get paid, you get paid.’ Handy little arrangement.”—More business lessons from the coffee and donut gu
“I dreamed that the moment I woke up and came out of our room Boz was there and started talking to me about fonts. I tried to listen but I was still mostly asleep. When he was done talking I was like, ‘I am so sorry, you are going to have to tell me that again later because I didn’t understand a word you said.’”—A friend’s dream about me