In the US, if you want to watch TV shows on the Internet, there’s the iTunes Music Store and numerous free streaming services from all the major networks that frankly, make it pretty easy to watch what you want, when you want it.
In the UK, well, we don’t quite have what it takes yet. Five has just launched its video on demand service and after a couple of experiments, I’d have to say it’s a little lacking.
Let’s compare and contrast. iTunes Music Store: you install QuickTime, you install iTunes (if you have a Mac, you already have those built in so no download is required). Then you go to the iTunes Music Store (US) in iTunes, you find your programme (there are hundreds to choose from now), click the “Buy” button and iTunes downloads it for you once you’ve set up your account, something you only need to do once. It stays in iTunes forever and you can play it on your video iPod as well if you want. It costs about $1.99 (+sales tax), which is a little over £1 right now, to download each TV programme.
Operating system: You need Microsoft Windows XP or 2000
Web browser: You need Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0
Active X: ActiveX must be enabled in your web browser
Cookies: Cookies must be enabled in your web browser
Media Player: Users of Windows XP must use Windows Media Player 10. Users of Windows 2000 must use Windows Media Player 9
Connection Speed: You need a broadband connection of at least 500kbps
System Clock: You need to set the clock on your computer to the correct UK time, time zone and date
Assuming you pass all these requirements, then you can download and view CSI/CSI Miami/CSI New York episodes as often as you like on your PC for 14 days, all for the lovely price of £1.49-£2.49.
Now, obviously Five’s web site has the slight advantage over iTunes in that it works in the UK, whereas iTunes doesn’t – at least as far as ordering TV shows or movies is concerned.
But, somehow, I’m not predicting massive uptake of this. It’s not exactly easy to use. It has an “interesting” set of requirements that shuts out quite a few people. I don’t think many people are going to be interested in a relatively expensive service that stops working after a fortnight. And if anyone does have the skills, etc, to use the service, I suspect they also have the skills, etc to use Bittorrent and get many more US programmes, more quickly, that don’t self-destruct and don’t cost them anything.
I’ve not tried the Channel 4 VOD service yet, because I don’t meet those system requirements either. Oh dear. Try harder British networks!