An interesting anecdote at MinimalMac about television being broken. The author’s young daughter, who is growing up in a Netflix/Hulu/iTunes/etc. household, was confronted with actual TV for the first time, and wonders why she can’t pick what to watch, why the shows are being interrupted all the time, and so on. Clearly – TV is broken.
And let’s face it – it is. In The Netherlands, we don’t have as many commercial breaks as they do in the US, but when watching US shows, we are still reminded of the many, many commercial breaks on the other side of the Atlantic – random fade-to-blacks every 10 minutes or so. Over here, you get zero commercial breaks when watching our variant of the BBC (only in between programs), or about two breaks per hour on commercial channels (excluding breaks in between programs).
We do, however, also suffer from the horrible volume differences, intruding branding for other shows on the networks (those banners that pop up and such), and the various other annoyances. Worse yet, we don’t have Hulu. We don’t have Netflix. We don’t have Amazon. We don’t have iTunes (well, we do, but without any content – just music). And, to make matters worse, we have to wait months and months – often years – before we get most popular American shows. And often only in stereo and standard definition.
It’s no wonder, then, that Dutch people download so much stuff. I certainly do.
I have a Windows 7 machine hooked up to my TV running XBMC, which I use to watch all those TV series (and a few films, too). It’s infinitely easier and less horrible than watching these series on TV – if that is even possible. I fire up a torrent, and due to my 120MB connection, have the entire first season of Game Of Thrones on my hard drive before the coffee’s done (thanks to The Oatmeal for getting me interested in Game Of Thrones). In 720p, Dolby Digital. Flawless quality, and thanks to XBMC, presented with all the metadata and beautiful box art you could possibly want.
I have no other option. I can’t buy the DVD or Blu-Ray box set – it won’t come out until late April. Starting this month, my cable provider/ISP is offering HBO’s channels, but only in a monthly package of all three channels combined for a whopping â‚¬15 per month. To put that into perspective – my combined digital HDTV/120MB internet/phone line (all over cable) only costs â‚¬65.
I’m obviously not going to subscribe to three channels for â‚¬15/month because I want to find out if I would like Game Of Thrones. I’m also not going wait to buy a â‚¬40 Blu-Ray set if I don’t even know if I will like it.
Torrent sites simply offer a far better user experience, and often, they’re the only ones offering the product people want in the first place. In The Netherlands, downloading is legal too (hence why I’m not calling it piracy or illegal).
Give me a Steam-like service for TV series and films, without any silly region and/or device restrictions or delayed releases. HD quality in glorious Dolby Digital. Allow the downloaded files to integrate with our own preferred multimedia solutions (XBMC in my case), have interesting sales, and keep the prices acceptable (â‚¬1 per episode is more than enough). For new shows, offer the first episode for free as a sample.
To get major bonus brownie points: allow local TV networks to hook into the platform, so I can buy/download local content as well.
Anybody who can pull that off will be a millionaire within months. Steam has shown the way. All the industry needs to do is follow.