Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NBC Online

So, a couple months ago, NBC announced that Apple sucks and that they were going to be doing their own thing with digital media, specifically movies and TV shows. I thought this was a little stupid at the time, because NBC shows have been a huge success on iTunes and I would assume that NBC would want to at least keep that in place until they already had an alternative in place that was doing well. But, well, apparently they weren't happy with the money they were making from selling shows on iTunes and so just wrote it all off while working out their own online strategy.

Their new strategy has two key parts, of which I've only used one (the other is in a private beta right now). The part I haven't used is called Hulu and it's a joint venture with Fox to create a YouTube competitor. This seems pretty inherently stupid and I assume it will suck in a major way (largely because I can't really imagine it being any good). Obviously, the plan is to give it a leg up on Youtube by populating it with much of their own original content, which they are working hard to keep off of YouTube. They'll make lots of money by populating their original content with ads (and I'm sure they'll be plenty of other ads on the webspace as well). They'll even try to create an online community and allow users to share videos, and it'll probably be quite interesting to see how they decide to protect their content (as well as other IP owners content) within that ecosystem. But, so yeah, there doesn't look to be any real reason for Hulu to ever become relevant. Also, it's called Hulu for goodness sake. I don't even want to know how or why they picked that name.

The second part of their strategy is to allow the viewing of recent episodes on their official, webspace, via an ad-supported Flash player. Due to the fires in southern California, I missed much of my recent NBC watching, so I've been using that to catch up. The experience is...interesting. When it's working, it's not a terrible way to watch a TV episode. They break the episode up into bits at the same points where there would be ads if you were watching it on TV anyways (which I think is fair). The main difference, and the only thing I like, is that during these ads there's a countdown letting me know when the show is going to come back on. This is really convenient, because it means you can be working on a blog entry and just be checking the countdown until it's time to come back. Very nice. It would be awesome if they were able to implement something like that on general television as well.

The rest of the experience, however, pretty much sucks. Well, actually, I should be nicer than that. It's hardly the worst way to watch TV. I imagine that watching TV in black and white on a 6" screen would be worse. I'm sure watching TV when the power is out is worse (because then you can't even be working on a blog entry).

Here's what it was like, for me. I find NBC's website. No problem. I struggle to navigate this busy and complicated website, but find the link for watching full episodes of Chuck, so I click it. This instead takes me to their Chuck website, which is also busy and complicated. There's many different things that say "Watch a full episode of Chuck online!", but I'm struggling to actually find that precious link that takes me to these full episodes. Soon, though, I figure it out and I'm watching Chuck. I quickly notice that the video quality sucks. This is not especially hard to notice, unless you're not looking at the screen. But, hey, the load time was pretty much nonexistent, so it would hardly be fair to complain (this is kind of the mindset you need going in: I will make excuses for all the things that suck about this because it's free).

Then we get to an action sequence. Now, the frame rate drops to nonexistent. Luckily the dialogue is still going, except this action sequence featured characters speaking Chinese, which I'm not capable of understanding without the aid of subtitles, which, as it happens, tend to be more viewable when you're seeing each frame you're supposed to see, instead of every 24th. But, whatever, the action ends and things get back to normal (and I don't even complain because action sequences in Chuck are stupid anyways...see more excuses). Now, though, I'm onto a new problem. The newest episode seems to crash at the same point every time I try to watch it. This is disappointing, because I don't really appreciate having my browser crash, over and over again.

Another complaint would be that the ads must be significantly larger files, because they basically start and stop and junk around a lot (which means that watching ads is actually more painful than normal, even when they're happening in the background while I'm writing a blog entry).

And, well, the list of complaints goes on. Maybe it's just slow today, but I finally gave up on watching the newest Heroes online (crashing starts to get old after a little while). I know someone who lives about 25 minutes away and TiVos Heroes. I think it'll be faster to just drive over there and watch it with them (in HD, by the way).

So, yeah, we'll just have to wait and see when I get around to doing another NBC Mondays post, but catching up is apparently harder than I would have liked.

That is all.


No comments: