ABC Streaming Video
I've just been trying ABC's new streaming service. It requires Flash 8, and the video quality is pretty good - significantly better than Youtube or Google Video, but then it's being encoded at a much better rate.
Currently there are just a handful of major ABC shows available including Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Commander in Chief. I watched part of an episode of Alias which was sponsored by Zyrtec "with limited commercial interruption". What that meant is that it ran with, barely any commercials. Indeed a scrollbar at the bottom of the screen indicated when each commercial break was going to come. It also indicated that while I couldn't fully fast-forward or rewind per se, I could jump to a different segment, or jump around any of the content I'd already seen. So if I'd missed the last half of Alias, I could jump, broadly speaking, straight to that section. I could also pause at any point.
Strangely, one of the ads that I saw, for the aforementioned hayfever remedy, was in much lower quality than the overall show - not in widescreen and scratchy sound. There was a nice countdown until when the show was going to resume, although for some reason, the user has to click on a button to launch it. The second ad was a Flash affair, similar to those you see to get a daypass on Salon.
Obviously, I shouldn't really have been able to watch this, since ABC have gone to some lengths to ensure that only US IP addresses work. Obviously there are things you can do with proxies to get around this, and the one I used worked perfectly well, although I turned it off when I was done. Well, there's all that BBC fare that's limited to the UK isn't there?
One other thing worth mentioning is the fact that this only seems to be a pilot system. The site is only live from today until the end of June. Not that there's a great deal of new programming on US television over the summer - particularly on the major networks. But is this just a test, or something that's going to be around come the autumn and the new seasons?
So overall, it's pretty painless, with the exception of forcing me to upgrade to Flash 8. How long until a British company manages to do something like this? Channel 4's Lost scheme is up and running, but it still costs 99p an episode. And it seems that when I mentioned the other day that Five should put The Gadget Show up for available download, little did I realise that they were already charging 50p to watch some of their guides! I certainly won't be bothering with those.