On April 30, ABC will unveil a revamped Web site that will include a “theater” where people with broadband connections can watch free episodes of “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and other hit shows on their computers. Episodes will be available the morning after they air and will be archived so people can eventually view a whole season.
Episodes of the ABC shows — which can be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded — will contain commercial breaks that viewers can’t skip, making Disney hopeful it has figured out a way to turn the delivery of programs over the Web into a profit-generating business. Ten advertisers, including Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble, Universal Pictures and Unilever, already have signed up.
Well, it's nice to add another option, but this one is only attractive compared to classic over-the-air or 'live' cable broadcast. Let's do a comparison table:
|Delivery||Cost||Time constraint||space constraint||pros and cons|
|Broadcast||Free||must watch live or VCR||On your TVs in the US||Commercials interrupt - mute and wait|
|Cable||Monthly fee||must watch live or VCR||On your TVs in the US<||Commercials interrupt it - mute and wait|
|TiVo||Monthly fee for cable and for TiVo directory||Can watch when you like, though will delete itself unless you check it||On the TV with the TiVo, in the US<||Can fast-forward commercials; must subscribe or record in advance|
|New ABC Live||Monthly fee for broadband||Can watch when you like from 1 day after TV||On your computer with a net connection - US Only?||can't skip commercials|
|ABC on iTunes||Monthly fee for broadband; $1.99 per show with discounts for seasons||Can watch when you like from 1 day after TV, if you have a US credit card||On your computer with a net connection, don't need net connection after download; can transfer to iPod||no commercials; quality is not great|
|Bittorrent bootleg||Monthly fee for broadband||Can watch when you like from a few hours after TV, anywhere in the world||On your computer, don't need net connection after download; can transfer to iPod and other players; can make DVD with effort||Commercials edited out. Is of dubious legality.|
|DVD||Pay per series - prices vary||Can watch when you like from a few months after TV, region coded to annoy you||on your DVD player; On your computer, can transfer to other players with effort and semi-legal tools||Commercials edited out. Maybe extra features|
Overall, the options are awkward. I can see some interesting gaps there - if I could subscribe to DVDs by mail every fortnight or month, while the series is still airing, that would be attractive (much more attractive than US networks' scheduling, which seems designed to confuse and disappoint and lose the flow of plot).
The iTunes series subscription could be attractive, if it was closer to the quality you get from HD-ripped Bittorrent or DVD. Tom Coates was saying something similar recently.
The other missing piece follows on from my post about net video last week- what if the cable companies had a cache of shows for a while after airing, or let you retrieve them from each others' PVRs? As the smarter ones have very high speed networks in their served neigbourhoods, this could be very responsive.
Update: Well, that was fast - Time Warner Cable are talking about just this kind of thing, though
the closing line "TV is more powerful than the Internet at the end of the day" is a bit of a shame.