Monday, 12 April 2010

BBC iPlayer

Due to the delightful internet speeds I get at home, the only really viable way to watch television online is to download the full show hours, possibly days in advance of watching it. Normally, of course, I would just stream the show, and after a certain point go "This is dreadful" and turn off, or finish it, rapt with excitement and tingling with the sensation of pure joy. However, once I download something, I feel, in some respects, committed to the programme. It's languishing on my hard drive, resentful and bitter that I have yet to finish it, mutinously muttering under its breath. I wouldn't be surprised if it randomly deleted data for fun at my expense. "Windows cannot find "Firefox"", etcetera. This is where the marriage metaphor ends.

So I end up watching the full programme, in bits, over the course of the week I'm allowed to view it for, then I feel somehow angry at iPlayer, like this is in some aspect their fault. "I wouldn't even be watching this if I could stream it! Ugh!" flicks through my mind repeatedly.

And why would I blame iPlayer, the service is unimaginably excellent. It is a constant joy for me to browse the site and view videos and so forth. I can scarcely imagine my chaotic existence without it, shambling aimlessly around youtube in search of entertaining television. Occasionally it demands I have to install the desktop thing again to download a programme, but that is hardly a gigantic inconvenience given how utterly superb the service is. And it's not just "Good for a television site", it's a good site overall. Easy to navigate, delightfully easy and clear to understand, and generally well-built. The only problem I have ever had is when I assume something has been broadcast on TV and it was not, and I begin to wonder where it is on iPlayer. Basically, iPlayer's only real fault is that I am inept.

And yet, sometimes, due to broadcasting rights (I imagine), some stuff doesn't go up there, which annoys me a tad, but not so much as to detract from the overall experience.

In comparing this site to other television broadcasters' online services, I have used very little of Five and itvplayer (I briefly remember Five asking me to pay to watch House on their site, and realised the internet probably has House floating about for free. And itvplayer is relatively good, except it only shows itv shows.) so in this comparison, it's primarily "4od" versus "iPlayer".

Briefly, I was a 4od man, back in the good old days, when it had full series of shows it formerly broadcast like "Black books", while iPlayer only had last week's shows. Then 4od, in what I can only imagine was a fit of childish rage and a curiously selfish nature, decided that their online video sharing service was not the best place to show online videos, and took them all down. In that single moment, I was distraught. Then I tried to find them again by clicking through all the menus on the site, going to a series of useless pages. It was like a maze, except, cunningly, they are all dead-ends. Then iPlayer embraced me. It said to me "If you don't forget to watch within a week of broadcast, we've got it, right here for you. Waiting, and easy to find" and I swooned. They even have "Series catchup" where they have every episode of a series up there.

Conclusion: iPlayer is magnificent, 4od is acceptable, itvplayer is ok at showing itv shows, Five's online service is probably ok, who knows, I don't really watch channel 5.

1 comment:

  1. iPlayer... the time vortex that has stolen so much of my first year at uni.