Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In cyberspace, no-one can hear you stream

Variety reports that come September, American network CBS will streaming episodes of its top TV dramas online the day after they're broadcast - for free. That's all three strands of CSI, plus NCIS and Numbers too. [A quick digression: what's with all the initials in US TV dramas? Hell, even Brit shows like Spooks become MI5 when they cross the Atlantic, although that is mostly due to understandable cultural sensitivity.] CBS is following the example of ABC [see, more initials!] which streamed Lost, Desperate Housewives, Alias and Commander in Chief as an experiment for two months last spring.

Back in the UK, Channel 4 is committed to streaming and the rapid uptake of broadband makes this possible in a way that didn't exist three years ago. The BBC is experimenting with streaming broadcast footage live to air. It can't be long before we'll be able to watch shows online and on-demand, can it? The sooner the better, as far as I'm concerned. Reception round here sucks so badly, I only watch TV on DVD these days, particularly American shows. Why wait 22 weeks to see a whole season in tiny slices, further segmented by infuriating, badly inserted ad breaks? Import the Region 1 box set, that's my policy. The bootleg practise of torrent file sharing will soon by made redundant by online streaming.

Of course, there's one big, unanswered question that arises from this - what effect will it have on the BBC's licence fee? The corporation charges everyone in Britain who uses a TV, ploughing that money into programme making and other creative endeavours. But if we download Tv to our iPod or computer, does that mean they too are televisions?

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