This Changes Everything

Posted In: News, National,   From Issue 657   By: Mark Leffler

27th March, 2008     0

Amazing stories are streaming through the news about digital television, High Definition television, TiVos and DVRs, satellites and cable mergers, and on and on.

A few years ago trickling bandwidth and dial up connections limited the growth of video via the Internet. The first flickering images took minutes, if not hours, to download and played on a one inch by one-inch square that hardly seemed a threat to TV and movies.

But early this month that all changed with the public launch of

NBC/Universal is teaming with Fox (noticeably absent are CBS and ABC) to offer free over the internet streaming video of dozens of major programs, featuring hits like The Office, Saturday Night Live, ER, The Simpsons, 24, Prison Break and more.

Currently there are a few dozen movies offered, the best being The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona. Thanks to deals with production studios rather than networks, also offers streaming episodes of classics like WKRP in Cincinnati and kitsch favorites like Charlie's Angels and Lost in Space.

Television networks have been terrified by the experience of music over the Internet. Napster and the iPod have decimated the music labels as fewer and fewer teens pay cash for CDs, preferring to download their pick of Linkin Park or Stamp'd.

Network executives fear losing millions of dollars in revenue from sales and rentals of DVD. Until now viewing episodes from the current season, when available at all, involved visiting individual network websites and downloading several players. Advertisement length varied, as did quality.

Until now, outside of tech savvy hackers, the average Internet television viewer was watching clips the public had uploaded to Youtube. Selection was random, based on the intensity of the fan base. Few clips ran longer than five minutes, but there were no ads.

Some shows like SNL diligently watched for clips of their show and had them promptly removed. Still, facing the inevitability that one day people would be streaming shows straight to their flat screen plasma, probably via the internet, NBC/Universal decided to test the waters with a free site and limited commercials. tested a beta version and the public launch in March delivered an impressively clean design with few glitches.

To enjoy, you'll need a decent computer, and a strong Internet connection, preferably DSL or better. Wi-Fi users will need a strong signal. But the video is cleaner than the average Youtube posted clip, which is the way most people have seen TV shows on the Internet up to now.
offers many TV shows streamed free for their highest priced plan, still under $20 a month. Most people pay more than that in late fees on the kids' Disney movies.

Today, most people will prefer to watch TV and movies courtesy of cable and DVDs. But time has a funny way of changing things, as anyone with a VHS player and stacks of videotapes in the basement will agree. is the first wave of a sea change in the video consumer revolution.

Now I'm off to watch the black and white pilot of Lost in Space. Cool


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