Can’t get enough TV

After watching a few episodes of my favorite programs online, I thought it would be useful and fun to briefly review the offerings from the major broadcasters and at least one cable channel. This review is not exhaustive but points out a few important details for each site.

A few notes:
I prefer Firefox as my browser and I attempted using it first for each site. If successful, I assumed the site would play in Internet Explorer as well. Several sites failed with Firefox. In those cases, I was able to view video with IE7 and it is listed as the browser. I also pointed out the failure to play in Firefox. There really is no excuse for this since all players relied on Flash which is available for both browsers. I tested on a pc running Windows XP with service pack 2 and all the latest updates.

All the sites had a few common aspects:

  • Flash plugin is required for your browser
  • Forced ad viewing at normal commercial breaks
  • Timeline navigation, and pause available
  • Navigating past a commercial triggers the commercial to be viewed
  • Once viewed, commercials disappear

Program viewed: Jericho
Browser: Firefox
+All episodes available from current season
+navigation to video area was easy
-no full screen viewing option
+video quality is decent at the resolution available
+overall very pleasant experience

Program viewed: Lost
Browser: Internet Explorer 7.0
would not run in Firefox
+Full episodes from all 4 seasons of Lost
+Standard resolution looks good at “normal” and “big” settings, “Fullscreen” shows pixels
-Significant delay at beginning of video while buffering
+time navigation bar is nice with cursor tracking your mouse and showing time in seconds
-annoying, required click to continue after ad completed
+HD streaming option at up to 1300×770 resolution
-requires 2mbps internet connection and fast computer (dual core, 128Mb video ram, 1Gb ram)
-not true fullscreen but large, bordered window

Program viewed: The Office
Browser: Firefox
+All episodes available from last season
+Fullscreen option hides window border and desktop
-video doesn’t quite fill screen, but better than other options
+Limited number of shows available for download (Conan, Tonight Show)
+Vintage NBC shows available (A-Team, Battlestar Galactica, Miami Vice)
-navigation was odd and busy, first go to new webpage for show and then wade through options to find
+/-Some episodes available for download, but requires browser plugin for playback (not portable to device)

Fox –
Program viewed: Prison Break
Browser: Internet Explorer 7.0
Fox on demand (FOD) is in beta
–completely crashed Firefox
+Nice interface devoted to full episode viewing
-limited shows available
-3 screen sizes, not true full screen, bordered window
-30 sec forced ads

Sci-Fi –
Program viewed: Battlestar Galactica
Browser: Firefox
-only 5 episodes available
+fullscreen option but video does not fill screen, 2 sizes
+same viewer as NBC since both are owned by Universal
+navigation to viewing episodes was quick

In summary, all of the options failed in one way — I never had the illusion of watching TV. It was video on my computer. The navigation options while functional, required use of a mouse. More importantly, only two options allowed a fullscreen-like experience with no browser window. Even those options were handicapped by the fact that the image did not fill the screen but included a graphical border. The addition of two features, keyboard shortcuts for navigation and true full screen playback, could allow me to simulate a living room experience via playback on my media pc. It is already connected to my big screen television and a properly programmed remote would allow me to pause and rewind from my couch. Of course, this is probably not what the networks are trying to achieve, but people expect to watch TV from their couch on a big screen with remote in hand. Until then, online viewing is a useful, but limited experience.

Posted in only on the internet, TV | 1 Comment